Posted on October 30, 2011
The Second Man
Libs reveal their anti-truth bias
You can tell a liberal is trapped when he pulls out the trusty fill-in-the-blank evasion that White House press secretary Jay Carney used when discussing the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations: "One man's mob is another man's democracy."
This time-tested rhetorical tactic has often been used by liberals to shield their positions from examination, by denying the very existence of an objective reality. "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter," they'll say. "One man's pornography is another man's poetry." Simply by asserting that there are differing opinions, they declare the issue to be effectively nullified.
The fundamental flaw in these arguments is that the theoretical Second Man in each example is demonstrably wrong. Considering his track record, one would have to conclude that he's either a liar, or else an ignoramus unable to discern fact from fiction, or right from wrong. An Islamic terrorist who wants to force the rest of the world to submit to his beliefs is not a freedom fighter. Larry Flynt is not just a modern-day Robert Frost in a puddle of drool. The fact that somebody might take contrary positions on matters like these does not elevate those contentions to equal footing with the truth.
As for Carney's example, putting the word "democracy" in the mouth of the Second Man does not make it an accurate description of the OWS activists. Although they call themselves the "99 percent," these hard-core socialist misfits know that they're not in the majority, and are not interested in majority rule. What they want is rule through intimidation by an angry and destructive minority. They attack policemen, squat on private property, and deliberately obstruct productive citizens from going about their daily business. That's not democracy in action. That's a mob.
The key to the sophistry of the Second Man is the denial of objectivity, by recasting the truth as merely the opinion of the First Man. Notice that Carney doesn't come right out and deny that the Occupiers are a mob. Instead, he assigns that characterization of them to the First Man, so that the habitually oblivious Second Man may rebut it. This allows Carney to triangulate between the two, making the Obama administration appear to take a neutral position, when in fact President Obama and his party have been inciting the mob all along.
The Second Man always makes whatever statement his liberal ventriloquist wants to introduce to the argument, but is unwilling to make himself. Carney wanted the characterization of the Occupiers as "democracy" to be heard; he just didn't want to leave himself in the position of having to defend it. Conveniently, the Second Man arrived to save the day, by assuming responsibility for the indefensible statement. If the reporters don't like it, they can take it up with him.
Of course, you can't carry on an argument with a hypothetical being, which is what makes the Second Man such an effective rhetorical device. Since he can't be reasoned with, there's no dissuading him from his viewpoint. Your only two options are to reject it outright, or to let it be established as an equal, alternative "truth."
It would be nice if some reporter would take the former position, and say, "Come off it, Carney, OWS is a mob and you know it." We know that's unlikely to happen, though, not just because the media are reluctant to contradict a Democrat administration, but because the efficacy of the Second Man tactic rests in part on the stigmatization of judgmentalism that has been ingrained in our society over the past half-century. Thus, anyone who refutes one of the Second Man's assertions is bound to be derided as some kind of a fact nazi.
When liberals are afraid that they'll be caught lying, they invoke the Second Man in the same way that a child blames his misdeeds on an imaginary friend. Perhaps in a liberal family, things are different. Instead of blaming a broken lamp on Invisible Marvin, maybe the liberal child tells his parents that one man's broken lamp is another man's abstract sculpture.
Next time Carney takes questions from the press, he should just put on a Batman mask whenever he's about to tell a lie, and then take it off when he feels free to speak truthfully. He could later offer the disclaimer that Batman is entitled to his opinions, which are not necessarily shared by the administration. That would be no less forthright than the liberals' tiresome Second Man evasion, without being nearly as trite.
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