Reducto ad STFU LOLZum
These days I've been thinking a lot about "comparisons". I put "comparisons" in quotes for no particular reason at all, maybe to point out that many of the "comparisons" being made are weak at best, and offensive in that the person making the "comparison" must assume that you, the listener, is retarded enough to accept what they're saying as being a good comparison in the first place.
I love comparisons, analogies, similes, etc, because they make people understand a concept. While it's not my profession, I pride myself on being a good "teacher" in that I can take an idea that's in my head and present it in such a way that it is transferred to another person's head in the manner that I intended, and a good way to do this is using comparisons. Absurd analogies and comparisons are also good for humor, and used correctly they can be used as a powerful tool to ridicule and evoke explosive laughter from large groups of people, which is something I absolutely love doing.
OK, but sometimes comparisons can be bad. For instance, what if I were to say, "Birds are warm blooded praying mantises." You would probably demand an explanation, right?
"Well," I would say, "Both of them fly around, live in trees, and eat bugs. So when it comes down to it, they're pretty much the same thing."
I would say this with a straight face. I would say it with an arrogance that would almost make you want to believe it too. Almost.
"Therefore," I would continue, "If we want to stop bird flu, we should put modified roach motels in trees, because praying mantises are closely related to cockroaches, and as you can see from my previous evidence, they're all pretty much the same thing, so roach motels in trees should do the trick."
If I said that, you would probably think I was intentionally being funny. Or that my chromosome count was off.
The problem with my comparison is that I'm taking two things that are "foundationally" (carbon-based organisms, have the same food sources, occupy the same ecological niche) the same, but I'm completely ignoring the insane amount of factors that make them different, so basing policies on these similarities or showcasing these similarities seems (to me at least) either naive or disingenuous.
Now, if I were to say something like that to you, you would no doubt want to point out the obvious differences to me. Regardless of whether or not you were for or against bird control, wouldn't you, the well-versed citizen, want to point out how ridiculous my statement is? Wouldn't you laugh it off and wonder how I could condescendingly think you would actually agree with what I was saying?
Of course you would. Unless, of course, you agreed with the "end" to my "means". You might a) secretly think I was an idiot but remain suspiciously quiet. You might b) even rally behind me just because you agreed with the ends. Or maybe c), you were so ignorant about birds and mantids that you thought it sounded pretty good, so why think about it?
The thing that got me thinking about all this hooey was when I heard someone on the news say "We've been in Iraq longer than we were involved in WWII."
I reckon was made in the context of "In other words, this has gone on long enough! Look at all we accomplished in 4 short years compared to this horrible quagmire we're in now!"
This is an example of a really bad comparison. Here's why.
Much like in my little example above, the person is taking two things which are "foundationally" the same (the U.S. is involved in a military campaign overseas) while totally ignoring a bajillion (give or take) variables that are completely different.
So here's what I'm going to do, and what I suggest everyone here does. And this isn't a partisan thing. This is you, a responsible citizen, righting the wrongs made by irresponsible people with an impressionable audience.
Using our fancy-schmancy reductio ad absurdum style, take it up another notch. When someone in a debate/argument situation makes a ridiculous comparison, just take the ball and run with it. Their ball. They're giving it to you. If someone wants to open up a forum to comparisons, they forfeit the right to complain when you use their own comparison against them. Here's an example:
"You know, Iraq is a quagmire. We've been there longer than we were in WWII!"
"Dear God. You're not serious... Have you no soul?"
"What do you mean?"
"You advocate 'total war' to make things go faster? You want to firebomb cities? You're a monster."
The number of ridiculous things you could say is limited only by the number of differences between the two things being compared, and I'll wager there are more differences between WWII and the GWOT than there are similarities. Either way, the idea is to get them to say something like, "Well that's different", at which point you'll sit back in your chair, give em a "pistol shot" with one hand while making a clicking sound, and say, "Egg-ZACKED-leeeeee," and then tell them what your next drink will be.
Unfortunately though, that would never happen. The person would probably just tell you that you were "brainwashed," a "sheep", or that you "just accepted what fox news/CNN (depending on what side they were on) feeds you," then change the subject. Still, if you're around friends and you manage one of those rare moments where you're on your feet and can bust something like that out, I can guarantee explosive laughter, at which point you will be dubbed the hero of the night. And there's nothing better than that.
So here's your homework:
Think of some good political "comparisons" that people enjoy throwing out. It might be a little harder to find them from the "conservative" side of the house because they're a little less prone to hyperbole, but see what you can scrape up. OK, once you've found the ridiculous comparison, take their ball and run with it using reductio ad absurdum and make them look like complete morons. The beauty of this is that it's totally non-partisan, because if a comparison is out there for all the world to see, and if it's fucked up, it will either stand up on its own or it won't, regardless of politics. Let's work together to improve our ability to make people look stupid during bar debates.
For the record, here are some other favorites of mine (and by "favorites" I mean "they make me want to scream"):
Bush is a Terrorist !!
Iraq = Vietnam
"When it comes down to it, people are the same wherever you go."
Anything involving Godwin's Law or Reducto ad Hitlerum.
Have fun with this one.