About This Site

Figaro rips the innards out of things people say and reveals the rhetorical tricks and pratfalls. For terms and definitions, click here.
(What are figures of speech?)
Ask Figaro a question!

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    « Under the Influence of Being a Jerk | Main | They Say She Wears a Transparent Proxy »

    All Dilberts Are Alike

    dilbert.jpgFrom Ask Figaro:

    Dear Figaro,
    Scott Adams claimed some people have ripperitis (I think it is is a meme or snowclone…?) when they don’t understand logic and argument…this seems related to what you talk about. What do you think about ripperitis?

    Dear Avi,
    It’s an eponymic snowclone—a person’s name with a cliched ending (-itis). Not one of Adams’s better efforts, I’m afraid.

    Adams claims that most people form their political opinions along these lines:  “If you think Jack the Ripper was a doctor in his day job, and you think doctors are positive role models, you must support Jack Ripper and celebrate the killing of women. Die, you woman-hater!”  The fallacy already has a name: generalization.  Not all doctors are positive role models.  Look how many play golf.

    But the problem we face in politics isn’t generalization—that was going on in the Garden of Eden, when Eve rolled her eyes heavenward and sighed, “Men!”

    What’s ruining politics today is an epidemic of values talk, or what Aristotle calls demonstrative rhetoric.   Values talk defines what’s good and bad, and WHO’s good and bad.  It strengthens your base, as they say in politics, while labeling those who disagree as evil.  (“Woman hater!”)

    Aristotle tells us she should be using deliberative argument instead.  It focuses on the future, deals with choices, and has as its main topic the “advantageous”—what’s to the advantage of your audience.  (“How is calling me a woman hater going to get me to support women’s rights?”)

    Deliberative argument is what a civilized society uses to solve problems together.  Values talk is what less civilized people use to form tribes.

    So let’s not call the phenomenon “ripperitis.”  Call it the Tribal Syndrome. That sounds even scarier.


    PrintView Printer Friendly Version

    EmailEmail Article to Friend

    Reader Comments (6)

    FIG FOR PRESIDENT...Just a great entry all the way. Terri
    September 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTerri
    Thank you, Terri! But Figaro wouldn't wish himself on his beloved country.

    September 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Excellent job repairing the link.

    (Good post, too).
    September 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMarco
    Absolutely loving your book. I hope to adopt it in my freshman rhetoric class next year.
    September 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDB
    Figaro, have you considered enthymeme as an alternative to generalization? Thanks,

    September 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMark
    Thank you, DB! I offer speakerphone conferences with any class that adopts my book. Email me if you're interested.

    Mark, explain what you mean by the enthymeme replacing generalization. Since the enthymeme is based on a commonplace, you could argue that it depends on generalization.

    September 29, 2007 | Registered CommenterFigaro

    PostPost a New Comment

    Enter your information below to add a new comment.

    My response is on my own website »
    Author Email (optional):
    Author URL (optional):
    All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.