Importing oil: We’re being forced to fund our own destruction

Burning Down the Straw-man

By —— Bio and Archives--September 27, 2008

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First let me get this out of the way.  Recently I wrote an article headlined, “Heather Mallick is a Poo-poo Head.”  Does that headline sound childish, immature, petulant?  I hope so.


By using that headline I intended to underline how ad hominem attacks are on a par with schoolyard name-calling.  I didn’t word the headline like I did because my limited vocabulary left me incapable of a more polished verbal jab. 

Trust me, after having spent years in the U.S Navy, the merchant marines, and working in the offshore oil industry, I can drum up a more scurrilous insult than “poo-poo head.”   

Judging by some of the feedback I’ve received, a few people have erroneously concluded that my tongue-in-cheek headline was meant to be taken seriously.  As in, “Take that, Heather Mallick.”  Not so.

Rather than being an attempt at a waspish bon mot, my headline was an attempt to show how infantile and barren of logic ad hominem attacks are. 

My headline was a swipe at ad hominem attacks; not at Ms. Mallick.  For anyone who took the headline seriously and was offended; I extend my heart-felt apologies.  And with that, I hope I’ve sufficiently clarified the reasons behind my choice of headline, and we can move on to more elevated topics.

As you are an upright, intelligent person of integrity and moral rectitude, I am sure that you are aware of the sly verbal tricks that politicians and pundits use to obscure the facts, divert attention, and sidetrack us from relevant issues.  However, we can all benefit from refreshing our memories a bit on this topic. 

I discussed ad hominem attacks in my last article, and would like to now discuss another fallacious argument: the “straw-man.”  Over the years politicians have honed and polished their expertise in this area to a fine edge. 

We expect to be lied to by our politicians and, as jaded connoisseurs, we applaud fresh and innovative efforts.  This explains Bill Clinton’s continuing popularity.  Nonetheless, we would do well to guard ourselves against being overly dazzled and enchanted by verbal dexterity.

The “straw-man” argument begins by side-stepping the issue at hand entirely.  Instead of attacking the real issue, some other issue (preferably one that can’t be defended) is substituted, and then the feeble proxy issue (the “straw-man”) is attacked. 

To claim that disagreeing with Barack Obama is racist, or that disagreeing with Hilllary Clinton is sexist, are examples of simple “straw-man” arguments.  Senator Biden’s remark about paying higher taxes being patriotic, is another.  No one wants to defend racism, sexism, or demean patriotism.  Such “arguments” are easily seen as being the ineffectual ruses that they are, (although there are, of course, some folks who swallow this tripe).  Most political “straw-man” arguments are more deviously clever, however, and are sometimes difficult to spot. 

The leftist stance against drilling for offshore oil, or in Alaska, is an example of a more cunning type of “straw-man.”  The “straw-man” here is ecology, and anyone who supports drilling is branded as a “heartless despoiler of the wild.”  No doubt the sort of person who, as a child, cheered when Bambi’s mother was shot. 

By the time you respond to such baseless and misleading accusations the real issues are often lost in the dust.  Obviously, one can be both for oil drilling, and responsible stewardship of the environment—this should not be, and is not, an either/or issue. 

What’s “lost in the dust” in this case, is the fact that North America is hostage to an Arab oil consortium that annually pockets billions of dollars from us, while at the same time serving as a breeding ground for Islamic extremists bent on our downfall.  We’re being forced to fund our own destruction.  And right on our doorstep, are billions of barrels of untapped oil reserves.

Politicians and news media throw up “straw-men” in front of such crucially important issues in order to divert us from the relevant facts and further their often misguided, misleading, and mistaken political agendas. 

Most of us are not clones of Star Trek’s Dr. Spock; analyzing and parsing every comment for its logical validity.  We’re much more apt to exhibit a visceral, Pavlovian, knee-jerk response.  It’s all too easy to get us “all in a lather” by pushing certain emotional buttons.  If we keep in mind how these fallacious arguments are used to manipulate us, we’ll be much less likely to fall prey to them.

In conclusion, let me return to the subject at the start of this article, and promise my readers that I will make a concerted and sincere effort to ensure that this is the last article that I ever write containing scatological references—no #.


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Jim ONeill -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Born June 4, 1951 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Served in the U.S. Navy from 1970-1974 in both UDT-21 (Underwater Demolition Team) and SEAL Team Two.  Worked as a commercial diver in the waters off of Scotland, India, and the United States.  Worked overseas in the Merchant Marines.  While attending the University of South Florida as a journalism student in 1998 was presented with the “Carol Burnett/University of Hawaii AEJMC Research in Journalism Ethics Award,” 1st place undergraduate division.  (The annual contest was set up by Carol Burnett with money she won from successfully suing a national newspaper for libel).  Awarded US Army, US Navy, South African, and Russian jump wings.  Graduate of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School, 1970).  Member of Mensa, China Post #1, and lifetime member of the NRA and UDT/SEAL Association.

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