Over 2,000 years ago Aristotle wrote “It is not right to pervert the judge by moving him to anger or envy or pity—one might as well warp a carpenter's rule before using it.”[fn 1] What we saw yesterday in the gun control debate was exactly that—both sides attempting to warp the carpenter’s rule. President Obama appears to announce his gun control proposals surrounded by children. Immediately the NRA responds with an ad accusing Obama of hypocrisy and featuring his children protected by guns. Obama starts the debate with argumentum ad misericordum and the NRA responds with argumentum ad hominem. The cyberverse explodes with photographs of Hitler surrounded by children and purported quotes from Mein Kampf that the best way to trick people into giving up their freedom is to appeal to their love of children. My search of an online version of Mein Kampf failed to discover that quote. [fn 2] It is clear that the leaders on both sides of the gun control debate think that we cannot be swayed by appeals to reason, but must be stampeded into action by appeals to emotion. This begs the question “Are we that stupid?” Apparently President Obama and NRA President Keene think so.
[fn 1] Rhetoric, Book 1 Chapter 1 Paragraph 1354a. http://rhetoric.eserver.org/aristotle/rhet1-1.html.
[fn 2] The text I searched can be found at http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200601.txt.