How long will it be until Hillary Clinton comes out to apologize for stating an assertion as a fact? Mrs. Clinton’s statement abut ISIS using Donald Trump video soundbite comments as recruiting tools was stated flatly as a fact in the recent Democratic Party Presidential Debate on December 19. The words, “They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists” leave little room for any other interpretation. The error is glaring and the solution is simple. Either produce tangible evidence of the assertion (none has surfaced so far) or apologize for the mistake and correct the wording. We are still waiting Mrs. Clinton.
While glaring, the rhetorical error above is far from a solitary occurrence. Donald Trump claimed in the GOP debate in Las Vegas that friends and family of the 9/11 hijackers were flown home to the Middle East from the US just before the attacks so they could “watch their boyfriends on television.” Extensive efforts by journalists and others have failed to uncover any evidence that this is true. The 9/11 commission report in fact confirms that none of the 9/11 terrorists had any family in this country.
Political candidates are fed information by sources they trust; and in the emotional atmosphere of political campaigns a pile of effective barbs can can loosen one’s tongue to the point of complete detachment from truth or reason. This is why we need a return to sanity, not by restricting free speech, but by insisting on legitimate debate rather than soundbite hyperbole.
A concise definition for the language of liberty is “Clear arguments based on sound reasoning skillfully delivered to a thinking audience.” Politicians who want to be elected conform to the expectations of their audience. This reality explains the current popularity of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Both candidates are skillful in feeding into crowd expectations. Mrs. Clinton knows her audience is steeped in class envy, and Mr. Trump capitalizes on fear of terrorist attacks.
By changing those expectations, the message will inevitably change as a result. We the people can control the message if we make it clear that the current trend toward perversion of language and abdication of reason are no longer acceptable as part of our political debate process. Do not blame politicians for doing what works. If we want things to be different, we must do things differently.