"spreading the wealth", etc.

It tells you something about both the Republican Party and the state of our political discourse that Democrats can be roundly accused of committing a gaffe any time they happen to use a turn of phrase which Republicans subsequently choose to manipulate into a dishonest talking point.

Obviously, a dishonest interlocutor can twist your words no matter what you say. The story here is that Republicans would rather confuse the debate by arguing with a straw man than address the issues that people actually care about.

That said, I've been playing around with sort of a grand unified theory of wingnut thinking, and according to my new theory it's not entirely appropriate to evaluate Republican speech using normal standards of rationality.

The key, I think, is to understand that wingnuts are absolutely committed to the idea that some people and some ideas are polluted, and so may not be associated with in any way. According to this line of thinking, the mere act of speaking to a pariah or of uttering a phrase linked to a politically incorrect ideology causes the speaker to become polluted. This pollution stains the speaker, and necessitates that the speaker must either submit to ritual cleansing or else become a pariah.

To see how this differs from the standard, content focused, interpretation of discourse, consider the way that wingnuts deploy their Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers attacks. Merely looking at the formal structure of the wingnut argument, it would appear to be fallacious, since the fact of association with an Ayers or a Wright tells you nothing about Obama's substantive views. Schematically, the conventional interpretation looks like this:

1 - Person A believes that P.
2 - Person B is associated with Person A
3 - Therefore, Person B believes that P.

And this can be seen to be fallacious because the falsity of 3 is entirely compatible with the truth of the conjunction of 1 and 2. On my revised view, the argument is more properly rendered like this:

1' - Person A is polluted.
2' - Person B is associated with Person A
3' - Anyone who associates with a polluted person is polluted in virtue of that association.
4' - Thus, Person B is polluted.

Which, clearly, is perfectly rational.

Now, you might object that it's batshit crazy to think that some people or ideas are polluted and may not be touched by right-thinking folk. Fair enough. But does it really surprise you to learn that the wingnuts are batshit crazy?

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