In the past 24 hours I have observed the following on social media:
1. Different commenters describing the opposition by IBM to the Texas “bathroom bill” as “political communism” and “fascism”.
2. A commenter on LInkedIn declaring that the campaign to force BenchMark Capital to divest their investment in Uber (following the scandals that led to the departure of the previous CEO Travis Kalanick) is the revenge of “the PC Lib stranglehold”
3. An assertion that I am “biased” because I posted a couple of rather pointed messages to Facebook about the demonstration in Charlottesville (which, I have to remind readers, featured a drive-at-a-crowd murder by a man who seems to have been on the same side as the original demonstrators).
(1( and (2) are excellent examples of attempted argument by cutting and pasting slogans. This is about on a par with attempting to argue using memes, which for some reason people seem to think is an effective method of persuasion on social media.
Here’s the problem. Cutting and pasting slogans and memes is not making an argument. It simply demonstrates that the commenter can cut and paste. It is analagous to plagiarizing content for your high school essay and expecting the teacher to give you a good grade. Most teachers, if the determine that the content is cut and pasted, will give a failing grade, because absolutely no original thought went into the process. Ditto arguing in slogans and memes. That’s not your voice. It’s the voice of a sloganeer, who in all probability did not have a cogent argument in the first place, hence they used slogans. I cannot take this form of communication seriously. it is fundamentally lazy and unserious. It also tends to show that the commenter is confused or incoherent, as in calling IBM “communist” and “fascist” simultaneously.
3 is interesting. So, I am biased.
We all have biases. This is not revelatory, nor is it an argument.
On one level it is a statement of the obvious. On another level, however, it is a form of indirect speech. It is an attempt at a shut-down of the conversation, as in “I am not taking you seriously because you are biased”. It is, in some respects, a form of the ad hominem fallacy.
If somebody wants to be taken seriously in discussion, they need to stay away from rhetorical tricks like this one, and, you know, construct an argunent that contains a proposition for which they offer evidence.