I’m not exactly sure where the word “meme” came from, or when it came, or through what door. Composition instructors used to chatter a lot about “enthymemes” because the word appears so often in Aristotle’s Rhetoric… and even Aristotle, frankly, left me scratching my head. I think the idea was that certain manipulative arguments go straight from major premise to conclusion without examining an essential supporting premise. Would “shoddy or exploitative reasoning” be an adequate paraphrase?
At any rate, that’s not a bad description of activity on our unsociable “social media”, if not strictly a definition of “enthymeme” or “meme”. Yet shoddiness and exploitation both perfectly suit what’s going on in the “meme” I scrolled across Thursday morning on Twitter (reproduced above). Now, I ought to have passed on without comment. I knew that the humming in the hive before me wasn’t seven musical munchkins, and that sticking my head in would therefore be ill-advised. But I couldn’t resist: the shoddiness was so… shoddy! Especially when I viewed the responses to the post, I felt compelled to exercise of my First Amendment rights.
Respondents were all high-fiving “Danielle” for “trolling” idiot Trumpers. She and they were back-and-forthing about how the stupid Deplorables were loving on her meme rather than recognizing it as a slap in their droopy gob. “Yes, all Trump supporters are morons.” “They have no education.” “The right is full of idiots.” That kind of thing… like the U.S. Women’s [Persons’?] Soccer Team [Gang?] having a very private, no-Americans-allowed celebration after a goal.
Well… all in the world I wanted to point out was that the analogy was incoherent. I understand that humor hath a kind of license in it (as Isabella says to Angelo of his lewd hypotheticals). I wasn’t trying to kill the joke. I didn’t bother to observe that Native Americans did not represent a unitary cultural front to the “invading” culture, and that many native groups were indeed engaged in trying to enslave or exterminate other native groups; I didn’t carp that in Virginia, at least, most early settlers gave no hint of seeking asylum in the wilderness and fully intended to return home ASAP. Accept the jibe within its own parameters. So… what does it say?
It says that already settled cultures have a right to protect their boundaries and send away invading cultures to clean up their own mangled garden. I actually agree with that. I believe that the Potato Famines, for instance, would have been managed much better if native Irish hadn’t massively accepted landlords’ bribes to sail for Quebec and New York (during which passages tens of thousands died in shipboard conditions that made slave ships look like luxury liners). Public opinion in England would have had its collective nose forced into a malodorous reality, just as restless masses of abused poor in Mexico and Central America—if they remained in situ—would force change upon certain outrageously corrupt governments. That has always been my position… and the Trumper’s, too (a political clan which isn’t strictly mine but in which I recognize a strong ally). Individuals have a right to self-defense… and cultures have the same right. They don’t have to commit suicide just because aliens want their stuff and their turf.
This argument was made a month or so ago on Peter Helmes’ conservo.wordpress.com German website (I haven’t yet retrieved the precise article). It’s equally valid for us… isn’t it? All I wished to say about the meme—in telegraphic Twitterspeak—was that it supported our position, not that of “Danielle” and her admiring minions. In the analogy, the chieftain is Donald Trump. If the Pilgrims should shuffle on back to Plymouth, then the MS-13 family unit should make its way back to Honduras. Or if adventurers looking for a “better life” (free Medicaid, police protection, public schooling, etc.) have a right to go wherever pickings are most plentiful, then… then why didn’t the Pilgrims have the same right to come cash in on the New World’s wood, beavers, and tobacco?
In trying to find a Twitter-trimmed way of referring to leftist subversives, I passed on “Dems” as needlessly provocative and coined “open-borderers”, since it didn’t tar millions with one brush and also indicated the central issue. “Danielle” (surprise!) did not like my tweet—but she took minute care to avoid the issue of her memed analogy’s ineptitude. Instead, she riveted upon “open-borderers”. No one seriously advocates for an open border, she generalized sweepingly of my generalizing term; if I wanted to have a “conversation” with her, I would have to abandon such “obtuse nonsense” (and embrace her prickly nonsense, I suppose).
To condense the conversation even beyond Twitter’s thimble-small capacity, I willingly dropped all mention of the faulty analogy and answered simply that “obtuse” doesn’t frame a very friendly invite—but that my current minister, for instance, was not no one (much as I might wish otherwise). Her answer: my personal acquaintance aside, what elected policy-maker advocates open borders? My answer: none, of course—just as none in 2009 openly advocated gay marriage. And I added that my wife and I had left Texas partly because of the growing crime rate in our neighborhood thanks to political refusal to secure the border. Her answer: by “secure”, did I mean “build the Wall”? My answer: never a big fan of the Wall—the lunar stretch from El Paso to Yuma needs funded guards allowed to do their job… and, btw, withholding funds was de facto open-border advocacy.
But perhaps my reply ever exited through the thunderstorm that was passing over our hillbilly retreat; in any case, I received no further answer. And, yes, I really didn’t condense the conversation to smaller-than-Twitter size. That’s just not possible.
As I recover today from my wrestling match with prickly nonsense, I’m struck by how utterly, dismally typical of leftist thinking were the volleys aimed at me from the other side of the net. We might start with the meme itself: very poorly evaluated, yet considered by its designers to be oh-so-clever-and-keen. The original tweeter and scores of retweeters were so absorbed in chortling over stupid right-wingers who didn’t “get it” that they hadn’t left themselves time to study just what they were transmitting to be “gotten”. The meme was an occasion to heap scorn on the other side. Its logical validity was irrelevant. In fact, I’ve no doubt that all the merry high-fivers would have regarded my objections as more evidence of stupidity. If I were smart (like them), I wouldn’t have allowed myself to be snared in the joke’s inconsistencies. Sneering epithets electronically spat at me this week from the left side of the aisle (though not in this exchange) included… let’s see… “self loathing” (without hyphen), “pathetic”, “afraid”, “girl” (hmm), and—naturally—“white”. These are the descriptors chosen by elite minds to characterize their “stupid” adversaries.
Next, notice that the “debate” immediately shifted to an irrelevancy when my main point offered no obvious holes to leap through. “Open borders… how obtuse! What a careless, vulgarly undiscriminating remark! No one is for an open border!” In a single brief comment, we see a crime alleged in terms that actually commit the crime. Cute. Then when “no one” turns into “someone”, names are required. (Remember the old joke? “Johnny, eat your spinach. Millions of children in China would love to have just a bite of it.” “Name one.”)
But the argument from personal experience always troubles the leftist—who, after all, is likely a leftist precisely because he or she has no personal experience. And I didn’t even give “Danielle” the details about the stranger I found in my garage who, through his English-competent adolescent son (I’m so glad we kept that family together!), offered me a wad of bills for my truck. My adversary was already nervous merely at the mention of our having to relocate thanks to the not-open border. So…
Another shift. Rivet on another word. “Secure”… bet you mean “wall” by “secure”, right? It’s like a dog whistle with you people.
Obviously, our “conversation” wasn’t going anywhere. Does it ever these days? Distant are the days when you could have a spirited, even heated discussion of capital punishment or eminent domain—a discussion which might actually budge one of the participants to a modified position. Now it’s all thrust, retreat, regroup, ambush… anything but surrender. Never surrender. In an extreme case, torch the terrain from which you must withdraw so that no one can possibly survive on it.
X says, “Abortion is baby-killing.” Y answers, “No, idiot. They’re not babies, they’re fetuses.” X: “Oh, so when the doctor/governor describes a ‘quiet conversation’ with the mother, that’s a fetus awaiting the verdict as it writhes on the table.” Y: “You’re sensationalizing one careless remark. Name a single legislator in the federal government who takes that view.” X: “‘Careless’ is right! A career politician would be subtler. Name one time in 1939 that Hitler spoke publicly of exterminating the Jews.” Y: “Ah, now you’re going to try the ‘Nazi’ move on the Pro-Choice movement! Everybody knows that your side is the one that wants the nation lily-white!”
“Danielle”, by the way, describes herself (beside a smirky picture) as receiving five dollars from George Soros for every message she tweets. I’m sure she’s just “trolling” those Soros-obsessed Deplorables (for George well knows that what makes useful idiots so useful is their work-for-no-pay ethic). On the other hand, if you and I wrote that the Koch Brothers gave us a fiver for every post, the Danielles of the world wouldn’t hesitate to swallow it hook, line, and sinker. This e-world of hit-and-run, meme, selfie, quote-without-context, hashtagging, signal-flashing, red-flagging and—to top it all off—quarantined-then-vaporized “hate speech” is a swampy miasma of factlets adrift in stinking illusion. And there’s no shore to which we can “return home” to escape it all. We’re quickly being reduced to passwords repeated in the mist… and anyone who mauls one in a bid for humor or questions its pronunciation will get a spear in the throat.
Ugly world. About to get much uglier.