How (not) to save the world

Does language mean something? Should you use terms that adequately describe what you’re trying to convey? Should the words you use have some level of equivalence with reality?

I think so. Apparently, Dave Pollard does not. We will not ever all agree. That’s OK. The least that can be expected, however, is that we argue fairly.

Pollard has published an article on Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, so full of overblown exageration and hyperbole as to be perhaps intentionally fallacious.

The link is above; here’s my commentary on just one of his paragraphs. Note: I don’t claim to have “the right answer” for every single issue below; but I do have a problem with the way they have been presented.

Our execrable
ad hominen
minority right-wing extremist
What?!? If that word means what the dictionary says it means, Harper is not extremist. Pollard is just using language as a weapon, carelessly, blind to the consequences of the arms race of his own rhetoric. If he thinks he’s seen extremism, I suggest he goes and lives in Saudi Arabia or Lebanon for a few years. Just because a person holds different views than you do does not by itself make him extremist.
prime minister Harper, fresh from completely botching the evacuation
So he was personally there, and personally responsible? Get a life. Are you telling us that Canada needs to equip and maintain a 10,000-strong special extraction force for the immediate rescuing of citizens in war zones? What magic do you believe in? How many aircraft carriers did we suddenly acquire? Since when did being a Canadian citizen mean that you can go to any country you like, no matter how dangerous, live there, and when it hits the fan, expect the government to bail you out? What social contract did you sign?
of Canadians from Lebanon
While we should help anyone we can, and while people with a Canadian passport do deserve our support to the best of our ability, wherever they are, let’s be clear: Canadians are people who live in Canada, primarily, and pay Canadian taxes, primarily … not people who are flying a flag of convenience and using it whenever the dangerous place they actually live in and are citizens of gets too hot to handle
and then making life more dangerous for Canadians at home and Canadian ‘peace-keeping’ troops mired in the hopeless anarchy of Afghanistan (and dying in battle at a horrific rate)
I’m not very sanguine about what we’re doing in Afghanistan either, don’t get me wrong. And any death is a terrible, desperate tragedy. But at a horrific rate? Compared to what? Not any of the actual wars this country has fought.
by blathering on about how Canadians support Bush’s war on terror (we don’t), is boycotting the AIDS Conference
He decided not to attend – big difference between this and “boycotting”
which is important enough for Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and 20,000 other people to attend, but apparently not important enough for the host country’s prime minister to attend. The PM insists it’s more important that he be in Inuvik in Canada’s North to announce how some of the billions cut from Canada’s environmental programs
He didn’t sign Kyoto; that doesn’t mean money is being cut.
are to be spent on defence of our Arctic sovereignty.

Pollard: by venting like this, you might be relieving your own pent-up frustrations, but you are actually hurting your cause. Because anyone can see that you are not defending your positions rationally and fairly.

Which are important things if we want to keep our public discourse civil.

 


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