The phrase "you're either with us, or against us"
is commonly used to polarize situations and force an audience to either become allies
or to accept the consequences as being deemed an enemy
The statement can sometimes be interpreted as a false dilemma
, which is an informal fallacy
; however, it may also serve merely as a descriptive statement identifying the beliefs of the speaker(s), and thus state a basic assumption and not a logical conclusion. It may also be interpreted as a speech act
Some see the statement as a way of persuading others to choose sides in a conflict which does not afford the luxury of neutrality. Only when there is absolutely no middle ground does the phrase hold validity as a logical conclusion.
An example of a usage which constitutes a fallacy is that of Indiana governor Mitch Daniels. On February 28, 2006, he stated, "You're either for this bill or you're against our future", when referring to his Major Moves bill to sell the operating rights of the Indiana Toll Road (I-80/I-90) to a foreign consortium. The underlying argument was that there was no alternative between either supporting the sale of the toll road, or being "against our future".
Use of the phrase
- Jesus Christ, in Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23 of the New Testament of Christianity, said, "He who is not with me is against me...". However, in Mark 3:23-29, the same anecdote is related without including this passage. In Mark 9:40, in a different context, he said: "...whoever is not against us is for us, though this contains different implications than those discussed in this article.
- George Orwell wrote in his 1942 essay "Pacifism and the War", "If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’. The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security."
- Benito Mussolini declared in speeches across fascist Italy: "O con noi o contro di noi"--You're either with us or against us.
- Hillary Clinton said on September 13, 2001: "Every nation has to either be with us, or against us. Those who harbor terrorists, or who finance them, are going to pay a price."
- President George W. Bush, in an address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001 said, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.
In literature and fiction
- In the movie Beauty and the Beast, Gaston tells fellow citizens of his village that "You're either with us, or against us," and thereafter locks up Belle and her father so he can hunt the Beast.
- In the Dirty Harry movie Magnum Force, one of the suspects tells Harry Callahan, "Either you're for us or you're against us."
- In the film Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker says to Obi-Wan Kenobi, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." (to which Obi-Wan responds, "Only a Sith would speak in such absolutes.")
- Towards the end of Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Colonels Korn and Cathcart equate fighting for their country with fighting for the benefit of the two of them. Korn tells the protagonist Yossarian: "You're either for us or against your country. It's as simple as that." A reviewer of Catch-22 found this "flawless" logical indulgence by the commanding colonels to be comparable to Heller's parody of Charles Erwin Wilson's statement, often paraphrased as, "What's good for General Motors is good for the country" (H. Bruce Franklin (1988). War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination. Oxford University Press. ).
- In a 1912 edition of John Bull's Other Island by George Bernard Shaw, an advertisement for The Clarion, a socialist newspaper, used the phrase to attract those interested in the debate on socialism.
- In the movie Ben-Hur, the protagonist meets with his childhood friend Messala. He has barely said hello to Ben-Hur when he is dunning him for the names of those Jews who are speaking out against the Roman occupation. Ben-Hur refuses to act as informer, and Messala utters, "You're either with me or against me".
- In Act III of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Deputy Governor John Danforth states, "But you must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there is no road between."
- Ajami, Fouad. "With Us or Against Us," New York Times Book Review 156.53817 (1/7/2007): 14-15.
- Bethune, Brian. "Are You With Us or Against Us?" in Maclean's 119.45 (11/13/2006): 21.
- "For us, or against us?" in Economist 376.8444 (9/17/2005): 44.
- Seymour, Richard. "With us or against us--Iran talks tough," Middle East 364 (Feb2006): 18-19.
- Singh, Anita Inder. "With Us or Against Us," World Today 61.8/9 (Aug/Sep2005): 25.
- "With us or against us," Economist 385.8555 (11/17/2007): 42.
- "You're Either With Us or Against Us," Maclean's 121.6 (3/10/2008): 23-29.