The worst smear tactic used by the left and the right

I’ve noticed this pop up quite a bit on talk radio and also liberal commentators on tv and youtube. I never had a clear encapsulation of what I was witnessing until I read a retweet by Sam Harris of a passage in Hitchens last book.


“Hitchens: I had become too accustomed to the pseudo-Left new style, whereby if your opponent thought he had identified your lowest possible motive, he was quite certain that he had isolated the only real one. This vulgar method, which is now the norm and the standard in much non-Left journalism as well, is designed to have the effect of making any noisy moron into a master analyst”
And there it is.

An example from the left I never agreed with but now identify with this was the motivation of conservatives/neocons for starting the Iraq war. A lot of people just assumed it was about stealing peoples oil and perpetual war and Imperialism. Those are essentially the worst possible motivations I could think of to start a way, and those were essentially the only accepted ones ascribed to people who wanted to go into Iraq. Not Bushes statements that he wanted to spread democracy to modernize people in the region away from radicalism with an example in Iraq.

Now it turns out that theory of what would happen has clearly failed, but it’s also true that the US did not go in to steal IRaqi oil, or enslave the population or seek to use Iraq as a puppet state for our own Imperial ambitions. And the problem with ascribing the worst possible motivations to your opponents is that the opponents, not actually holding those motivations in their own minds, do not recognize the critiques as valid. IF the primary critique was focused like a laser on the practicality of remaking the middle east giving the sectarian issues that have persisted for generations, the anti war argument might have gained more traction earlier. It’s bad argumentative policy to assume the worst possible motivation of an opponent, that might be a motivation, but to just assume that and no other?

It’s a trash way to argue.
The conservative examples are dumber and more infantile, but this is the quality of argument you often hear on talk radio. “Obama wants to tear down this country” etc. etc. Of course this is counter productive because the truth is there are major disagreements over which kinds of policies will improve the country.
Look out for these tactics, they are ALL OVER the place (i.e. reading/listening to Glenn Greenwald/Chomsky is essentially like seeing someone describe US motivations as bathing in the blood of innocents)

You’re just saying this because you hate freedom.

http://static.deathandtaxesmag.com/uploads/2011/07/what-you-did-there-i-see-it.thumbnail.jpg

Agreed. This has, for decades, been Rush Limbaugh’s one and only rhetorical technique. “We don’t need all this economic gloom and doom which is what these people really want.”

I don’t like it any more when my side does it.

(Okay, yeah, I’m mortal. I hate it a little less when my side does it.)

Anyway, it’s a stupid and shallow technique, and I’m only sad that so many listeners (on all sides) just eat it up and love it.

I don’t remember much about the perpetual war reason. Certainly there was strong support for the war in Afghanistan. As for taking the oil, the Administration claimed that the war would pay for itself thanks to the oil, some there is some justification for that claim.
There were plenty of other motives imputed to the Bush Administration, including psychological ones like Bush junior wanting to do better than his dad and him being fooled by Cheney and his false intelligence about WMDs.
As for imperialism it was imperialism by definition, but that is a description of the action, not a motive for it. And I believe I saw some comments about how Bush was stupid enough to think creating democracy made sense.

A better example would be saying that conservatives are anti-choice because they hate women. Not true. Conservatives love women - barefoot and pregnant. :smiley:

Ascribing the worst possible motivations IS kinda cheap, but to forego that doesn’t require that we accept the other side’s noble rhetoric as gospel truth.

Your argument is slightly less optimal than mine. So there.

Bush is a known liar whose actions don’t fit his rhetoric at all.

And they pretty clearly were primarily motivated by a desire to control the oil, turn Iraq into a military strongpoint for further conquests, funnel money into Halliburton and some other companies, and force the Iraqis to live out their laissez faire economic fantasies whether the Iraqis wanted to or not.

If you wanted an example of people being criticized unfairly you picked a bad one; you picked a subject where the people responsible aren’t criticized nearly enough.

Read this OP and tell me if you still think the latter is a possibility.

Except for Republicans, who utterly malign, the cheese scraped off the Devil’s scrotum. Their actions are less ghastly that their motivations, but only because they are clumsy and stupid.

I nominate you for the SDMB’s poet laureate. Lovely imagery there!

Great examples, of someone who finds the worst conceivable motives and presumes those are the primary motivations.
I happen not to think Bush had some desire to resurrect manifest destiny, I just think he actually believed that democracy was the solution to the problems in the middle east.

It’s not THAT inconceivable, two of the biggest losses of life aside from Vietnam for the US was WWII and the Korean War.

WWII led to the toppling of the Hirohito dictatorship, he radioed his people to stand down instead of fight to the last man. What toll did the US extract from Japan? A peaceful ally, a marshall plan of development, and one of the most prosperous and successful nations in the world. If that is Imperialism and conquest, even with the base there, it’s one of the most benign versions the world has ever known.

Korea? A Partial victory, but instead of having a unified N. Korea, there is a thriving S. Korea that is one of the great successes in the world, and a technological power house. This is not the desire to subjugate, it’s a desire to have people thrive, live and be well.
Vietnam, we lost, and the country was worse off for it. That nation would have been better off sooner had the communists not won the day.
Again, it’s not inconceivable that such an intervention in the middle east could yield positive results as well. But of course, as a practical matter, Iraq was not Korea or Japan. Those were essentially unified societies, there was not the same tribalism and sectarianism. The biggest religious background of those nations was buddhism, not Islam, the founder was a meditator, not a conquering warlord.

Differences. Democracy, giving the people the choice to live as they see fit, sounds like a lovely thing. But it turns out the results are in no small part based on the nature of the culture and people.

This argument could have been made, but sloppy, deceit filled, smear merchants drowned out the more on target counter arguments and focused on Bush wanting to STEAL their oil, and use Iraq and a launchpad for a new manifest destiny across the middle east, for their benefit? No, JUST so the military contractors could get more arms deals.

Worst, possible, motives, and of course to the left, those are the only ones.

You are exactly what I described. Sad you can’t see it.

I think it’s possible in the way that it’s possible that Jar Jar Binks is a sith lord mastermind. But I don’t buy it. Again, maybe I’m just not cynical enough when it comes to Bush. It’s easier for me to believe he and Colin Power and even Cheyney were foolish than malevolent. Remember, Rumsfeld was the one who sent in the relatively small military force thinking it would be enough to stabilize things, they clearly did not expect Iraq to turn south the way it did. It led to the 2006 blood bath elections, along with 2008, that brought Obama, and a rare moment of democratic control of the house in modern times. That led to the possibility of obamacare because of the stench of failure o Iraq. Bush caused the domino effect that led to obamacare, because without Iraq, the democrats never would have taken the house, or had a super majority in the Senate, and the bill would never have passed.

Iraq was a disaster for conservatives. In the face of all this, is it more likely that the Rumsfelds and Bushes and Cheyneys were secret masterminds pulling nefarious strings, or that they muddled into Iraq based on mistaken premises about it’s domino effects on the region?

The American people were more willing to enter Iraq as well, because this was in the aftermath of september 11th, even though Iraq was not responsible, the nation allowed more leeway to essentially try to “fix the messed up backyard” of the middle east since leaving it alone seemed to result in over 3 thousand people murdered. If that was in the back of Americans minds as a rationale to shake things up, why is it so inconceivable that that was in Bushes mind as well? That something other than PURE Machiavellian motivations were at play inside him?

Errm, how is the latter not imperialism? Replace Iraq with Gaul, democracy with Pax Romana, make it “Druidic radicalism”, and that’s an excerpt from Caesar’s own book.

WWII was a disaster for fascists - does that mean they were just muddling around?

[nitpick]There never was a Hirohito dictatorship. As emperor, he did have a certain amount of influence, but he was never the primary leader of Japan. [/nitpick]

The OP has a point that I won’t argue against, but I kind of doubt the families of hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis are going to feel any better if they think that the invasion was a mistake with noble intentions, rather than a cynical grab for resources.

I think the worst are straw man arguments, and it’s common among all sides. Someone mischaracterizes or misinterprets what someone else says, and then bases all their arguments based on their interpretation of what was said without any acknowledgement that they have restated the original comments to what they think was said (or really meant).

Interesting timing. In a thread over in Great Debates about campaign finance laws, I’m told my views about needing major reform to those laws are actually all about me (a) hating the First Amendment, (b) being in favor of book burning, and © thinking that the American people are stupid.

I’m not kidding.