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Churchill rebutt, anyone?
March 26, 2009 8:44 AM   Subscribe

What's a good rebuttal to this famous quote? "If you're not a liberal at 20, you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative at 40, you have no head." Winston Churchill
posted by wsg to Religion & Philosophy (52 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
How about "Be careful with that quote -- it's an antique."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:46 AM on March 26, 2009 [17 favorites]


"that is a dumb thing to say"
posted by Greg Nog at 8:46 AM on March 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


The 40-year-old conservatives of the Bush era had no heads.
posted by kldickson at 8:46 AM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm confused. Do you want to prove, instead, that liberals of any age can be smart? That conservatives of any age can be compassionate? Or that political generalizations are dumb? All three are true, really.
posted by Bardolph at 8:52 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Make not your thoughts your prisons. -- Shakespeare
posted by amro at 8:53 AM on March 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


My stepsister has that as one of her quotes on facebook. She's a conservative. And 22 years old. I have always wanted to say to her "so are you telling me that you have no heart, because that kinda makes you look like a bitch..."
posted by junipero at 8:53 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm going for the "that liberals of any age can be smart" angle.
posted by wsg at 8:54 AM on March 26, 2009


OK. Everyone? It's time for my one-man show: Winston Churchill, We Hardly Knew Ye.

OK, Act One.

I'm Winston Churchill.
Ooh, would you like some tea?
I would, because I'm Winston Churchill.
Would you like a crumpet?
I would, because I'm Winston Churchill.
Would you like to wear knickers?
I would, because I'm Win...

-OR-

You can keep on living for a bit with no head, but take the heart away and you're instantly dead.
posted by SpiffyRob at 8:55 AM on March 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Takes one to know one!"

Seriously, you can't rebut an aphorism. Just let the person who said it think they won, and go on to enjoy the rest of your day.
posted by No-sword at 8:56 AM on March 26, 2009


"Madam, I may be drunk, but you are ugly. And when I wake up tomorrow morning, I will be sober."
posted by box at 8:58 AM on March 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think Michael O'Donoghue's "The Churchill Wit" is the best rebuttal to any pompous assclown who thinks that quoting Churchill earns him any points in an argument.

I suggest memorizing the entire thing. My brother and I did when the thing was published some 30 years ago, and we have never regretted it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:59 AM on March 26, 2009 [20 favorites]


"A witty saying proves nothing." - Voltaire
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:02 AM on March 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


You could say something along these lines:

"Well hypothetical conservative interlocutor, Winston Churchill, despite being an excellent wartime leader for Great Britain, said a lot of things. Since you think that's such a great piece of pithy wisdom, shall I assume you also agree with him on the subject of (subcontinental) Indians, of whom he said 'I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.' On a more political front, perhaps you also agree with him on the virtues of Nazis as apposed to communists, of whom he said 'I will not pretend that, if I had to choose between communism and nazism, I would choose communism.' You're right, those are certainly the words of a man whose every political belief is applicable in our society today, and you would do well to not only adhere closely to his political philosophy, but to urge others to do so as well."
posted by dersins at 9:04 AM on March 26, 2009 [15 favorites]


An AIG exec wearing a "Will Kill Rush Limbaugh For Food" t-shirt?
posted by nomisxid at 9:05 AM on March 26, 2009


That's not a Churchill quote. Its much older, and has a different force in the original.
posted by jeb at 9:06 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"He that lives by the cliche, dies by the cliche" works in many situations.
posted by K.P. at 9:07 AM on March 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Someone told me that once. I replied "If I'm not a conservative at age 40 it means I have no money!"
posted by Soliloquy at 9:08 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The rebuttal is that both of those organs are important to a grown-up who balances conservative and liberal tendencies reasonably rather than being strictly one thing or another...

The virtue of justice consists in moderation, as regulated by wisdom.
Aristotle
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:08 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah - well Winny also said: *A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.*

So onward and upward and the definitive NEXT should be the cherry.
l
posted by watercarrier at 9:09 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


And you could also point out that it is very likely that Churchill never actually said that. I mean, unless you don't think the Churchill Centre to be an authority on the subject of, y'know, Churchill.
posted by dersins at 9:13 AM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have more than two organs. The world is a complicated place.
posted by benzenedream at 9:15 AM on March 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


"All the evidence we have found refutes the idea that as people age their attitudes become more conservative or more rigid," said Nicholas Danigelis, a sociologist at the University of Vermont. "It's just not true. More people are changing in a liberal direction than in a conservative direction."
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:17 AM on March 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


"And if you're not an anarchist at 60, you have neither heart nor head."
posted by kitfreeman at 9:21 AM on March 26, 2009


For fuck's sake, Albert Einstein was a socialist.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:27 AM on March 26, 2009


At the age of 25, Winston Churchill was a conservative.
In his 40's Churchill was a liberal.

posted by vacapinta at 9:29 AM on March 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


No generalization is true, not even this one.
posted by Rash at 9:37 AM on March 26, 2009


If you're not a radical at 40, you failed to pursue an education.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:41 AM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I loathe this quote. It completely over simplifies something that is completely unique to each individual person. Ask them to back up that statement with anything. After all, you could say the exact opposite and the only thing they have over you is that a famous dead guy said it.

I actually blogged about this back in 2005.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 9:42 AM on March 26, 2009


Nonsense. Intelligence peaks in the 20s, and only those who never had much in the first place have sunk to conservatism by 40.
posted by jamjam at 9:44 AM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"My gallbladder votes Libertarian."
posted by phunniemee at 9:46 AM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


When in doubt, quote some dubious statistics.

Or, since someone just made that quote up and attributed it to Winston Churchill, just make up your own quote.

"You know who else quotes Winston Churchill to win arguments? That's right ...Hitler!" - Winston Churchill.
posted by jefeweiss at 9:48 AM on March 26, 2009


"And if you just like making generalizations rather than thinking, you have no reason not to repeat that quote over and over."
posted by amtho at 9:52 AM on March 26, 2009


If you believe in aphorisms and labels, you have no head.

Here's a great piece on "the tyranny of cliches." Key point: "I think some people assume clichés are akin to mathematical proofs; some Pythagoras did all of the heavy lifting ages ago, proving that this or that cliché is true and therefore nobody needs to re-check his math." (And yes, the author of that piece is ironic in this context.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:52 AM on March 26, 2009


""I hate quotes. Tell me what you know." Emerson
posted by jcruelty at 10:51 AM on March 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


...And if you quote* Churchill at any age, you're doing it wrong.

Includes misattributions
posted by preparat at 10:54 AM on March 26, 2009


"If you're not a liberal at 20, you have no heart, and if you're still misquoting dead politicians at 40, you have no head."
posted by vacapinta at 10:59 AM on March 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Anyway, even if you grant that Winston Churchill really said that, "liberal" and "conservative" mean very different things to an American in 2009 than to a Briton in the 1940s or whenever it is one supposes that remark to have been made. I don't think Sir Winston would have been impressed by much of the conservative wing of modern American politics.
posted by letourneau at 11:15 AM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"If you're a tin man at 20, you have no heart, and if you're a scarecrow by 40, you have no brain."
posted by benzenedream at 11:15 AM on March 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you structure your life around someone's cocktail party remarks, you've got no spine.
posted by zippy at 12:28 PM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have always found this aphorism interesting, because it seems so obvious, but the way we seem to internally parse it seems at odds with what we use it to mean.

As I see it, this is an attempt to contrast practicality and idealism. That a youth is expected to be idealistic about the world (“liberal,”) yet as he ages, he gains experience and sees how the world “really works,” thus becoming more of a pragmatist (“conservative.”) However, this doesn't actually make any sense in a modern, American political context.

It seems to me that, beyond just the basic inapplicability of liberal/conservative terminology to modern Democratic/Republican party politics, the last eight years has been one of great policy idealism: freeing oppressed peoples, exporting democracy, greeted as liberators; Biblical values, abstinence education; we don't negotiate with our enemies, Axis of Evil; ideological purity tests, &c. Hasn't the most common mode of Democratic “liberalism” in the past eight years been one of sacrificing (and rejecting) these ideals for pragmatism?

So it seems to me the intended meaning of the aphorism, as applied to modern American politics, is reversed if we stretch “liberal” to mean Democratic and “conservative” to mean Republican.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:33 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love this quote as an answer:

"....if by a liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, their civil liberties.. If that is what they mean by a "liberal" then I am proud to be a liberal. "~ John F. Kennedy
posted by gibbsjd77 at 12:38 PM on March 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


What Emerson actually said was "I hate quotation. Tell me what you know."

Not "quotes" (which wasn't idiomatic English for his time) and not "quotations" (which was idiomatic English, but not what Emerson says).

If you're going to quote him on the ridiculousness of quotation, please do it correctly. Emerson was a stickler for that shit.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:02 PM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Shut up."
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:57 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or, perhaps: 'conservatism, like other forms of senility, strikes some earlier than others, usually those who had the least intelligence to start with.'
posted by jamjam at 5:56 PM on March 26, 2009


"Have another beer, Dad."
posted by smartyboots at 10:44 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


With a very innocent expression, ask "So Barack Obama, Paul Krugman, Martin Luther King, and FDR weren't as smart as George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Joe McCarthy, and Herbert Hoover? Why do you think that?"
posted by zompist at 11:08 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


And if YOU are not committed at 60, I'd be surprised
posted by Acacia at 12:59 AM on March 27, 2009


"I'm pretty sure I have both."
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:34 AM on March 27, 2009


I'd go with the Voltaire quote, and avoid the strategy of exposing other (incontestably) despicable things Churchill said.
posted by Beardman at 1:02 PM on March 27, 2009


It's not an ad hominem in this context, though. If someone is presenting the initial quote as important by virtue of coming from an authority (i.e. Churchill, despite the fact that the quote doesn't come from him at all), it's perfectly reasonable to challenge this argument from authority by challenging the validity of the authority.
posted by dersins at 1:27 PM on March 27, 2009


It's not an ad hominem in this context, though. If someone is presenting the initial quote as important by virtue of coming from an authority...

Sure, it wouldn't be an ad hominem response to debunk Churchill if the original quote was clearly given as an appeal to authority. And the quote is often used that way. But I don't see what favours the assumption that the OP was asking about it in that context. They may just have wanted a comeback to the proposition itself, Churchill attribution or no.
posted by Beardman at 7:22 PM on March 28, 2009


"With a very innocent expression, ask "So Barack Obama, Paul Krugman, Martin Luther King, and FDR weren't as smart as George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Joe McCarthy, and Herbert Hoover?"

Wouldn't most people who believe that you have to be dumb to be a liberal readily answer, "Yes. Exactly."
posted by oddman at 9:26 PM on March 29, 2009


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