I Never Listen to Democrats; I Learned Everything I Need To Know About them From Rush Limbaugh

One of my huge pet peeves is when people rely only on their own side for knowledge of their opponents' positions.  The inevitable result of this is that there is a lot of debating against straw men.

As an aside, this is why I really like Bryan Caplan's ideological Turing test.  If you are going to seriously debate someone, you need to be able to state their arguments in an unironic way such that that person's supporters would mistake you for one of their own.  If I were to teach anything at all political, I would structure the course in a way that folks would debate and advocate both sides of a question (that is, of course, if any university would allow me to ask, say, a minimum wage advocate to take the opposite position without accusing me of creating an unsafe environment).

Anyway, a while back I asked if the folks who were protesting the showing of American Sniper on campus had actually seen the damn movie.  I suspected they had not, or at least really interpreted film differently than I do.  Though perhaps pro-soldier, I read the movie as having a pretty stark anti-war message.

Anyway, American Sniper has become a favorite target for banning within our great universities the purport to be teaching critical thinking.  This is from one student group's (successful) appeal for a ban on showing the movie on campus:

This war propaganda guised as art reveals a not-so-discreet Islamaphobic, violent, and racist nationalist ideology. A simple Google search will give you hundreds of articles that delve into how this film has fueled anti-Arab and anti-Islamic sentiments; its visceral "us verses them" narrative helps to proliferate the marginalization of multiple groups and communities - many of which exist here at UMD.

This is not the language people would use if they had actually seen the film.  Instead of taking specific examples from the film, they refer to Google searches of articles, perhaps by other people who have not seen the film (as an aside, this has to be the all-time worst appeal to authority ever -- I can find not hundreds but thousands of articles on the Internet about anything -- there are tens of thousands alone on the moon landings being faked).


  1. Vypuero:

    They love to not give examples and tell you "google it" - it is because they have no argument. They just have read articles from people outraged, and share their righteous indignation

  2. Frank Ch. Eigler:

    (It is a little bit ironic that you chose an conservative-caricature headline when the content made fun of uninformed presumably-democrats.)

  3. Mondak:

    I remember being in first class on a flight to Boise about a dozen years ago. I was reading a Hilary Clinton book and the fellow next to me (senior executive at a F500 company) couldn't figure it out. He said something like, "In talking to you, you don't seem at all like someone who would like Hilary Clinton." I asked him how much he thought he would really learn when reading the next Rush Limbaugh book. Then he got it.

  4. morgan.c.frank:

    wait, are you saying the moon landings were real?

    since when are you allowed to put stuff on the internet if it's not true?

  5. ErikEssig:

    Could Caplan pass his own ideological Turing test on the issue of immigration? I doubt it.

  6. Mole1:

    American Sniper is a pro-war racist film
    Stephen Colbert is a right-wing blowhard
    Charlie Hedbo is a racist anti-immigrant publication
    The Handmaid's Tale is anti-women
    Fahrenheit 451 is anti-reading

  7. Stan:

    Yes, he's done so on Econlog at least once, which served to solidify my anti-open immigration opinion at the time.

  8. ErikEssig:

    I'll search for it. Thanks

  9. Stan:


    Having reread it, it's not a very thorough Turing test (on immigration at least). But he makes a couple good points for the conservative side.

    Here's his libertarian rebuttal to himself: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2010/07/the_libertarian_2.html

  10. buanadha:

    Exactly. The issue here isn't that conservatives only get their news from Rush.. in fact, they tend to be bombarded by the other side's viewpoints and escape to Rush as an alternate viewpoint. Similarly, they "escape" to Fox. Most conservatives I know don't think much of Fox news, but it's better than whatever else is out there.

    Rush may mock the other side, but he reads the other side in order to characterize it and then mock it. I don't think anyone thinks Rush doesn't understand the arguments made by the left.

  11. MNHawk:

    When have the book burners of society EVER been rational?

  12. bigmaq1980:

    Thanks for the links!

    Even though Caplan picks some of the more common arguments on immigration, they are not necessarily the most compelling.

    Would like to be able to pass a "Turing Test" on libertarian Foreign Policy. On the whole, have not seen a robust libertarian discussion on the topic (trade, immigration, defense, intelligence, aid, etc). The libertarian Free Trade argument is rather compelling, but the rest does not follow a similar economic model as easily, and most policy suggestions seem to not recognize the asymmetry of the real world players involved. Admit, haven't looked particularly hard for them - would be interested in links anyone might have.

    Passing a Turing Test is probably too high a bar for most. Just getting folks to look outside an echo chamber would probably provide the biggest benefit.