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You are either with us, or against us

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In political communication, the phrase "you are either with us, or against us" and similar variations are used to generate polarisation and reject non-partisanship. [citation needed] The implied consequence of not joining the partisan effort of the speaker is to be deemed an enemy. A contemporary example is the statement of former US President George W. Bush, who declared at the launch of his anti-terrorism campaign, "Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."[1]


The statement generally is a descriptive statement identifying the beliefs of the speakers, and thus state a basic assumption, not a logical conclusion. It may also be interpreted as a speech act. Sometimes it is interpreted as a splitting or a false dilemma, which is an informal fallacy.

Some see the statement as a way of persuading others to choose sides in a conflict which does not allow the position of neutrality.[2] Only when there are no alternatives like a middle ground does the phrase hold validity as a logical conclusion. The phrases are a form of argumentation.[3]

Ancient examples[edit]

  • From the Book of Joshua (Chap. 5:13): "It happened, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood in front of him with his sword drawn in his hand. Joshua went to him, and said to him, 'Are you for us, or for our adversaries?'"
  • According to The Constitution of Athens by Aristotle, "since [Solon] saw the state often engaged in internal disputes, while many of the citizens from sheer indifference accepted whatever might turn up, he made a law with express reference to such persons, enacting that any one who, in a time [of] civil factions, did not take up arms with either party, should lose his rights as a citizen and cease to have any part in the state."[4]
  • The Synoptic Gospels attribute the following quote to Jesus: "Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters" (Matthew 12:30), as well as the converse statement, "Whoever is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:50; Mark 9:40).[5]
  • Marcus Tullius Cicero, in an oration before Julius Caesar in 46 BC, published as Pro Ligario, made the following distinction: "For we heard you say that we looked upon all as enemies that were not with us; but that you looked upon all as friends that were not against you."[6]

20th century examples[edit]

  • Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, in a speech discussing the Chief Committee for Political Education, told the assembled delegates that "It is with absolute frankness that we speak of this struggle of the proletariat; each man must choose between joining our side or the other side. Any attempt to avoid taking sides in this issue must end in fiasco."[7]
  • 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.[8]
  • János Kádár instead used the non-polarising converse, in an effort to unite Hungary after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. He announced in December 1961, "those who are not against us are with us."[9][10]

21st century examples[edit]

  • Hillary Clinton said on 13 September 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."[11]
  • President George W. Bush, in an address to a joint session of Congress on 20 September 2001 said, "Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."[12]
  • Vic Toews, Canadian Public Safety Minister, said on 13 February 2012: "... either stand with us or with the child pornographers" in response to questions from Quebec MP Francis Scarpaleggia (Lac-Saint-Louis) regarding extensive Privacy Commission concerns about 'warrant-less access' to all Canadian Internet and Cell phone accounts under the proposed legislation contained in bill C-30 "Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act" introduced the following day (14 February 2012) in the House of Commons of Canada.[13][14][15]
  • Sarah Palin, in a speech criticizing Republicans who didn't support Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign, said: "You're either with us or you're against us. That gang, they call themselves Never hashtag, whatever, I just call 'em Republicans Against Trump, or RAT for short..."[16]
  • Pennsylvania House Rep. Jordan A. Harris, on 21 June 2020, said, "[R]acism is not a gray area for me. You are either with us or against us."[17]

Fictional examples[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bush: 'You Are Either With Us, Or With the Terrorists' – 2001-09-21, Voice of America via Internet Archive - archived URL at VOA News
  2. ^ Orwell, George (1968). George Orwell: The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters Volume 2 – My Country left or right. p. 226.
  3. ^ Schiappa, Edward (1995). Warranting Assent: Case Studies in Argument Evaluation. State University of New York. p. 25. ISBN 0-7914-2363-8.
  4. ^ Aristotle, 384 BCE-322 BCE (21 July 2008). The Athenian Constitution. Translated by Kenyon, Frederic G. (Frederic George).{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ New Revised Standard Version
  6. ^ Pro Ligario 11 (33), translation from Cicero, Marcus Tullius; Duncan, William (1811). Cicero's Select Orations, Translated Into English. Sidney's Press.
  7. ^ [1] Speech Delivered at an All-Russia Conference Of Political Education Workers Of Gubernia and Uyezd Education Departments 3 November 1920
  8. ^ "Italo Balbo, il manager delle trasvolate". Il Giornale. 18 November 2010.
  9. ^ "Moscow's Satellites—In and Out of Orbit; Change and growing diversity, an observer finds, mark the Eastern European bloc today". The New York Times. 15 March 1964.
  10. ^ "LECTURE NOTES 18B.HUNGARY, CZECHOSLOVAKIA AND EAST GERMANY, 1968–1980. THE BALKANS, 1948–1980". Anna M. Cienciala. 1 November 2009.
  11. ^ [2] The American Interest
  12. ^ WhiteHouse.gov Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People.
  13. ^ [3] Hansard, No. 79 of the 41st Parliament (1st Session) of Canada
  14. ^ [4] Canadian Broadcasting Corp – surveillance critics siding with child porn: Toews
  15. ^ [5] Bill C30
  16. ^ "Palin rips Never Trump Republicans: 'You are either with us or against us'". Politico. 1 July 2016.
  17. ^ Ao, Allison Steele, Anna Orso, Laura McCrystal, Bethany. "Whole Foods employees demand right to show support for Black Lives Matter; Philly Queer March attracts hundreds; fathers honor George Floyd and other men". inquirer.com. Retrieved 9 July 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ H. Bruce Franklin (1988). War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination. Oxford University Press. pp. 124–5. ISBN 0-19-506692-8.
  19. ^ Taylor, Chris (22 November 2016). "Star Wars is political, and it always has been". Mashable.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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 (13 November 2006): 21.
  • "For us, or against us?" in Economist 376.8444 (17 September 2005): 44.
  • Seymour, Richard. "With us or against us—Iran talks tough," Middle East 364 (Feb 2006): 18–19.
  • Singh, Anita Inder. "With Us or Against Us," World Today 61.8/9 (Aug/Sep 2005): 25.
  • "With us or against us," Economist 385.8555 (17 November 2007): 42.
  • "You're Either With Us or Against Us," Maclean's 121.6 (3/10/2008): 23–29.
  • Bially Mattern, Janice. "Why Soft Power Isn't So Soft: Representational Force and the Sociolinguistic Construction of Attraction in World Politics." Millennium-Journal of International Studies 33, no. 3 (2005): 583–612.