Monday, April 4, 2016

I’m Right! You’re Wrong! End of Story? – Part 3

Remember that research book I mentioned last Thursday and Friday: 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism by Nicole Eustace?

After page 28, I had to set it down, since that’s the point when she unwittingly reveals she’s just as bigoted and agenda-driven as the Mr. Hezekiah Niles she so zealously attacks.

As I noted on Friday, it was pretty obvious pretty fast that she and I didn’t see eye to eye on politics. While she preaches in the preface how Edmund Burke “warned that emotional words could distort reality even as they shaped understanding,” she herself chooses her language like a duelist selecting her weapon of choice: with calculation to wound or kill, not to educate.

This includes using:

·         Big words to promote her own intellectual superiority (an obnoxious habit that, admittedly, isn’t limited to either political party)
·         Logical fallacies, such as building up her anti-War-of-1812 thesis by praising the British for ending slavery, yet never once mentioning its continuing colonization practices
·         Judgmental phrasing whenever she’s talking about opposing opinions (e.g. “With logic that could only be called…” and [he] perversely tailored his presentation”)

Even so, I was largely amused by her obvious attempts to manipulate her readers. Up until that telling page 28, anyway. That’s when, after citing the narrow-minded Niles over and over and over again as her primary example of what intolerant warmongers “Republicans” were, she writes:

“In 1812, Hezekiah Niles was still an upstart young printer trying to make his name and fortune with the newspaper he called the Weekly Register. Whoever his readers were, they probably did not include many at the highest levels of U.S. policy circles.”

With those two sentences, she went from being petty to flat-out dishonest. Because, by her own acknowledgement, Niles was a small, self-important figure, not the very definition of an entire political movement. If Eustace had any academic or intellectual integrity, she would have noted that when she first brought him up.

I have every intention of eventually reading past page 28 all the way to the end, but not for a while. Not when she’s established herself as such an untrustworthy source. First, I need to analyze my other research books, which were hopefully written by intellectual adults instead of self-righteous children.

Then, armed with actual historical research, I can weed out what’s worthwhile and what’s not in Nicole Eustace’s 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism.

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