I would expect that our many logical and educated listeners know what a straw man is, but if you don’t, it is a form of arguing by logical fallacy where the arguer responds to an argument you didn’t make, rather than the one you did. For example, if I were to argue that tax cuts do not create economic growth, and the person arguing with me were to respond by arguing against socialism, they have used a straw man.
The reason I wanted to talk about straw men today is that in the last few weeks the Republican party and Trump’s White House have relied almost exclusively on straw men, because they have no other worthwhile arguments. It’s really nothing new for them, their response to all of the Russia investigation leaks has been to criticize the leaks themselves rather than respond to the actual damning information that comes out.
But in the NFL controversy, for example, rather than having discussions about police violence and discrimination, the right turned the issue into one of patriotism and respect for the soldiers, which of course has nothing to do with why NFL players are kneeling. Trump equated calls for more resources in Puerto Rico into an attack on first responders in a tweet over the weekend, and even managed to call Puerto Ricans lazy while he did it.
But the most egregious, most foul, and most familiar straw man in the Right’s arsenal, is that talking about gun laws after a mass shooting is “politicizing the issue.” Of course this weekend’s events in Las Vegas are horrific, many are still unaware if their loved one is among the dead and hundreds of wounded remain hospitalized, but if now is not the time to talk about doing something to prevent gun violence, then when is? That is the question they never answer, because their answer to the question is never.
While Republicans consistently say that the aftermath of a tragedy is not the time to talk about laws to fix the causes of the tragedy, Donald Trump seems to have no compunctions about using a tragedy to push policy that would have absolutely no effect on said tragedy. The day after the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre Donald Trump was on twitter and in press conferences pushing his Muslim ban.
The straw man of “now is not the time” is an attempt to avoid the discussion of gun laws in this country. The Las Vegas shooter used fully automatic weapons or some modification that allowed them to shoot fully automatic, police said he had as many as 18 guns in the hotel room from which he slaughtered innocent people below. There is no excuse, there is no possible reason, for someone to have that many high powered weapons, other than intent to commit a massacre like this one.
So while Trump takes a day to supposedly honor the victims, and to avoid discussion of gun policy, I say the time is now. The best way we can honor those killed last night is to start immediately on preventing the next massacre, and to fight relentlessly until we succeed.