Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Pig Coitus Argument

I know we'll never get away with calling the guy a pig f--ker.
But let's make the son of a bitch deny it.


The situation is deceptively simple:

Mr. Ersatz, a resident of the state of Pseudonia, launches into a bitter public attack against the State Department of Transportation, the Pseudonian Highway Patrol, and - above all - Governor Crock, whom Mr. Ersatz accuses of nothing less than murder.

Putting it in the blandest possible terms (which The Bogus Tribune immediately proceeds to do): Ersatz is claiming that the state and the governor have neglected highway safety. Some agree with this generalization, others don't. As for the actual statements that Mr. Ersatz has made, some are debatable, others are demonstrably false. But all are accompanied by emotive and highly exaggerated rhetoric. Besides accusing Governor Crock of murder, Ersatz claims that state officials and highway patrolmen have engaged in criminal conspiracy, and implies that they want people to die on the highways.

These wild charges, in fact, are the only thing that distinguishes Mr. Ersatz from previous critics of highway safety in Pseudonia. Apart from that, Ersatz has nothing original to contribute to the debate. Ersatz, in fact, would be completed ignored by Crock supporters and critics alike, if it were not for the fact that Mr. Ersatz lost his four year-old daughter, who was killed in an accident caused by a drunken driver.

At a press conference, The Bogus Tribune pounds Governor Crock with questions about Mr. Ersatz. Forced to repeat the only possible response several times, Governor Crock expresses condolences to Mr. Ersatz for the loss of his daughter, and states as gently as possible that he "disagrees" with Mr. Ersatz on the issue of highway safety.

By this time all that can possibly be said about the case of Mr. Ersatz has been said, said, and said again. But Governor Crock's political enemies - even those who generally agree with him on highway policy - have taken a keen interest in Ersatz. They note with glee the embarrassment that the governor experiences when forced to respond to these savage accusations. They note that the governor is impaired in answering even the most absurd charges by the need to avoid appearing insensitive about the death of a four year-old child.

The Bogus Tribune editorializes: "The courage and integrity of one man has turned a floodlight on the incompetence, hypocrisy, and callousness of an entire administration. To be sure, Governor Crock has many aides to whom he can turn to for advice in his time of need. Mr. Ersatz has only his grief, and the humble wisdom that comes to a parent who has lost a beloved child. Can Crock's spin guru, Arlo Spoof, concoct something to counter that? We think not. We pray not."

And the website Crock Watch happily reports: "Governor Crock has the mental reflexes of a milk cow."

Ersatz is now in Crockville, camped out in front of the governor's mansion with a host of supporters. Many of them are people who have lost loved ones in highway accidents. White crosses representing the victims line the road, along with signs saying things like WHY DID U LET THESE POEPLE DIE CROCK? Media trucks, big as double-wide trailors, pull up one after another and disgorge their cargo. The besieged Mrs. Crock watches all of this from her bedroom window, ice clinking steadily as she puts away one gin martini after another. All the way down the hall, the cook can hear her swallow every gulp.

Rousing themselves, supporters of the governor start to speak out. Many of Ersatz's claims are ridiculous, they say. Like his claim that Pseudonia's highway policy was inspired by the film Road Warrior, for example. And they point out that many of the groups who have rallied to the cause are partisan and utterly irresponsible. Like the Crockville chapter of the Francis Bacon Society, for example.

The other side responds by attributing this criticism to a smear campaign against Mr. Ersatz, orchestrated by Arlo Spoof. "This is a smear campaign against Mr. Ersatz, orchestrated by Arlo Spoof," The Bogus Tribune says.

Ersatz is now the center of non-stop attention. To the media, he gives tearful and moving accounts of his daughter's death. To his supporters who rally daily, he supplies an ever-escalating dose of invective. Governor Crock is not only a murderer, but the worst murderer on earth. The Pseudonia Highway Patrol, who deliberately failed to save his daughter, are criminals and bandits. State Transportation officials are all Social Darwinists who laugh when little girls die. The state wants poor people to die so that rich people can have cheaper gasoline. And so on.

Ersatz is also demanding to meet personally with Governor Crock. The nature and intended result of this meeting is unclear, but the demand is incessant. "I just want the governor to sit down with me and look me in the eye," he says.

The Bogus Tribune agrees. "The governor should sit down with Mr. Ersatz and look him in the eye," they opine.

Crock's famed advisors are at wit's end. Even Spoof is stumped. "I don't know what we can do, chief. It's like an invisible monster is beating us to death with a bag of marshmallows. We need some more brains working on this."

In desperation, Spoof is dispatched to Pseudonia University for scholarly advice. Being in utter desperation, he is directed to the Department of Philosophy, headed by Doctor Ergo Plotz.

"Interesting situation," Plotz muses. "An impressive array of logical fallacies have been deployed here, including argumentum ad verecundiam and argumentum ad misercordiam. Probably also the inductive fallacy of the Unrepresentative Sample, and the fallacy of the Insignificant Cause. But these are all mere spitwads. The real problem is that you are the victim of what I call the Pig Coitus Argument."

"Okay, then," Spoof said. "What is the Pig Coitus Argument, professor, and how do we answer it?"

"Well, that's the problem. The whole point of the Pig Coitus Argument is that you can't answer it without looking like a jerk. The argument itself can take many forms, and its actual content is irrelevant. It can be openly absurd. But the very act of responding to it makes you look even more absurd - or ignorant, or cruel, or perverted, as the case may be."

Spoof slammed his fist on the table. "Damn it! This is so unfair! They hit us and we can't hit back!"

"You guys should have thought of that before you killed that little girl," Doctor Plotz replied.