I've been thinking about 'fear' for a few weeks. Fear is often used as an argument to promote a point of view. However, from a rhetorical point of view, appeals to fear are equivalent to an appeal to emotion, or pathos, which is inferior to an appeal to reason, or logos. Yet, for some reason, appeals to fear are very effective, especially in politics. So even though we should instinctively be very suspect of all arguments revolved on fear or emotion, instead we embrace them.
Examples of pathos are easy to find, because its incredibly overused. Here are a couple of examples. Shari Drew, the keynote speaker for the RNC convention, on gay marriage:
This escalating situation reminds me of a statement of a World War II journalist by the name of Dorothy Thompson who wrote for the Saturday Evening Post in Europe during the pre-World War II years when Hitler was building up his armies and starting to take ground. In an address she delivered in Toronto in 1941 she said this: â€œBefore this epic is over, every living human being will have chosen. Every living human being will have lined up with Hitler or against him. Every living human being either will have opposed this onslaught or supported it, for if he tries to make no choice that in itself will be a choice. If he takes no side, he is on Hitlerâ€™s side. If he does not act, that is an actâ€”for Hitler.â€?
May I take the liberty of reading this statement again and changing just a few words, applying it to what I fear we face today? â€œBefore this era is over, every living human being will have chosen. Every living human being will have lined up in support of the family or against it. Every living human being will have either opposed the onslaught against the family or supported it, for if he tries to make no choice that in itself will be a choice. If we do not act in behalf of the family, that is itself an act of opposition to the family.â€?
At first it may seem a bit extreme to imply a comparison between the atrocities of Hitler and what is happening in terms of contemporary threats against the familyâ€”but maybe not. I just turned 50 years old, and I have never married. That was not my intention, and it has not been my choice. When someone asks me why I have never married, the simple and truthful answer is that nobody has ever asked me. Nonetheless, when I speak about the family, I have a deep, profound and abiding belief that the family is absolutely ordained of God, that it is part of His plan for His children, that marriage is supposed to be between a male and a female, and that children deserve to be born to and raised by two parents, father and mother. That is the ideal.
Or this passage from the Unity Statement of United for Peace and Justice, the umbrella group organizing tomorrow's largest protest at the RNC convention.
It is now clear the war on Iraq was the leading edge of a relentless drive for U.S. empire...This military strategy brutally reinforces the empire-building agenda of corporate globalization, which uses â€œfree tradeâ€? policies to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a few by attacking labor and environmental protections, reducing governmentsâ€™ control over their countryâ€™s economies, and slashing public services...
Emboldened by its military victory in Iraq, the Bush administration has warned Syria, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea that if they donâ€™t comply with U.S. demands, they, too, could be subject to â€œpre-emptive warâ€? and â€œregime change.â€?
If I don't oppose gay marriage, what is going to happen to my family? If I don't oppose free trade, what is going to happen to my job? I don't know, because this is all just fear and emotion, without any facts. To me, both not only don't convince me of their viewpoint, it makes me incredibly suspicious of what they have to say.
So If you've made it this far, don't comment on why I should oppose gay marriage or the corporatization of our government. This is just how I critically read things these days, both scholarly and in my leisure time, because logic and reason are supposed to win arguments, not emotion and fear.