You Cannot Seek Refuge in the Defense That Guilt by Association Is a Logical Fallacy When You Have invited the Association

In a previous post, “Louie Gohmert and Ted Nugent Proud to Be Ignoramuses” [https://academeblog.org/2013/08/07/louie-gohmert-and-ted-nugent-proud-to-be-ignoramuses/], I surveyed the ridiculously stupid pronouncements that have come out of their mouths. There was a Texas connection at that time because Nugent had attracted a crowd of admirers at a Texas gun show who seemed to be competing with him to see who could produce the most stupidly offensive remark of the day.

Well, as everyone knows, Nugent was back in Texas this week, not just extending his Neanderthal expressions of support to Texas gubernatorial candidate, Greg Abbott but actually sharing the stage with him. Indeed, Abbott seemed very happy with that arrangement until reporters started to ask him if his willingness to share the stage with Nugent meant that he endorsed Nugent’s quite recent descriptions of President Obama as a “chimpanzee” and a “subhuman mongrel.” After unsuccessfully evading the questions, Abbott ultimately just slipped away in his campaign limousine.

Alone among those on the Far Right, Rand Paul tweeted (and that he tweeted provoked me to wonder if a tweet is starting to substitute for public statement, even from a sitting U.S. Senator) that Nugent’s comments were offensive and that he should apologize. As several commentators have pointed out, however, Paul did not comment on Abbott’s sharing the stage with Nugent, on whether Abbott himself owed anyone an apology, or on whether Abbott should continue to campaign with Nugent, whether or not he apologized.

Nugent did issue an apology, but not to the president. Instead, he apologized for creating a distraction for the politicians that he supports—presumably Abbott, though Abbott was rather pointedly not identified.

Once Nugent had issued that non-apology, commentators on the Far Right began to assess the political damage to Abbott and to the “Republican brand” and then began to construct rhetorical strategies to try to minimize that damage. As an English professor, I paid particular notice to the attempts to define the attacks on Abbott as exercises in guilt by association. Abbott, they claimed, cannot be held any more accountable for what Ted Nugent has said than President Obama can be held accountable for the truly awful things that his supporters and even close associates have said. I knew immediately what was coming: the decidedly “un-American” specter of Reverend Jeremiah Wright was about to be resurrected, and the case would be made that Abbott and Nugent did not, after all, have the extended, personal relationship that Obama had had with his minister.

The problem with this strategy is that the contrived controversy about Jeremiah Wright was actually very much an exercise in guilt by association: that is, Obama did not campaign with Wright, never identified Wright as a political as well as a spiritual mentor, and never endorsed the opinions expressed in the rant that Republican strategists insured would go viral.

In contrast, Abbott got on the stage with Nugent fully knowing what a Neanderthal Nugent is. This late in Nugent’s “career,” Abbott cannot possibly claim with any credibility that he thought that people were drawn to Nugent’s appearances because they were devoted fans of his music. (Granted, a number of them do look as if they cannot get “Cat-Scratch Fever” out of their heads.) Abbott knew all too well that people come out to Ted Nugent’s public appearances precisely because they expect him to say something too obnoxious to be believed.

Not able to let pass any opportunity to pander to the Far Right lunatic fringe, Ted Cruz asserted that it is President Obama’s fault that Ted Nugent says such offensive things: specifically, “’I will note, there are reasons Ted Nugent–people listen to him, which is that he has been fighting passionately for Second Amendment rights. And–and this administration has demonstrated an incredible hostility to the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.’” Of course, Cruz did not provide any details about those incessant attacks on Second-Amendment rights because they are a figment of the Far Right imagination, a threat created by the gun lobby to provoke the paranoid to but even larger stockpiles of guns. (It is a fact, by the way—and not propaganda—that the percentage of Americans who own guns has been steadily declining while the average number of guns owned by individual gun owners has been markedly increasing.)

But instead of giving Ted Cruz the opportunity to disseminate more misinformation about federal gun policies, I would ask him to explain how President Obama is responsible for the following two observations by Ted Cruz, as reported in an article by Megan Morris:

“’[I get a] full predator spiritual erection’ from hunting ‘bear, lions, coons, housecats, escaped chimps, small children, scared women and everything else that can be chased and/or hunted.”

“Nugent told the Detroit Free Press in 1990 that he meticulously planned to get out of the war. He stopped bathing 30 days before going before the draft board and later ate nothing but junk food and Pepsi. A few days before his appointment, Nugent started defecating in his pants. It obviously worked—and it’s a good thing, because ‘if I would have gone over there, I’d have been killed, or I’d have killed all the Hippies in the foxholes. I would have killed everybody.’”

Quite a guy and quite a patriot.

One thought on “You Cannot Seek Refuge in the Defense That Guilt by Association Is a Logical Fallacy When You Have invited the Association

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don’t impersonate a real person.