Crab Apples to Poison Apples: Joe Scarborough’s False Equivalency

By DuncanRhys C. Liancourt

––Democrats and the President have been referring to the Republican refusal to extend unemployment benefits unless they get an extension of unfunded Bush tax cuts to a hostage situation. This comparison, metaphor and simile, is a rhetorical device––a use of figurative or colorful language to make facts more clearly understood. The comparison is apt: a hostage taker refuses to free the hostages unless he gets what he is demanding––money, freedom, a walk-on part in the next James Bond film––and Republicans refuse to release getting-by money to the unemployed unless their demands are met. On “Morning Joe” this morning, Joe Scarborough took offense at this. He pointed out, accurately, that his show has been holding Republicans accountable for their language. He then became inaccurate by equating that use of language to this hostage metaphor.

The “Birthers” and their enablers are not using rhetoric but disseminating a proven lie. There is no fact at the root of their story that needs to be made more easily understood. Rather, they make up the “fact”––their own fiction that Obama was not born in the United States––and spread it while relying on elected Republicans to tacitly give it credence through silence and knowing, gleam-in-eye shrugs. “Death Panel” is not a rhetorical device but a falsification of end of life counseling, an alias such as a criminal might use to avoid detection and capture.

To “Morning Joe’s” credit, these are some of the “uses of language” by Republicans they have found repugnant as well as mendacious. But these conspiracy fictions and bastardizations of names, these blatant falsehoods, have nothing in common with the hostage metaphor. Joe is free to find the metaphor a failure as an aide to understanding, but he is not free to set up a false equivalency. In this case both sides are not equally guilty. You may agree with Joe that the Democrats are passing out unattractive, bitter tasting crab apples, but this is not the same as the Republicans handing out plump, shiny, red poison apples that can actually make people sick.


2 Responses to “Crab Apples to Poison Apples: Joe Scarborough’s False Equivalency”
  1. Funny. I just saw this; I am in this city of crimes – D.C. and feel so like committing some act of insurgency. Maybe it’s the large scale of the buildings that makes a human feel small; I so wish I could feel droll at this moment in time. So, off to the National Gallery.

    I can no longer pretend things are all right in this oligarchy — your comments are a relief and many thanks. Lucy Magnus

  2. Clare Keller says:

    Well stated! If you have access to the recent Harvard Magazine the article on Obama’s philosophy may add another level of understanding in regard to his current “cave-in.” It continues to gall this senior citizen whose Social Security will be level funded for another year, as the health insurance premiums for Medicare, Part D Medicare and Medigap as well as all the utility bills continue to rise. I’d be so happy, at this season, to go out there and help the economy by spending money, if there were any to spend!

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