The vast majority of political argument is casual, and as such is often loaded with tricks, logical fallacies, emotional ploys, and gamesmanship. Such don’t serve to prove one’s argument so much as to get the other side to yield, withdraw or go silent. Books could be (and, indeed, have been) filled with the ways people stunt each other when arguing: Googling “list of logical fallacies” is a good place to start for those who want to either tighten up their arguing technique or learn how to spot them when used by others.

Sometimes, though, one does not need to know the game to survive its playing. Sometimes, the perpetrators screw up. Sometimes, they end up hoist on their own petard.

Consider the logical fallacy guilt-by-association. It’s a blend of personal attack and appeal to emotion, and while that sounds very wonkish and stodgy, it can be very effective when implied.

If someone tags a person or idea as extreme, insane, or with some other over-the-top adjective, you will instinctively avoid being associated with that person or idea, lest others think you extreme or insane as well.

Logically, that doesn’t make any sense, but at our cores we are emotional creatures, influenced by biochemical reactions in our bodies, shaped by countless millennia of evolution. Thus, we reflexively shrink back when others try to associate us with racism, with bigotry, with an “extreme” position, etc. Being social creatures, we want to avoid being tainted by association, even if the taint is false.

But, when those attempting to taint us go too far, when they show themselves to be the wild extremists, the strategy can backfire. If a Klansman derides you for associating with minorities, aren’t you more likely to want to associate with those he reviles, just to thumb in his eye?

Yep, you guessed it, this is what the Left and the Press are causing in their wide-open-throttle, unhinged rage against all things Donald Trump. They are, amazingly, making the Untethered Orange Id seem moderate by comparison. They are compelling many Trump skeptics and fence-sitters to defend him against their more outlandish accusations. Their attempt to guilt-by-association people away from him by portraying him as an orange smoothie blend of Hitler, Stalin and every evil they can think of is only working in their echo chambers, where every one listening needs no further convincing.

I see it every day. The loudest of the Trump haters prompt others to write “I can’t believe you’re driving me to defend Trump…” Endless comparisons to Hitler prompt others to point out how wrong it is to compare Trump to Hitler. Protests and marches about things that Trump has neither done nor promised to do prompt others to scratch their heads and say “what, exactly, are you protesting?” Raw, naked hate directed at Trump, at his cabinet, and at Trump supporters are emboldening the latter and scaring the skeptics towards Trump. Continued proclamations of the end of the Republic, a mere four weeks into Trumps term and before he’s had a chance to do much of anything, make the proclaimers seem the extreme and deranged ones that we instinctively shy away from.

If you don’t believe me, you’re very likely one of the aforementioned echo chamber denizens. Try paying attention to the people you know (if you know any) who aren’t fully on-board with your Trump hatred.

I was and am a Trump skeptic. I didn’t vote for him, and I still consider his signature nativism to be the wrong direction and likely to produce bad outcomes. But, I find myself, almost daily, defending him against the outlandish, spurious and defamatory rants of the Left and against the grossly partisan and tendentious reports from the mainstream Press.

Why? Why do I feel so compelled? Because those attacks offend my sensibilities. Because as much as or more than I recoil from Trump’s nativism and his untethered and loose-with-the-truth style, I can’t stand being lied to, managed, or corralled. Because it’s insulting and condescending to try and manipulate me with exaggerations and outright lies. Because it’s offensive to disrespect those who suffered under Hitler by diluting his awfulness with Trump comparisons.

And, because not everything Trump has done so far is awful. I like his energy-based actions, I like some of his cabinet picks, I like his Supreme Court nomination, and I like his actions and language on regulatory excess. And, I don’t mind admitting this, even if some will “guilt-by-association” me with the Untethered Orange Id and his mindless sycophants. Because, frankly, his detractors are behaving more vilely than the sycophants and do-no-wrong adorers.

If you worry about Trump doing bad things, and want to stand in opposition to such, take a moment. Contemplate if you’ve been one of those I describe herein. Ask yourself if others may consider you the deranged one. Ask yourself if you think that’s helping convince people of the merits of your position.

A representative government needs voices of opposition to temper tendencies to excess. Rational criticism of bad ideas and bad actions serve to open others’ eyes and prompt correction. Exaggerations, half-truths and lies, however, can serve to excuse the exaggerations, half-truths and lies (and there are plenty of them) of those being criticized. Consider Trump’s recent statement about the magnitude of his electoral victory. Flat-out wrong, and easily debunked.

The endless storm of outrage has, however, made people so weary that they simply wave off the legitimate criticism. “Who cares” is the overwhelming response from his supporters and from many skeptics. Trump has demonstrated, time and again, that he’s fast, loose, and uncaring when it comes to factual assertions. The fact that people have accepted this as much as they have is more the fault of his relentless and wild-eyed detractors than of the blindness of his followers.

This approach, this endless flood of melodramatic hyperbole, is not going to take Trump down. If anything, it’s going to steel his resolve, prompt his supporters to ignore his faults and bad acts, and push those in the middle in his direction. It’s already backfiring, and if the Left wants to contemplate climbing out of the deep hole it has dug, people really need to dial back their wildness. The Press has already ruined its credibility, and liberals are preaching to none but their own. They’re not fighting the good fight and standing in resistance. Instead, they’re repulsing the very people they need to draw to their side.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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