Quote: “[The nuclear test was] an expression of our intention to face the United States across the negotiating table.” Unnamed North Korean official, quoted by the Chinese Yonyap news agency.
Figure of Speech: argumentum ad baculum, the fallacy of argument by the stick.
Logicians tie themselves in knots over the technical punctilios of rational speech. Rhetoric, on the other hand, lets you get away with almost any fallacy — provided you get away with it. Figaro loves rhetoric’s refreshing lack of rules. It forgives your logical sins. It says to humanity, Don’t ever change, you’re beautiful.
But there are fallacies even rhetoric bans, and argument by the stick is one of them. Deliberative argument, the rhetoric of decisions and choices, requires the ability to make choices. When we point a gun to your head as an express of our intention to face you across the negotiating table, we’re not persuading, we’re threatening. This is why Figaro is skeptical of foreign diplomats’ call for “dialogue.” Sure, negotiate. But negotiate the way you would with a blackmailer. Talk softly and carry your own stick.
Actually, if we were the Chinese (and aren’t they lucky we’re not), we would be quietly working on a regime change. The Dear Leader is their problem child.
Snappy Answer: “You got to work on your expressions, dude.”