As I age, I lose my enthusiasm for having certain arguments. For example, as a pro-choice person the idea of seriously debating abortion with a pro-lifer sounds about as appealing as running my balls down a cheese grater. It redefines "futile." The issue breeds completely intractible and irreconcilable differences of opinion, none of which depend on logic in the slightest. Debating it only serves to go around in circles and piss people off. I hate taking part in something so pointless.

But there is a dilemma. I also hate avoiding such debates, because people of mediocre intelligence walk away from such refusals with the impression that they have achieved victory for their beliefs. So the ideal outcome for the situation, from my perspective, is something that can end the argument quickly and let the other person know that he or she is very, very wrong. It's somewhere between the Holy Grail and bulletproof vest of rhetoric. For instance, feminist bloggers have come up with a pretty terrific way to shut anti-choicers the hell up in a hurry: ask them how much prison time women who get abortions should do once it is illegalized. As you can see, it's amazingly effective.

Such a question offers no safe exit for the Dobson crowd. On one hand, they can stay consistent (if abortion = murder, then they should get somewhere between 25 years and the electric chair) with the understanding that support for their position will immediately plummet to zero. Once we start talking about the reality of criminalized abortion – thousands upon thousands of women going to jail – women suddenly become less enthusiastic about the sanctity of fetal life. On the other hand, they can claim that women shouldn't do any time or that it "depends" on XYZ, which obliterates the "abortion = murder" premise and chops the legs clean off of their argument. If it's murder then how can we rationalize not charging them with murder? Either way, it makes them sound like stammering idiots.


To that end, I heartily applaud David Shuster for showing us a similar tactic to stop Congressional Iraq War dead-enders in their tracks. Here's an exchange with Tennessee Rep (and certified moron) Martha Blackburn. As I have cut out some chatter to save space, you can see a full, unedited video here.

Shuster: "Let's talk about the public trust. You represent, of course, a district in western Tennessee. What was the name of the last solider from your district who was killed in Iraq?"

Blackburn: "The name of the last soldier killed in Iraq uh – from my district I – I do not know his name -"

Shuster: "Ok, his name was Jeremy Bohannon, he was killed August the 9th, 2007. How come you didn't know the name?"

Blackburn: "I – I, you know, I – I do not know why I did not know the name…" [Snip]

Shuster: "But you weren't appreciative enough to know the name of this young man, he was 18 years old who was killed, and yet you can say chapter and verse about what's going on with the New York Times and Move On.org." [Snip]

Shuster: "But don't you understand, the problems that a lot of people would have, that you're so focused on an ad — when was the last time a New York Times ad ever killed somebody? I mean, here we have a war that took the life of an 18 year old kid, Jeremy Bohannon from your district, and you didn't even know his name."

Nope, there aren't going to be many McCains and Liebermans in Congress who can answer that one. It's quick and it makes them look like bumbling fools (see video). And that, my friends, is an excellent weapon to have.

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4 Responses to “RHETORICAL KEVLAR”

  1. Chris Says:

    You could tell how people like Bush and Lieberman really feel about the war if they had to be the next American to die in the war. It's always a lot nicer when you can have other people die for your stupid cause, and you don't have to suffer any of the consequences. I think that would shut up most of the chickenhawk, war mongers if they actually had to go to Iraq and die. Problem is, they are so disconnected from what actually is going on over there. It's a shame, it really is. No way these guys look good in retrospect.

  2. Nate Says:

    Wow, Ed. Thanks for this post. This is truly amazing stuff. I'll be putting that in my repitore for the next time I get into an abortion debate.

  3. Christina Says:

    Unfortunately, there are those who will answer the question re: abortion jail times. And they will also say, "She would be a criminal. I'm not going to worry myself over the fate of a criminal."

    Yeah, they show themselves to be asses but there are entirely too many people who secretly agree with them.

    And should this question begin to be asked frequently, the chickenhawks would just start memorizing the names.

  4. -h Says:

    Don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but here's a problem: logic, reason, and introspection are foreign concepts to this crowd.

    You can't rationalize with them. You can stop them dead in their tracks, spin circles of reason around them, and shut them the hell up, but you know what, they won't react the same as you. From my experience with this crowd, I think they all have a "safe place" in their minds that they retreat to when faced with logic and reason. I've reasoned through all kinds of topics with this crowd (ranging from biology to international politics) and have seen them hit the wall and shut the hell up… but you know what, it never made a damned difference. They just zone you out, retreat to their safe spot, and wait to find comfort in numbers the next time they get together (cause you know, 99% of the time, these individuals are part of an organized-something that meets one to three times a week).

    I love the balls down a cheese grater metaphor though. Perfectly describes it.

    [sorry if this was a double-post… havin' issues with mozilla…]