Rhetoric Isn’t a Dirty Word

Alternatively, don’t take advise from wolves.

Jon Chait projects his inner demons onto liberals and then takes them to task for it.  Amanda (Pandagon) has the news:

Just when I had finally formed my opinion on this Jon Chait article where he equates the netroots with the Christian right enough to start writing a post on it (my opinion, in summary: anyone who participated in the propaganda blitz to justify the Iraq War needs to STFU from here until the end of time about how expressing your opinion forcefully on the internet is “propaganda”), someone beats me to the punch. Like Scott, I have to recommend Henry’s take on the article.  Chait brings a lot of false assumptions to the table, including his offensive suggestion that all the netroots talk on “framing” has any relationship whatsoever with the right’s open willingness to lie and use subversion for political gain.

This is brilliant on Chait’s part.  It obscures the severity of the right’s offenses, casts doubt on the left’s response, and finally makes the very act of making an effective argument appear a dishonest failure.

He links this to the right’s open contempt for reality, which is unbelievably unfair. “Framing”, as I’ve said before, is just the new buzzword for encouraging people to match their rhetoric to their arguments, to present a cohesive, compelling worldview.

Framing is so much more.  It is the context and the importance of the argument.  It is the argument’s impact.  It is the realization that not all arguments are genuine.  Some are escapes.  The recent Supreme Court Case on Abortion is a great example.  The objection from the left generally focuses in on the “no exception for the health of the mother” aspect of the opinion, and the very worrying consequences that leaves us with.  The right generally responds not by addressing our objection directly, but by re-framing the issue as an argument over the person-hood of the fetus.

Framing is a buzzword for encouraging people to tackle arguments on their own terms.  It is an invitation to address the arguments behind arguments.

Chait also treats the idea that we bloggers are standing up for the people and against the establishment in D.C. as if it were just silly and, moreso, like we just made up the conflict in our heads. Then he rolls this crap out:

The netroots will forgive Democrats in conservative districts for moving as far to the right as necessary to win elections. But they do everything within their power to eliminate from liberal states or districts moderates like Joe Lieberman or Jane Harman, whose stances are born of conviction rather than necessity. This is precisely the same principle espoused by Norquist and other GOP activists. They will defend Republicans who need to demonstrate their independence from the national party in order to maintain their electoral viability. (As Norquist once remarked about Lincoln Chafee, “A Republican from Rhode Island is a gift from the gods.”) But deviation by a Republican from a conservative state–say, Arizonan John McCain–is unforgivable.

The sense of entitlement to a job representing the people—an entitlement that shouldn’t be threatened if you, like Lieberman, move so far to the right that you aren’t representing the views of your constiuency—is indeed the thing we want to eradicate. Pardon us for being democratic-minded and wanting the people’s view represented in Congress.

Having failed to fight us on the merits of our arguments, Chait is doing the next best thing.  He is attacking our political arsenal.  Effective rhetoric.  Using strategy in national elections to ensure the make up of the Democratic party reflects the make up of the American people.  When it comes right down to it, Chait does not have any actual argument beyond “The left is being effective.  Stop it!”.

So much of what we do to fight back and be heard is treated with a condescending sneer.  Protests.  Blogs.  The stuff of rabble!  The word rhetoric itself gets a bad rap.  “That’s just rhetoric”.  A rhetorical question is just one you don’t have to answer, right?

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion.  It is the martial art of political communication.  It is the arms we all bear in order to uphold our own citizenship and freedom.  Is it any wonder it is the subject of such derision?

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