My recent piece on “political expressions you need to stop using” got a pretty good response, so here are some more political crutches you should consider casting aside.
THIS: “Oh really? You don’t like college baseball? You know who else didn’t like college baseball? That’s right…. Hitler!”
STOP IT!. German-American political philosopher Leo Strauss dubbed this logical fallacy Reductio ad Hitlerum, the absurd tactic of reducing your opponent’s argument by comparing it to a position held by Hitler. It’s also called “playing the Hitler card”.
Of course, you can’t plot the location of something based on one single reference point. That’s a geometric something-or-other (clearly I paid more attention in social science classes than in math classes.)
Unless you’re referencing something like Stalin’s horrors leading Russia (20 million+ dead is said to be a conservative estimate.) or ethnic slaughter across Africa, comparing something trivial to WWII makes you sound like an intellectual lightweight. There’s no logical connection between the National Socialist Party and, say, whether a federal investigation can check your public library records. “Playing the Hitler card” is either desperation or stupidity. It’s not the moral high ground.
THIS: “They’re just kicking the can down the road.”
STOP IT! Maybe 15 years ago this expression wasn’t tired. It’s become a lazy alternative to saying delaying decision/responsibility on something. But any folksy term loses its charm once it reaches the point of beating a dead horse.
It’s also a nonsensical expression to begin with. It’s supposed to mean making it so you’ll deal with something later. But what the hell does that have to do with kicking a can down the road anyway? You kick a can and then will have to get back to the can eventually because… err….
THIS: “Build a wall! Where the hell’s our fence? Why oh why don’t we have a fence?”
STOP IT!. This one’s a little trickier. You’re okay if you’re speaking metaphorically. Certainly our immigration system is broken, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone (reasonable) who’d argue there isn’t value in knowing who comes into the country, when, and for what purpose. There’s building a wall as a figure of speech, and then there’s the call for magic masonry.
But a lot of times when I hear this beaut dropped, it’s people pointing out we need a physical fence along the border. As if it would make a damned bit of difference.
The recent discovery of a 600 yard tunnel under the border, complete with electrical rail system, ventilation and lighting was not exactly the first. The feds estimate they’ve found 80 such tunnels just since 2006.
Smart immigration reform discussions include things like the number of overstayed visas, the ridiculous cost and delay of the legal immigration process for those who try to do it the right way, and the validity of different nationalities having different classifications. Focusing on an actual fence (or the lack thereof) is shorthand for estupido.
THIS: “You can’t condemn Donald Sterling. First amendment, man! First amendment!”
STOP IT! Okay seriously, you don’t even have to read the entire 1st amendment to get smart on this one. The answer’s in the first five words… “Congress shall make no law…” It doesn’t say a private business can’t have a code of conduct for its franchisees. It doesn’t say all speech will be free from people choosing to react to what you say.
When schmucks like Donald Sterling pipe off, it’s not illegal. That’s all the protection they get. The NBA can absolutely decide to kick someone out of its monopolistic little cabal. They just can’t lock him up.
If you have any suggestions for Cliche Wars III: The Emp(tyhead)ire Strikes Back, feel free to share. Because remember, if you just kick the can down the road instead of exercising your first amendment right to call for a fence, you’re like Hitler!