Saturday, 28 October 2006

On manipulation or the lack thereof

William Saletan (who can at times be insufferable) has a good response to Rush Limbaugh's claims that Michael J. Fox was somehow not playing fair in his campaign for stem cell research ("This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting, one of the two.") The fact is - once you've established that he's not acting (which by all accounts he isn't), how could it be wrong to display the symptoms of a disease if he's really suffering from it?

There's a tendency, as Amanda Marcotte has sharply noted in her critique of Ann Coulter's rhetorical technique, to exploit the culture's valuing of detached observation over experience (would that be the Intuitive/Sensing divide in the Myers-Briggs test?) to try to disqualify those with experience from speaking out:
I think the purpose of slandering 9/11 widows is that Coulter needs an outrageous distraction to smuggle in the idea that politics is a game and anyone who takes is seriously should be ejected from game play. This is another one of those situations where she has some amount of social support for her assertion, but she’s trying to reinforce it so that others can pick up her ball and run with it. There’s already a tendency in our culture to value detached observation above experience and Coulter’s building on that to argue that anyone who is actually hurt by a government policy or action should be disqualified from speaking out against it.

She’s also trying to bolster the already-existing idea that if one side has much better arguments than the other, the other side should get a handicap to make it “fair”. Again, it’s the “politics is a game, let’s not muck it up by acknowledging the real life aspects of it” argument, one which benefits those who support policies that will lead to unnecessary loss of life, for instance. (Link, via Hughes for America)
As Digby rightly points out, just because something is real and emotionally affecting does not make it manipulative.



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