A Good Rhetorical Lesson

I had linked to Brian Niemeier favorably on this blog a couple times but that was before it turned out that he’s an idiot. On my personal blog, I made, what I thought to be, an innocuous comment about something stupid he said. He responded by attacking… a bizarro world version of me.

Read the whole thing and when everyone who knows me stops laughing lets look at this.

A blogger named for the president who normalized relations with the ChiComs…

Puts the idea in people’s head from the get go that this Nixon fellow he’s a communist sympathizer.

The addict lashes out at friends trying to cure him of the vice that’s destroying him.

Nixon = addict. Brian = nice person who just tries to help people!

Nixon’s clumsy effort … sounds more like the squealing of Disney paypigs wallowing in the muck, shivering for their next fix of poz slop.

Wait, wait, I’ve got to wipe away a tear with my Kylo Ren t-shirt.

…a shopworn rhetorical jab of the Left…

Who uses leftist rhetoric? Leftists.

…Nixon is clearly proceeding in bad faith…

Easy way to discount something that’s said without actually addressing it.

It’s not on me if being confronted with the true moral character of your entertainment choices triggers your amygdalae.

Projection. I wrote a post which was less than 200 words on a blog which nobody reads and he does this. Somebody’s amygdala was spun up, but it wasn’t mine.

As an aside, that sentence is also an example of why it’s very annoying that English doesn’t have a distinct plural second person pronoun.  On first glance it might look like he’s referring to a single “you” but amygdala is plural so it can’t be.

…this guy’s pearl-clutching…

From the image of a genteel woman clutching her pearl necklace in shock… (idiomatic, derogatory) Prim, prudish, or easily offended.”

…that shit test…

Shit tests are things that women do. He just called me a girl.

Niemeier went on to continue in this vein on Google+ especially with the accusations of being girlish, the best being where he orders me to “Grow up, talk to me like an adult male instead of a cat lady with PMS”.

His post is an excellent illustration of rhetorical attack. The point is to trigger the target and make them cry (metaphorically or not). This is the sort of rhetoric you’d expect to see used on an SJW because, not being able to reason with them, people kick them instead.

What happens if the target isn’t an SJW? What happens if the target is someone who’s been studying rhetoric and trying to teach himself how to spot and use it? Well, not what it’s supposed to do that’s for sure. This is another reason why studying rhetoric is so important. It gives you the tools to be able to spot attacks like this, see what the aggressor is doing, and if you’re inclined to be hurt by silly insults, understanding where they’re coming from and why should certainly help to avoid being hurt. Knowing rhetoric also allows you to hit back and to analyze what you might have done wrong in responding to the other person.

It’s a tool like a hammer. You use a hammer with nails. You don’t use a hammer with screws. So in order to use rhetoric, you need to make sure first that you’ve got a nail. If the person shows up and starts calling you a cowardly piece of shit instead of addressing points, as seen here previously, then it’s a pretty safe better they’re a nail. But in that case, I googled every one of them. I also didn’t go far enough because my response one in particular would have be different if I had taken the time to read more of her blog and see that she was bipolar.

You won’t be able to research everyone who attacks you, but you also don’t have to respond to everyone who does. I know this is hard for internet egos to understand but when someone talks about you on the internet when you’ve set yourself up as public figure, they’re not actually talking to you. Sure, there’s some “notice me, sempai!” types but some people just want to have discussions and make comments without wannabe e-celebs butting in.

Learn rhetoric.  Learn how to use it.  Learn when to use it.  It’s good for you.


A Short Guide on How to Talk to SJWs

Brian Niemeier knows how to do it:

Experience shows that the best advice on how to argue with SJWs is that you shouldn’t. You should mock them relentlessly instead.


It bears repeating: Do not attempt to answer SJWs’ loaded questions or engage with them rationally. They do not want information and are only giving you enough rope to rhetorically hang yourself. Go on the offensive, and punch back twice as hard!

He provides an illustration on how it’s done in a twitter conversation with an SJW.

JD Cowan, in the comments, adds this:

It’s easy once you keep in mind that they’re being dishonest and have no desire to be rational about anything.

Turn every question against them. No matter what you answer it will be used as ammo against you, so twist it into being about them instead. They will soon get frustrated and wander off trying to “win” before usually coming back with one massively spergy comment to end on.

Keep in mind that they think you’re evil and they want to destroy you. Once you remember that it’s easy to see everything they do coming before it does.

This is gonna seem like harping on the subject, but people don’t get it.  I can’t turn around without tripping over another conservative trying to insist that if they just use facts and carefully answer and refute each point of the SJWs argument, then they’re going to win somehow.  It’s a waste of time; don’t do it.

The War We’re Not Really Fighting

Brian Niemeier addresses the fact that Catholics are not doing so hot in the culture wars:

The problem isn’t that Catholics haven’t been using our profound intellectual tradition. The problem is that our thought leaders keep deploying tactics that lead with dialectic informed by that tradition when the public at large a) is not equipped to understand that tradition, b) has no desire to understand that tradition, and c) have been conditioned into both of those predispositions by the media and academia, including many Catholic schools.

As for why God has allowed Christian influence to wane, it’s because we have free will, He lets us have the consequences of our bad decisions, and Christians have been making a fuck ton of bad decisions over the past several decades. (See divorce and contraception rates, degradation of the liturgy, and Democrat party voting rates among Christians.)

Marshall ends with this lament:

Where are the Christians? We need to spend the next decade prayerfully cultivating sharp and relevant Christian minds to engage the culture and social media.

To reiterate, Milo and Gavin are two Christians who’ve been extraordinarily successful on social media. John C. Wright is a prolific and gifted Catholic author and blogger. Vox Day is making inroads in publishing and tech. Even I’m making my own modest contribution. But Guys like Taylor Marshall won’t support or acknowledge any of us because we’re not engaging in Thomistic disputations on Facebook.

While one might argue about exactly how Christian or how effective any of the people Niemeier mentions are, the fact is they have done more than the average writer who shows up on New Advent on a regular basis. Thomistic disputations at this point in time only work for preaching to the choir.

This really goes to show, in a way, why the idea of withdrawing from society is bad. On one hand, we have to back up enough to be able to preserve ourselves and children and so on from being corrupted. On the other, it’s clear that current Catholic pundits are already so removed from regular society that they don’t understand how to speak to normal people.

There may be a bit of the IQ gap problem here too. Catholics have a great and wonderfully long intellectual tradition. But people are stupid. 2000 years of theology and philosophy mean nothing to a moron. I once failed a quiz on the Summa after reading the required section five times. But somebody who can read it, who can understand it, maybe can’t understand how to dumb it down enough for the intellectually challenged to grasp. When your brain functions solely on a dialectical level can you even comprehend a brain that functions only on the rhetorical? It’s certainly going to be harder to do if you live in a Catholic bubble or an academic ivory tower and aren’t surrounded by people like that every day.

Trying to get these people to comprehend that they don’t comprehend is as difficult and frustrating as trying to get an average person to understand that maybe his problems might be coming from sleeping around and, no, a vasectomy won’t help. The man standing on moral bedrock can’t tell the man drowning in quicksand to just stand on bedrock. There isn’t any bedrock over there but the man standing on it doesn’t see the quicksand.

The difference between dialect and rhetoric is imperative for people to understand.  Understand it and know when it use it.  Sometimes that’s going to mean being mean.  We have to let go of the intellectual pride and the self congratulatory, defeatist moral high ground and try to win for a change.

Is Trump a master of persuasion?

Dilbert creator Scott Adams has come out with a new book, Win Bigly; Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter.  Already a best-seller on Amazon, its described as “an unflinching look at the strategies Donald Trump used to persuade voters to elect the most unconventional candidate in the history of the presidency, and how anyone can learn his methods for succeeding against long odds.”  Sounds like we’re talking about rhetoric.

The Amazon description continues, “Scott Adams …was one of the earliest public figures to predict Trump’s win… The mainstream media regarded Trump as a novelty and a sideshow. But Adams recognized in Trump a level of persuasion you only see once in a generation.  Trump triggered massive cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias on both the left and the right. We’re hardwired to respond to emotion, not reason.”

Adams recently came out with an interesting article talking about Trump’s tweets in the Wall Street Journal (you can read the whole thing here): The Power of the Presidential Tweet; Trump’s online missives make his supporters laugh and even his opponents think past the sale.

As a trained hypnotist and a lifelong student of persuasion, I’m often impressed by how much “work” President Trump gets out of his tweets. Most of them are harmless retweets about whatever is going right, and they tend to be forgettable. The good ones are something entirely different, and many are gems of persuasion.

Consider this one: “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘tanked,’ in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!”

When Mr. Trump smack-tweets a notable public critic—Ms. Hill has called the president a “white supremacist”—it violates our expectations of his office. That’s what makes it both entertaining and memorable. He often injects into his tweets what memory expert Carmen Simon calls a “little bit of wrongness” to make it hard to look away. If the wrongness alarms you, consider that for years he has adroitly operated within a narrow range of useful wrongness on Twitter without going too far. That suggests technique. In the Twitter environment, strategic wrongness is jet fuel.

Watch for Mr. Trump’s tweets to make you think past the sale, a well-known technique of persuasion. In the Jemele Hill tweet, he makes you wonder if ESPN’s ratings really are the “talk of the industry.” And in order even to consider that question, you must imagine a world in which the primary claim—that Ms. Hill is bad for the network—is true. Even if it isn’t.


When Candidate Trump said he would make Mexico pay for the wall, he was making us think past the sale. If you’re thinking about who is paying for the wall, you’ve already imagined the wall existing. And that makes it easier to convince you it should exist.

I also see the president as employing a modern version of humor. When he goes after one of his high-profile critics, his supporters laugh and reach for the popcorn. This is gonna be good! Voters who preferred Hillary Clinton are not laughing, of course. But they aren’t the audience for his tweet humor. And that makes it even funnier for his supporters. His base is in on the joke, whereas his detractors don’t even know humor is happening.

In the 1940s, humor was mostly about corny jokes with punch lines, and loads of slapstick. By the ’70s, humor evolved to be whatever the public found most inappropriate and shocking. Half the fun of watching “Saturday Night Live” in those days was waiting for the naughty parts. By the late ’90s, humor evolved into more of a reality-focused art. When you watch your favorite reality TV show, you’re probably laughing. When you read comics, you laugh hardest at the ones that speak to your personal experience.

Reality and humor have effectively merged. President Trump came to us through the reality TV world, and apparently he has a good grasp of modern humor. His critics will wince at my suggestion that his tweets are intentionally humorous, or even funny. But ask one of his followers about them. Notice the reflexive smile when you bring up the topic. They see it as weaponized humor. Likewise, they recognize Mr. Trump’s sticky nicknames, such as “Low Energy Jeb” and “Rocket Man,” as both intentionally humorous and effective.

Humor is an extraordinary tool of persuasion. Things that are funny are easier to remember, and humor creates a bond with anyone who shares the laugh. In my opinion as a professional humorist, Donald Trump is the funniest president in the history of the republic. Perhaps Abe Lincoln was second.

Again, there are no jokes of the old-fashioned punch-line variety in the president’s tweets. The humor comes from our shared reality, their inappropriateness and—for his supporters—the fun of watching their shared critics take pies in their faces.

Mr. Trump also has a knack for getting into his critics’ heads. Consider this tweet: “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!” The odds of a tax law change targeted at the NFL are low. But are they zero? Once that risk is in your head, you reflexively treat it as real even if your rational brain says it isn’t.

See a similar technique in the next tweet: “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!” It is deeply unlikely any major network will lose its station licenses, but now the idea is in their heads. Everything I know about persuasion tells me it will nudge the networks toward friendlier coverage out of self-preservation.

If you think Mr. Trump’s tweets are nothing but thin-skinned reflex, you’re missing a great show. Historians and trained persuaders will be analyzing his extraordinary Twitter game for hundreds of years, wondering how much of it was based on training and how much was pure instinct.

Did you catch me making you think past the sale just then?