This is characterized by seizing on a similar component in two distinct actions and using that as the basis for declaring the actions equally good or bad. This is typically used when trying to defend something that is indefensible.
You can usually pick out a false equivalency if the thought can be completed by adding the phrase, “So we’re even” to the end of the sentence – try it with these.
- “I may have tortured and killed those animals but you hit a deer with your car last year.”
- “I know I forgot to pick up the baby’s medicine but you forgot to get my suit at the cleaner’s last week.”
- “I know I slept with your brother but I caught you looking at sideboob pics online the other day.”
Conservatives often use this technique when defending something one of their own has said or done. You heard this technique used frequently since Barack Obama was elected.
One of my favorites was when the conservative media gleefully declared that the BP oil spill was “Obama’s Katrina.” Clearly they were very much the same thing, right?
- They both impacted cities and towns along the gulf coast – New Orleans in particular.
- The damage from each of them was far greater than expected.
- In each case someone was President of the United States
ALL GAFFES HAVE A FEW THINGS IN COMMON
A gaffe is an accident
A gaffe probably reflects the speaker’s honest thoughts
A gaffe is often an embarrassment to the gaffer
Gaffers don’t defend their remarks by doubling down
GAFFES VS INSANITY
This comes up when a conservative, currently in the limelight, makes some kind of ridiculous statement. It might be offensive, ignorant or a deception designed to mislead the public. You heard a lot of this in the GOP debate last week.
When the public figure is chastised about this statement the party line is “Plenty of Democrats make gaffes,” — and there you have it!
In one fell swoop the argument shifts away from the substance of the statement. Instead you are now discussing the question – Who makes more gaffes, Republicans of Democrats?
THE BIDEN EFFECT
The Biden effect is so named because conservatives love to refer to Vice President Joe Biden as the premiere gaffer — and he certainly could give anyone a run for his money to earn that distinction. While there are many gaffes from many folks on both sides of the aisle – but Joe has said some whammies.
- “I never had an interest in being a mayor ’cause that’s a real job. You have to produce. That’s why I was able to be a senator for 36 years.” (2012)
- “Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America. Quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me.” (2012)
- “I’d rather be at home making love to my wife while my children are asleep.” (2006)
and many more……
With the current scrutiny of Ben Carson’s tall tales, it was inevitable that the Conservative media and Social Media folks would go to their default defense:
JOE BIDEN MAKES WAY MORE GAFFES THAN BEN CARSON
That is a true statement.The thing is that Carson isn’t a gaffer – he is either a liar, stupid or insane. When he claims that the Pyramids were built to hold grain, or that job losses always follow minimum wage hikes, or Putin was a college classmate of Mahmoud Abbas and Ali Khameni – he isn’t making gaffes – he’s making stuff up. Allen Clifton details Carson’s fables here.
We know they are not gaffes because he doesn’t back down or correct his statement – instead he doubles down as he did with his fabricated anecdotes about his own violent past.
AN ACTUAL GAFFE BY A REPUBLICAN
Sure – conservatives do make actual gaffes. Here’s a very recent example. House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy publicly acknowledged that the Benghazi committee was (as we already knew)a taxpayer funded political attack. This was not a lie. This was not something he made up. He was embarrassed that he said it on live TV. He didn’t double down – he tried to back pedal.
This was a gaffe.
MY OWN CARSON GAFFE
If I were to say “my motivation in writing this is political.” it might be considered a gaffe. It would be a true statement that I didn’t intend to say out loud.
If I were to say ” Ben Carson is widely known in the medical community for stealing supplies to perform his own illegal brain surgeries,” that would be a lie!