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You're either with us, or against us

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The phrase "you're either with us, or against us" and similar variations are used to depict situations as being polarized and to force witnesses and bystanders to become allies or lose favor. The implied consequence of not joining the team effort is to be deemed not a friend or even 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.[1] Only when there is absolutely no middle ground or additional alternatives does the phrase hold validity as a logical conclusion. The phrases are a form of argumentation. [2]

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

  • 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." [3]
  • 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." [4]
  • 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."[5]

In literature and fiction


  1. Orwell, George (1968). George Orwell: The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters Volume 2 - My Country Right or Left. p. 226. 
  2. Schiappa, Edward (1995). Warranting Assent: Case Studies in Argument Evaluation. State University of New York. p. 25. ISBN 0791423638. 
  3. [1] Speech Delivered At An All-Russia Conference Of Political Education Workers Of Gubernia and Uyezd Education Departments November 3, 1920
  4. FreedomAgenda.comQuotes and Facts on Iraq
  5. Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People
  6. BibleGateway Luke 11:23
  7. BibleGateway Matthew 12:30
  8. BibleGateway
  9. BibleGateway Mark 9:39-40

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.

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