How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct (2015)

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SAY JUNK THAT PEOPLE REMEMBER

The goal here is to create a sentence that packs more wisdom in less space. It’s what we used to call a “maxim.” Philosophers made their living off them, back when philosophers made a living. Another profession killed by cheap labor.

When I say something on The Five, during the following commercial break I’ll go to Twitter to see if it pulls a response. It’s a TV anchor’s video game. I say something and see what kind of score it gets. Will fifty people quote it? Seventy-five? Or just some dude name Wilber who keeps sending death threats in ALL-CAPS (and who looks in his Twitter avatar suspiciously like Lou Dobbs)? Twitter is a fishnet that captures responses, which then inform me on what makes for a memorable maxim. I use it as a Gallup poll on how well my synapses are firing that day.

Brevity requires a lot of preparation. Anyone can explain gun rights and drug legalization in a few paragraphs—but can you name that tune in three seconds?

I spent ten years writing cover lines for magazines—those bold declarations meant to persuade you to fork out five bucks and buy something very similar to the thing you bought a month ago. This is no different.

What follows are a number of complex topics, and examples of ways that I’ve boiled them down. Let’s start with this one. It’s…All you need to say about:

1. Guns

“The length of a gun attack is dictated by the time it takes for another gun to end it.”

A simple declarative sentence, declaring why gun-free zones are dangerous. A gun that’s already present is better than a gun that shows up later. I got that tidbit from John Lott Jr.

“That celebrity telling you the Second Amendment is dangerous is the same celebrity who has an armed bodyguard.”

This exposes the hypocrisy of media types who claim to be against guns while being protected by men who have them strapped to their waists. Or ankles (which is much sexier).

“Given the choice, felons would rather target the unarmed over the armed.”

Even the criminal mind understands the value of the Second Amendment. It also explains how gun control is always to the thug’s advantage. It’s also a hyperdense neutron star of common sense.

2. Drugs

“More people have died from the war on drugs than from the drugs themselves.”

If you calculate people murdered worldwide over drugs—on both sides of the law—it crushes drug overdoses. Hell, no one has yet to die from a pot overdose, and I know at least five Red Eye guests who keep trying.

“Drugs don’t climb into that bong—much the same way guns don’t shoot without a finger.”

We must be against the silly demonization of inanimate objects. We know it’s people who kill people, and guns are value-neutral devices. If you agree with that, then you must also agree that it’s people who do drugs, not vice versa—and therefore drugs are value neutral. People do drugs because drugs are good.

In fact, drugs are the only substances on the planet that deliver what they promise. That’s the weird irony of the world. We legalize the useless (see almost anything we call “over the counter”), then overly regulate the useful (painkillers), and ban the powerful (pot, coke, heroin, DDT).

3. Identity Politics

“You can’t spell ‘assimilate’ without ‘Islam.’

Why do some people immigrate to a country, then refuse to embrace its customs, and instead bring remnants from a place they seek to escape? Why not just stay where you are and cultivate your brand of hell without ruining our fun? It’s like a battered spouse leaving her husband to start a “beat-me-in-the-face night” at the Hilton. No one escapes prison and then bunks with the same psycho convict he was forced to share a cell with for twenty years. You escaped—celebrate it! We’ll bring the tzatziki.

“Students are consumed more by identity than by industry.”

They would rather whine than work, because whining brings attention, and work is hard. And often unattended. Identify the problem: a need for identity to feed a ravenous ego.

When faced with someone who is focused only on their sexual identity, their gender, their race, it’s important not to mock them, but to ask them why being something is more important than doing something. Realize that you played no constructive role in this identity you are proud of—pride can only come from accomplishment, not by luck or biology. After all, I have amazing blue eyes, but I did not make them. But I have awesome pectoral muscles, and yes, I made those. So I don’t brag about my blue eyes, but for a small price I will flex for you.

4. The Military

“Saying it’s not our fight is why there are more fights.”

When you constantly telegraph to the rest of the world that you’re no longer the world’s well-armed referee, the thugs take it as a green flag to invade, rape, and pillage. While most things aren’t our fight, the ones that are prevent the others. And they have to be fought all-out, with full commitment from Washington (a town that can never get far enough away from any fighting, incidentally).

President Obama has never been interested in winning wars—only in ending them. Why not do both? In fact, there is no point to ending a war if it’s not in victory. Obama must have slept through that part of history class (I did, too, but I caught up later with Wikipedia). Fact is, we live under an administration that sees winning only as a strategy for elections, and that has severely compromised our role globally. If America sees no value in victory, that’s very unlike our adversaries, who enjoy amassing trophies. Putin would not have gone shopping for land in Eastern Europe if he knew we were up for the fight. Putin’s best friend in the world is Obama—they’re the yin and yang of politics. Putin takes and takes; Obama’s in the kitchen making low-fat brownies. Speaking of…

5. President Obama

“You don’t bring a pet rock to a gun fight, and you certainly don’t bring a community organizer to a KGB fight.”

Especially a community organizer on vacation. It’s true: President Obama is everywhere you’re not. And it’s almost always when you need leadership most. He’s the guy texting his girlfriend while driving— eyes not on the road—about to hit a deer. We are that deer.

6. Politics

“Politics is a game that bad people play while good people aren’t looking.”

Do not expect anything uplifting from politics. When there is tragedy, someone plays politics. Ebola becomes a football for Obama-haters, and for Republican-loathers. Politics is the engine that guarantees your tax money goes for horrible things. Politics enables the corrupt to stay in power, and the greedy to keep gobbling up perks and profits. In short, the only way politicians succeed is if you’re busy doing something else. And we are all busy doing something else, because we are normal, decent people. (You must be—you’re reading this book.)

In a way, we are all low-information voters, because we have better things to do. There’s drinking, sex, and drinking, and sex. And oh yeah, creamed spinach.

But at some point we have to start paying attention (especially to your own local politics, where you can do something) and, more important, get others to pay attention. Which is the point here, at page 174 (it’s really been a breeze so far).

FOUR PERSUASIVE POINTS: THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD VIDEOS

How to Explain Evil in Under Five Minutes

Point One: When the argument for selling “fetal tissue” begins with “it’s a shame to let it go to waste,” it destroys the moral case for abortion. By admitting that it’s a shame that it’s being wasted suggests strongly that you believe that child is/was of value. You reveal that you know what was killed had value.

Only something of value can be wasted, unless you view unborn children as a form of recycling. (Which is the real ugly truth here: in the old days, adults existed to take care of children—to increase the baby’s chance of survival. Now it’s the reverse: adults use children to enhance their survival through medical “research.”)

Perhaps, in the near future, there will be recycling bins located next to the traditional boxes, marked “Paper” and “Glass.” We’d likely label it “medical waste,” but “victims” would save time and ink.

Point Two: Fetal dismemberment cannot be placed under the “pro-choice” umbrella. It was never discussed in Roe vs. Wade, or elsewhere. Now, I’ve accepted that abortion isn’t going anywhere. But how does that excuse the ghoulish behavior exposed in those Planned Parenthood videos, revealing their cold, calculated use of organs and parts belonging to unborn children? Pro-choice doesn’t mean women have the “choice” to dismember what’s discarded. And if you justify dismemberment by saying it offers the woman solace in knowing that her abortion isn’t wasted—well, you’re back to point one, aren’t you?

If dismemberment of a fetus is a right, then so is a right that I possess, allowing me to dissect my uncle after he passed away, too. His skull would make a great paperweight.

Point Three: If this baby butchering is perfectly normal activity, why the need for euphemism? Listening to apologists refer to the slicing of dead babies as “fetal research” reveals how evil can only operate under the protective umbrellas of euphemism. What if we experimented on the corpses of death-row dwellers? We’d call it “inmate research,” and we’d be vilified. It’s an argument one could use on the “research” done on concentration camp victims. And perhaps, in this day and age, we would.

Point Four: Much of the media accused the group behind these gotcha videos of selectively editing them to make PP appear worse than they really are. Fact is, the videos were made available, in full, online, the moment they were released. But the real point is this: You can always tell something about someone’s choice of outrage. When the media is more upset about the splicing of film than the splicing of babies, it reveals that their reservoir of compassion is as empty as their platitudes about choice. I’d tell them to go to hell, but they’re already in it.