Across the Sunday talk shows this week, the national political discourse on both the NSA scandal and the Syrian civil war was dumbed down to a dichotomy between “good guys” versus “bad guys.” This anti-intellectual rhetoric chooses to simplify and repeat rather than appreciate viewers' capacity to reason and think about nuanced policy issues meaningfully.
1. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) On 'Meet the Press'
On arming the Syrian rebels:
“And while I know there are bad guys involved in the opposition rebels, we've done a pretty good job of ferreting out who are the good guys or who are the more moderate guys within that opposition.”
On the NSA leaks:
“The bad guys around the world are taking some different tactics and they know a little bit more about how we're gathering information on them.”
About intelligence gathering before 9/11:
"But certainly, we weren't doing the things that we were capable of doing to try to make sure that these bad guys don't have all the tools."
2. David Gregory, Host, On 'Meet the Press'
On the controversial NSA surveillance program:
"... Hey, we're just not going to be quite as good at chasing the bad guys?"
3. Denis McDonough, White House Chief Of Staff, On 'Face the Nation'
On NSA surveillance:
“So we find ourselves communicating in different ways, but that means the bad guys are doing that as well.”
4. Chris Wallace, Host, On 'Fox News Sunday'
On NSA surveillance:
"Fine, if you find the bad guys so you have reason to suspect them, go after their numbers, go after their e-mails.”
5. David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief For 'Mother Jones', On 'Face the Nation'
On arming Syrian rebels:
"[Distinguishing] good rebels versus bad rebels."
6. The Truth From Elvin Lim, Political Science Professor, Wesleyan University
On political rhetoric:
"Simplicity does not guarantee the truth, only the semblance of sincerity … It is true that most of the time when we are being truthful we say things simply and we don’t hide behind the obscuration of words – that’s exactly true. But that has no relation to the truth content of what’s being said at all. A highly rhetorically adept person can well articulate things simply and yet conceal them precisely via the simplicity of his words.”