One of my top nominees for the Most Irritating Rhetorical Technique of All Time Prize is the Gish Gallop. Basically, the debater tries to drown the argument in a flood of claims, as if an enormous volume of specious gibberish is convincing in and of itself. Each point must be exhaustively rebutted individually, or else the galloper will claim “victory” based on the one neglected point feeling lonely and left out. Or something. If you have a real case to make, you can make it just fine with three to five solid, fact-based, logical points backed by credible sources. The very fact that Gish Gallopers feel the need to list dozens of points exposes the weakness of the points individually.
I recently encountered the most irritating Gish Gallop of all time, and that’s really saying something. While climate science deniers, creationists, and anti-vaxxers all love them some hot Gish Gallopin’ action, the author of this Gish Gallop is the Da Vinci, the Shakespeare, the Einstein, the pick-your-favorite-master-of-whatever-field-of-human-endeavor of Gish Galloping.
I was reading a Facebook thread on the topic of why Bernie engenders so much hate from certain Democrats. Somebody barfed up this delicious bowl—or truckload—of copy pasta:
- Voted for the same crime bill he attacked Hillary Clinton on, which she did not have a vote. HR 3355 – Omnibus Crime Bill, Bernie Sanders voted- Yea
- Voted against immigration reform. S.1639 – A bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform.110th Congress, June 28th, 2007. Bernie voted No. Hillary Clinton voted Yes.
- Voted against marriage equality until fully supporting in 2009. As Mayor of Burlington, he signed off on an evangelical-led ‘We Believe in Marriage Week’ in 1982 – defining marriage as between a husband and wife.
- Voted for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act.
- Voted against Amber Alerts.
- Voted against the Brady Bill five times.
- Voted against CDC research on gun violence.
- The fact that the NRA helped finance Bernie’s re-election campaign in Vermont.
- Voted to dump nuclear waste in Sierra Blanca, Texas and Barnwell, South Carolina.
- Jane Sanders sits on and profits from the Compact Commission that oversees the transfer of nuclear waste from Vermont to other states.
- Voted to protect racist, anti-immigrant vigilante border thugs; Minuteman H R 5441; H.Amdt. 971
- Voted for countless acts of war, including the bills that set up and financed the Iraq war (HR 1585) and continued financing (HR 4613, HR 563, HR 2863). Later approved increased troop deployments (HR 2647) that Hillary voted against. Approved of the summer-long assault against Gaza (S 498). Voted for regime change in Libya (S Res. 85). Bosnia troop deployment resolution (H Res 247). Voted for Iraqi Liberation Act (Saddam Hussein regime change) in 1998 (Hr 4655 and H J Res 114). Approves of air strikes against ISIS, etc. etc. etc.
- Voted against the closure of Guantanamo Bay.
- Voted YES on continuing intelligence gathering without civil oversight (HR 5020).
- Had 6 SuperPACs backing his campaign in 2016 [that we know of], of which 3 were GOP SuperPACs.
- Constantly implied Hillary has control over the SuperPACs that were backing her campaign, which is factually false and illegal for a campaign to coordinate with a SuperPAC. Same with those supporting Bernie’s campaign. A candidate has no control over SuperPACs, they are free to endorse and support any candidate they choose, even multiple.
- The fact he does take corporate contributions and he has received millions from all the entities/and employees he attacked Hillary for.
- Was cited for campaign contribution violations six times by the FEC.
- Received giant donations from unknown foreign contributors which the FEC order Bernie to repay.
- Claimed endorsements that actually endorsed Hillary.
- Bernie’s campaign had stolen voter data from Hillary’s campaign.
- Filed a frivolous lawsuit against the DNC over the theft of data his campaign stole, which he admitted to and fired his campaign staffers involved; illegally broke DNC rules and campaign laws.
- Bernie’s campaign staff illegally posed as union workers in Nevada.
- Inflated open caucuses.
- Wrote a rape fantasy essay.
- Claimed Donald Trump’s remarks on abortion and punishing women is a distraction from “real issues”.
- Bernie claimed to have a more progressive record advocating LGBT and Women’s Rights, actual record and accomplishments prove otherwise, Hillary Clinton is more accomplished on both accounts.
- Claimed the Human Right’s Campaign and Planned Parenthood, even Civil Rights hero’s like Congressman John Lewis are the “establishment”.
- Claimed to poll better against GOP candidates than Hillary, Politifact rated claim as False.
- Claimed he was the “People’s Choice” while Hillary was ahead in the popular vote by 3.5 MILLION votes.
- Railed against Superdelegates as “establishment corruption,” in which his top advisor Tad Devine was the architect of the very Superdelegate system in the early 1980’s; then claimed he would win by “persuading”/stealing said Superdelegates from Hillary.
- Tad Devine also represented Monsanto, Phillip Morris, Pfizer, Verizon, Microsoft, as their attorney.
- Paid his wife Jane Sanders YUGE for her work/role in the campaign, while refusing to release tax returns as everything is in Jane’s name, not his.
- Claimed Hillary is dishonest, yet cannot provide a single example; Politifact rated Hillary Clinton most honest candidate among all presidential hopefuls in 2016, including Bernie Sanders.
- Claimed Hillary is an establishment politician, while he has been in elected office for a total of 35 years, Hillary only 12.
- Claimed to be a candidate running on progressive revolutionary change, however, throughout Bernie’s 35 long years as an establishment politician he has not passed one single piece of “progressive” legislation he speaks about ad nauseam; there is no instance of revolutionary change, ever. [And somehow he believes 35 years was not enough time to accomplish any of his current grandiose proposals and believes he will be able to implement all of them in a short span of 4-8 years.]
- Continuously referenced Denmark as an exemplary model for his proposals, yet Danes and the Danish Prime Minister reject his comparisons.
- Grotesquely understates the cost of his proposals, as shown by all economists not directly involved in or sought out by the Sanders campaign.
- Claimed to be running a positive campaign, though that was a blatant lie. As evidenced by coining the unwarranted and completely false phase Trump constantly uses- “Crooked Hillary”. And as everyone is aware, his supporters harassment, threats, blatant lies, willingness and purposefully using Russian propaganda to advance their agenda. All while claiming “purity” and “victimization”.
- Had a campaign that was fueled by hypocrisy, manipulation and opportunism. As evident by every entry above; switching political identities for personal gain; running on the Democratic Party platform all while attacking and bashing Democrats and the Party; etc.
- Bernie used regurgitated Republican propaganda, misinformation, and blatant lies as a campaign tactic against Hillary Clinton.
I have no idea who the original author is. The only changes I made was adding numbers instead of bullets so that I can refer to the individual barf units by number. I gather from stylistic shifts that the list was assembled from several sources rather than being written by a single author.
Let’s break these down into some broad and often overlapping categories.
First, legislators vote on a lot of stuff. There are procedural votes, there are votes on amendments, there are final votes. Bills often contain a wide range of policy proposals. Often, a legislator votes against bills which contain good stuff, because they also contain worse stuff. Other times a legislator votes for bills which contain bad stuff because they also contain better stuff. Sometimes bills’ names are misleading. The Furry Puppy Act might not be so great, or it might be included in the Omnibus Death and Destruction Act. So legislators who vote “no” are against furry puppies. Legislators who vote “yes” are in favor of death and destruction.
When legislators have been in Washington for a long time, there are inevitably things in their voting records which on first blush look bad. You can always always always slime a long-term legislator by cherry-picking specific votes and disingenuously categorizing them. If you want to honestly look at a legislators’ votes, the specific votes must be given real context. So let’s summarily dismiss 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, and 14.
Second, Bernie and guns. Gun control is the only area where anybody can credibly make a More Progressiver Than Thou argument against Bernie. He hasn’t always voted for every single solitary gun control measure; he hasn’t voted against every single solitary pro-gun measure. The NRA loves him so much he has a lifetime rating of D- from them. And the corporatists accuse progressives of having unrealistic purity tests. 5, 6, 7, 8
Third, scurrilous, nonsensical gobbledeegook arguments dressed up in inflammatory language and supported by nothing. Seriously. Calm down, clarify your point, provide details and context, and cite credible sources. 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 26, 27, 28, 33, 38, 39, 40, 41.
Let’s look at some of these points individually.
Point 1. Hillary Clinton was an active participant in the Bill Clinton administration. She never ever distanced herself from Bill’s positions on substantive issues, with the possible exception of the Keep Your Dick In Your Pants Act of 1998. There is every reason to believe a Hillary administration would have been a third Clinton administration. Directing criticism of Bill Clinton’s policies towards Hillary is valid.
And this goes way beyond the godawful Crime Bill. The Clintons routinely claimed to support progressive policies and then preemptively surrendered by not actively supporting bills or enacting executive orders to implement them. The Clintons routinely claimed to support progressive policies and then capitulated to Republicans and accepted meaningless tokens. Wait, did I say “capitulated”? Oops. I meant “compromised”. Yes, the Clintons were compromised by the Republicans. Oops. That didn’t come out right, either.
Point 3. The Clintonistas are criticizing Bernie for impurity on early support of marriage equality? Seriously?!? For fuck’s sake. People who live in glass houses…
Point 10. Bernie’s wife once sat on a commission. Wow.
I would like to thank the perpetrators of this list for refuting point 15 for me with point 16. Did they even think that one through? So, there were six pro-Bernie super PACs, which Bernie discouraged from even existing. There were a shit ton of pro-Hillary super PACs, many run by long-time friends and colleagues of the Clintons. And the perpetrators of this list would have you believe, without logical reason or evidence, that Bernie was illegally co-ordinating with the PACs which supported him, while Hillary was pure as the driven snow.
Points 21 & 22. Ahh, yes, I vaguely remember that episode. A Bernie staffer found a gaping security hole in a database of Democratic voters before one of the hotly contested primaries. The campaign immediately brought it to the attention of the DNC. The DNC (the DNC and the Clinton campaign were the same damn thing at that point) tried to turn the DNC’s negligence into a Bernie hacking scandal, and denied Bernie’s campaign access to the supposedly campaign-neutral data right before the critical primary. The Gish Galloper is assuming that everybody’s forgotten that episode, so they can continue to lie about it.
Point 24. What the fuck does that even mean?
Point 25. During the late Pleistocene, Bernie used a bear skin and a charred stick to write a now-embarrassing story. He’s apologized profusely and repeatedly, and that ancient story in no way reflects his policy positions or attitude. Just fucking shut up about it, already.
Point 27. Uhhh… who is keeping score on that one?
Point 29. It kinda depends on which specific polls at what point in time we’re talking about, doncha think? There certainly were plenty of them showing Bernie doing better against Trump.
Point 30. Wow. Where to begin? Hillary started the campaign with a truckload of super delegates already committed to her. She had universal name recognition, all of the big party name endorsements, all of the major media endorsements, she controlled the party machinery, and she had more corporate cash than she could possibly use. The Democratic Party leadership has been preaching to the primary electorate to select the more conservative candidates for “electability” for 40+ years. Bernie started with 4% name recognition and no money. The fact that he made a race of it at all says a lot about the strength of his message.
Point 31. Could you diagram that sentence for me? I had a map, a compass, and a portable GPS unit, and I still got lost.
32. Nearly all lawyers represent unsavory clients on occasion. It’s part of the job description. Oh, and can you say “guilt by association”, boys and girls? I thought you could.
34. Hillary dishonest? No! I prefer the term “unprincipled”.
35. Why are we to assume that length of service equates to establishmentness?
36. How much stupid shit can we pack into one point? If Bernie is so gosh-darned “establishment”, don’t you think some of his bills would have passed? Isn’t the fact that they haven’t passed consistent with his radicalness? And don’t the various amendments he’s successfully attached to bills which passed count as accomplishments? What about the end to support for the war in Yemen? Or getting Amazon workers a raise? Who among the current crop of legislators-turned-POTUS-candidates has a record of accomplishments more impressive than Bernie?
Point 37. So…. the Gish Galloper is claiming that Denmark doesn’t have single payer healthcare? It doesn’t have free college? It doesn’t have high taxes on the rich? Seriously: What? The? Fuck?
Point 38. Is too vague to even discuss. Which proposals? Which economists? I’ll concede one point here: “grotesquely” is a good word. It’s not applicable here, but it’s a good word. I’ll have to use it more often.
Points 39, 40, 41. The Gish Galloper is just grotesquely stringing together a series of baseless ad hominems here. As near as I can tell, Hillary’s failure has nothing to do her grotesque weakness as a candidate. The Party’s loss in 2016 has nothing to do with the profound unpopularity of bland technocratic corporation-dominated incrementalist gridlocked government grotesquely operating by inertia. It’s all Bernie’s fault for daring to offer an alternative.