Rhetorical Martial Arts: How to keep your cool, counter attacks, and make your case in the war of words (c) Futurescapes 21C All Rights Reserved 2019
Posted March 6, 2019 rev. March 12, April 25, 2019
Today, I am examining one of the most powerful ploys (logical fallacies) used by the neoliberals in the war on conservatives, traditionalists and common sense Canadians of all political stripes. Learn how to recognize it and call it out. -- Rod
Tactic #9. Playing the victim (martyr, "poor me")
In an earlier era, the folks in Hollywood touted, "There's no business like show business." Today, in a culture dominated by identity politics, I say, "There's no business like the victimhood business." Portraying oneself or one's group as a victim of injustice, oppressed or disadvantaged over others has likely been the most effective tactic yet in the culture war and the larger battle for political supremacy. The political left has made it a speciality and reduced it to a near-science. Once secured, history suggests that official victim status is often the gift that keeps on giving. And, because of the power and influence it confers, countless individuals and groups actively seek star victim status. My purpose here is not to debate whether any victim group warrants special status or treatment, but rather to demonstrate victimhood dynamics, the problems inherent in a victimhood culture and why it must be challenged in the context of the culture war and wider political power struggles.
I first witnessed how the victim card was played while working as a young agrologist for a provincial department of agriculture on the Canadian Prairies in the eighties and nineties. Employees of provincial departments of agriculture, along with ag producer associations and the Minister of Agriculture collaborated in advocating for the industry. Consistent portrayals of farmers as financially disadvantaged and use of sympathetic language in the media like "the plight of the farmer" were important in maintaining the victim status of the ag production sector during that period. Coordinated ag advocacy persuaded the federal government to transfer billions of dollars to farm sector over the course of the 1980's and 1990's in the form of various programs and grants. By the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, the "poor farmer" industry identity became unsustainable and farmers were nudged toward becoming less reliant on government. In the bigger scheme of things, farmers were far from the first or only group to play the victim card.
Over the course of the last 50 years, certain industries, Zionists/Israel, blacks, aboriginals, members of the LGBT+ movement, women, the small business sector, and even provincial governments have to varying degrees, reaped the bounties of a flourishing victimhood culture. Recently, two new groups have achieved government-approved victimhood status -- immigrants and Muslims (living in the West*). Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Schaffer refers to those enjoying special protection under the law as "protected classes."(1) Victimhood has its rewards. The benefits of membership in protected classes vary with the group of course. The prizes include: elevated socio-political status; special protection under the law; privileged access to natural resources; lowered job and university entrance standards; preferential tax rates; long term operational funding and other perks; lump sum cash compensation and public apologies for past wrongs; protection from public criticism; and even a "get out of jail free" card when caught engaging in criminal behaviour (including what some allege are crimes against humanity.)
Unsurprisingly, the gods of a victimhood culture play relentlessly on the insatiable guilt complex of white liberal society. While temporary appeasement may be purchased, it's never enough. I recently read that the students of a major US university now have the option of dedicating a portion of their tuition to paying reparations somehow linked to the fact that the university sits on land once owned by a slave owner.
The benefits of membership in a victim group or protected class are so enticing that members of some victim groups engage in self- victimization. Essentially they covertly stage what appears, to an unsuspecting public, to be be an attack on their own group. Such false flags amount to giving your victimhood status a booster shot drawing fresh public attention and sympathy for their group or cause. Zionist activists might, for example, scrawl Nazi graffiti on headstones in Jewish cemeteries or make bomb threats.(2) Cases of this nature have occurred in the US, Europe and Canada. For what appears to be the latest example of hate hoaxary in Canada, see: "Hate-crime attack on cafe staged, Winnipeg Police say, after owners charged with mischief."(3)
In today's political environment, it seems that the insult of "anti-semite" is slung at opponents with reckless abandon.(4) But the secret is out. In a video interview, a former Israeli politician candidly informs her interviewer that the "anti-semite" charge levied at those who challenge Israeli policies is a standard diversionary "trick."(5)
The victimhood claim by black actor, Jussie Smollett appears to be a classic example of self-victimization. Smollett claims he was attacked in any alley by two white men who placed a noose around his neck and shouted: "This is MAGA country."(6) The Chicago police think otherwise and have charged him with felony disorderly misconduct.(7) False flag crimes are far more common that you might think. One source reports 50 hate crime hoaxes since Trump's election.(8) And there are knowable motivations for self-victimization by members of protected classes.(9)
Other victim card plays are more mundane, but no less calculated or damaging. I will return to the Cathy Newman (Channel 4 BBC) interview with Jordan Peterson. The premise of most of Newman's interview and the majority of her questions were grounded in assumed female victimhood. But when Peterson refuted the idea that a transgender "right" to not be offended trumps free speech and left her litany of feminist grievances lying shredded on the floor, she is stymied to the point of embarrassment.(10)
The BBC, however, rather than encourage thoughtful discussion regarding the points surfaced by the Peterson interview, counters with further implied claims of victimhood. The Corporation declared that the reaction of Peterson's nasty followers was such that security protection for Newman became necessary.(11) This unleashed a flood of angry criticism of Peterson. While no evidence for the claim was provided, the public harassment of Peterson and the threats to his person are demonstrably real. The BBC thus revealed it is more committed to preserving the feminist victimhood narrative than it is to meaningful discussion and debate.
The feminist construct of intersectionality adds a new additive dynamic to victimhood status. Essentially, the more victim categories one can claim, the higher one's victim status or oppression index. A tongue in cheek website index allows one to calculate their oppression score. A black, Jewish LGBT+ member will score higher and thus be accorded higher societal status and greater influence than a white, Christian woman.(12) And the former would rank far above a white, Christian male, a group relegated to the lowest rung of the social hierarchy.(13)
A cursory glance reveals several problems inherent in victimhood culture. First, its divisive nature pits one group against another. And those that fall outside the official victim category, become, in effect, second class citizens. Last year, a friend who once had the job of locating job opportunities for handicapped job seekers in the City of Ottawa complained to me that he had found considerably more attention and resources were available to immigrants than his clients. He's probably right in terms of which group possesses relatively greater political star power.(14)
Second, those groups that have secured tenure as official victims risk the debilitating effects of learned helplessness and perpetual dependency.(15) Third, discerning analysts have called out what they describe as "the soft bigotry of low expectations."(16) Fourth, and even more insidious, is the propensity for the oppressed, in time, to become oppressors. This appears to be precisely the trajectory of transgender zealots. The Saker reports on their latest assault on democratic freedoms:
“In Britain, there will be new rules for schools, according to which the lessons about gays and trans will be mandatory for children at five years old. Prior to this, parents had the right to free their children from these lessons. From now on it will be illegal.” (17)
It's reached the point where even members of the transgender community are calling out transgender abuses of the rights of others.(18)
Finally, the egregious role of the government and its self-interest should also be apparent in this political game. The relationship with approved victim groups is basically transactional in nature. Governments that confer special status on a particular segment of the population or group look to its favoured identity groups for support at the ballot box.
In the context of the culture war, it's time to expose the role of government in creating and nurturing special interest/victim groups. Ultimately, governments must be held to account for the costly and corrosive outcomes of victimhood politics. This includes the squandering of public resources, the criminality of vote-buying by other means, inequitable impacts, and unseemly social divisions.
In a debating context, it's time to expose the self-serving nature of victimhood arguments. Since official victimhood is treated as a given, the first reaction by the political left when challenged will be wide-eyed disbelief tinged with outrage. Who would dare to question for example, the "right" of: women to kill their unborn children, the "right" of Zionist Israel to "defend itself" (even using live ammunition against unarmed protestors) (19) ; the "right" of transgender activists to impose their ideology on young school children, or the "right" of Islam to be shielded from critique by anti-"Islamophobia" dictate? The short answer is only the courageous.
The radical left's implied message to would-be critics is that official victims and their political positions must never be questioned or challenged. Its leading lights would have us believe that this is the right of the political "untouchables." I contend that in a vibrant democratic society, there are no such free passes and no one gets immunity. Each one is free of course to make his or her case, and every argument in turn is tested in the cauldron of public debate to stand or fall on its merits.
In such a society, reason prevails over polished political illusion. Truth and transparency are standard requirements of public policy. The responsibilities accompanying citizenship are assigned as much importance as claims for rights. Calls for special treatment of particular groups are scrutinized for evidence of quid pro quo abuse of the public trust. And anything that would would impair a society's unending quest to know what is right, what is true and what is good must be unceremoniously plucked like weeds invading a garden. And that of course includes logical fallacies.
* Unlike Muslims living in the West, those in several Middle Eastern and North African countries remain the targets of the fake "war on terror" and regime change wars led by US Neocons and their allies.
1. Weaponized language -- Operation Classified, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Schaffer, YouTube, February 27, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oftcqkfMqR4
2. Were two people responsible for virtually all anti-Semtic incidents after the (US) election?
3. Hate-crime attack on cafe staged, Winnipeg police say, after owners charged with mischief, CBC News, April 24, 2019, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/bermax-winnipeg-antisemitic-arrest-1.5109224
4. In Hungary and Poland, Jews accuse their own communal leaders of playing the anti-semitism card to avoid scrutiny, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 1, 2019
5. "Anti-semitic," it's a trick. We always use it. YouTube, June 26, 2010
6. Jussie Smollett alleges two masked men beat him, yelled slurs and wrapped a noose around his neck. https://nationalpost.com/entertainment/jussie-smollett-attack
7. Jussie Smollett charged with felony disorderly conduct, prosecutors say, Chicago Sun Times, February 20, 2019 https://chicago.suntimes.com/entertainment/empire-actor-jussie-smollett-suspect-criminal-investigation-chicago-police-department/
8. Here's a list of 50 "hate crime" hoaxes in the Trump era, Daily Caller, February 18, 2019 https://dailycaller.com/2019/02/18/hoax-hate-crimes-list/
9. Four reasons why hate-crime hoaxers do what they do (Blacklisted News, February 25, 2019
10. Here's to sanity and free speech: A Canadian academic destroys Channel 4 newsreader, The Express, January 25, 2019
11. Banning people like Jordan Peterson for causing offence, that's the way to dystopia, The Guardian, January 17, 2018)
12. Intersectionality score calculator
13. Police forces discriminated against white heterosexual male, tribunal rules, The Independent, February 23, 2019
14. Needed: a national employment policy for Canada's immigrant population, Montreal Gazette, February 25, 2019, https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/khan-needed-a-national-employment-policy-for-canadas-immigrant-population
15. Learned helplessness, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness
16. The soft bigotry of low expectations, Urban dictionary,
17. LGBT goes on the attack, The Saker, March 1, 2019
18. Gender politics isn't a fact, it's a feeling and quite frankly, barking mad, SOTT, February 18, 2019
19. UN reports finds Israel intentionally shot children, journalists,and the disabled during Gaza protests SOTT, March 9, 2019.
For the better part of the last four decades, I have been encouraging people and organizations to anticipate the shape of their futures and plan accordingly. It can be daunting, but it can also be immensely practical. It can be as practical as using a set of binoculars to scope out a distant slope when hiking or winterizing your car before winter’s onslaught. Organizations that develop foresight capabilities are, among other things, creating a kind of organizational radar. This enables them to integrate discernible elements of tomorrow into today’s strategies and decisions.