Rob's Soapbox Archives
September 7th, 2009
There is a new trend in America when it comes to expressing opinion; always demand that you are not only right, but that you are in the majority.
An example of this would be making the following statement: “I think that President Barack Obama has saved the American economy and the overwhelming majority of Americans agree with me.”
Here’s the problem; while the opinion expressed in the first half of the statement is something the speaker is entitled to believe, the second half of the claim, that “the
Let’s start with the headache; I have met very few people who loathe misinformation more than I do. Anything related to “spin,” twisting of the facts or outright lying enrages me. Whether it be the U.S. government claiming that an Iraqi lawyer led our military to rescue Jessica Lynch or people claiming that President Obama addressing school children is something “lots of presidents” have done, it doesn’t matter. All sorts of lies and false defenses of position infuriate my senses.
In the early days of the Iraq war Jessica Lynch, an American army soldier, was captured by Iraqi forces and held in a hospital until, we were told at the time, an Iraqi lawyer who believed in the American cause, acted as a spy and led our special forces to her daring rescue. There were even claims of the lawyer drawing a map on a napkin so that our soldiers could find Jessica. From the moment the story first broke in April, 2003, I said it was bullshit; I told everyone it was clear propaganda on the part of the Bush administration and the military in an attempt to convince the American people that the citizens of Iraq supported our invasion; so much did they support us that this lawyer was willing to risk his life to rescue an American soldier!
Reams of people told me how cynical and paranoid I was; seemingly hundreds of you told me to have more faith in our government, blah blah blah. Less than a year later, the entire story was proven false; not only by the media but by Jessica Lynch herself who testified before congress affirming the vast lies related to her entire story. It was never true and I knew it…but at least I didn’t claim that “everyone knows this is a lie” to justify my opinion at the time.http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/may/15/iraq.usa2
Fast forward to present day; President Barack Obama announced that he would address American school children on the day after Labor Day, 2009 in a speech that would encourage them to do the standard things; stay in school, stay away from drugs, work hard, etc. President Obama’s speech announcement was also accompanied by Department of Education “suggestions” of classroom activities and discussions that encouraged kids to “help the president.”
If you want to support President Obama’s speech idea, that’s great. But please stop lying about facts and/or public opinion in order to bolster your position.
People who claim that what Obama is doing is “exactly what Reagan and both Bushes” did are flatly wrong and/or lying. They are also irrelevant. Even if it were true that other presidents had engaged in a speech with lesson plans to American children, why would that in any way justify Obama doing it? Pointing out bad behavior by others does not justify someone else’s bad behavior. Using the logic that “Reagan and both Bushes did it,” dictates that we should allow and encourage Obama to exchange weapons for hostages, break promises on taxes, and invade sovereign nations preemptively. After all, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 did each of those things!
Beyond the absurd arguing technique is a little thing called; the truth. Bush 43 never addressed school children directly on a national level; he called once, during a national speech to the nation, for American kids to give a dollar to a fund to help kids in Afghanistan while we were bombing the oblivion out of them. That speech was not “piped into schools,” funded by the department of Education, or accompanied by federal suggestions of lesson plans or discussion. Bush 43’s call for American children to do such a thing, by the way, in my opinion, was wrong, and I said so at the time. It was a subliminal form of indoctrination for support of a war by the highest office in the land. It was not, however, anything close to Obama’s speech on an egregious level.
Bush 41 once recorded a 1989 anti-drug speech he gave to a local group of school children and then had it distributed via the Department of Education. It was not accompanied by a federal suggestion of lesson plans or discussions of how to “help the president.” Bush 41’s using of the Department of Education to record and distribute such a speech, by the way, in my opinion, was wrong. It was not, however, anything close to Obama’s speech on an egregious level.
On a side note, I’ve heard more than a few people compare President Obama’s national address to school children to past presidents visiting local individual schools and reading to the kids.
Ummm…you can’t be serious with that argument.
Have we really reached a point in this nation where we are so dense and ideological that we honestly equate a president reading a book about goats to 30 kids in a classroom in Florida to a president issuing a national address to all students, accompanied by lesson plans and discussions centrally formulated by the federal education department? Why not just equate a wolf whistle to rape? Get a grip.
The most insulting and scary claim in the Obama speech debate, however, has continued this latest trend of demanding that your opinion is that of “most people,” and that those who disagree with you are nothing more than fringe nutbags.
We saw it in August; Americans came out to town hall meetings in droves to rally, scream and shout against health care reform. As they did, seemingly everyone who supports health care reform from the most national to most local voice, referred to those against the proposal as everything from Nazis to disrupters. Most chillingly, they called them the “vocal minority.” Poll after poll has proven that to be false. The more people learn about the proposal, the more people hate it. It’s fine to disagree with them, but discounting them is the political equivalent of dehumanizing them. Educate them, convince them, but don’t simply say they aren’t there. Don’t try to claim that 33% represents a majority.
When it comes to Obama’s speech, both sides of the argument are using the same tact: the majority of people agree with me! This is clearly not possible, of course, but highlights the vast reaches of this incredulous worm that has overtaken our culture; adopt a position, lie about its’ popularity and demean the other side.http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/09/by-patrick-appel--a-reader-writes----you-say-you-are-ignoring-the-furor-over-obamas-school-talk-because-it-is-a-fake-story.html
I experienced this dynamic recently with a very intelligent, left-of-center friend of mine. We were discussing a national figure who had changed his opinion on water boarding, the enhanced interrogation technique that simulates drowning, is banned by the Army field manual, and was used to extract information from 9/11 terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Some call it illegal torture, others call it necessary and correct national defense.
This national figure that we were discussing is a media star; someone who makes his living off of being popular, not being factual or correct. He had recently gone from being pro-water boarding to anti-water boarding; my friend said, “that’s a really smart stunt he did…because he was clearly on the unpopular, wrong side of the issue.”
My friend has gotten more liberal after being smothered by eight years of George W. Bush. I gather that his progression has been something akin to “if this what Republicans look like I am running the other way.” So be it.
My friend believes that water boarding is torture and wrong and should never be used on captured terrorists. So be it.
To vocally claim, however, that his opinion is shared by the majority of Americans is simply, factually, provably, debatable if not abjectly wrong. http://www.stoptheaclu.com/2009/05/06/poll-majority-of-americans-support-waterboarding-terrorists/
There is nothing wrong with being in the minority! Admit it, acknowledge it, proudly wear it as a motivator to change hearts and minds! Stop insisting that because you have reached a conclusion, everyone must also share that opinion, for it is simply not true. In the case of my friend, he loses credibility when he argues that being against water boarding is the popular side of the argument. It’s another irrelevancy, also. Argue the correctness of your opinion, not the popularity of it!
And therein lies the problem, and I believe, the answer to all of my questions at once; we have reached a culmination point in America as a result of our self-esteem deficit. In the days of one of the greatest Americans in history, Martin Luther King Jr., he proudly and willingly and knowingly acknowledged that his opinion of equal rights for all people was a minority opinion. He set out on a life-long mission to peacefully change the very soul of a country, but only after understanding the task ahead of him and accepting it.
Today we live in a society that demands to be agreed with and lies about being disagreed with. My friend refuses to acknowledge that most Americans agree with torturing terrorist captives because he doesn’t want to believe that’s his country. This is the same friend who almost buckled at his knees when I disagreed with his theory that Obama attacking Rush Limbaugh was a smart idea. I told him at the time that Americans wouldn’t see it that way and was supported by multiple polls earlier this year. The truth made him literally question our society, which I have no problem with; at least now he is questioning the truth, not blindly propagating misinformation based in denial.http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2205905/posts
While my friend bases his statements on what he wants to believe, others say that the majority agrees with them because they wrongly think that there is safety in numbers. In both instances, it’s intellectually dishonest, disingenuous and dangerous.