The power of the one-word argument

By Gene Hall

Here I am, trying to communicate complex ideas about the science of agriculture, navigating a broken political system and looking for serious people to debate in a serious way. Then, turn a rhetorical corner, start making progress, and you are bludgeoned with the deadly “one-word argument.”

I’d really like some help here. Looking for answers on immigration reform? NO! #AMNESTY!–in all caps shouting. Start laying out the overwhelming evidence supporting the safety and environmental benefits of biotechnology (GMOs) in food and you get–#MONSANTO!–as if that settled the argument.

This way of arguing has several advantages. It diverts the debate away from facts that might be uncomfortable onto a playing field that tilts toward emotion and hyperbole. This is often where fundraising is maximized, or you can stop a political compromise that might actually work, dead in its tracks. The one-word argument is a straw man. If you don’t like arguing an issue on the facts, pull out the one-worder, with a hashtag (#) and you are in business. Honest debate is way overrated.

But, what I’d really like are some suggestions on one-word arguments. For the anti-science crowd, how about #HUNGRY! or #OVERPOPULATED! Maybe #STARVE! Immigration reform is harder. How can one word illustrate exporting large chunks of our food production capacity offshore? I can get this far–#IMPORTEDFOOD! Fruits, vegetables and dairy products would be harder to raise here without labor—also horticultural plants.

I’ll work on it, but I think I’ll stick with the facts. It’s harder to break through, but if we are ever going to figure this out, we’ll need more than a one-word argument.

Gene Hall

Public Relations Director
Texas Farm Bureau
I believe that the only hope for a food secure world is capitalism and reasonable profits for America’s farm and ranch families–that the first element of sustainability is economic survival.
Follow Gene on Twitter and Facebook.

One Response to “The power of the one-word argument”

  1. CactusWest says:

    Just for clarification, not sure what you mean by “anti-science crowd”. Are you referring to Farm Bureau and Monsanto?

Leave a Reply to CactusWest Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>