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Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Illogic Of Right-Wing Rhetoric

I have often wondered if there is a scientific answer as to why right-wing politician and their supporters have a standard of behavioral responses Those Left in the Center would agree that right wing rhetoric is  mostly emotive to the point of aggression, reactionism, traditionalism and many more things but the common thread in all of these is the gross disregard of the  rules of logic even when participating in discourses and debates.
to any given situation. 

If you don't belong to the Right, you already know what I am talking about ;) if you are a rightist ... well, you will not believe it anyway! You are always so "right" !


The question on right-wing rhetoric becomes more important with the rise of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP. Since Modi is as charismatic as Mussolini and furthermore tech savvy, his “blackshirts” now prowl on the Internet, trolling each and every statement that is critical of their Il Duce.  Any negative remark on Modi is promptly drowned by cacophony of Modi acolytes. If I call it cacophony, the primary reason is that there are seldom serious debates and arguments, there is a lot noise and cussing.  This lies outside the ambit of logic and reasoning. This also true for those making anti-Modi remarks, but within a limit. Let’s proceed to specific arguments and examine them against established logical rules.   

The killer argument that nearly every other anti-Modi statement is countered by, is
All anti-Modi remarks are made by Congressi sycophants
From logical perspective, this argument suffers from the Ad Hominem fallacy, which is said to have been made when argument is attempted to be countered by attacking the person, rather than the argument itself.
The second fallacy here is the Straw Man fallacy which is characterized by an argument that seeks to counter a position by attacking a position that is easier to counter regardless of the opponent’s stand on the position.  A pertinent question to ask here would be, why Congressi ? There are several parties and groups that make far scathing attack on Modi and are not kind to the Congress either. As a matter of fact, most of these have in the past been allied with the BJP at one time or the other. So when such a diverse group of people are unanimous on criticizing Modi, it would irrational and insane to accuse all of these as conspiracies aimed at wooing the same Muslim votes.

So it doesn't matter if you support the Congress or not but if you attack Modi’s rhetoric the counter argument would most likely be an attack  on the  Congress, since that is considered easier to counter.
The reason is that by virtue of being in power for more than 6 decades, every failure and/or misdeeds, whether real or imaginary, can be attributed to the Congress government of the time.  Most importantly, it was the Congress government that was responsible for the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.  The biggest charge that Modi faces is his involvement in the 2002 massacres of Muslims in Gujarat after the Godhra carnage. The standard reply to any question related to Modi administration’s role in the riots invariably offered by his acolytes is the reminder of the Congress government’s role anti-Sikh riots of 1984. This can be categorized under TuQuoque (“you too”) fallacy but from ethical point of view,seeking to justify a genocide by bringing up the issue of another genocide is too heinous to be defined as a simple logical fallacy.

This is not a thesis or academic paper, many of the fallacies may actually overlap and some of my own statements may commit fallacies but I don't think they can be more brazen or bigger fallacies than rightists usually make.


Psychologists/Neurologists often talk about right brain-left brain functioning. Can this apply to right-wing, left-wing politics?  The terms Leftists, Centrists, Rightists emerged from the seating arrangement in the National Assembly of France after the French Revolution of 1789 when the supporters of the king sat to the right of the president whereas those completely against the king sat the left. The seats in the center were occupied by the moderates who were open to compromise.  Since those sitting on the left and the right respectively held political view completely opposed to the other, gradually Left-Right politics came to be defined as the political spectrum to ascertain a party’s political position.

In popular psychology, the left brain-right brain theory states that two cerebral hemispheres of the brain control specific behavior. Interestingly, it is the left side of the brain that deals with logic and analytic thinking, language, reasoning, reconciles past with present giving a sense of continuity, the left brain is the seat of nearly everything related to science and rationality. The right brain controls creative aspect and sense perception of space and dimension.

However, the theory of lateralization of brain functions is not conclusive.  The brain functions in a mechanism which involves both hemispheres or at times, for instance while left brain is primarily associated with language the right brain controls facial recognition, 3D perception and color recognition.  Even a simple brain function is a complex process involving several regions of the brain. Further, functions of a particular region are taken over by another region if the former is damaged. Hence it would be incorrect to label a person with a healthy brain to be a left-brain personality or a right-brain personality.  Instead the term “dominance” is used to imply which hemisphere has a greater role in mental processing.  Generally a left-brain dominant personality is considered to be more logical and a right-brain dominant personality is associated with creativity. Conversely, a right-brain dominant personality may be slightly less logical while a left-brain dominant person may not be as creative.

However, in matters such as rhetoric and discourses the left brain is clearly more important than the right brain but I doubt if the traits are discernible in everyday life. Perhaps it is emotion (controlled by the right brain) that triggers the other right-brain traits and brings them to the fore.  This might explain why seemingly rational and reasonable people suddenly transform into irrational and intolerant supporters of Modi whose words are always crafted to appeal to the sentiments of his supporters. The same stands true for all fascist leaders and despots in the past as well as our contemporaries.

It is a remarkable coincidence that the right wing politicians and supporters seem to be strongly oriented towards right-brain dominant personalities. 

Or is it more than that?     

Caveat: Do note this is a light hearted speculation, not a scientific paper! Nor am I going to take responsibility should you attempt to remove a part of your brain or otherwise take it more seriously,because that would mean you didn't have it in the first place ;)  :P   

Dedicated : This post is an extension of a discussion Agnivo Niyogi, Mohammad Farooq and me.  

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