In an age where absolute truth, consistent virtue, and unwavering principle are viewed as figments of human imagination, where relativism and secularism hold sway, and the satisfaction of individual desire is paramount, short personal accounts of incidents or events – known as anecdotal arguments – have largely taken over the Democrats’ debate strategy. Whereas anecdotes have conventionally been long used to exemplify and illustrate the concepts implicit in a general argument, it now seems that they are more and more used, especially by Democrats, in such a way as to become the general argument itself. In grammar, it’s like an adjective that exceeds its place as a simple modifier, arbitrarily becoming the subject or object of the sentence – preempting and unseating the proper figure of speech. The traditional place of a modifier, of course, whether it be in grammar, in logic, or in rhetoric, is to sharpen and delimit an identified concept. But in today’s culture, liberal politicians have made it the concept itself.
Take, for example, a political debate concerning a proposed law. On one side of the issue, the proponent offers reasons to justify its passage; the opposition then attacks those reasons and counters with other reasons warranting its defeat. In the course of sustaining their respective positions, the competing debaters used to be rigidly obliged to recognize certain bounds beyond which they dared not go. A common understanding of certain unchanging ethical and moral principles kept each side “in touch” with the other, limiting the scope of the argument and allowing the debate judges to rule in accordance with pre-determined markers. In other words, the game was logically structured. In order to win it, a player had to shape his arguments to fit the commonly accepted debate structure.
Today, most of the issues in a debate – as posed by Democrats – are less likely to be championed by the demonstration of either adherence to principle, congruence with a universal morality, or traditional ethical positions. The more likely path to be followed lies in a crafty two-fold strategy. First, the argument is saturated with carefully selected stories about individual people, events, or situations designed to emotionally nudge the audience in the direction desired; second, the story is presented in such a way as to convince listeners, readers, or spectators that the proffered anecdote is more than just a single isolated story among many, but is rather the dominating story that not only exemplifies the debate issue involved, but justifies its suggested resolution. This tactic differs from one that simply uses examples or stories to illustrate and bring to life a concept previously justified, analyzed, and rationally presented, one that has been tempered and shaped by criteria commonly accepted by the disputants, the audience, and the judges. Where the facts of a claim are ill-defined, where the logic is defective, where consistency is lacking, or where contrary evidence is ignored, anecdotes will more likely be escalated from their place as supporting modifiers to the more dominant role of ”proof per se.”
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.