Monday, July 24, 2006

That right-wing logic

My dad is always sending me crappy e-mail jokes. You know the kind: dependent on stereotypes, often predicated on violent fantasies, and utterly devoid of wit or insight. I think everyone has someone in their family like this.

I love my dad, though, and am content to have him send me these things. It's kind of a way of staying in touch.

So last week he sends me this joke. It depends on the usual stereotypes (this time about rural hicks and professors), but ...
Two South Texas farmers, Jim and Bob, are sitting at their favorite bar, drinking beer. Jim turns to Bob and says, "You know, I'm tired of going through life without an education. Tomorrow I think I'll go to the community college, and sign up for some classes."

Bob thinks it's a good idea, and the two leave.

The next day, Jim goes down to the college and meets Dean of Admissions, who signs him up for the four basic classes: Math, English, History, and Logic.

"Logic?" Jim says. "What's that?"

The dean says, "I'll show you. Do you own a weed eater?"


"Then logically speaking, because you own a weedeater, I think that you would have a yard."

"That's true, I do have a yard."

"I'm not done," the dean says. "Because you have a yard, I think logically that you would have a house."

"Yes, I do have a house." "And because you have a house, I think that you might logically have a family."

"Yes, I have a family."

"I'm not done yet. Because you have a family, then logically you must have a wife."

"And because you have a wife, then logic tells me you must be a heterosexual."

"I am a heterosexual. That's amazing, you were able to find out all of that because I have a weed eater."

Excited to take the class now, Jim shakes the Dean's hand and leaves to go meet Bob at the bar.

He tells Bob about his classes, how he signed up for Math, English, History, and Logic.

"Logic?" Bob says, "What's that?"

Jim says, "I'll show you. Do you have a weed eater?"


"Then you're a queer."

OK, so I laughed at this one. Because this is what passes for logic not just among rural hicks, but nearly the entire right wing in this country.

[FWIW: In strictly logical terms, the joke illustrates a false syllogism, or more precisely, a failed enthymeme. A simple Venn diagram would make clear how it fails.]

This is true not just when it comes to sexual politics and cultural assumptions. It's also true of nearly every other issue that the American right confronts these days:

-- Worried about global warming? You're the same as the Nazis!

-- Opposed to the war in Iraq? You're "objectively pro-Saddam". Even if it turns out later you were right.

-- So you object to nativist scapegoating in the immigration debate? You must be part of the "open borders crowd" willing to surrender our national sovereignty to the "Reconquistas"!

-- You think Joe Lieberman is an out-of-touch Democrat who needs to be replaced? You must be an angry liberal blogger!

-- Think President Bush overstepped his constitutional bounds by ignoring the law and ordering surveillance of American citizens? You must by a traitor who wants to harm national security!

The list, and the beat, goes on and on.

And you were wondering why so much of our modern discourse resembles Bizarro World? Wonder no more.

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