Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Three Green Ones, Red Herrings, and Fascist Rhetoric ((0) (0))*

by Meg Curtis, PhD

In undergraduate student government meetings, the future club women of America always loved to play their jokes. To control discussions, they always yelled: "Three green ones!" This strategy served as a prank, and those attending broke out laughing. "Three green ones" served as the classic demonstration of the red herring fallacy, defined as follows to this day in Wikipedia:

"Red herring– argument given in response to another argument, which is irrelevant and draws attention away from the subject of argument"

Now, on the national stage, we see this strategy playing out every day. While the US budget, deficit, and jobs demand solutions, politicians keep harping on a single subject, known to trigger lock-step reactions, even though 2013 is not 1963, and the nation has gone from laughing to growing frustration because "three green ones"--no matter the trigger word—distract citizens from TCB.

The original prank caused laughter since it provided a sure test of who had mastered English Composition and who had not. The A caliber students hooted at the hoodwinkers who tried to control discussion with irrelevancies. Their purpose was just to interrupt, if they could, and drive the D students, who never recognized what was happening, out of their blinking minds.

This strategy, requiring recognition of rhetorical errors, becomes a game of tag when the population takes the study of English seriously. When they don't, absolutely nothing is accomplished in government or anywhere else. So, we are left to inquire: Why are politicians harping on computers and body parts when the national debate proves that English Studies are critical to democracy?

The latest prank of this kind occurred on June 18 when an Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania threw "whiteness" into the fray. Deficits accumulate, and the clock is running down. Voters need to grab their English Composition texts. English professors know how to use red herrings. Do voters know how to get budgets moving?

For additional information:

* A New Rolling Eyes Column!  

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