The Unnavigable Ship of Rhetoric

Democratic candidates for president, Senator Bernie Sanders and Governor Martin O’Malley stood on the ship, docked at the progressive port of Netroots Nation, and thought they had found shelter from the storm.  They were wrong.

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley was midsentence when the chanting began. “What side are you on black people, what side are you on!” rang the chorus of around four dozen mostly black protesters streaming into a convention hall in Phoenix, Arizona, on Saturday.

The two presidential candidates found themselves at the center of the chaos, both caught off guard and unable to answer the protestors.

“Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter,” O’Malley said to boos and jeers.

O’Malley had his Donald Trump moment, for which he promptly apologized for his insensitivity and whitewashing of racism by his use of the white response phrase to the Black Lives Matter movement.  Deciphering the winds is critical when trying to guide the ship through rocky shoals, and O’Malley got smacked in the face with an unexpected gale.

No one can navigate the rhetoric anymore.  Every identitarian group, or subgroup, or any time more than one deeply feeling person gets together, there seem to be demons offending someone.

Even here, when a post relates to a white woman who needlessly dies at the hands of police, it’s used to disprove that it’s just blacks.  In the comments, there are battles over who is the most aggrieved. Write about a black man killed and whites who have suffered are outraged: what about my suffering?

Guess what?  They pulled it off, and the dumbasses are so busy fighting over rhetoric that nobody notices how their anger has been redirected away from the people doing the dirty to them, to you, to everyone. Fight amongst yourselves over whose fortune cookie catchphrase is allowed to be uttered.

For crying out loud, keep your eye on the ball.  At ATL Redline, Joe Patrice tried to explain what makes “all lives matter” wrong:

Gov. O’Malley certainly botched his opportunity to make a connection when he tossed out an “All Lives Matter” which — as one Twitter user aptly put it — is like responding to your tearful friend saying “my mom died today” by saying, “lots of moms died today.”

This could make you smile or cringe, according to your myopia or ability to grasp poor analogies. No, it’s not like responding by saying “lots of moms died today.” That’s inapt. It’s like saying, “it’s terrible when a mom dies.” But when you’re so caught up in yourself, your problems, your misery, you twist everything into a problem, a slight, whether micro or macro. Why? Because every fiber of your being is looking for something to be outraged about.

While you’re all busy fighting amongst yourselves, calling each other one -ist or another -ism, murdering words by the millions to explain why your outrage is more special than anyone else’s outrage, they are laughing at you because they know that you’re going to cannibalize those who share your sympathies over whether they turned the phrase-o-the-day or some problematic variation that proves, in the minds of the socially idiotic, that they are the enemy.

A long time ago, I figured out that as much as I believe in gender equality, there was no way I could navigate the waters of neo-feminist outrage while being able to communicate like an ordinary person. So I made a decision not to bother.

Now, as some advocates infantilize and diminish women, but wrap it in a pretty pink bow of rhetoric,  they are adored for their feminism while someone who argues for equality but without the flourishes is deemed a misogynist.  The stupidity is obvious, but few seem to notice the irony or give a damn.  Rhetoric trumps substance, which suggests that most of those who feel deeply are blithering idiots.

And that’s the point. Equality means that blacks, Hispanics, women, whatever identity group you hold tight to your fevered breast, can be right or wrong, smart or stupid. That’s what it means to be equal, to be just as good or bad as everyone else.

Too much of my time has been spent trying to parse the obvious, that police view all non-cops as their potential enemy, but are particularly antagonistic to blacks and Hispanics.  It’s not a competition as to who suffers the most, who is the biggest loser. Survival isn’t a scarce resource to be dishes out in tiny doses.  There’s enough for all of us.

We can afford to be generous to blacks and Hispanics when it comes to how they’re treated by the police, the courts, the system.  And they can afford to be generous to everyone else who suffers a beating, death, at the hands of the police.  But when the fight is whether it’s better or worse for cops to kill unarmed black men than unarmed white women, we’ve already lost because we’ve forgotten whom we’re fighting with and what we’re fighting about.

Stop the rhetoric. Stop fighting over who gets to write the fortune cookies. Stop being offended at everything.  Stop whining. Stop looking for reasons to put on the victim hat so all the cool kids will coo at you and tell you how deeply they care about you.

Comedians figured this out decades ago, that dumbasses will get caught up in the most simplistic and worthless battles over words, fight with each other, accomplish nothing other than beating someone who agrees with them to a bloody pulp over some trivial offense, all while the harm they really seek to fix continued unabated.  You dumbasses continue to prove them right.

So your ship of rhetoric will never steer its way through the shoals of offense. It will crash. You will drown. Is that what you are fighting to accomplish, your own demise?  You have the helm. What are you going to do with it?

17 thoughts on “The Unnavigable Ship of Rhetoric

  1. Dross

    “So I made a decision not to bother.”

    These conversations are so hard to have when one side is shouting.
    “So I made a decision not to bother.”

    And the rest of America won’t either. And then where will they be?
    If O’Malley and O’Bernie can’t navigate that crowd, no one else will.

    Talk about eating their own.

    Just for the record: I say: ALL LIVES MATTER. (forgive the caps)

  2. John Barleycorn

    Pretty good title and theme throughout esteemed one, one of these days you will let the grammar of the no-trump bid fill your rage bids. Flush ‘um out and deal when lost at sea?

    4 NT is natural if your side has made a natural notrump bid and no major suit is agreed. Conversely, 4 NT is Blackwood if your side has never bid notrump naturally or if a major suit is agreed. Exception: An overcall of 4 NT after an enemy bid is a special case (it is for takeout).

    Even the rednecks get this!

    P.S. You really should spend more time gambling before widespread panic sets in.

  3. Dave

    Too many are more interested in being outraged than actually accomplishing anything. In fact, accomplishing anything would be bad because it would lessen their justification to be outraged. They are Outrage Junkies. Nothing you can say will placate them because they don’t want to be placated, they want stronger and longer hits of Outrage (the “good shit”!). And their existence causes untold headaches for those who DO want to accomplish something – as they turn so many who could be allies into the “not to bother” category.

    1. SHG Post author

      Outrage junkies see everyone else as fitting into two camps: those who agree with me and those who are WRONG!!! The problem is that most of the “everyone else” group doesn’t give a damn what they think, and they’re too self-righteous and narcissistic to realize it.

      1. Dragoness Eclectic

        Fred over at The Slactivist characterizes this sort of thing as fantasy role-playing: people desperately want to be the hero of their own story, so they characterize those in the “everyone else” camp as evil, Evil, EVIL!! …which makes them the good guys, the heroes for bravely standing up to the (imaginary) Satanic hordes of Evildom. He discusses this (a lot) in the context of right-wing, Evangelical sub-culture, but it applies to the left, too. (See also: Anti-Kitten Burning Coalition, Satanazi Baby-Killers).

  4. bmaz

    I was there in Phoenix at Netroots and in the middle of the room when this happened. Neither O’Malley nor Sanders responded optimally I will grant. That said, they were not given a chance to by the protestors, who were clearly dead set on continuing their action completely irrespective of what was said by O’Malley and Sanders. Frankly, while “all elves matter” was the hook that was seized on, it was irrelevant to what they were doing, and going to do, anyway. As is so often the case with the umbrage at rhetoric, it was, even if a small gaffe, a point manufactured into umbrage in service of the bigger argument that already existed.

  5. DHMCarver

    One of the people who would most fully agree with this post is Sanders himself. Sanders schooled David Greene in an NPR interview in June on Greene’s persistence in questioning him about Hillary Clinton’s “gaffe” when she said “All Lives Matter” at a Ferguson event. Greene asked about Clinton’s supposed gaffe. Sanders blew off the question to talk about substance. Greene came back to the “issue” of the correct phrase again . . . and again . . . and again, with Sanders continuing to focus on substance, before Sanders finally answered Greene dismissively by saying the following (and in truth the exchange should be heard rather than read, for you can hear Sanders rolling his eyes, and Greene sounds like a complete prat):

    “BS: Phraseology, of course I’d use that phrase. Black lives matter, white lives matter, Hispanic lives matter. But these are also not only police matters, they’re not only gun control matters, they are significantly economic matters.

    DG: So …

    BS: Wait a minute let me just answer this …

    DG: Sure.

    BS: Because it’s too easy for quote-unquote liberals to be saying ‘well let’s use this phrase.’ Well, what are we going to do about 51 percent of young African-Americans unemployed? We need a massive jobs program to put black kids to work and white kids to work and Hispanic kids to work. So my point is, is that it’s sometimes easy to say — worry about what phrase you’re going to use. It’s a lot harder to stand up to the billionaire class and say, you know what? You’re going to have to pay some taxes. You can’t get away with putting your money in tax havens, because we need that money to create millions of jobs for black kids, for white kids, for Hispanic kids.”

    Unfortunately, those protestors at Netroots Nation – and their ideological kin who cling to phrases and pretend it is political discourse worthy of Locke and Voltaire – seemed to have missed his message. They eat their own.

    (PS: Here’s the link — — feel free to delete as I know it is a violation of editorial policy. Insert instead that beautiful Google how-to-search guide you used in reply to a comment regarding bail in your Sandra Bland post. . .)

  6. Nigel Declan

    Attempting to solve all the world’s problems, both real and perceived, one provocative hashtag at a time: how could it possibly go wrong?

  7. Scott Morrell

    I was personally offended that Sanders nor O’Malley did not state emphatically that “all dogs lives matter.”

    My little canine has not been willing to chew on his Bully Stick ever since.

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