Thursday, November 02, 2006

Debunking the Scandinavia Argument's Seductive Language

(See intro, and optionally this)

It is a common technique in essay writing to restate one's thesis statement to hammer in the point and provide a sense of grounding when addressing multiple arguments. It's traditionally taught in essay writing as the main purpose of the conclusion. However another technique has unfortunately come to occur when attempting to sway the reader to a view that would be difficult if even possible to achieve with facts. By gradually changing the words used in the restating, one can insinuate something that other than their introductory statement. Doing this over a lengthy paper, it can allow the essayist to conclude with a statement that they have not proven, usually without the reader catching it as false.

This technique has become popular in political debating, but usually is reserved for verbal mediums like talk radio. With a straight essay it can usually be caught if the argument is controversial enough to draw critics who will examine the language. However, if one only leaves the insinuation, there is little that can be challenged. If the false statement is never explicitly made, one cannot cite it, and though the casual reader may still fall influence, any critic will be dismissed as reading too deeply into it.

Let us look specifically at how Stanley Kurtz chooses his words in The End of Marriage in Scandinavia and see if they gradually say what at first he posed not to say.

He concludes his first paragraph with, "Will same-sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage? It already has." The logic here might seem questionable when one considers that only a few sentences prior he said, "Same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood." Though this bit of chronological confusion is quickly clarified in his following paragraph's opening with "More precisely, it has further undermined the institution."

Several paragraphs down, he restates, "This suggests that gay marriage is both an effect and a cause of the increasing separation between marriage and parenthood." Once again the word "cause" appears, but it is of the increasing of the separation and not the separation itself. Eight paragraphs down he changes his words again as, "Gay marriage is both an effect and a reinforcing cause of the separation of marriage and parenthood." Now it is a "reinforcing cause." This use of "reinforcing" helps protect gay-marriage form being called an outright cause, which he has yet to prove, but further plants that suggestive seed. Which culminates to the final restating in his conclusion:

Conservative advocates of gay marriage want to test it in a few states. The implication is that, should the experiment go bad, we can call it off. Yet the effects, even in a few American states, will be neither containable nor revocable. It took about 15 years after the change hit Sweden and Denmark for Norway's out-of-wedlock birthrate to begin to move from "European" to "Nordic" levels. It took another 15 years (and the advent of gay marriage) for Norway's out-of-wedlock birthrate to shoot past even Denmark's. By the time we see the effects of gay marriage in America, it will be too late to do anything about it. Yet we needn't wait that long. In effect, Scandinavia has run our experiment for us. The results are in.

The insinuation here is somewhat subtle and easily overlooked, but notice that he does not mention exactly which few American states are being proposed? Are all U.S. states suffering from the kind of decline in marriage that was, as he stated, already present in Scandinavia long before Gay Marriage was legalized? I find that hard to believe.

This obscure warning can easily leave the reader thinking that if gay marriage was legal in any state, regardless of that state's present marital status, it would gradually erode the institution of marriage. He simply cannot prove that fact, which is why he has evaded directly stating it, though to this day he is one of the leading opponents to gay marriage in America, and this essay is one of the most frequently cited in debates against gay marriage for that very reason.

One of the things worth considering, regardless of Kurtz actual conclusion and what he may or may not be insinuating and what he has said in other essays about the decline of marriage, the people that are using his essay as an arguing point to vote YES for the Marshall/Newman amendment (ballot question #1) are saying that "it will erode the institution of marriage in the United States." (See the 16th Q&A for the quote.) They are not saying it will increase an erosion already occurring, they are saying it will bring the whole thing down, which raises the question of how accurately they are even using this essay as an arguing point.


Blogger The Dark Lady said...


11:08 AM  
Blogger Tim McCormack said...

Well done, sir.

12:26 AM  

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