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Edwin Vieira - The Poverty of Political Discourse

Edwin Vieira - The Poverty of Political Discourse

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Published by Juan del Sur
The more I scan the Internet these days, the more disappointed I become, because of the ever-increasing superficiality, triviality, and truly aggressive contempt for the intelligence of the audience that characterizes so much of what passes for political discourse in this country. The average cookie sheet has more depth, and certainly produces a more palatable product, than the typical politically oriented Internet column or blog.

A glaring example is the recent creation by the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) of a section on its web site entitled “Meet the ‘Patriots’”. Now, I must admit that I probably should not trouble myself (or the readers of my commentaries) with this matter had the SPLC not chosen to “profile” me among its list of “Patriots”. But, the SPLC having done so, I believe I am entitled to “return the compliment” as it were. Besides, the SPLC has provided me with “a teaching moment” which should not be wasted.
The more I scan the Internet these days, the more disappointed I become, because of the ever-increasing superficiality, triviality, and truly aggressive contempt for the intelligence of the audience that characterizes so much of what passes for political discourse in this country. The average cookie sheet has more depth, and certainly produces a more palatable product, than the typical politically oriented Internet column or blog.

A glaring example is the recent creation by the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) of a section on its web site entitled “Meet the ‘Patriots’”. Now, I must admit that I probably should not trouble myself (or the readers of my commentaries) with this matter had the SPLC not chosen to “profile” me among its list of “Patriots”. But, the SPLC having done so, I believe I am entitled to “return the compliment” as it were. Besides, the SPLC has provided me with “a teaching moment” which should not be wasted.

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: Juan del Sur on May 27, 2010
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08/04/2011

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Edwin Vieira – The Poverty of Political DiscoursePage 1 of 11
THE POVERTY OF POLITICAL DISCOURSE
 PARTS 1 - 3
 By 
Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Ph.D., J.D.
  April 28, 2010http://www.newswithviews.com/Vieira/edwin223.htm 
PART 1
 The more I scan the Internet these days, the more disappointed I become, because of theever-increasing superficiality, triviality, and truly aggressive contempt for the intelligence of the audience that characterizes so much of what passes for political discourse in this country.The average cookie sheet has more depth, and certainly produces a more palatable product,than the typical politically oriented Internet column or blog. A glaring example is the recent creation by the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) of asection on its web site entitled “Meet the ‘Patriots’”. Now, I must admit that I probably shouldnot trouble myself (or the readers of my commentaries) with this matter had the SPLC notchosen to “profile” me among its list of “Patriots”. But, the SPLC having done so, I believe Iam entitled to “return the compliment” as it were. Besides, the SPLC has provided me with “ateaching moment” which should not be wasted.1. The most obvious demerit of the SPLC’s performance is its lack of basic logic. Throughout,“Meet the ‘Patriots’” is a patent example of the fallacy 
petitio principii
(“begging thequestion”). The SPLC’s web site purports to present “profiles of 36 individuals at the heart of the resurgent” “antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement”. Unfortunately—or, perhaps more likely,intentionally—the SPLC provides no definition of the key term “antigovernment ‘Patriot’movement”. In what sense these “profiled” individuals are “antigovernment”, or in what sensethey are merely faux “Patriots” rather than real patriots, or in what sense a real “patriot” can be “antigovernment” as a consequence of being a “patriot” the SPLC never explains. Thisrenders the entire exercise nonscientific—because, without these definitions, the SPLC’scategorizations of the “36 individuals” as “antigovernment” and therefore somehow false or bad “Patriots” are neither verifiable nor falsifiable. They are simply crude propaganda below even the kindergarten level of reasoning. As I understand matters, an “antigovernment patriot” is a contradiction in terms. A “patriot”loves what is good about his country and defends its just interests. Thus, a patriot respects hiscountry’s government. Indeed, in America “patriots” are the very source of and authority forgovernment. As the Declaration of Independence explains, “Governments are institutedamong Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”; and “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alteror to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundations on such principlesand organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”. And the Constitution itself attests that “WE THE PEOPLE * * * do ordainand establish th[e] Constitution”. So no “patriot” can be “antigovernment”.
 
Edwin Vieira – The Poverty of Political DiscoursePage 2 of 11
Of course, not every action taken under color of law by every individual in public office islawful, and therefore “governmental” in character. For example, Title 18, United States Code,Section 242 provides that[w]hoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession,or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured orprotected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to differentpunishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens,shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; andif bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not morethan ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violationof this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap,aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or anattempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of yearsor for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.Self-evidently, the persons within the contemplation of this statute who act “under color of any law...” are rogue public officials of various kinds. Such miscreants pretend to act in thecapacity of “government”, but actually are acting in an “antigovernment” capacity, becausetheir acts are in violation of this particular law and no doubt of many others.So, are “patriots” who oppose rogue public officials “antigovernment”? Quite the contrary. Itis every citizens’ duty—and the duty of every loyal public official—to oppose, resist, andutterly defeat the machinations of each and every rogue public official. A “patriot” is one whoopposes rogues in public office—and the political parties, private special-interest groups,factions, and organizations that work hand in glove with them.Such is my definition of a “patriot”, supported by the Declaration of Independence, theConstitution, and the laws of this country. The SPLC has chosen to “profile” me as an“antigovernment ‘Patriot’”—of whom, one must presume from the tenor of “Meet the‘Patriots’”, the SPLC disapproves. Yet, if the SPLC disapproves of me as a “patriot”, then whatis its definition of “patriotism”? Plainly, its definition and mine cannot be the same.2. By carefully avoiding key definitions, the SPLC is able to lump a number of disparateindividuals together in its “profiles”—leaving the careless reader to draw the unsubstantiatedinferences that: (i) all of these individuals share some common, and presumably nefarious, beliefs; (ii) based upon these beliefs, in some vague manner they are all engaged in acommon, and also presumably nefarious, undertaking; and (iii) if some of them haveallegedly engaged in supposedly illegal activities, then the rest of them probably approve of such behavior by the alleged perpetrators and encourage it in others. This sort of reasoningdoes not rise to the level of “guilt by association”, because (as far as I can tell) many if notmost of these “36 individuals at the heart of the resurgent movement” are not actually associated with one another in some particular organization or activity, except insofar as theSPLC has chosen arbitrarily to link them in its own list of “profiles” on its own web site for itsown purposes. Rather, this is “virtual guilt by virtual association”.
 
Edwin Vieira – The Poverty of Political DiscoursePage 3 of 11
Obviously, the SPLC’s approach suffers from the logical fallacy of “the undistributed middle”:namely, the false conclusion that, just because “A”, “B”, “C”, and so on share onecharacteristic of persons in group “X”, therefore they are all members of that group, eventhough that characteristic is not necessarily peculiar to that group. The vicious twist in thiscase is that the SPLC, without defining its terms, has created both the group “X” (“theantigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement”) and the supposed characteristics of that group through which it purports to interconnect “A”, “B”, “C”, and so.Now, self-evidently, just because “A” calls himself a “patriot”, and “B” calls himself a “patriot”,and the SPLC calls both “A” and “B” “patriots” does not mean that the three definitions of “patriot” are the same. Neither does it mean, if the definitions happen to be the same, thattherefore all of the beliefs or actions of “A” can necessarily be attributed to “B”, or that all of the beliefs or actions of “B” can necessarily be attributed to “A”, or that “A” necessarily approves of all the beliefs or actions of “B”, or that “B” necessarily approves of all the beliefsor actions of “A”—or, especially, that the SPLC has accurately included and described those beliefs and actions in its “profiles” of “A” and “B”. And, of course, if the definitions of “patriot”are different from one another, that the SPLC labels “A” and “B” as “patriots”
according to itsown definition
does not necessarily mean that either “A” or “B” accepts that label, so definedunilaterally by the SPLC, as applicable to himself.In short, the SPLC’s whole exercise of “profiling” various individuals, categorizing them as “atthe heart of the resurgent movement”, and lumping them together in a single list provesnothing more than that, for whatever reason, the SPLC (and whatever individuals and entitieslurk behind it in the shadows) do not approve of the people being “profiled”. Leaving any objective observer to ask, “So what?” The approval of the SPLC is not the standard of politicalreasonableness, let alone rectitude, in this country, particularly when the SPLC refuses todefine (and thereby be required to defend) the standards of “good” and “bad” which implicitly inform its actions.One need not be a cynic to conjecture that the SPLC would not have bothered to publish“Meet the ‘Patriots’” unless it intended by that means to attempt to “chill” and otherwisesuppress the free speech of the “36 individuals at the heart of the resurgent movement”—and,if it can get away with that, the speech of everyone else in this country with whom it decides totake issue. But, under our Constitution, “the fact that protected speech may be offensive tosome does not justify its suppression”.
Carey v. Population Services International
, 431 U.S.678, 701 (1977).
 Accord, e.g., FCC v. Pacifica Foundation
, 438 U.S. 726, 745 (1978). TheSPLC rather grandiloquently uses “Law” as part of its name. In this particular, it would do better to substitute humility for hubris and hypocrisy and actually show some respect for andfollow “the supreme Law of the Land” in its operations.3. Not satisfied with arbitrarily lumping together the “36 individuals at the heart of theresurgent movement” as if they were somehow conscious collaborators in a centrally concerted combination, the SPLC then includes in “Meet the ‘Patriots’” a “timeline” of eventsfrom which the careless reader may illogically—or, perhaps more likely, is expected andimplicitly encouraged to—infer that some continuity of cause and effect, some relationship of moral or other responsibility, or at least some relevant connection exists between all of theevents in the “timeline” and all of the “36 individuals”. Self-evidently, though, this juxtaposition of events and individuals relies upon the commonplace fallacy 
post hoc ergopropter hoc
(“after this therefore on account of this”).

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