My Turn: A ‘Sunday Monitor’ section built on deceitful rhetoric

For the Monitor
Published: 5/9/2019 12:25:23 AM

I thought it was maybe mendacity, but that word is too closely aligned with outright lying – a shade of mendacity is “deceitfulness” and that’s more nearly the word I’m looking for. I’m looking for a word like that, or maybe one that describes rhetorical abuse, or one that describes what it means to shame and guilt-trip people into buying your point of view while wrapping yourself in one or another righteous flag – and all the while assuming your audience agrees or is lacking intelligence (easily fooled by your clever rhetoric). Anyway, after reading the columns in the May 5 Sunday Monitor, it’s something like this that prompts me to write today – and it is pervasive!

I’ll begin at the beginning with Jonathan Baird’s lead piece, “Age of Ageism.” Baird writes that “Katy Burns also accused Bernie of being old.” Please, accused? He is old at 77, yet Baird somehow finds it accusatory to state the fact. Later he writes, “Burns attacked Joe Biden.” Attacked, really? In his fourth paragraph he writes, “Bernie is now 77 and Biden is 76. There is no evidence that either is, in any respect, impaired.” Yes, we know that, but Burns and the rest of us are talking about them taking office at the age of 78 or 79 and serving at least into their 80s, and it is just plain false to assert humans at that advanced age aren’t at higher risk physically and mentally. Baird goes on and on with this kind of argument supporting his (blind eye to reality) central theme that age should not be a consideration, but enough with that piece.

Next up is Randall Balmer’s piece on the “Trump diversion.” I’ll admit it is a well-written and cleverly presented column, and I won’t defend Trump’s character. On the other hand, this one is written for the leftist believers and makes several statements that while clearly opinion purport to be conventional wisdom instead of the leftist dogma they clearly are.

Much of America believes the Obama era environmental regulations went too far, tying the hands of and loading unnecessary costs on business while currying favor with Big Green for negligible environmental gain. (What, for example, is the environmental gain of taking tens of thousands of acres of renewable forest land in Maine out of production to create a “national monument”?) Many of us are pleased at the targeted approach to deregulation taken by this administration. The Betsy DeVos argument about separation of church and state is a red herring, but of course Balmer expects that we either agree with his points or aren’t smart enough to suss out the rhetorical device.

I must admit, I can’t really add much more on Balmer’s piece – he seems sharper than me (I’m over 70).

The other front-page piece by Katy Burns is, as always, well-written and despite the expected nasty swipes at the GOP, contains good advice for the Monitor’s readership (which must all be Democrats at this point in time as most Republicans in the Capital Region have long since canceled their subscriptions over biased content). Which reminds me: Some advice for the owners of this sketchy daily is they should seriously consider toning down the bias if they want to expand subscriptions.

The Monitor’s editorial was like an Obama speech; it had me agreeing, nodding and smiling until the final paragraphs when it argued for more centralized power vested in majorities – which makes any conservative shudder. I don’t guess either this or Burns’s piece fit my narrative today, but so what.

Next up: Fair taxation is patriotic. This one’s a doozy! Grace Mattern begins with, “The assertion that ‘taxation is theft’ is one of the talking points Republicans use to discredit Democratic tax proposals,” which is nonsense. While that refrain is sometimes spoken, it is so far removed from what nearly all Republicans think that using this straw man to beat up on the GOP insults intelligence. She beats up further on the straw man, using one opinion piece as representative of GOP views, when she must know that’s far from true.

Continuing, Mattern wildly mischaracterizes a quote she attributes to Rep. Josh Yokela, “property is the physical manifestation of time and effort.” She writes, “Do they (GOP) believe that black households in the United States, on average, have 10% of the total wealth of white households because black people do 90% less work.” Please. I’ve never heard anyone say anything in the same universe as that statement, and to twist Yokela’s statement into that is race baiting at its worst. Then she goes on to give us the same old lecture on America’s history of racism that one is expected to completely agree with or suffer being politically incorrect – ugh!

What most Republicans believe is that some level of taxation is necessary and patriotic. We also think those who can pay more in taxes should, though we disagree with Democrats on the point at which taxation becomes counterproductive. I expect it is also fair to say most Republicans believe that if most taxes are collected and spent at the local level, better decisions are made in spending. I’d posit that is not what Democrats believe. So, lets argue over the right balance of taxation and the right place to collect and spend those tax dollars. I guess that paragraph is off my theme, too, but really, folks, can’t we be more civilized?

(Steve Mongan lives in Concord.)

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