Monday, 7 May 2012

Empty rhetoric

As you may have realised by now, I am interested in rhetoric.  So when I hear a slogan such as ‘Some people are gay, get over it,’ I both admire the simplicity and power of the structure, and am appalled at the vacuous 'logic' of the content.

One could substitute anything for the word gay, and in fact doing so is quite instructive, to demonstrate quite how empty of moral meaning the slogan is.

Consider any of these:

Some people are criminals, get over it
Some people are paedophiles, get over it
Some people are opposed to homosexual marriage, get over it
Some people are believing Catholics, get over it

And before people jump up and down and say I’m equating gays with criminals and paedophiles, that is not my point.  My point is merely that saying some category of people exists, and adding the tag ‘get over it’ conveys nothing of substance.  It implies approval, or at least tolerant acceptance, but without any reason for that.

The same may be said of another slogan doing the rounds, which is more pernicious because it sounds as though it means something:

If you don’t like same-sex marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex

What could be fairer than that?

And I've even heard: 

If you don’t like abortion, don’t have an abortion.

But the same technique shows how meaningless - or worse - such rhetoric is:

If you don’t like slavery, don’t keep slaves
If you don’t like rape, don’t rape anyone
If you don’t like overpaid bankers, don’t become an overpaid banker

... and so on.

We need to understand this stuff so that when someone throws it at us in the pub or wherever, as a trump card, we feel confident to confront it and able to expose it for the empty noise that it is...

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