Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pushing The Narrative With Straw Men

RBPosted by RB May 11th 2011 at 11:30 am in Democrats, New Media, Tea Parties, media bias

One of the favorite rhetorical devices of the professional Left is the fallacy. Specifically, the straw man argument / fallacy. They will take a conservative position, mischaracterize it – aka lie about it – and then construct elaborate arguments against a position that doesn’t really exist. This practice serves two general purposes. First, it keeps people who rely on the professional Left to filter the news for them warm and cozy in a blissful cocoon of ignorance. Second, it paints the opposition as outside the “mainstream” and therefore creates the impression that the far Left is actually closer to the center or “mainstream.”

A very common straw man is this notion that conservatives, particularly tea partiers, are anti-government. Not just anti-big government. Anti-government – literally. Now, those of us who are conservative know this is a complete fabrication. Conservatives are pro-limited government not anti-government. But when your entire ideology is based on growing the size and scope of a national government in order to enact some kind of social justice – i.e. Progressivism – it is very easy to classify the opposition to that ideology as “anti-government.” And so, the professional left uses the straw man to reinforce their ideology within the echo-chamber without any resistance.

A writer from the Soros-funded, Podesta-run ThinkProgress named Alyssa Rosenburg had an article appear in Washington Monthly Magazine. The article, titled “NCIS: Bureaucrats with Guns“, is premised on the tea partiers / conservatives are anti-government straw man and takes it a step further by insinuating that they’re also, basically, too stupid to know they actually love government. The article is ostensibly about the TV series “NCIS,” but it is really about reinforcing a narrative: “Government is good, dummies. See? You can’t get enough of it!”
The phenomenal success of NCIS is part of a little-noticed fact about contemporary American culture. Though the rise of the Tea Party supposedly means that Americans these days hate government, they can’t seem to stop watching shows about government.
Rosenburg then goes on to explain how the real appeal of the show isn’t just the good guys vs bad guys stuff everyone enjoys, it’s the bureaucratic stuff that goes on between “NCIS” and other agencies and even internally. I suspect this might actually be a little projection on Rosenburg’s part. As a fan of the show myself, I can tell you its appeal to me has everything to do with crime solving, the triumph of good vs evil, and the broader story arcs dealing with the characters of the show. The fact that it’s a government agency really has little to do with it. But that doesn’t seem to occur to Rosenburg.
Week to week, nearly half of today’s highest-rated network TV shows are set in government agencies, be they federal (NCIS, Bones) state (The Mentalist), or local (Law & Order, CSI), or in quasi-public institutions like hospitals (House, Grey’s Anatomy) and private law firms that deal directly with the government (The Good Wife). Even Glee is set in a public high school.
In other words, “You love government. You love government. You even love shows that are tangentially related to government.” We get it, Alyssa. You and your friends at ThinkProgress love government. Again, all this is a rebuttal to a position that doesn’t really exist – the straw man that conservatives hate government. It may come as a surprise to the folks at ThinkProgress but law enforcement and national security / fighting terrorists fits snugly within the confines of the concept of limited government. It is one of the relatively few things conservatives want the government to do. The entire article is a thinly veiled (if you’re paying attention) attempt to move the Overton Window. If they can pound home the idea that you have more in common with the “government lovers” on the Left than you do with those “government haters” on the Right, then you are more inclined to agree with their policies because they’re “mainstream.”

This is how the professional Left operates. They will take anything, even a television show, and use it as a way to create wedges within the populace. They use the media – this time a magazine – to constantly reinforce the narrative. It isn’t always some sensational news item or current event. Sometimes it’s just a seemingly innocuous review of a popular TV show.

And then, to get the most mileage out of it as possible, Matt Yglesias, posts this over at his ThinkProgress blog in reference to the Rosenburg article:
We like our shows to be about life and death situations—illness, public safety—to provide the drama needed to drive the narrative forward. And as it happens, around the world these kind of situations are handled by public or quasi-public institutions. What’s a little strange, I think, is how little consciousness of this fact feeds back into our political debates here in Washington. People talk about “government spending” as if it were some alien force that’s arisen for inexplicable reasons.
Of course, the casual Washington Monthly reader will go on with their lives with the virtually subliminal seeds germinating in their heads where conservatives are government haters and “people like me” are pro-government. The hardcore Leftists – people who would read Yglesias regularly – need a little stronger dose of the kool-aid. In other words, Yglesias is telling his readers that it’s strange how this obvious love of government doesn’t lead to more government action (read “spending”) and, golly gee, why don’t we push our elected representatives to do more of what everyone loves (read “spending”).

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