Ever since I can remember there has always been a strong anti-socialist sentiment amongst certain Americans, especially those of conservative sway but from what I can tell most of that sentiment is based on political fallacy rather than a critical understanding of what socialism actually is.

Samuel Wurzelbacher (Joe the Plumber) provided a perfect example of this misled sentiment when he said that Obama’s tax plan “sounds like socialism” and the point of the fallacy itself became evident when Govenor Palin succesfully got a rise out of the conservative base by quoting the nescient plumber. So what makes Sam, or Joe, or whatever his name is (I’ll just call him Joe) think that Obama’s tax plan sounds like socialism and why do I think he’s wrong?

Well, if Joe is anything like the “anti-socialist” conservatives that I’ve had conversations with, he thinks that anytime the government takes money from someone who earned it and and gives it to someone else who hasn’t earned it, that’s socialism.

The reason why I think that’s wrong is because every definition I’ve seen, and there are many variations, all base socialism on the public ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods and Obama’s tax plan isn’t calling for the public ownership of anything. All Obama is suggesting is that the government starts getting more of its revenue from a different bracket. That’s not socialism, that’s just taxes.

If Joe the Plumber wants to talk about socialism he needs to find an example of where the government actually controls production or distribution of goods such as the Pentagon, a tax-funded agency that controls the distribution of defense-related products… that’s socialism.

Now I realize that the so-called anti-socialist conservatives are liable to take offense to such a claim, but that’s another example of the fallacy, where despite certain features of socialism being strongly supported by conservatives, the word “socialism” itself is simultaneously promoted by conservative rhetoric as a derogatory term, frequently used to describe liberal opponents. This leads many people to the false conclusion that the very socialist features that conservatives actually support can’t possibly be socialist for the simple reason that conservatives hate socialism. It amazes me how that social conditioning actually works.

Have you ever noticed that the White House tells us that the Iraqis are fighting on our side against foreign insurgents? Are the insurgents really foreign or are they simply the Iraqis that don’t agree with our solution? If the later case is true then why are we referring to them as if they aren’t Iraqis at all?

Roughly 37% of the Iraqi people are Sunni Muslim and 60% are Shia Muslim. The media seems to produce enough evidence to suggest that the Sunnis, in particular, are not happy with what we’ve done and are fighting back. Nevertheless, the Bush administration seems to push such evidence aside while emphasizing reports that some insurgents from neighboring countries are coming in to join the fight. Then there is the selective use of terms.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the conflict in Iraq qualifies as a civil war, but civil wars tend to have a neutralizing effect on public opinion. So I’m sure for the purpose of generating public support for a ‘just’ war, it’s better to portray the mostly Sunni Iraqi’s that we are fighting as non-Iraqis. So what do you call them? Well, we could call them ‘rebels’ but that term has a close association with our own history and is often seen in our popular language in a positive light. The term ‘insurgents’ seems to fit the purpose… It’s a word that describes people that rise up against authority and has no association with anything in American popular language that can be held in a positive light. But to really complete the illusion it may be better to simply call the Iraqi’s that agree with us, ‘Iraqis’ and the Iraqis that disagree with us, ‘foreigners’. Ah, there we go… So we have liberated Iraq from an evil dictatorship and are now protecting Iraq from foreign invasion.

Our politicians have always been able to rely on the flexibility of language to achieve desired illusions.