For authoritarianism to take hold, fear-based appeals must meet a receptive audience.
To that end, here are the kinds of arguments we should all reject out of hand:
- Arguments that appeal to fear.
- Arguments that identify frightening enemies.
- Arguments that harken back to past international grievances.
- Arguments that allege the complicity of domestic politicians in international conspiracies or acts.
- Arguments based on anecdotal episodes rather than official misconduct or statistical probabilities.
- Arguments based on religious or quasi-religious dogmatism, imagery, or predictions.
- Arguments that rely on short, repetitive, and simple-minded sound bites.
- Arguments that suggest a resort to violence or hostility to overcome perceived grievances or the existing social order.
- Arguments that predict catastrophic or calamitous results should listeners not align their behaviors with the will of the advocate.
- Arguments that gratuitously overstate the evils and dangers of others and their policies.
- Arguments that align the speaker or advocate with jingoistic favorites like the troops, the flag, or other nationalistic symbols.
- Arguments that suggest victimhood, betrayal, and impending doom.
- Arguments that elevate the rhetoric of weak enemies to the level of mortal threats.
- Arguments based on the polar choices between total confrontation and total capitulation.
- Appeals to supernatural forces to align themselves with the prayers of the audience and the speaker’s agenda.
Now watch this speech by Republican Rep. Mike Kelly in opposition to the Iran no-nukes deal, and see how long it takes you to check off each of the bullet points listed above:
As to the views of Rep. Kelly, we respectfully DISSENT.
Please file your concurring or dissenting opinion in the Comments section below.