In its November 2nd meeting, the Jefferson County Commission passed by a 3-2 margin a resolution to “Protect all existing historical monuments, memorials, and markers erected in the county.” The resolution obviously was inspired by the recent debate about the plaque honoring Confederate soldiers at the Jefferson County Courthouse. The Commission’s action was taken in spite of the majority presence of citizen attendees at the standing-room-only meeting, as well as peaceful demonstrators gathered outside the meeting place who expressed the opinion that the plaque should be moved to a more appropriate location.

By some reports, the resolution was authored by the West Virginia Liberty Political Action Committee (WV Liberty PAC), a conservative group that features an illustration of a semiautomatic weapon against an American flag backdrop on its website. WV Liberty PAC’s political influence efforts include drives to nullify the Affordable Care Act in West Virginia, and lobbying to end the Common Core educational initiative, which was intended to ensure that West Virginia’s public school students are academically competitive.

An examination of the verbiage of the resolution reveals that it is fraught with propaganda devices and logical fallacies. Consider the annotations below in italics:

A RESOLUTION BY THE JEFFERSON COUNTY COMMISSION REGARDING THE PRESERVATION AND PROTECTION OF HISTORICAL MONUMENTS, MEMORIALS, AND MARKERS:

WHEREAS Jefferson County is a diverse (the placement of this word is significant, at the front-end of the document to set the premise of being supportive of diversity) and historically significant community, and to be absolutely sure there is no miscommunication regarding County, State and Federal Laws (framing—the reference to applicable laws establishes the notion that all the wording that follows is an imperative of the law) and,

WHEREAS we live in dangerous times, where emotions are running high (appeal to fear—a frightened audience is easier to lead), and for some reason, people of hate (phrasing is suspiciously—deliberately?—similar to ‘people of color’) find themselves free to initiate acts of violence against each other and,

WHEREAS affairs in Virginia and other states have led to racism and hate, the destruction of private and public property, acts of violence and even loss of life and (causal fallacy—events elsewhere did not lead to racism and hate, but racism and hate led to these events, also faulty generalization—unrelated acts in different locales at different times used to support the appeal to fear),

WHEREAS racism (an attempt to disassociate racism from the issue at hand) is the ugliest form of collectivism (a fear word, closely associated with communism), which treats people as groups rather than as individuals endowed by our Creator with the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (virtuous words—if you like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, you must subscribe to our point of view, also hinting at the appeal to heaven fallacy through the reference to the Creator) and,

WHEREAS hate cannot find a home in Jefferson County, whether it be the KKK, Neo-Nazis or ANTIFA (framing again, the set-up to identify opposition thinking with violent hate groups) and,

WHEREAS the use of violence and force against individuals or groups of individuals cannot be tolerated and,

WHEREAS any use of force against persons or property must be prevented or swiftly dealt with (zero tolerance, suggestion that ‘offenders’ must be punished or stopped without due process) and,

WHEREAS the First Amendment Rights of our citizens (not ‘all citizens’, but ‘our citizens’) must be preserved, including controversial speech (by extension, as long as it’s our controversial speech) and,

WHEREAS it is immoral (as the WV Liberty PAC defines morality) and illegal to assault one another or to destroy public or private property and there is no right to cause harm to another (another what?) or to violate our historical monuments or markers (false analogy—assault and battery is different from vandalism, and morality or lack thereof is a subjective judgment in either case)

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

  1. That we the Jefferson County Commission (the WV Liberty PAC) condemn the actions of hate and the political use of historical markers and symbols to promote hate by such groups as the KKK, Neo-Nazis and ANTIFA (false association intended to plant the idea that including historical markers and symbols in political discussion is a tactic exclusive to hate groups, and all who do so are morally equivalent to the KKK, ANTIFA, neo-Nazis, et al).
  2. That we the Jefferson County Commission (the WV Liberty PAC) condemn the modern political use of historical monuments and symbols (see item 1 above).
  3. That we the Jefferson County Commission (the WV Liberty PAC) oppose, to the fullest extent of the law, any attempt to remove, alter, destroy or disturb memorials or markers on any public property in Jefferson County (don’t vandalize the plaque).
  4. That we the Jefferson County Commission (the WV Liberty PAC) uphold the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and protect the use of free speech (except as noted in items 1 and 2 above) within Jefferson County recognizing that this does not include the destruction of public or private property (don’t vandalize the plaque—the fourth time this is mentioned), nor the use of force against others (if anyone gets beat up over this, it’s not our fault, because we have gone on record opposing the use of force).

A Jefferson County resident correctly pointed out at the November 2 meeting that the resolution carries no legal authority whatsoever. The Commission reluctantly agreed that it amounts to only a “position statement.” The above analysis furthermore offers the conclusion that this document provides no basis or reason for the plaque to remain at its present location, and that it is a weakly written attempt to rally support through buzzwords, false premises, and manipulative verbal imagery.

If the Commission’s “position statement” was intended to signal that all discussion about the future of the plaque is closed, then it has failed. This resolution means nothing at all.

— Daniel A. Harris, Charles Town

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