How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct (2015)
HOW TO BE RIGHT
USING METAPHORS, SIMILES, AND OTHER CRAP
Sometimes the only way to make a persuasive argument about something is to compare it to something else. For example: buying this book for a friend is like donating a kidney to a stranger—an exercise in heroic selflessness (so buy three).
Metaphors and similes are excellent weapons in the war against nonsense. In short, a metaphor is a figure of speech using one thing to mean another. “Men are pigs” is a good start.That metaphor becomes a simile when you add “like.” “Men are like pigs.” So a metaphor “is” and a simile is “like.” As for analogies, that’s the logical culmination of what you’ve expressed using a mountain of metaphors. Thank you, Mrs. Brady (sixth-grade writing class, during which I mostly pondered Melissa Parms’s legs as the new mystery of the universe).
DIY METAPHOR KIT
Instructions: Match something from the left column with something from the right, then amuse your friends by saying the resulting metaphor right out loud!
Match ’em up and put “is” in the middle!
a dock covered in dead tuna
a bucket of dead bait
Metaphors: they’re a crutch—and they feel good when they work. And who doesn’t like a crutch that makes you feel good? (I dated one for six months.) When you find the right metaphor to explain exactly what you want to explain, it produces immense relief, like releasing your belt after a disgusting meal (or removing your pants on an airplane).
Of course, if they’re too complicated, or wordy, then you lose the impact. A metaphor is designed to simplify a complicated idea so the recipient’s brain goes “aah” when it digests your comparison.
Here are examples of my more successful ones (I keep a low bar on this).
“If America were a house, the left would root for the termites.”
This illustrates the innate desire of the left to embrace any cause that undermines the foundations of the country. They are termites.
Referring to the Bowe Bergdahl swap:
“President Obama just traded five cruise missiles for a squirt gun.”
“The media is Obama’s scandal condom.”
Let’s explain that one: the media has operated for the last six to seven years as a bubble that insulates the president from the effects of his own risky, indulgent behavior. Whether it’s the Justice Department scandal, the VA mess, the Obamacare deceptions, the IRS crap, the Secret Service, the Benghazi video lie, the EPA emails, and God knows what else, how come he walks away unscathed? Because his friends in the media go out of their way to not pursue stories (then mock those fellow reporters who do pursue them), in order to protect him. Call the media Obama’s scandal condom. It’s simple, memorable. And accurate, sadly. I like to think I’m the guy who keeps poking holes in the rubber with a needle.
“Telling a Democrat not to cry racism is like telling Lynyrd Skynyrd not to play ‘Free Bird.’ ”
Comparing knee-jerk libs to a band playing its biggest hit makes sense—because when the Democrats play the race card, it gets their people on their feet to cheer that reliable hit. If you don’t like Obama’s policies, you’re racist. If you think Obamacare is a bust, you’re racist. If you think Eric Holder was incompetent, you’re racist. In fact…
“When it comes to the race card, the media deals it like a methed-up blackjack dealer.”
Tip: a metaphor that conjures up a mental image is almost always effective.
And how to explain Obama’s antipathy toward Fox News while the rest of the media fawns over him?
“Obama whining about Fox News is like a football player bad-mouthing the only cheerleader who won’t sleep with him.”
This simile implicates the rest of the media for being harem members for the president, and it captures the adolescent angst of our president, born from not getting everything he wants. I mean, he could be fine with banging CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, Boston Globe, Huffington Post…but he couldn’t make it with Fox News. And that drives him nuts. We’re like that one playmate who refused to sleep with Hefner (and it weighs on him daily).
“Progressives are like Doritos. You eat one, and Harvard turns out a whole new bag, and they still make you sick.”
Colleges continue to turn out liberals, because after all, they’re all liberals. It’s a conveyor belt of crackpottery. Like Doritos, there’s never a shortage. And like Doritos, touching Harvard students leaves weird yellow stuff on your fingers.
An important part of arguing is calling your opponent a name. The problem is that name-calling is often trite and wordy. If you’re going to call somebody a name, make it short and sweet; the shorter the sweeter. “You’re an airhead and should be fired” is eight syllables. You can take a nap in eight syllables. Try “Susan Rice” instead—or one of these:
IF YOU WANT TO SAY
CALL THEM THIS NAME
You make less sense than Rosie O’Donnell.
You’re starting to look like a science project.
You look like a homeless old man who got in a fight with a passing hubcap.
You had me in a coma at “hello.”