Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How to make an argument

Over the past several years I've noticed a lot of people making "guilt by association." That is when a person or philosophy has a similarity to another person or philosophy they are moral equivalents.

During the Bush years we have Bush as Hitler posters because, well, they were both secretive and had secret death squads running out of their offices (a fact). Somehow this means Bush and Cheney were Nazis.

Now we have popular radio and television personalities and their audiences claiming Obama is a socialist, communist, fascist, Nazi because of any number of things. One of the most absurd is the accusation that because he's a charismatic public speaker he is somehow like Hitler because he was also a charismatic public speaker.

We've also had people say things like, "All terrorist are Muslims, so Muslims are bad." Besides the fact that the first part of that is a lie, the connection is also tenuous.

Two points:
  1. Just because there is a similarity doesn't mean there is an equivalency. Example: The USA and North Korea both have a state flag. Just because two nations or philosophies share ideas do not mean they are equivalents. For example: one of the founding principles of the United States was self-determination. The Taliban is a proponent of self-determination. Clearly these two are not the same.

  2. Most of these arguments stem from a presupposition that the associated person or philosophy is wrong. Example: Saying we can't have government-regulated health care because that's socialism isn't an argument. In fact it's a double fallacy because: 1) it assumes socialism is equivalent to Stalinism/Nazism, and 2) it then associates a program one nation had to the evil the nation did.

Hitler felt the Germans had to have a strong military force, and built the strongest mobilized force in the world. The USA has this same philosophy now. Because these are similar doesn't mean they are equivalent because Hitler also claimed dominion over Europe (the US just wants to dominate the entire globe - Zing!).

Instead of arguing that health care reform is socialism, the argument should be made that "government-regulated health care would be less effective" or something like that. Then we can have a real discussion on the issue. Instead of arguing that "Nazis and Commies both used the term 'social justice' so any church that uses the term you should be wary of" why not instead argue that "Some churches want to 'redistribute wealth' to favor the working poor over their rich employers, and this is wrong because ..." Then we can have a real discussion, and we can talk about what social justice is, and why it is right or wrong.

Just throwing associative labels on things, you are using the association fallacy, and the appeal to emotion fallacy, and you might be getting good ratings on your show, but you're not helping the process at all.

So I'll just finish saying that Glenn Beck is an authoritarian, polygamous racist because he is also a Mormon (tongue + cheek).

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