Definitions

strap (so) with (so or sth)

You're either with us, or against us

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.

Background

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

Historical quotations

  • 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

References

Further reading

  • 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.

External links

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