Some Deceptive Rhetorical Tactics

Just thought I would make a note of some deceptive rhetorical tactics I’ve noticed and try to put a name to them.

Move the needle by taking the extreme position.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, taking a position on the extreme right or left or other stance is a tactic. The partisan sees extremism as the best way to influence the trend in policy-making. Why advocate compromise when extremism will accomplish more in the long run?

Winning justifies dishonesty.

The other side is viewed as so evil that we are permitted to distort the truth in order to keep them from winning.

Claim that something is dying.

For example, that the climate-change consensus is falling apart. Or that intelligent design is crumbling. Repeated identifications of ‘the final nail in the coffin.’

Revise history.

Present supposed proof that the Holocaust wasn’t as bad as they claim or that Senator McCarthy was right after all or that the Protestant and Catholic hierarchies didn’t really support Hitler.

Never attribute anything good to the other side.

The other political party must never be credited for anything good and must always be blamed for anything bad that happens.

Never attribute anything bad to your own side.

For example, only the other side can ever be accused of racism.

If no better retort is available, resort to whataboutery.

What about what they did to us in the last war? What about such-and-such terrorist attack (justifying one’s own terrorist attack)? What about what the liberal media does? What about what Fox News does? What about what they did to Bush? What about what they did to Clinton? What about what they did to Nixon?

ARB — 14 August 2013


About quriosity

Al Bredenberg is a writer, researcher, and consultant living in Raleigh, NC.
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