By Ellen Snortland
Pasadena Weekly Columnist
Murphy’s law — you’ve heard of it, yes? If not, here’s a refresher. Although no one is sure who Murphy was, her laws are well known. They are:
• Nothing is as easy as it looks.
• Everything will take longer than you think.
• If anything can go wrong, it will.
• In times of frustration, people will often remark that things are going according to Murphy’s laws.
A lesser-known but nonetheless useful tenet is called Parkinson’s law. C. Northcote Parkinson, a British writer, formulated this rule: “Work expands to fill the time allotted to it; or, conversely, the amount of work completed is in inverse proportion to the number of people employed.” Simply said, if you have an hour to do a 5-minute job, it will take an hour to do it. This is why a large number of people often accomplish less work than a smaller number.
Another Parkinson’s law: “The person who is denied the opportunity of making decisions of importance begins to regard as important the decisions they are allowed to make.” They become fussy about filing, keen on seeing that pencils are sharpened, eager to ensure that the windows are open (or shut), and apt to use two or three different colored inks.
Then there’s the Marlo Thomas Truism: “A man has to be Joe McCarthy to be called ruthless. All a woman has to do is put you on hold.” In the spirit of Murphy, Parkinson and Thomas, I now introduce you to some of Snortland’s laws:
The Clarence Canon — Named for Supreme Court Associate (in)Justice Clarence Thomas, this kicks in whenever there is a need to deflect legitimate scrutiny of one’s position and/or past actions and statements. Maximum redirection is achieved by drawing false equivalencies and trivializing deep tragedy and fundamental injustice. Use of the Clarence Canon shuts up critics by creating both guilt and doubt and is particularly useful toward people who are prone to guilt anyway.
For example, during the Anita Hill hearings, the White Men in Congress didn’t dare challenge Thomas’ whining about “high-tech lynching” because they were afraid of offending him. The people who equate mask mandates to the Third Reich requirement of Jewish citizens wearing gold stars is a prime example of the Clarence Canon.
The Schlafly Straw Man Rule — Use this if you want to freak everyone out over something trivial. As the Oxford Dictionary says, a straw man is “an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is easier to defeat than an opponent’s real argument.” When Schlafly came out against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the ’80s, she made unisex bathrooms a bogeyman even though no one on the pro-ERA team was promoting the idea. Ironically, we have many of those now, but back then, the belief that feminists wanted us all to eliminate together became a straw man… er, straw woman.
The threat of “restroom invasion” is still very effective in this country, where people are incredibly touchy about potty matters. The Schlafly Rule is again being invoked in the effort to suppress trans acceptance. Having a hard time winning an argument? Come up with an absurd idea, preferably about restrooms; say it was your opponents’ idea; scare people; then derail rational discourse — easy-peasy!
The QAnon Qtip — The Qtip: Identify a sparsely populated U.S. congressional district, run a conspiracy addict for the uncontested seat, and voilá! You’ve got a nut in Congress who can brag that they won by a landslide, even if a landslide in their district is a turnout of five voters. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia is a prime example of using the Qtip. Now she has besmirched her congressional seat through all sorts of possibly dangerous shenanigans. At least we now know that white women can be just as far into the nut-o-sphere as white Southern males. Let’s hear it for equality in 2021.
The Amy Avoidance — This is where, in a congressional confirmation hearing, you swear to uphold precedent if confirmed as a member of SCOTUS while crossing your fingers behind your back. Then, the first chance you get, you undermine the established law of the land because your religion forbids it. Heads up: Amy Coney Barrett and her fundamentalist religious sect also have their eyes on your birth control, so stock up now!
The ‘They Who Smelt It, Dealt It’ Rule — When Republicans attack anyone left of center, it’s usually because they are doing the exact thing they accuse the centrists and liberals of doing, another classic deflection technique.
You see? Murphy’s Law is not the only law on the “how things really work” books. You can even make up some of your own!
Note: Next week, “Consider This…” will consider the nationwide protests to hold the Supreme Court’s collective feet to the fire about the upcoming case that openly seeks to overturn Roe v. Wade. Look for local marches, caravans and demonstrations on Saturday, Oct. 2. I will include information on how to participate in real life and real time. As of this writing, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, North Dakota, South Dakota and Indiana are attempting to mimic the Texas anti-choice bill.
Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for a heckuva long time, and she also coaches first-time book authors! Contact her at ellen@