Tag Archives: anecdotes

Of Anecdotes and Ideologues

No one loves an anecdote more than someone with a strong ideological agenda.

I mean, don’t get me wrong—most everyone likes a good anecdote. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But it’s like the lifeblood of an ideologue to have a ready collection of anecdotes to make their points and to show you that their beliefs are true and that you should agree with them and not question them. Or argue. Or point out completely obvious logical fallacies.

Whether liberal or conservative, religious or atheist, environmentalist or land baron…whatever. Stories are the key.

And that’s what anecdotes are, of course. Stories. But like folklore or fairy tales or any other story, they don’t equal truth. Truth may be in them. If they are tales of something that happened, the tale itself might be true in general terms. But tales don’t equal truth.

Yet that’s what people at the extreme end of a belief would have you believe. That’s why they whip out anecdotes like pedophiles give out candy to children to lure them into their vans.

For the conservatives, it’s so often the mythical “prosperous welfare cheat,” who in most stereotypical form is portrayed as black, female, parent to several kids, operating some under-the-radar business, driving a really nice car and living the high life in public housing while collecting food assistance, free healthcare and actual money from the government, too.

Never mind that if such people exist, they exist in numbers far too small to make an impact on the system. I know that conservative folks, especially the rich at one end and the blue collar/pink collar ones at nearly the other end, like to believe this is a real problem. It isn’t. Sure, there are lazy people on public assistance, but they don’t live any kind of “high life.” I’ve seen too many of them through my wife’s work in social services. Most people don’t want to be on the dole. It sucks and it doesn’t get you anywhere (though it might keep you alive).

Also, what the conservatives fail to point out when they trot out their often-racist welfare cheat anecdotes is that the vast majority of people on public assistance are white. In fact, many of them are Republicans and live in states with Republican majorities.

But why let facts and real truth get in the way of a good story?

I could go into the lovely anecdotes about abortion, “curing” gay men, how African-Americans and Latinos are more dangerous than whites and things like that, but why beat a dead horse when I’ve rolled out the gold standard already? And yes, I know liberals have their own misleading anecdotes, too. But you know what? Even their most outlandish ones are way closer to the truth than the conservatives’ are. Feel free to argue with me on that if you have some good examples, but I doubt you’ll get very far with me unless you abandon logical arguments.