Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Obama's same old tired meme

In discussing the President's comments the other day, I noted that--above and beyond his lack of understanding as to what constitutes judicial activism--there was a great deal to criticize in his words. Some more of what the President said:
As I said, we are confident this will be over -- this will be upheld. I am confident this will be upheld because it should be upheld. And again, that is not just my opinion. That is the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who have examined this law, even if they're not particularly sympathetic to this piece of legislation or my presidency.
See it? It's an "experts on both sides agree on this" type of statement, which is the absolutely most invoked defense of policy by this administration, bar none. The President, the Vice President, and other members of the administration began using the defense for the Stimulus Bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Three freaking years ago. And they've never let up. Despite actual, hard evidence at the time of the bill's consideration and passage--the Cato ad, for starters--they've maintained as a truth what is an absolute lie: that there was widespread, across the board support for that bill because it was the only course to take, that there was no legitimate argument to the contrary.

And the repetition of a lie, as we all know, is a powerful tool for the propagandist. The lie about the Stimulus Bill is, even now, becoming a truth, thanks to willing dupes in the media and in academia. I noted the insidiousness of the lie and the role of the media in its perpetuation back in January, in articles like this piece by Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker.

The argument has been used in other instances as well by the President and his lackeys, like with the extension of unemployment benefits, with global climate change, or with foreign policy initiatives. And on occasion, the argument might even be valid, but the continued invocation of it points to something else: the technocratic nature  of this Presidency. Obama apparently has a twofold belief in this regard:
  1. That experts can and should dictate policy, that they have sufficient knowledge to predict the outcome of their choices.
  2. That Obama, himself, can determine which experts to listen to, which ones are right.
In the case of the Affordable Care Act and its constitutionality, Obama counts himself as an expert as well. Thus, if the Act is overturned by the Court, then--in Obama's mind--it can only be because the Court is doing something profoundly wrong, since "experts on both sides agree" with the President's position:
I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically-elected congress.
Dissent is marginalized preemptively, as a matter of course. And that's what makes the argument so effective and so flawed. In terms of fallacies of argument, it as an appeal to an anonymous authority (the unnamed expert, economist, or scholar) coupled with an appeal to the many (not just some experts, but all of them, on both "sides"). Those who would deign to question the argument are unfairly saddled with the burden of proof: they need to find experts who disagree, and even if they do that, such expert opinions are written of as anomalies.

The proper response--when confronted with such an argument--is to dismiss it wholesale, to laugh at it and mock it. Because as we can now see, a full response with empirical evidence--like the Cato ad--is simply ignored.

Cheers, all.


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