Rhetorical Trick: Shorter Names for More Powerful Message

It is natural for humans to shorten names when the meaning is clear. I call the country I live in The US, not The United States of America. Unless my oldest is in trouble, he is just Itai, not Itai Micha Pomerantz.

In this case shortening the name also makes the message more powerful, and less truthful. The real thing they remove from the textbooks is anthropogenic climate change denial, but they removed the two words in red for a shorter name. This can cause people to miss that the issue is the claims that the climate is changing due to human action. There have been warm periods before, and we don’t understand a chaotic system such as the climate nearly as well as we think we do.

This is a clever rhetorical trick, especially considering that it comes with plausible deniability. “We just used a shorter name for brevity”.

h/t David Preston


Bad Comparison – Freddy Krueger vs. Police

I’m not sure there’s much to debunk in this meme. Presumably, the meme author is aware that:

  1. Not all police kills are bad. Sometimes they are in self defense, or to stop a violent criminal from hurting other people. Freddy Krueger, OTOH, never kills under justified circumstances.
  2. The police is a large group, which naturally does more than a single person. If US cops kill ten times as many people as Canadian cops, for example, that wouldn’t mean the US is ten times worse. Just that there are about ten of us for each Canadian.
  3. Freddy Krueger, not to put too fine a point on it, isn’t real.

However, this is a smart rhetorical technique. When you make a joke, nobody expect it to pass the reality filter. So the idea still sinks in, without having to pass any kind of sanity check.

h/t Patrick Richardson

Useful Rhetorical Trick – Weighed Comparison

Because these two sentences are obviously designed to draw a parallel, look at it point by point.

Attribute Top Bottom
People criminal and terrorists a 92 year old senior
Action buy an assault rifle trying to vote
Justification it is an infringement on their constitutional rights is a threat to our democracy and could destroy our free election system

Ignore for a moment the ignorance about guns (an “assault rifle” is a very well defined category, which is very tightly regulated in the US). Notice that it is criminals and terrorists who want to buy weapons (as opposed to law abiding citizens, who might have a legitimate need). But the person voting without an ID is an innocent poor 92 year old senior. Also, his or her action is a lot weaker. Merely “trying”.

The assumption, which the meme author would like us to leave unexamined, is that the evil people who form a genuine threat buy guns. The people who want to vote are all innocents who just happen not to have an ID.