Peddling is arguably the most favorite way for contrarians to lob factoids behind enemy lines. Once a door opens, peddlers block it with their foot and dispatch their sale pitches. Peddled talking points seldom matter to the topic at hand, i.e. they’re red herrings, or as I prefer to call them squirrels, because “look, squirrel!,” because the verb squirreling, and because Rachel.
Responding to the peddler’s talking point only opens other doors. A flurry of squirrels get thrown on the field, exchanges go in many directions at the same time. At best we get constructive brainstorming, at worse a food fight. In any event, the Gods of ClimateBall (tm) rejoice.
Since language is a martial art, peddling can start anywhere and about anything. I recently experienced one with Freedom Fernando, after I dared to retweet a tweet telling that food was burned in Brazil. Fernando’s peddling move was his famous “but Venezuela”:
My response abides by the principle: A Squirrel for a Squirrel. It also conveys that I don’t mind discussing the historical reasons why many South American countries became allergic to the Washington Consensus. I could have pointed out that famines correlated more with mismanagement and political conflicts than ideology, but baiting Fernando with a Marxian source was too tempting. At least twenty-seven tweets followed. There could have been more, but I decided to write this instead.
A Think Tank Tie (see the mug face below) chimed in to say that the sanctions did not target Venezuela per se, but individuals. My first response recalled that this point was an ignoratio elenchi:
As if warning against doing business in Venezuela wasn’t a most effective way to put economic pressure on a country. (Many hold that official sanctions are inefficient at best.) As if the Iran sanctions couldn’t affect Venezuela. As if there wasn’t any underhanded ways to expand one’s country’s influence. As if any of this was relevant to my point anyway.
Then it gets surreal: Fernando accuses me of backing up a genocide. A genocide, no less. Qui ne dit mot consent, I suppose, so I reject his accusation and call him on his peddling. Instead of owning it, Fernando doubles down by blaming me for having provoked his peddling!
To show Fernando that I could not care less about ideology, I showed him the historical prices of oil between 2008 and 2014. The correlation between low oil prices and increase in Venezuelian suffering should be obvious to anyone. Our Think Tank Tie resurfaces, moving the goalpost using a “what about question.” I remind him of whataboutism while clarifying that the chart wasn’t meant as an explanation of the crisis:
Our Think Tank Tie then gets personal, which backfires quite quickly since he can’t commit to the crap his think tank peddles. Nevertheless, Fernando’s peddling succeeded. Squirrels were thrown. Nothing got resolved. Everybody left happy.
THE END? No, not at all. Like auditing, peddling never ends.