Friday, July 20, 2012

Bain or Bane Part Deux: Plausible Deniability

In an earlier post, I noted how Rush Limbaugh was using a Loaded Question to imply a conspiracy between the Obama Administration and Hollywood to link Mitt Romney and his private equity firm Bain Capital with the villain of the new Batman film, Bane. Rush Limbaugh has since walked back this claim saying:
I never said that the villain was created by the comic book character creator to be part of the 2012 campaign. I never said that at all. Everybody's out there running around saying I got this giant conspiracy theory that the Batman people, the creators, the comic book creators, created this thing to campaign against Romney. I never said that. I didn't say there was a conspiracy. I said the Democrats were going to use it, which they are. Jon Stewart's harping on it.
Aside from a bit of straw manning, Limbaugh is technically correct. He never directly asserted that there was a conspiracy, he merely implied it via the questions he was asking. And this brings up an important point about the effectiveness of loaded questions. One can ask as many loaded questions as one wants, but as soon as one is challenged on the assumptions underlying those questions, one can merely respond by saying that he never assumed anything, he was merely asking questions. This is why loaded questions are such an effective rhetorical strategy, they give the questioner plausible deniability if he or she is ever challenged on the assertions underlying those questions.

As is often the case, South Park provides a perfect encapsulation of this point:

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