The Difference Between Rhetoric and Logic

Rhetoric might temporarily win an argument, but it starts more trouble than it solves

(photo: WilliamCho, Pixabay/CC0)

“If all men knew what others say of them, there would not be four friends in the world.” —Blaise Pascal


The Old Gray Mare ain’t what she used to be.

It doesn’t take a great deal for the New York Times to infuriate me. Usually any casual mention of how the Catholic Church is “evil incarnate” in a world “yearning” to be both secular and hypersexualized is sufficient to put me off my feed.

But earlier this year, on June 19, 2018, Ría Tabacco, a staff lawyer for the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and H.I.V. Project, published an editorial entitled, “A Jury May Have Sentenced a Man to Death Because He's Gay. And the Justices Don't Care,” which caught my eye.

I honestly didn’t know any of the particulars of this case when I saw this adolescent title but I could tell instantly from this title that whatever reason why this man had been sentenced to death had nothing to do with his sexual preference any more than it had to do with him being male, or bald, or right-handed, or an avid bowler or an ornithologist with a speech impediment.

And, I knew for a fact that the Supreme Court Justices in this case not only didn’t “didn’t care” but, indeed, cared a great deal about the case set before them.

Ría Tabacco’s editorial was spectacular in its silliness in scope, breadth, depth, volume and duration. It could have easily appeared as the plot of a typical National Lampoon movie or perhaps, more likely, in an edition of The Onion.

A lot of what passes for logic in some strange liberal climes is nothing more than rhetoric and massive indulging in misguided and confused emotions. Don’t get me wrong — emotions are great. (Well, the nice ones are fantastic. The negative ones, a lot less so.) But, when it comes to critical thinking, one must put aside one’s emotions and seek a deeper, level-headed wisdom. This means one needs to think clearly and critically. Logic is uniquely the set of rules by which we must order our thinking. Otherwise, those who embrace their emotions will convince themselves they are always right and everyone else who disagrees with them must be imprisoned or worse.

The Supreme Court had earlier announced it would not stop South Dakota from executing Charles Rhines―a man who was convicted of cruelly murdering 20-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer as part of an armed holdup.

Miss Tabacco’s rhetorical style must be congratulated. She wrote that, “Some of the jurors who imposed the death penalty on Charles Rhines, who was convicted of murder, have said they thought the alternative — a life sentence served in a men's prison — was something he would enjoy as a gay man.”

But, according to interviews, only one juror mentioned the connection between Rhine’s supposed homosexuality and he apologized immediately, saying he was only joking. The other jurors thought his joke in poor taste and the joker quickly apologized. If “some” jurors had agreed with the joker’s comment, he wouldn’t have needed to apologize.

Let’s presume, for a nanosecond, that this dog-and-pony-show is actually true. But even uncritically swallowing this tripe raises a mighty serious question―why were all the pro-homosexual jurors in this case so eager to agree with the “evil, dark-hearted” anti-homosexual bigot jurist about shoving a needle into Rhines’ arm?

Did all of the other 11 “honest-and-true-men-and-women” all succumb to “anti-gay pressure?” All of these supposed anti-death penalty, pro-homosexual jurists “reluctantly and arbitrarily” voted to end a gay man’s life? That sounds stupid on the face of it.

The facts speak for themselves―Charles Rhines savagely killed 22-year old Donnivan Schaeffer, an employee of Dig ‘Em Donuts in Rapid City. Schaeffer was working in an unglamorous job to support himself and his family.

That’s three red flags right there.

Rhines, the homosexual murderer, bragged about killing Schaeffer and even laughed about it during the police interrogation, comparing the victim’s reaction to being to a decapitated chicken.

That’s another three red flags right there.

When you pick someone as a case study in why our nation should abolish the death penalty, you should find someone who was wrongly accused of a crime, or find a situation in which the murder was mitigated due to extenuating circumstances, such as in the case of Claude Newman. Perhaps you can also find a convict who had a conversion of heart in prison, such as Clayton Anthony Fountain.

Miss Tabacco, almost cleverly, refused to list the details as to why Rhines is in prison. And, for the record, they are as heartbreaking as they are bone-chilling — even to someone like me, who opposes the death penalty.

Rhines might very well be a homosexual. He might also very well be amateur pugilist. He might very well be a racist and a philatelist and an aspiring waiter who presses wildflowers and makes paper airplanes for a living — but all of this is insignificant because he was remorseless in killing a young man who had his entire life ahead of him. For these intervening decades, Rhines has not asked for forgiveness for Schaeffer’s murder and sought only to rationalize and downplay his crimes, saying, “There are people in prison with me who’ve done by far worse than I have.”

Perhaps overweight murders will now claim that they were sentenced to death not because of their gruesome crimes but rather because they “feel” the jury weren’t sufficiently “fat-positive.” Perhaps left-handed murderers will leap at the opportunity to point out―with their left hands, of course―that their jurors held a certain animus against southpaws.

Paul Swedlund, the assistant attorney general for South Dakota, pointed out in his brief that there were plenty of reasons why the jurors sentenced Rhines to death that had nothing to do with his supposed sexual preference.

Some pertinent facts Miss Tobacco intentionally forgot to tell us in her editorial pertained to the brutality of the murder itself. (I’ll spare you the details that the jury had to hear.)

Rhines remained coldly unaffected by his victim’s screams. Rhines left the store with the things he had stolen and ate an order of french fries.

And, lest we forget, Rhines gave a “bloodcurdling confession, in which he cackle[d] while comparing young Donnivan’s death spasms to a beheaded chicken running around a barnyard,” according to Swedlund’s report.

Again, my comments have nothing to do with challenging the death penalty. I unequivocally denounce, however, Miss Tabacco’s application of rhetoric over logic and “feelings” rather than facts, embracing demagoguery instead of democracy and faux fury instead of moral indignation. If she actually had a point, she wouldn’t have lied about the facts or, at least, obscure them.

Rhetoric is evil because it twists the truth for one’s own selfish gains. It might temporarily win an argument but it starts more trouble than it solves.

The truth is, what jury members do in the confines of the jury room stays in the jury room―this is considered a maxim of law in civilized nations. It’s called the “no-impeachment rule.”

There are exceptions for things like racist remarks and references — such as those in the case of Miguel Angel Peña-Rodriguez, who was convicted of sexually assaulting two teenage girls. As part of their deliberations, a juror had allegedly remarked that Mexican men “had a bravado that caused them to believe they could do whatever they wanted with women.”

Tabacco’s belabored rhetorical point is nonsense―“This thief-turned-murderer who cruelly laughed at his victim’s demise is different from all other sociopathic killers because he’s had sex with men and therefore deserves something other than the death penalty.”

Perhaps GLAAD should look elsewhere before giving Rhines a Lifetime Achievement award not for the murder he’s committed but rather simply because he is among the 1.4 percent of Americans who are homosexual (CDC says so.) Surely the Pride Parade Selecting Committee could have thought of a better person than this monster to be their grand marshal.

It’s a little hard for a reasonable, intelligent and sane person to hear the details of Rhine’s murder and say without smirking―or gagging―“Oh, that poor murderer! What a man does in the privacy of his own bedroom when he’s not brutally killing innocent people for fun and profit, is his own business!”

It’s more reasonable and intelligent to ask, would the details of Rhine’s horrific murder been sufficient to condemn anyone else to death in South Dakota rather than to life imprisonment? Comparing his crime with others also sentenced to life imprisonment is a useless process that will get us nowhere fast.

If Ría Tabacco is interested in pursuing justice, perhaps she can take ACLU or the South Poverty Law Center to court and force them to make amends for all of the lies they promulgate about the Catholic Church and the damage they hope to cause us. She should be on the forefront of stopping homosexuals from suing Catholic churches for not caving into their demands that they use our facilities. Are there any homosexuals left in America who are still confused about this issue? If so, Ría now has a new mission to which she might dedicate herself.

As I mentioned, I’m against the death penalty but I’m not so ignorant as to believe that psychological counseling can grow a moral conscious in a sociopath. That’s the place of the Holy Spirit and thus far, Rhines’ hasn’t been on that short list. Thus, Rhines might be homosexual, but, more importantly, he’s a cold-blooded murderer who shouldn’t be surprised that society wants nothing to do with him.