In 2011, Proposition 103 was presented to Colorado voters as a means to temporarily raise taxes while using the proceeds to increase spending in public schools. One day, I was discussing with a liberal acquaintance of mine how I felt that this was a bad idea due to the poor economy and the fact that it was highly unlikely to be a “temporary” tax hike.
Expecting a rational counter-point to be made on why I might be wrong, my friend hit me with a well-worn cliché . . . it’s for the children. And with that, the discussion was over.
In one fell swoop, my objections were minimized from a logical look at taxing and spending to the moral equivalent of child abuse. In my friend’s mind, being opposed to the measure was tantamount to hating children and depriving them of basic needs.
As I read Jonah Goldberg’s latest book, The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, I was reminded of this incident (“Youth” is one of the chapters) and how common it has become by the left to shut down any discussion with a well-worn (or worn-out) cliché. Take a look at some of the clichés Jonah tackles in his book and the clever way he deals with them:
- One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter – Sure, if the other man is an idiot. Was Martin Luther King Jr. a terrorist? Was Bin Laden a freedom fighter?
- Violence never solves anything – Really? It solved our problems with King George III and ended slavery.
- Better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer – So I guess you won’t mind if those ten guilty men move next door to you.
- Diversity is strength – Cool, then the NBA should have a quota for midgets and one-legged point guards.
- We need complete separation of church and state – In other words, all expressions of faith should be barred from politics . . . except when they support liberal programs.
As you can see, Jonah injects his own style of sarcastic humor to make a point – something the Strident Conservative can appreciate – but Goldberg doesn’t stop there.
Jonah Goldberg reveals that much of what passes for non-ideological common sense is in fact either pithy hogwash or camouflage for a more radical agenda progressives are unwilling to defend openly. From the floor of the Senate to the Occupy protests, he shows how progressives tend to repeat empty phrases while pretending they’re simply advocating for common sense.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to my conservative friends and even my liberal friends, though I doubt they will embrace it for the truth it reveals. The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas will challenge you to stop accepting these aphorisms and equip you to engage the other side.
In the words of Goldberg, “democracy is about disagreement.” As we approach the most important election in our lifetime, you need to be aware of the clichés yet to come and how they will be used to influence the electorate. While every cliché is sprinkled with some truth, you don’t want to allow them to be used to close the argument – instead, you want them to begin the discussion.