Help me develop a polite, persuasive argument to challenge a young friend of mine who has bought into the media narrative about right-wing extremism.
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I have a young friend — my children’s age — who is an extremely bright, thoughtful, and (so he believes) informed young man who wants to pursue a graduate degree in politics and terrorism. His biggest concern is “right-wing extremism in America.”
When I first heard this, my initial impulse was to say, “That’s just wrong. It’s a stupid Leftist lie. You’re being brainwashed. If you want to make a difference in the world, tackle left-wing extremism.”
Fortunately, I’ve finally figured out that insulting people is not the way to get them to agree with you. There are better persuasion techniques. Because I respect my young friend’s intelligence, I want to take some time to assemble an argument that will present data in a way that challenges his beliefs without insulting his intelligence. This post represents the first draft of that email.
Maybe it’s my legal training, but I believe that one of the best ways to challenge an argument is to start by identifying bias, both my own and the bias of the person(s) advocating the opposite view. I’ve been open with my friend about my bias. My problem is to convince him that the media from which he gets his ideas about right-wing extremism is biased too. Very biased.
The other day on his podcast, Andrew Klavan played two videos, one in which the media celebrates Trump’s anticipated downfall and the other in which it celebrates Obama’s allegedly scandal-free presidency. In both videos, raw partisanship is on display. The video below is Andrew Klavan’s show, which I’ve queued up to those back-to-back videos, starting at 19:15:
(By the way, I suggest watching the entire video because Klavan does an excellent overall analysis about our partisan media. I just know that it’s unlikely I can get my young friend to spend 45 minutes listening to Klavan.)
Before I get back to my own analysis, here’s one more example of pro-Obama bias: Just the other day, in a huge burst of nostalgia, the media again swooned about Obama’s scandal-free presidency. Here’s an example from MSNBC, although it certainly wasn’t the only one:
“A nightmare” “Shocking to a lot of people” “A sign to enemies he’s a wimp”: @ChrislHayes remembers the days when presidential scandals involved conservatives freaking out about Obama’s tan suit. https://t.co/7uPo9JIqGo
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 29, 2019
At this point, if you’re still with me, I’ve provided two types of media conduct: (1) Media attacks against Trump’s integrity and (2) media swooning over Obama’s integrity. With regard to Trump, although we’re now two-and-a-half years into his presidency, the scandalous “beginning of the end” the media promised never even began.
Indeed, the facts that have been emerging with increasing speed over the past several months, are beginning to coalesce around pretty conclusive proof that, not only did Trump not collude with the Russians, he was instead the victim of a coup from inside government aimed at overturning his legal election. I don’t know if my friend will be able to acknowledge that Trump’s administration has been without actual (as opposed to manufactured) scandals, but I think he’ll have a hard time avoiding the media’s open and raging malice.
And then there’s the other side, which is the media’s equally ferocious pro-Obama bias. I think my young friend will have a harder time recognizing that bias, in part because he was a child for most of Obama’s presidency. Also, some things are confusing because the media deliberately confuses them.
For example, I specifically chose the whole tan suit thing as an example of the complications inherent in showing media bias in Obama’s favor. Becket Adams explains how the media reported the tan suit when it happened, how they report it now, and what they routinely ignore:
Five years ago, former President Barack Obama revealed at a White House press briefing that he had no strategy to defeat the Islamic State.
Members of the press and a handful of right-wing and GOP cranks went wild … for the president’s choice of attire. Obama attended the briefing wearing a baggy tan suit. It was all reporters and commentators could talk about.
Newsrooms have since rewritten the history of that 2014 incident. Every year on the anniversary of Obama debuting his tan suit, a number of journalists and commentators claim it was the president’s critics who overreacted. They claim it was conservatives, not the newsrooms that gushed like teenage fans, who turned the suit into a full-blown event.
Today, members of the press have tweaked further their false version of events. They now use the anniversary of the tan suit to claim the Obama administration was essentially scandal-free. This is beyond ignorance or sycophancy. It is immoral and a damned lie.
I am not sure why members of the press need to be told this, but the Obama administration absolutely had serious scandals. Many of them. Some of them even had body counts. The Obama administration oversaw a fatally botched Justice Department gun-running operation, the extrajudicial execution of United States citizens in foreign countries, a pillaged U.S. consulate and a dead ambassador due to executive branch negligence, thousands of veterans’ deaths connected to the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal — well, you name it. In fact, the eight-year Obama presidency was book-ended by scandal. It began with voter intimidation, and it ended with Russian election interference that occurred entirely on his watch.
My current thinking when communicating with my young friend is to use the following four events as examples of genuine Obama-era scandals that have a certain hard, undeniable clarity. Four is a small number, but it should be sufficient to establish that the media, by denying any scandals whatsoever, is lying and therefore manifestly biased:
1. Fast and Furious. I’m betting that my young friend has never heard of Fast and Furious — or, if he has, he just thinks of it as a movie franchise. Without going into the motive behind the scheme (which was to discredit the Second Amendment by showing guns pouring in America from Mexico), the undisputed facts are that the Obama administration flooded thugs and drug cartels in Mexico with guns — and then promptly lost track of the weapons. In addition to the weapons killing hundreds of people in Mexico, the Obama administration was correct that some of the weapons would make it back across the border. One killed a U.S. Border Patrol agent named Brian Terry. An Islamic terrorist also got hold of a gun and used it to launch an attack against conservatives in Garland, Texas. And El Chapo got one of those guns. Oh, and there was that little problem about U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder being held in contempt of Congress for stonewalling subsequent investigations into the scandal.
2. Using the IRS to target conservatives. We know its true that the Obama administration weaponized the IRS because, in 2013, when the scandal was about to break, Lois Lerner, head of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Unit, admitted that the IRS had been targeting Tea Party organizations in the lead-up to the 2012 election. That kind of partisan bias is a big no-no from the biggest, baddest, meanest, scariest domestic administration agency under the president’s control. It’s also illegal. As is always the case when Democrats run scandals, no one was punished in a way that was consistent with the seriousness of the wrongdoing.
3. Spying on journalists. While journalists adored Obama, Obama did not adore them back. It turned out that the Department of Justice had been wrongly spying on both the Associated Press (listening in on phone calls) and Fox News (spying on emails). Of course, the administration was also spying on Congress . . . and let’s not even start with what’s being revealed about the spying on President Trump’s campaign.
4. Hillary’s email server. While Secretary of State, Hillary ran almost all State Department business through an unsecured server in her home, violating law, regulations, common sense — and, of course, national security. Obama knew about this, because he exchanged emails with Hillary over this server using an email address for her that was quite obviously not from within the State Department. Others in the White House knew as well. We now know that China has the emails and can assume that other unfriendlies, including Russia do too.
Does that sound like a scandal-free administration?
At this point, I’ve proven to my own satisfaction that the media is not a reliable source when it comes to the Left / Right divide in America. I hope my young friend will acknowledge the same . . . and that he’ll therefore acknowledge as well the possibility that the media is a biased source when it comes to exaggerating extremism from the Right and downplaying it from the Left.
Okay, I’m now ready to attack the media claim that extremism is almost entirely a right-wing problem. I see four major arguments: (1) the “lies, damn lies, and statistics” argument; (2) the “hide the ball” argument; (3) the “heckler’s veto” argument; and (4) the “no true Scotsman” argument. Specifically:
1. Lies, damn lies, and statistics. My young friend explained his concern by saying that data shows that right-wing extremism is on the rise. But of course, he’s missing the GIGO principle (that is, garbage in, garbage out) — and Progressives both inside and outside of the media are pushing an awful lot of garbage.
To begin with, there’s the way in which the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is the font of almost all data on which the media relies, is gaming its numbers. For example, in order to inflate numbers, the SPLC has taken to naming individuals as “hate groups.” Just two examples of this are Daniel Greenfield, a conservative writer, and Bosch Fawstin, an artist and former Muslim. I know I tend to the pedantic, but I think even people less fussy about language than I would argue that it takes more than one person to constitute a group.
In addition, the SPLC was able to triple the number of anti-Muslim hate groups by taking one organization and, instead of listing it as a single group, listing several of its local chapters as individual hate groups. That’s how the SPLC added another 45 “hate groups” to its roster literally overnight. Oh, and I should add that this “hate group” is Act for America, which is open to all people, regardless of race, color, creed, or country of national origin, provided that they are dedicated to Constitutional principles and national security — that is, it’s anti-terrorism. Put another way, the SPLC, by saying any anti-terrorism group is anti-Islamic is, in fact, the group saying that all terrorists are Muslims, which sounds like hate to me. I guess the SPLC needs to put itself on the list.
As Tucker Carlson pointed out in a telecast, the actual numbers for open and active white supremacists isn’t in the millions or even the hundreds of thousands. Instead, there are just barely enough self-professed white supremacists in America to fit into a single football stadium and not come close to filling the place — and that’s out of a country with around 330,000,000 people. That’s not statistically significant, so Tucker Carlson stated the truth, which is that the media’s hype is a hoax — so the media promptly turned around and lied by saying that Tucker Carlson said white supremacy itself is a hoax.
The only way Leftists are able to inflate the white supremacy number is to claim that all whites are racists. I’ve got a lot of posts at my blog, both that I’ve written and that Wolf Howling has written, addressing this evil canard. Just scroll through posts for the month of August to find them. The reality is that the media lies . . . and then it lies about lying.
2. Hide the ball. The media is also lying by downplaying some stories while overplaying others. At the beginning of August, two mass shootings took place. The one in El Paso got non-stop airtime because the shooter’s “manifesto” indicated that he did not like Latin Americans. What the media downplayed was the fact that he didn’t like them because he was afraid they were placing a burden on an American ecosystem damaged by anthropogenic climate change. Climate change concerns emanate from the Left, not the Right.
In the meantime, the media almost completely obliterated all references to and memory of the Dayton shooter. Why? He was a hardcore Leftist who liked Elizabeth Warren. Whoops!
And who remembers James T. Hodgkinson? Few do, but he’s worth remembering, because he was a far Left activist who tried to assassinate as many Republican congresspeople as he could by shooting up their baseball practice. He almost succeeded inkilling GOP Whip Steve Scalise who, thankfully, survived.
The media also ignores Antifa violence, portraying Antifa as a pure-minded anti-fascist group. In fact, its members routinely and cheerfully employ violence at the events they attend.
Most recently, masked Antifa members tried to kill a gay Asian journalist. The New York Times barely covered the event, describing it as “striking the conservative journalist Andy Ngo in the face while others slimed him with what protesters said were vegan coconut milkshakes,” leaving “Mr. Ngo . . . bloodied and obviously shaken. . . .” The Times then focused on conservatives being upset, snidely implying that conservatives are hysterical and paranoid. In fact, as videos show, Mr. Ngo experienced a brutal beat down at the hands of multiple masked people, followed by a dangerous brain bleed. That’s extremism too.
3. Heckler’s veto. One of the reasons a lot of Leftist extremism is hidden is because conservatives have simply been barred from multiple venues. You don’t have violence if there’s no one against whom to be violent.
The most important example is the way in which conservatives have effectively been banned from college campuses. When two well known conservatives speakers — the gay Milo Yiannopoulos and the Jewish Ben Shapiro — tried to speak at UC Berkeley, Antifa and its fellow travelers came out in force. They tried to burn up Milo supporters and beat them in the streets. Security for Ben Shapiro was practically of the type reserved for heads of state. That’s extremism.
Nor is this type of extremism limited to Berkeley. Heather MacDonald regularly uses hard data to challenge claims about campus rape (if 1/4 women really were raped, no parent would send a daughter to college) and about police racism (no, police don’t disproportionately kill blacks). Leftists don’t like her — so much so that when she was invited to speak at Claremont College, protesters shut her down completely. That’s extremism.
When Charles Murray, a political scientist, was invited to speak at Middlebury, Leftists hecklers forced the talk off campus, tried to attack Murray, and injured one of their own professors — a Democrat who invited Murray because she believes in free speech and the exchange of ideas. She was, she said, in fear for her life. That’s extremism.
I could go on with dozens of examples. No. I actually can’t go on with dozens of examples. And you know why not? Because these tactics have been so successful that conservatives are simply banished from campuses.
FIRE (the non-partisan Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has a whole Disinvitation Database. If you check it out, you’ll see that, while there are occasions when conservatives protest speakers, leftist pressure to dis-invite far outweighs pressure from the right. Conservatives are essentially banned as commencement speakers. Moreover, colleges make it almost impossible for conservative student groups to invite speakers, most notably by requiring student groups to pay for security.
In sum, at least on college campuses, violent extremism effectively and completely silences people who don’t share the Leftist ideology dominant on campus.
4. No true Scotsman. “No true Scotsman” is a logical fallacy that works by defining people out of a category. Here’s a Scotsman example: (a) No true Scotsman wears undies under his kilt. (b) My Scots Uncle MacGregor wears undies under his kilt. (c) Then your Uncle MacGregor is no true Scotsman.
As long as you constantly change the definition of a “true whatever it is,” you can keep people from staining the purity of something you admire. You can also use the fallacy in the opposite direction by defining everyone you don’t like under the same umbrella, no matter how poor the fit.
One of the things we’ve seen is the Left’s refusal to acknowledge that there is a subset of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims that commits violence in the name of the faith. This is a form of extremism.
The problem is that, whenever a Muslim, whether at home or abroad commits violence while hollering “Allahu Akbar,” both the media and Progressive government officials tell us that no true Muslim commits violence in the name of the faith. They then assure us that the attacker’s motives are a mystery or that the attacker is mentally ill.
There are a lot of mentally ill Muslims out there. Indeed, there was just another attack the other day in France, when a man with a knife stabbed nine people at random, killing one and injuring others severely. We were immediately told he was mentally ill. He was also a Muslim who was angry that people weren’t following sharia law.
Ultimately, through the use of the “no true Muslim fallacy,” the only time these Islamic inspired attacks are ever Islamic inspired attacks is when they are provably a formal ISIS or al Shabaab attack. Any other Islamic motives are just not real.
Regarding Hodgkinson, the person I mentioned earlier who tried to take out the entire Republican house, we were told that he was mentally ill, with his hardcore Leftism downplayed. No true Leftist commits violence.
As I said, it works the other way too. Back in November, a lot of big media outlets suddenly announced that right wing extremism is on the rise. (Indeed, I think this last announcement was the source of my young friend’s concerns.) John Hinderaker sums up the narrative:
The Post and the Times both relied largely on a single statistic, which comes from the left-wing Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism. The Post writes: “[R]esearchers say at least 20 people have died this year in suspected right-wing attacks.” The Times editorial board echoes: “Last year, 20 of the 34 terrorist murders in the United States were connected to right-wing extremism.” This factoid is critical to the claim that there is an epidemic of right-wing violence. It is, however, entirely false.
What Hinderaker points out is that, while there were open right wing extremists who committed acts of violence, most of those acts were not committed in the name of extremism. These are just bad, stupid people who did bad things. Hinderaker quotes some examples from the ADL’s list:
* GREELEY, COLORADO, AUGUST 16, 2017. Kelly Raisley, believed to be a member or associate of the 211 Crew white supremacist gang, was arrested on first-degree murder charges for the murder of his uncle, Randy Gene Baker. Baker’s wife and sister were similarly arrested. The motive was apparently personal.
* PUTNAM COUNTY GEORGIA, JUNE 13, 2017. Ricky Dubose, a member of the Ghostface Gangsters white supremacist prison gang, and another inmate, Donnie Russell Rowe, reportedly killed two corrections officers while trying to escape from a prison bus. They were later recaptured.
* TAMPA, FLORIDA, MAY 19, 2017. White supremacist Devon Arthurs allegedly shot to death two of his roommates for making fun of his recent conversion to Islam. All three, and a fourth roommate, were members of Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi group.
* NORTH JUDSON, INDIANA, MARCH 3, 2017. Aryan Circle member Edward Blackburn allegedly shot and killed another man who was reportedly dating his ex-girlfriend.
Here, the fallacy is (a) John murdered his wife for sleeping with his best friend; (b) John is one of 12 members of some obscure neo-Nazi group; therefore (c) John committed an act of white supremacist violence. In truth and actual logic, he is a white supremacist who committed a violent act, but it had nothing to do with his white supremacist beliefs.
Another example is the 2017 GAO Report, written by Obama holdovers, entitled Countering Violent Extremism. I’ll quote from my friend Wolf Howling here:
[T]he authors chose a definition of “right wing extremist” so broad that it encompases virtually every conservative in America:
Far right violent extremist[s] . . . are characterized . . . as having beliefs that include some or all of the following:
• Fiercely nationalistic (as opposed to universal and international in orientation) [Hey, I’m a soldier who loves my country and think that it is, for a host of reasons, the best on the planet. Thus I am a far right violent extremist?];
• Suspicious of centralized federal authority;
• Reverent of individual liberty (especially right to own guns; be free of taxes);
• Belief in conspiracy theories that involve a grave threat to national sovereignty and/or personal liberty [because concerns about government overreach are without foundation don’t you know];
• Belief that one’s personal and/or national “way of life” is under attack and is either already lost or that the threat is imminent; . . .
That’s outrageous. As Eddy Scarry writes in “The obsession with ‘white supremacy’ violence is based on cooked studies”
. . . [i]t’s all a hoax. Every news story about right-wing violence or “white supremacy”-linked violence is based on the same set of joke studies that count each and every murder involving a supposedly racist white person, no matter how ridiculous the circumstances, as racially motivated.
One of those studies is put out by the Anti-Defamation League every year. Take this one from last year that said 2018 “was a particularly active year for right-wing extremist murders.” It further said that “extremist-related murders in 2018 were overwhelmingly linked to right-wing extremists.”
Unfortunately, the report obscures the most crucial information. It doesn’t list all of the violent incidents that it takes in to account, but even in the few concrete examples that the Anti-Defamation League does provide, you get examples like this: “Richard Starry shot and killed four relatives at a local nursing center and at his home in an apparent act of domestic violence before killing himself. According to local media, Starry had been a member of a white supremacist group while in prison.” Or like this: “James Mathis, a member of the Georgia-based white supremacist prison gang Ghostface Gangsters, and his wife, Amanda Oakes, allegedly killed their six-month-old son and put his body in a freezer in a hotel room.”
So when white people kill their own family members, even their own babies, that’s the kind of “white supremacy”-linked violence the Anti Defamation League is looking at. It’s not a rash of Ku Klux Klan members lynching blacks and Latino immigrants in the streets.
The white supremacist canard is nothing but raw identity politics.
My fundamental point is that I’m not denying that there is violence emanating from the right out there. I’m just saying that we should be at least as worried by violence emanating from the Left and from Islam. However, media bias, which leads to dishonest reporting, hides that ball big time. And young people, like my friend, put too much focus on a small to medium concern without noticing that there’s a much larger worry creeping up behind them.