Ah, the duck test form of reasoning. This is its usual expression: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Yup, that’s a duck.You can argue that something is not what it appears to be; i.e., the animal barking, peeing on the fire hydrant and licking my face is a duck, but I think we can all agree this assertion is absurd. In 1950, the United States ambassador to Guatemala said it this way, when he accused Guatemala’s leader of being a communist:
Suppose you see a bird walking around in a farm yard. This bird has no label that says ‘duck’. But the bird certainly looks like a duck. Also, he goes to the pond and you notice that he swims like a duck. Then he opens his beak and quacks like a duck. Well, by this time you have probably reached the conclusion that the bird is a duck, whether he’s wearing a label or not.
I rather like ducks, but of course I’m not really talking about ducks. In Cowboy and Indian movies, we could safely assume “We come in peace.” was a lie when bullets and arrows started flying. We’ve all seen hours of footage of the insurrection at the Capitol last year on Jan. 6. We saw police officers being assaulted with flagpoles, fire extinguishers, bear spray and whatever else could be used as a weapon. Entry was gained by smashing windows, breaking down doors and pushing through barricades and ropes. We saw rioters carrying confederate flags,and breaking into congressional offices. We heard chants like“Hang Mike Pence” and “Where is Nancy? and were told “Trump sent us.” We could all see the hanging noose on the scaffolding and the zip ties. Congress and Senators feared for their lives and were rushed out of their chambers. During the siege, rioters defecated and smeared feces. Property in the Capitol was damaged or destroyed. 140 Capitol and metro police officers were injured. These are the facts. How do we know? We saw it with our own eyes and heard it with our own ears. It was on live T.V. for God’s sake!
The night of January 6 and the day after, there was no disagreement on what had happened . Both sides of the aisle condemned the violence they had seen, heard and felt. And then, very soon, a la Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” theory, something sinister began to happen. What we all saw was not what really happened! The rioters were actually AntiFa dressed as MAGA supporters. Or it was a peaceful protest. Or the rioters were patriots trying to stop the certification of votes in a fraudulent election. The most blatant and sick confabulation of January 6 was by Congressman Andrew Clyde:
Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall, showed people in an orderly fashion in between the stanchion and ropes taking pictures. If you didn’t know the footage was from January 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” Clyde said.
Was he watching the same live T.V show or was he even on the same planet as the rest of us? I know—I bet he thought it was a duck!
As we get further from January 6, 2020, the unpalatable facts are being spiced up, and new ingredients are being added so the soup is more palatable. Maybe it wasn’t that bad? Our Democracy depends on our consensus of what Democracy looks like and what Authoritarianism looks like. We desperately need to apply the duck test.