There is a divide in this nation. The divide between the two major sides is defined by two completely different narratives. On one side are people who, for the most part, believe there is a discernible reality that can be determined through the assessment of fact-based data and a careful perusal of video, audio, and written documentation to draw conclusions that most closely reflect reality.
On the other side are people who live almost entirely on Bullshit Mountain.
Bullshit Mountain, a term coined so aptly by Jon Stewart, is a world of half-truths, disinformation, propaganda, fear-mongering, and of course, bullshit. Most of today’s conservatives live in a fantasy world high on a hill of lies and believe what can easily be disproved by anyone with a modicum of intellectual diligence. The integrity of BS Mountain is maintained by the impression that there is such a preponderance of evidence in the many, many other pieces of bullshit, that each new piece of bullshit MUST be true because the bullshit that came before had to be true because the bullshit before that exists… and must also therefore be true. Basically, to a conservative, if you can pile enough bullshit high enough, the existence of the mountain itself proves the truth of its parts.
I’ll admit, it numbs the mind a bit.
There are many types of bullshit used in building Bullshit Mountain. One very simple piece of bullshit is the ‘Straw man’ fallacy. Wikipedia defines a Straw Man argument as:
A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be “attacking a straw man”.
The typical straw man argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent’s proposition through the covert replacement of it with a different proposition (i.e. “stand up a straw man”) and the subsequent refutation of that false argument (“knock down a straw man”) instead of the opponent’s actual proposition.
Logical fallacies are the cement of Bullshit Mountain. It is how conservatives create the impression of truth. Creating the impression that someone made an erroneous claim and then using that false impression to prove a point is the use of the hand trowel to create a smooth façade. Here, from the undisputed King of Bullshit Mountain, is a perfect example of such craftsmanship:
Clearly, the intent of the graphic is to imply that Obama chastised Romney for even suggesting Russia may be a threat, and then some years later retaliated against a hostile action by Russia which proved not only that they were a threat, but that Obama did in fact treat Russia as though it was a threat. If one believes the content of the graphic as it appears, then obviously Obama was both wrong to begin with, as well as a hypocrite to boot.
Naturally, there are factually correct elements to the graphic. But when we separate the truth from the obvious and quite deliberately misleading tactics, we can see how this representation fails.
The first and somewhat subtle manipulation is the addition of seemingly legitimate dialogue before the actual quote by Obama: “Russia a threat? Mitt,…”. This apparently innocent attempt to give context to the actual quote by Obama is anything but innocent. The clear implication is that Obama is literally questioning the very idea that Russia is a ‘threat’. This is the obvious ‘straw man’ substitution of an argument that was never advanced. Here is the actual quote from the debate;
“Gov. Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that al-Qaida is a threat,” Obama said during the third — and final — presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
“Because a few months ago, when you were asked what’s the greatest geo-political threat to America, you said Russia — not al-Qaida. You said Russia,” Obama said. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”
Obviously at no point in time, within or without that quote, has Obama ever claimed that ‘Russia is not a threat’. Obama is clearly making a distinction between the level of threat between Al-Qaida, a rogue, nationless terrorist organization which is has been actively engaged in direct violence against the US, its citizens, and other peoples, and the threat of Russia, a long-time adversary but NOT engaged in lethal hostilities with the US. BOTH are a form of a threat, but one is obviously much more immediate and less open to things like diplomacy and negotiation. Obama was clearly pointing out that Al-Qaida was a more ‘clear and present danger’ than Russia, and that Russia has not been such a threat since it was the Soviet Union.
Again, at no point did Obama question whether or not Russia was a threat, but the designer of this graphic has more or less skillfully inserted that impression… which is obviously false.
Upon that alone, the graphic fails the straw man test. But there’s more. It goes on to say:
“[Obama] orders the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and sanctioned Russian intelligence officials who Washington believes were involved in hacking US political groups.”
This is the piece of juxtaposition that attempts to demonstrate that Obama was wrong for not considering Russia a threat (which we’ve established as bullshit), and that he must therefore be a hypocrite for treating Russia as a threat after all (which of course he isn’t). Add the picture of a dour-looking Obama to imply that he knew he was ‘wrong’, and we have a functional piece of bullshit.
We already know that Russia has been a threat for the better part of a century now, and we know that Obama never suggested otherwise. Therefore taking punitive steps against a hostile Russian action cannot at all be considered ‘hypocritical’ in the context of that reality. In fact, it’s what any executive charged with the security of our nation should do.
But I will concede to one point, since it is possible that the Russian hacking may have actually helped elevate Donald Trump to the highest office in the land, it would appear that Russia may have been the greater threat to us after all.