Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pictures and Arguments

Gus Van Horn analyzes a Democrat bumper sticker that reads, “Remember New Orleans in ’08.”

Neither Bush nor Cheney will be involved in the ’08 election. It is unrealistic to think that their reaction to a hurricane in 2005 will provide mud that will stick to whomever is the Republican candidate. Why does the issue excite Democrats so?

Leonard Peikoff gave a speech called “A Picture Is Not An Argument.” Arguments require logic and abstract thought. They require propositions stated in grammatical sentences. Pictures require only emotional reactions with no rational context.

Katrina was a week of pictures that made Bush look bad. Even better, the pictures were of suffering African-Americans, an important part of the Democrat base. Pictures of suffering poor people is an issue Democrats can understand.

They are hoping that the American people will respond to the pictures with some fuzzy, emotionalist thinking that goes, “Poor black people suffered under a Republican President. All Republicans hate poor black people. Vote Democrat.”

You know what’s scary? I don’t think the Democrats are being cynical here. I think that’s about the level on which their minds typically work. Their political concepts have been formed in a sloppy, emotionalist way. They do not scrutinize their thinking with logic.

They can rally behind pictures; they can rally behind character assassination; logical, abstract argument is probably asking too much of them these days.


Dan said...

If all Katrina was to you was "a week of pictures that made Bush look bad" then you need to take a deeper look.

FEMA was one of the most highly rated, professionally run government agencies prior to Bush's appointment of Joe Allbaugh, his 2000 campaign manager, a man who was not trained in disaster management and who described FEMA as "an oversize entitlement program." Allbaugh oversaw the dismantlement of much of FEMA's disaster mitigation capabilities, and the loss of much of the human capital associated with those capabilities. The baton of cronyism was then passed to longtime friend of Allbaugh Michael Brown, who was similarly untrained in disaster management.

Even after 9/11, as Bush promised only he could keep America safe, FEMA was allowed to slip further into incompetence. Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters. George W. Bush is the man we trusted with the safety of our country... and he blew it. Again.

Thankfully, barring bird flu induced martial law or a post-Rapture election, it won't be Bush on the ballot again in 2008. But the mess this country has become belongs to the Republican party just as much as it belongs to Bush. We should all remember Katrina in 2008 -- the only alternative is to forget it, and that would be obscene.

Myrhaf said...

Dan, thank you for your response. I'll organize my thinking on FEMA and put it in a post in the near future.