HOW TO SCREW UP AN ARGUMENT EVEN WHEN YOU HAVE A POINT

So, Rush Limbaugh. By this point you know what he said, so I'm not going to recount it here. Here is the laundry list if you're curious, uninformed, or a glutton for punishment. Let's momentarily ignore the fact that Limbaugh is a sad, sad excuse for a human being who has to keep ratcheting up the shock factor to get attention because he's not relevant anymore, and therefore we're playing into his hands by talking about him. Let's also ignore the fact that I'm pretty goddamn sure he doesn't understand how birth control pills work, as he apparently believes that one can have "so much sex, she’s going broke buying contraceptives and wants us to buy them." This strongly implies that he thinks that birth control pills are taken each time a woman has sex. I think he's got them confused with his limp dick pills. But we digress.

After his half-assed non-apology, forthcoming only under the direct threat of having his radio show advertisers abandon him, the conservative media have gone into overdrive trying to turn this story to their advantage. This has taken the tried-and-true "But nobody complains when libruls do it!" format for the most part. As usual, this has involved collecting cherry picked quotes, misquotes, and totally irrelevant statements and presenting them as evidence that "the liberals" are every bit the misogynist pigs that Rush Limbaugh is.

Kirsten Powers has put together one such list, one that has achieved fairly wide circulation on the internets. One thing caught my eye:

During the 2008 election Ed Schultz said on his radio show that Sarah Palin set off a "bimbo alert." He called Laura Ingraham a "right-wing slut." (He later apologized.) He once even took to his blog to call yours truly a "bimbo" for the offense of quoting him accurately in a New York Post column.

Thus Powers starts off with a fair point. Whether it's Ed Schultz, Rush Limbaugh, or Walter Cronkite, media commentators can certainly do better than calling women bimbos and sluts. Shame on Ed Schultz. And as much as it pains me to say it, Powers is correct in pointing out that there was little to no outrage surrounding Schultz's comments (although he was suspended by MSNBC). While we could argue qualitative points about whether Schultz's comments are as "bad" as Limbaugh's, the point holds. This could have turned into a good column for Powers.

Then she remembered her agenda, and things went downhill in a hurry.

Keith Olbermann has said that conservative commentator S.E. Cupp should have been aborted by her parents, apparently because he finds her having opinions offensive. He called Michelle Malkin a "mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick." He found it newsworthy to discuss Carrie Prejean’s breasts on his MSNBC show. His solution for dealing with Hillary Clinton, who he thought should drop out of the presidential race, was to find "somebody who can take her into a room and only he comes out."

OK. That stuff really isn't misogynist. It's mean. It might be over the line of good taste in Cupp's case. It might just be unnecessary and irrelevant with the Prejean story. It might be juvenile to make cracks about Malkin's (ghastly) appearance rather than focusing on her (idiotic) ideas. But I think you would be hard pressed to label those comments misogynist, either in a vacuum or compared to Limbaugh's recent rants.

Left-wing darling Matt Taibbi wrote on his blog in 2009, "When I read [Malkin’s] stuff, I imagine her narrating her text, book-on-tape style, with a big, hairy set of balls in her mouth." In a Rolling Stone article about Secretary of State Clinton, he referred to her "flabby arms." When feminist writer Erica Jong criticized him for it, he responded by referring to Jong as an "800-year old sex novelist."

Hmm. I guess the balls-in-mouth thing is borderline at best, but the other two comments are about age and appearance. And the number of instances in which Taibbi has mocked the appearance of male political figures is longer than the phone book. So perhaps a better criticism would be his shallowness. Those quotes make pretty meager evidence for woman-hating.

Then things go completely off the rails.

In Taibbi’s profile of Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann he labeled her "batshit crazy." (Oh, those "crazy" women with their hormones and all.)

Wow. OK. That's really reaching. Like, that's possibly the lamest effort to paint someone as a misogynist that I've ever seen. It's akin to calling Al Sharpton an asshole and then scare-quoting "asshole" as evidence that you hate black people.

Chris Matthews’s sickening misogyny was made famous in 2008, when he obsessively tore down Hillary Clinton for standing between Barack Obama and the presidency, something that Matthews could not abide. Over the years he has referred to the former first lady, senator and presidential candidate and current secretary of state as a "she-devil," "Nurse Ratched," and "Madame Defarge." Matthews has also called Clinton "witchy," "anti-male," and "uppity" and once claimed she won her Senate seat only because her "husband messed around."

This is weak sauce for so many reasons. First, do you really want to play the "Let's look at what pundits have called Hillary Clinton over the years" game, Kirsten? Second, I agree with the general consensus that Chris Matthews is a condescending, chauvinist asshead who would have fit right in with the media of the 1950s. This laundry list of words uttered about Clinton, however, hardly provide much evidence of that. I mean, calling someone "Madame Defarge" is hardly the sort of thing that would get the interest groups in a tizzy, even if Glenn Beck said it. Then she really stretches things:

Matthews has wondered aloud whether Sarah Palin is even "capable of thinking" and has called Bachmann a "balloon head" and said she was "lucky we still don’t have literacy tests out there."

Once again, those quotes have absolutely nothing to do with the main argument in this column.

The author then devotes a paragraph to Bill Maher quotes. We are all inescapably aware of the fact that Bill Maher is a jagoff. He's a paranoid, attention starved conspiracy theorist who thinks Jenny McCarthy is an authority on vaccination. After trying to suggest that Bill Maher is really important and well respected among liberals, she notes:

Maher has called Palin a "dumb twat" and dropped the C-word in describing the former Alaska governor. He called Palin and Congresswoman Bachmann "boobs" and "two bimbos." He said of the former vice-presidential candidate, "She is not a mean girl. She is a crazy girl with mean ideas." He recently made a joke about Rick Santorum’s wife using a vibrator.

Again, anyone who thinks it's appropriate to call women twats, bimbos, and cunts in any setting is an asshole. Point taken. The rest, once again, is irrelevant. He called Sarah Palin mean? Heavens!

So basically the take home points here are: A) Ed Schultz called someone a slut and a bimbo, for which he was rightfully suspended, and B) Bill Maher uses words like cunt and bimbo to describe female political figures. Everything else here, including the implication that Maher is held in great esteem on the left, is tangential at best and irrelevant at worst. She could have focused on Schultz and Maher, recounting in detail how various feminist figures and blogs failed to make the same stink that they have made over Limbaugh. That would have been a point earned and taken. Instead she got greedy, presumably because she didn't think two examples would be enough. She needed a parade of misogynist comments to give this argument gravitas. The finished product is so full of red herrings and flat-out lousy reasoning that the valid points she could have made end up lost among the nonsense.

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76 Responses to “HOW TO SCREW UP AN ARGUMENT EVEN WHEN YOU HAVE A POINT”

  1. anotherbozo Says:

    @Elle:
    I agree. My point was using "cunt" and "bitch" doesn't necessarily make you a sexist, either. (I doubt that Barbara Bush was, even re: Hilary, a sexist) Depends on The Context. Of course if you want to remove all chance of misinterpretation… don't use the terms at all.

  2. bb in GA Says:

    @Mo

    Where you been?

    Do you think that religious institutions ought to be forced to pay for stuff they specifically teach against? The insurance company dodge doesn't cut it because some of these outfits self insure.

    If that is not at least a Constitutional discussion, what is?

    Viagra ain't on the dance card and I doubt the RCs would want to pay for that either.

    //bb

  3. Elle Says:

    My point was using "cunt" and "bitch" doesn't necessarily make you a sexist, either.

    I'm with Elizabeth I on not making windows into men's souls. People can say sexist things and not necessarily be 'a sexist'.

    I'm not sure I'm equipped to comment on whether the word 'cunt' is automatically sexist. There are some places in the UK where it's used in lieu of 'person', e.g. "Did that cunt say if he wanted beer or cider?" However, that is obviously not the case in the US. The first time I used the word when I was talking to one of my American pals, she stopped dead in the street.

    I think 'bitch' is sexist. It's a gendered insult, specifically designed to highlight a supposedly female set of traits, or the (unnatural) presence of male traits in women. I hear it used most frequently by men to describe women who exercise power and/or authority unapologetically.

  4. JazzBumpa Says:

    bb –

    Clearly, you are not stupid. You are an enigma. How can a person who is not stupid look at this and think it is an apology?

    http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2012/03/03/a_statement_from_rush

    "I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke."

    Nine straight on-air hours of vicious insults, plus prep time, plus however he spends his off-time hours thinking about the next day's show.

    This was not an instance of ill-chosen words. This was an attempt to intimidate Fluke and any other woman who dares to speak out.

    Let me explain what "in the bubble" means. It means you have put yourself in a state where only your per-conceived notions and confirmation bias influence your thinking. Facts, data – aspects of reality – these things cannot penetrate the bubble.

    Until now, though we probably agree on nothing, I thought you were someone I might have a reasonable discussion with.

    Now I know better.

    You're hopeless.

    And this makes me sad.

    JzB

  5. Surly Duff Says:

    @bb
    "What can I say other than Rush Limbaugh had points to make about the political issues, entitlement issues and Constitutional issues whether you agree or disagree."

    Sure he had points; they were incorrect and fabricated points intended to undermine the issues raised by Ms. Fluke, but yes Rush made points.

  6. bb in GA Says:

    @Jzb

    I said he was wrong and should not have said it. It was cruel and insensitive.

    What are you talking about?

    //bb

  7. Xynzee Says:

    @Jer:
    "I'm sorry but Taibbi wouldn't make comments about "reading, book-on-tape style, with balls in her mouth" about a man. Shit like that needs to be called out as the misogyny it is or it's not going to get better. We're supposed to be the side that gets it."

    Yes he could. However, now the focus shifts from womyn to teh gays.

    bb: It's one thing to see a political player and call them on it. It's another to attack them. Effectively, if Limbaugh had a point to make about how Fluke was high-jacking the discourse of Issa's hearing he's failed. All that's remembered is his tirade against Fluke.

  8. Major Kong Says:

    @bb

    Do you think that religious institutions ought to be forced to pay for stuff they specifically teach against?

    Depends. I realize the Right doesn't do nuance, but there's a difference between a Catholic church and a Catholic hospital, which is run as a business.

    Are you that sure you want to grant blanket exemptions to the law based on religion? If I want to I can probably invent a religion where drugs and prostitution are sacraments, if that's the case.

  9. JazzBumpa Says:

    bb –

    You really are hopeless. What I am talking about is – Again – It was not 2 ill-chosen words. It was nine continuous god-damned hours of things like: She's having so much sex I'm surprised she can walk.

    It was that he made lots and lots of nasty personally offensive shit up. He insulted her parents. This goes way beyond cruel and insensitive. it is libel and character assassination. He should be sued for damages.

    It was a nine-hour litany of vicious lies directed at a private citizen.

    He lied about the nature and the purpose of her testimony.

    He did it to intimidate her, cause her personal harm, and thus intimidate any other woman who might chose to speak out.

    He said, Who bought her condoms in junior high? I have two granddaughters in Jr High. The older of them just turned 12 two days ago. They are pre-teens, girls, not women. Maybe you can't personally relate to how offensive this is. Maybe you don't care. Maybe you're fine with him wanting to see the non-existent sex tapes.

    He apologized for using two specific words, and still defended his content. He is still indicating that she is a slut and a prostitute – it's only the vocabulary that was regrettable. Maybe he should have said she was a courtesan, a party girl, a lady of the night or maybe a "professional woman." That would have made a big difference.

    He says he only did what the left does. See my 10:17 a.m. comment. As I have said repeatedly about the right wing – they lie about everything, then they lie about their lies.

    And you still don't get it. He is a hateful liar. Reality means absolutely nothing to him. He pollutes the public airways with his bile. You listen to him, but I guess you missed all this.

    You are deep, deep in the bubble. You are hopeless.

    And you vote.

    Looks like Gingrich is getting GA.

    WASF!
    JzB

  10. bb in GA Says:

    @Jzb

    I didn't hear what you quoted. I don't listen to all his programming. That is way beyond anything personal I ever heard from him before.

    I will do something our President wouldn't do with Reverend Wright when he didn't hear specifics.

    I condemn Mr L for that and it puts him in a different place for me moving forward. Thank you.

    I voted for the magic underwear guy.

    //bb

  11. Major Kong Says:

    In the UK he would have been sued for libel, and probably with success, but their media laws are stricter than ours.

    Just the thought of him devoting 9 hours of a nationally syndicated radio show to trashing this woman is weird at the very least and shows that this guy has some real issues with women.

  12. JazzBumpa Says:

    bb –

    I heard the clips played on progressive radio.

    You're welcome. And welcome to reality.

    Thank you!

    The thing is – the airways are part of the commons. Broadcasting is a privilege, not a right. Broadcasters are licensed by the government, and have public interest responsibilities – in the abstract. Free speech, in case anyone was thinking about first amendment rights, are not an issue.

    There was a time when that meant acting responsibly and in the public interest. But that all went out the window during the Reagan administration, then Clinton sealed the deal, to his everlasting shame.

    This is what Premier Broadcasting had to say about Limbaugh.

    On Tuesday, Premiere Networks released a statement saying it was "committed to providing its listeners with access to a broad range of opinion and commentary without condoning or agreeing with the opinions, comments or attempts at humor expressed by on-air talent."

    "We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him," Premiere said. His "attempt at absurdist humor to illustrate his political point … used words that unfortunately distracted from the message he was trying to convey."

    http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/03/rush_limbaugh_dropped_radio_stations_sandra_fluke_slut_premiere_clear_channel.html

    I've already riffed enough on what his message was.

    Contrast this:

    Country stations across the United States have pulled the Chicks from playlists following reports that lead singer Natalie Maines said in a concert in London earlier this week that she was "ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

    http://www.cnn.com/2003/SHOWBIZ/Music/03/14/dixie.chicks.reut/

    Clear Channel, Premier's parent, BANNED them for that – by executive order. Maybe you follow country music. (I'm a jazz guy) Did you ever hear them on the radio again?

    This goes way beyond a double standard.

    This is living in the republican party's hip pocket.

    Like I said before – the playing field is far from level.

    Republicans own the vast majority of the MSM.

    Randi Rhodes can't listen to her own broadcast, because no station in Florida carries it

    What a state we are in.
    JzB

  13. eau Says:

    I read the Taibbi article about Bachmann, and remember it well. He did say she was batshit crazy. It wasn't an off-the-cuff remark, but it WAS supported by a whole lot of empirical evidence that the woman is BATSHIT FUCKING CRAZY.

    That's not misogyny. That's just a fact-based conclusion.

    The point I haven't noticed anyone making is that the right-leaning media took what Rush said and ran with it (Check out the Daily Show skit/feature – plenty of examples).

    All the "lefty" (Bill Maher? Seriously?) examples were taken to task by their own side, as they should have been.

  14. bb in GA Says:

    @JzB

    For the record, it was Cumulus Media, not Clear Channel that corporately banned the Chicks

    http://www.dankennedy.net/2007/02/14/dixie-chicks-and-clear-channel/

    A few CC FM stations in Jax did too.

    This becomes a deep discussion quickly about property rights, your take on the 'commons' and the associated public responsibility, and free speech.

    Remember the 1st amendment is about your rights in relation to the Government not some corporation.

    And one further plot complication, the Chicks imploded quickly with Country music fans w/o corporate help.

    My right to free association trumps your right to 'free speech.' If I don't want to hear what you have to say/sing and walk away or change the station, your rights have not been violated.

    But back to Cumulus – to what degree are you a government agent when you take the FCC license? And does the corporate ban represent a violation of the 1st?

    Musically, I'm an omnivore – I don't care for sung opera and most oriental music (some Indian/Pakastani stuff)

    Two of my sons are sax players and I play electric 5 string bass and have played us some Smooth Jazz. Not good enough for the deeper stuff. We have a history of being church players….

    //bb

  15. don Says:

    "Derogatory comments about the appearance of a woman in the public arena are inherently sexist."

    Why? At what point do some of us get to leave the troglodytes behind and make derogatory comments about the appearance of other humans who we despise, without reference to their sex? When do I get to comment equally on John Boehner's freakishly unnatural color and on the tragic accident that caused a giant vat of clear plastic to melt over Callista Gingrich's head? And Michelle Bachmann IS batshit crazy. Why am I sexist to say "She's batshit crazy!"??? What may be sexist is that she – who is BATSHIT BATSHIT CRAZY CRAZY – got dumped from the "nomination process" while Rick Santorum – who is also completely, totally 1000% BATSHIT CRAZY in very similar ways (christophrenia?) – is still considered plausible somehow. But I didn't dump her in favor of the crazy penis-owner, and I refuse to own Republican/Media sexism; I belong to neither group. Being out of your fucking mind in public deserves notice, and being female doesn't exempt you.

  16. Andrew Laurence Says:

    Depending on your definition of "contraceptives," you might need more of them if you have more sex. Condoms fall into that category, and while the sponge allows you to have all the sex you want for 24 hours, you still need one every time you have sex even once during any 24 hour period. But every adult should know that hormonal contraceptives are taken on a regular schedule regardless of how often (if ever) one has sex.

    As for the idiots who think that if a woman carries condoms in her purse, she's a slut, they must also think that if a woman carries bandages in her purse, she's accident prone.

  17. Jado Says:

    I think you are forgetting something – discounting these instances of insult because the content isn't misogynistic means you are measuring the level of misogyny by a LOGICAL standard.

    You can't do that – these are Conservatives. By simply listing these insults and declaring that they are equivalent to Rush's transgressions, the Conservatives have MADE them equivalent. It's the Transubstantiation of Evidence, and it is a right-wing sacrament.

    THEY determine what is relevant. They determine what is misogynistic. They determine the scope and boundaries of the debate, and if you object, you are an obstructionist, and not Serious about the Conversations we need to have in these Modern Times.

    It's not their fault you are so mule-headed that you won't even talk rationally about the issues. Especially when they went to all the fuss and bother to define the issues for you.

    Typical liberal elitist…

  18. Sarah Says:

    As has been pointed out, Rush Limbaugh turns down millions in advertising (or so he says). It seems that what he turns down involves web sites offering dating services to men who wish to cheat on their wives. Given the spectacle that is Newt Gingrich as well as Rush himself, this is hardly surprising.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/post/rush-limbaughs-show-targets-jerks-judging-from-the-latest-ads/2012/03/07/gIQAiwQLxR_blog.html?tid=sm_twitter_washingtonpost

  19. Bernard Says:

    well Georgetown University does cover Viagra and Vasectomies. but not the Pill. equal opportunity, indeed.

    amazing how the Rigth refuses to see the $$ signs when it is convenient. MSM is owned by $$$ and run for the $$$. all the BS about it being liberal has always showed me how dumb the speaker is when they say such "liberal" propaganda. it amuses me to no end.

    i always find my self fasncinated at the machinations of what must go on in the empty space/minds of the Rightwingers. to be so completely void of thinking due to the "right" way of thinking.

    I do remember a time when the Right way wasn't the "only" way in America. but those days are dead and gone, kind of like the America i grew up. watching the Right steal, foul and destroy any aspect of moral "righteousness" in the name of Control, well, that has been a real "lesson." a lesson that Republicans will never ever acknowledge or admit, the game would be up if they did.

    to watch these "men" take down women left and right of the spectrum is just further proof of the callous disregard for teh "other."

    since the Right has deemed the "other" to be valueless and worth-less, th argument for "the other side does it" coming from the Right amuses me as well.

    i frankly couldn't tell you the last time the Left existed in any potent form to ever open the door, much less rattle the cage of the "Republican" monster.

    Maher is an ass for entertaining such ilk like Ann Coulter or any of teh Right who lie with such virgin abandon. to encourage any of the idiocy of the Right only endorses teh EVIL of those whose only goal is domination. which then again may explain why so many "men" fear women. these men want to dominate those they do not understand. Fear is such a dominant component of these empty male beings.

    such culture wars the Right has visited upon the rest of us who weren't interested in collateral damage.

    but the Right will win, simply because the Rigth will never ever give up fighting. the Right will make sure the Left, or any other "Other" never has a place in the Sun. the Sun belongs to the Right, from their point of view, and that is so simple a statement of their intent the Right will never cede or accept anything other than total collapse or total control.

    really simple, when you listen to the Right's message. spoken in language the Left refuses to accept or even acknowledge.

    None so blind as those who will not see.

  20. Diana Says:

    "If I want to I can probably invent a religion where drugs and prostitution are sacraments, if that's the case…."

    This actually was done in the 70's by some hippies who established the Church of Realized Fantasies, and then sued to be able to take drugs as a sacrament that would not count as a violation of the drug laws.

    They lost.

    "Batshit crazy" is an equal-opportunity insult. "Mouth full of balls" is sexual, but it is also an equal-opportunity insult. But only a woman can be slut, just as only an Asian can be a chink, etc. That's what makes it an insult.

  21. don Says:

    Diana, you said "But only a woman can be slut, just as only an Asian can be a chink.." Not so sure about that – at least in part because "slut" describes behavior, and "chink" describes race. Speaking from a lifetime of gay male subculture (and for that matter a lifetime of hanging out in and near sex-and-"slut"-positive counterculture), I've heard far more men called sluts than women. Including me, and usually gleefully. I know that's not what Rush weights the word with, but then he clearly has a not-very-inner slut he needs to embrace and accept. Maybe then he wouldn't have to slink off to the Domonican Republic for sex so often.

  22. Fifth Dentist Says:

    bb
    "Do you think that religious institutions ought to be forced to pay for stuff they specifically teach against? The insurance company dodge doesn't cut it because some of these outfits self insure.

    If that is not at least a Constitutional discussion, what is?"

    So, Quakers would not have to pay for any military expenditures? War is against their religion.
    Jehovah's Witness would not have to pay for blood transfusions?
    The Catholic Church opposed the Iraq war, but Catholics were forced to pay for fighting it.
    The Constitution never once mentions "Air Force." Therefore it's unconstitution for the U.S. to have an Air Force.
    Do you realize how stupid trying to turn this into a religious freedom issue is? The issue is whether BC is a valid medical treatment. Doctors prescribe it every fucking day; so it's safe to say it is.
    The woman, as part of her compensation, receives health insurance, so how it is used is between her and her doctor. Period.
    And don't get me started on the Raping Children Church. They wanted to force a 9-year-old raped by her father to give birth, oh and by the way killing her. Fuck the Catholic Church its titular head who wears fancy dresses and expensive pointy hats while people perish from want of food that those fancy

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