top of page

Extreme Examples Capture Attention but Do Not Persuade

Do you remember the story of Chicken Licken?

One day, Whack, an acorn fell from a tree and landed on his head. He realized that the sky was falling down so he ran off in a panic to tell the king…The moral of the story is a ‘warning’ that you should not believe everything that you are told. 


United States Senator Charles Grassley:  “Are they (IRS) going to have a strike force that goes in with AK-15s (sic) already loaded ready to shoot some small business person in Iowa with these? Because I think they are going after middle class and small business people….” This declared in light of increased IRS funding.


Example Claim: President Joe Biden once said he was about to “swoop down with Special Forces” and “gather up every gun in America,” (False, but….)


Example: Women should not be allowed to vote because 1) The mental exertion of voting would cause infertility in women. 2) Women’s brains were inferior to men’s, and so women were incapable of participating in politics. 3) The majority of women didn’t want to vote. 4)Women would neglect their home and family, causing society to unravel. 5) Women were too good for the dirty nature of politics.  CRAZY AND UNPERSUASIVE. brittanico.com


If gays are allowed to marry:


"If we change marriage for this tiny, modern minority, we will have to do it for every deviant group. Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles, and others will be next in line to claim equal protection… allowing same-sex couples to marry would place our entire democratic system in jeopardy by eroding its foundation."  - Present Speaker of US House of Representatives Mike Johnson.  


Introduction

Advocates often use extreme examples to make their case, to persuade. Extreme examples often incite and astound, but usually they do not persuade. Politicians often use extremes and they do make the news. But, again, usually, they do not persuade.  


Using extremes is related to using “exceptions.” Again, unpersuasive. How many times has someone told the story of the rich beggar when talking about street begging? The rich beggar is the story of a person who lives in a penthouse, has a driver and yet, begs. Review all of the examples below where most of the talkers have generated publicity but have not persuaded or really added productively to the discussion.


BTW, using extreme examples is distinguishable from “logical fallacy leading to the extremes.”*


Also, using extreme examples may be related to Reductio ad Absurdum (RAA).**


Law School Education:  The typical law school teaches in the extremes; that is, most of the cases covered are not the day-to-day cases, but instead the extremes that get appealed to the high courts. One example might be the gay wedding cake case where the US Supreme Court indicated that the religious anti-gay baker did not have to bake a wedding cake. This was a ridiculous case and only one to prove points. Why would gays want an anti-gay baker to bake their cake? What might the baker do to the cake? Isn’t the wedding supposed to be a happy occasion? This case did not help to persuade anyone on any side of the issue.


Abortion Issue-United States.

Morning Joe Co-Host Mika Brezinsky and former Governor Chris Christie argue a lot about this issue. They are arguing around and around each other using extreme examples. Christie constantly talks about women having abortions during the ninth month in New Jersey.  Legally, this is possible if the woman’s life is in danger. Rarely does it happen so it is probably not worth discussing.


Mika often talks about a case where a woman needs an abortion but could not get one and so has “to bleed it out.” She also refers to the Ohio case in which a ten year old was raped and had to travel to Indiana to have an abortion.  Again, a super rare case-probably not an effective example.


Example 1 - Ohio abuse of a corpse:  A woman is pregnant with a non-viable birth. She has a miscarriage which stops up her toilet and then is transferred to a bucket. She goes to the hospital. Nurse calls police. Trumbell County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins goes to the Grand Jury with abuse of a corpse.

 

There is a whole lot of stupidity here.

  • Why did the woman not take care of the remains properly?

  • Why did the nurse ask about the remains? Simply take care of the woman.

  • Why did the police respond? Don’t they have priorities?

  • What a stupid prosecutor! Let’s see if the Grand Jury can bring some common sense to this situation.


Crossing the Divide:  Nikki Haley of South Carolina is the only woman in the Republican race — is the one who can best reach across the divide on abortion.  


Haley’s abortion message focuses on trying to find consensus nationally and emphasizes not “demonizing” women or rushing to embrace a federal abortion ban. Haley's stance has gained attention …"As much as I’m pro-life, I don’t judge anyone for being pro-choice, and I don’t want them to judge me for being pro-life…”“She’s got the best Republican message on abortion of anyone on the debate stage,” said Bill Strong, a Haley donor and member of her campaign’s executive committee. “Given what she’s gone through, where she’s had two difficult pregnancies and Michael, her husband, was an orphan — they’ve been married for two decades — I think the message coming from a woman who has been through these difficult decisions and issues is much more compelling than anybody else on the debate stage.” 


District of Columbia Street Vending Controversy

In DC, there are many views on street vending arising from extreme examples.


Police stop little girl from selling homemade tacos.  During 2022, police stopped a little 12 year-old girl along with her younger brother from selling homemade tacos on 14th Street, NW of North Columbia Heights neighborhood. Neighbors filmed these kids literally on the ground. The police threatened the kids and the mother, taking them to a detention center.   Up to 8 police and 4 police cars were involved.


Incredible?  If this had been true community policing and they decided to intervene, the police may have allowed the little girl to sell the rest of her tacos and then walked her home informing the kids and mother of the law against doing such.


Chaos and lawlessness of 14th street vending. In response in 2023, the liberal D.C. Council, over the objections of the police and the mayor, passed the Street Vendor Advancement Act. On the surface, this act decriminalized street vending, but the real message to the police was to stay out of street vending.  


The result?  All hell broke loose on street vending. The police stopped all enforcement even when the vendors were selling seemingly stolen items from the nearby stores.  90 percent of nearby businesses and neighbors oppose, yet the liberal DC City Council takes no action.   It is a great example of the minority (liberal city council) ruling over the majority.

 

Lessons?  Neither extreme is persuasive to most folks. Most voters and residents fall in the middle. They probably desire decriminalization of street vendors but surely want law enforcement.


Transsexuals in the United States

Both political parties seem to enjoy talking about trans issues. According to statistics, trans folks comprise maybe .7% of the US population. This small segment probably does not need to be discussed 20% of the time by either party.


In fact, the intersex US population may comprise 2% and yet does not get much attention.  Is the topic too complicated, too many nuances, not clearly right or wrong?


Florida Governor and Presidential Candidate Ron DeSantis: "I don’t think men should be going into little girls’ bathroom." This was declared in the December 2023 presidential candidate debate in Alabama, 2023.


Towards the end of 2023, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine vetoed a passed bill that would have banned gender-affirming care for minors. Republicans have a super-majority and overrode the veto. DeWine called these “gut-wrenching decisions that should be made by parents informed by doctors, not politicians.


Gay Marriage in US.

Opponents claim that gay marriage will ruin the institution of marriage. If one were to ask them what percentage of US is gay, they would probably reply 2%. Of those, how many would marry? 1%. So, is it logical that 1% could ruin it for the other 99%? Proponents might say that if they don’t have gay marriage, they are not being treated as human beings or US citizens.


The US Supreme Court viewed Gay Marriage as a “right” and now about 65% of Americans favor Gay Marriage. In actuality, proponents used the Persuasion Law of Verbal Packaging so they began to advocate for “The Right to Marry” rather than gay marriage. They reminded folks that the federal government provides at least 125 advantages to married folks.


Drag Queens aka Drag Performances

Politicians are having great fun discussing “Drag Queens.”


Opponents such as Actor Kirk Cameron on X aka Twitter:They are grooming children. They are sexualizing little kids. These parents are criminals, and the drag queen is sick….Jeremiah, also on X responds, They must be stopped at all costs.


Queens Councilmember Vickie Paladino drew criticism from her City Council colleagues after labeling drag queen events at city schools “degeneracy” and accusing progressives of having “no problem with child grooming and sexualization” in a series of tweets Monday.

“Progressives may have no problem with child grooming and sexualization, but I do,” Paladino tweeted. “This will not happen on my watch. Kids deserve a quality education free from political manipulation and sexual content.”


Proponents say just the opposite:  …Mayor Eric Adams in a statement admonished the councilwoman for her comments.


"At a time when our LGBTQ+ communities are under increased attack across this country, we must use our education system to educate,” the mayor said. “The goal is not only for our children to be academically smart, but also emotionally intelligent. Drag storytellers, and the libraries and schools that support them, are advancing a love of diversity, personal expression, and literacy that is core to what our city embraces."


Democrats on the council condemned the Queens Republican’s remarks.


“Any form of hate, including transphobia, has no place in this city, and certainly not in this Council," Speaker Adrienne Adams said in a statement. "The Council is looking into what further action may be warranted.”


Defund the Police post-George Floyd Murder

In 1993, in the District of Columbia, a gay clothing store in Dupont Circle hired male NYC models to model underwear in their front window. Police caught word of this and immediately raced to the store. Scores of police arrived and stopped the display. Simultaneously, citizens were desperately calling the police to stop alleged drug deals, to no avail.


On Monday, the U.S. Attorney informed the police that they had acted wrongly and no charges would be filed.  The neighbors were mad at the police and decried them.

The police then began charging and arresting neighbors for drinking wine on their porches and stoops. Police claimed this was public property.


From the underwear to the wine arrests to George Floyd, one can understand the cry:   Defund the Police.


In response to this cry, the police in many cities decided to quietly quit to punish the citizens.


Now, one is really seeing the results of the extremes?


Guns and the United States

It is for these reasons that I believe a full ban on all firearms with strict licensing exceptions is the clear path forward. There is no excuse. Conservative pro-gun arguments are laughable. “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This statement is false in virtually every context where it is applied, and those who appeal to the second amendment to defend gun ownership are ignorant and tone-deaf. Why don’t you send a copy of the constitution to the 39,009 children and teenagers who have been killed or wounded by gun violence in the United States since 2014?  -  Ben Martin


Issue:  Does the United States President Have Immunity.

Recently, this issue focused on former US President Donald Trump and whether he had immunity when he incited an insurrection against the government. At the US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, one of the justices asked whether Trump would have immunity if he ordered the assassination of his competitors. Counsel responded with a qualified “Yes.” For most, the Counsel lost all credibility in their persuasiveness, if they had any credibility to begin with.


Controversy on Verbal Packaging, Laws and Regs in Regards to Disability.

Example:  An elderly man suffering from ankylosing spondylitis was police-escorted from an AMC theater in South Carolina when he insisted on carrying in his special disability chair.   Citing the American with Disabilities Act, AMC apologized profusely.


Example:  A packed DC play theater provides signing for those with hearing issues. One attendee did have hearing issues. At the very front of the busy theater, there were well lighted three signers. This service was most likely great for the one attendee but quite distracting to the other 200 because of the lighting and the blocking of the ability to see the stage.


So, what causes these extremes?


These extremes can be explained by,

  • Lack of common sense

  • Lack of emotional intelligence

  • Lack of critical thinking

  • Prejudices: both overt and subtle

  • Obsessive, controlling personalities who demand adherence to every rule at all times

  • Advocacy that becomes zealotry

  • Possibly they doubt the veracity of those involved


Extremes and the Laws of Persuasion

This blog often cites Author Kurt Mortensen’s Twelve Laws of Persuasion.   How do these Laws impact the use of Extremes?


Law of Expectations: Most folks expect politicians to use extreme examples so they often ignore such. Many do not expect politicians to be persuasive except convincing voters to vote for them.


Law of Connectivity:  Using extreme examples usually violates the Law of Connectivity.   Most people do not connect with extremes. For example, most Americans believe that abortion is a health decision that should be between the doctor and the woman.


Law of Balance:  To be persuasive, one must capture that delicate balance between emotions and logic. Using extreme examples violates this law.


Law of Contrast: One might initially think that extreme examples fulfill the Law of Contrast, but the extremes are so far out of the mainstream that they fail to make their point. So, if folks want to be persuasive, they need to review these tried and true Laws of Persuasion.


Conclusion

Libertarian Comedian Bill Maher (HBO Real Time) captures the essence of this blog entry on “Extremes.” He implores all sides to stop wallowing in the extremes. Instead, move to the middle where most Americans are. For example, he urges one side to not have drag performers reading to children at public places and he urges the other side to stop passing unconstitutional laws banning drag.


On Friday’s broadcast of HBO’s “Real Time,” host Bill Maher called for people to “rally the normies, which we now realize are still most of us,” after the 2022 midterm elections, and push back against extremes on the left and the right with “grand bargains” like people on the right conceding voter fraud “doesn’t exist” “and liberals will admit that getting a picture I.D. is not a Herculean burden that minorities can’t manage like everybody else, and which most don’t even object to… Call out this conspiracy stuff, marginalize the people who believe in crisis actors and lizard people and who think Democrats eat babies or run pedophile rings. Jewish space lasers?... Stop flirting with authoritarianism, and we’ll stop flirting with communism. Stop saying Democrats eat babies, and we’ll stop saying men can have them. Stop denying the ice caps are melting, and we’ll stop asking to disband ICE. Stop saying there’s a war on Christmas and we’ll admit Kwanzaa’s completely made up.


** In argumentation and informal logicreductio ad absurdum (RAA) is a method of refuting a claim by extending the logic of the opponent's argument to a point of absurdity. Also known as the reductio argument and argumentum ad absurdumhttps://www.thoughtco.com/reductio-ad-absurdum-argument

  

Resources

See Recommended Books under “Blogs” drop down menu.  


Roy J. Lewicki is the author of 'Essentials of Negotiation', published 2015 under ISBN 9780077862466 and ISBN 0077862465.  Publisher: McGraw Hill Higher Education


The Conflict Resolution Training Program, Leader’s Manual,  ISBN:  0-7879-6077-2.  Prudence Bowman Kestner and Larry Ray


5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

 

Getting Your Way Every Day.

 

Conflict Management and School Peer Mediation Manual,  Prudence Bowman Kestner and Larry Ray.

 

 

 

bottom of page