27 September, 2016

Fallacious Politics: 15 Common Logical Fallacies the Media Uses to Silence Us

When media anchors claim to be impartial, I always ask a very important question: Are they logically and intellectually honest with themselves? If there's anything that counts as evidence of bias, it's fallacious logic. If the media were truly unbiased as they claim to be, then they would know better than to commit these ten egregious logical foibles, but do they refrain from doing so? The answer to this question may surprise you, and per my examinations, it's a big fat 'NO'.

1. Quote mining

In June 2015, Donald Trump made a bunch of statistically valid remarks about illegal immigration: Despite liberal claims to the contrary, the ratio of criminals to good people is much higher among illegal immigrants than among both legal immigrants *and* people who stay in countries like Mexico (in particular, the 2014 BCS statistics showed that, while illegal immigrants made up about 4% of the American population, they committed more than a third of all violent crimes — 2015 and 2016 may be similar). How did Trump get painted as a racist, therefore? This is how: the media harped on "they're sending rapists… they're sending drug dealers…" while completely ignoring "and some, I assume, are good people". That last sentence is something called a context clue: it provides the entire context of what's being said. Quote mining is exactly this: placing quotes outside of their surrounding contexts and attacking people over them.

In another case of media quote mining, during his confirmation hearings, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asked about whether or not he had any meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about the 2016 election specifically, and he answered "no." Fast forward to March 2017, and media outlets used this fallacy to make it seem like Al Franken was asking Sessions whether he ever met with the Russian ambassador, period. In so doing, the media is in fact using quote mining to falsely accuse Sessions of perjury.

In still another case of quote mining, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked a question about Russia's support for the Assad regime and how one convinces Putin not to support it. He answered that question with a context of using chemical weapons *in combat*, noting that no one in World War II — not even Hitler — used chemical weapons *in combat* against an enemy. The media takes this out of context to accuse Spicer of Holocaust denial, despite the fact that, A, the gas chambers contained hydrogen cyanide, which, although deadly, is far less deadly than the nerve agent Sarin, and B, a chemical weapon is a chemical dispersal device, not a gas chamber.

Why is quote mining number 1 on my list, you may ask? Because it applies to this blog post as well: *Any* quote of the following parts of this post that is in any way snipped and placed into a context different than that which its surrounding text already places it in will make you guilty of committing this fallacy.

2. Ad hominem

"Racist". "Sexist". "Extremist." "Homophobic". "Xenophobic". "Islamophobic". "Basket of deplorables". Should we go on? These have absolutely nothing to do with the topics, the ideas, the key problems that this country has faced which are now being fixed. Instead, they're all about attacking people personally. They're a distraction: instead of going after the issue, they're attacking a person's character directly and, emphasis on this, going off topic in the process. Yup, that's exactly what the definition of ad hominem is, and you wonder why in the world these people who claim to be the logical, reasonable ones are committing it.

3. Association fallacy

Just because someone supports an (allegedly) divisive candidate does not under any circumstances mean that the person in question is also divisive even by the same definition. Accusing people of being racist or sexist merely for associating with people, even if those people actually are, is called the association fallacy, and applying it towards people is ad hominem on top of the association fallacy. This is aside from the fact that when talking about Trump in particular, the alleged divisiveness is a false accusation that one needs to commit fallacy #1 in order to support.

4. False dichotomy

"I respect you as a human being, but don't agree with you on [name key issue]." "Homophobe!" "Transphobe!" "Islamophobe!" "Woman-hater!" "Violent Christian extremist!" "Evolution-hater!" (thank you, my good friend and mentor Sean McDowell, for that one). The assumption in this accusation is obvious: it's that anyone who disagrees with you hates you. Irony: notice how the person responded with name-calling? That makes the leftist twice as hateful as the conservative in this case. If calling someone a f****t or t****y is hateful — and it is hateful indeed, even by my own conservative standards, especially given that I have been a victim of blatant lies about my sexuality based purely on looks (in one such instance back in 2013, one such liar had the nerve to call me a f****t simply because I had a pale yellow shirt on, despite the fact that that was actually my work uniform) myself — then calling someone a homophobe or transphobe is equally hateful. A false dichotomy, by definition, is assuming that there are only two options when there are in fact more than two. In this particular case, you have complete agreement at one end of the spectrum, total hate on the other, and tolerance in the middle — three options, not two.

A dichotomy, however, is only a fallacy if more than two options do exist and therefore it is false. Someone on Twitter tried to accuse me of committing this fallacy by arguing that claiming to be a feminist while doing nothing about women being oppressed under Sharia in the Middle East is hypocrisy, but in that case, there really are only two options, making this a true dichotomy, not a false one — failing to do homework on how many rights Islam gives to men and how many rights it denies women is in fact a fallacy (namely, circular reasoning) behind that accusation.

5. Poisoning the well

The fallacy of "poisoning the well" is a fallacy in which irrelevant (and abusive) information about an opponent is presented with intent to distract an audience. Since fallacy #1 (quote mining) is the fallacy that the media used to give people the impression of Trump being a racist, this fallacy was something that the media has been guilty of right from the get-go, and the "basket of deplorables" remark would also qualify as this. So, accusing Trump of committing a hasty generalization, are we? You're committing this fallacy by doing so.

6. No-true-Scotsman

This fallacy is something that secularists obsessively attack Christians over when they try to distance themselves from people who engage in violence in the name of Christianity (which, mind you, is at best Judaizing because A, none of the Old Testament punishments are ever repeated in the New Testament, which makes them descriptive of ancient Israel, not prescriptive for modern Christians, and B, it is completely contrary to the teachings not only of Jesus but of Paul, Peter, John, and all other New Testament writers as well). You'd think, therefore, that the Godless Left, which is loaded with far more atheists and agnostics than the right, would know better than to commit this fallacy, right? Wrong! When someone responds to issues like Islamic terrorism and illegal immigration with "not all Muslims are terrorists" or "not all Mexicans are drug dealers," respectively, they are doing exactly this: claiming to not be a true Scotsman. The statistical realities are that the majority of post-9/11 terrorists are Muslims and that the ratio of criminals to good people is higher among illegal immigrants than among legal immigrants, but liberals love to simply ignore statistics and reverse them thinking that we can take the bait. No, it won't work here.

7. Straw man

Before one attempts to smear an opponent for saying, doing, or wanting to do something, one must always ask oneself if that's exactly what that person said. Simply injecting words into an opponent's mouth without thinking — essentially lying about what an opponent says — is called creating a straw man, and it's a Logic 101 fallacy, as is most other stuff here. This is something that Trump himself actually took to Twitter to condemn, and rightfully so, because of just how fallacious it is.

8. Hasty generalization

This one is related to the false dichotomy and association fallacy, but worth noting. Yes, there are indeed some right-wing nutcases who are just as extreme as some factions of the left, and members of groups like the AoG and Westboro are denounced by the vast majority of us. Trump has denounced David Duke numerous times. He also denounced other members of the KKK that expressed support for him, and to boot, the KKK's main "Grand Dragon" ― Will Quigg ― endorsed Hillary for the presidency, which means that any KKK member who supports Trump is actually rebelling against his own hate group, which, it should be noted, was founded by a DNC delegate — Nathan Bedford Forrest — and initially was just as hateful toward white Republicans as it was toward blacks. Does the left care? Unfortunately not. They adhere to the blatantly fallacious view that adherents to these extreme factions somehow apply to the right wing as a whole, when they're really just the right wingtip feathers.

9. Ad populum (bandwagon fallacy)

Is it popular? Yes. Is it a good thing to believe? Not necessarily. When people fallaciously think that what's popular in parts of the country that have the highest population densities is what's right, they have committed this logical blunder. Back home in the UK, prior to colonizing what would eventually become the early United States, the Founding Fathers' ancestors were victims of so-called "parish pump politics" where small areas could use high population density to push local ideas on the rest of the country in a politically corrupt manner. The electoral college solves this problem by giving states with small populations a fair say in who gets elected, thus using geography as a "check and balance" if you will against small areas with high population densities and agendas that people in areas with less population density oppose. Electoral college abolitionism is therefore a commission of this fallacy, because without the electoral college we'd have the very "tyranny of the majority" that the Founding Fathers railed against.

10. Circular reasoning

When the left tries to attack us, do they even think about it? Unfortunately not. When the premise and conclusion are the exact same thing, that's called circular reasoning. Some examples are to the effect of "Christians are dumb, because… Christians are dumb," "DNA and homology point to Darwinism and not to OEC because… DNA and homology point to Darwinism," "Trump supporters are racist because… Trump supporters are racist", or, for an example that goes contrary to forensic evidence, "People who think Christianity is objectively true are closed minded… because <repeat>". Failure to use anything other than circular reasoning to defend a position makes you the closed-minded one.

11. Tu quoque

To be fair, this is something that, especially since the left began to claim the moral high ground in arguments, the right has been using equally as often as the left, but it should be noted that while the right has used it for just a few short years, the left has been using it for decades. Tu quoque is the appeal to hypocrisy fallacy ― also known as whataboutism, it's when someone is attacked personally for acting inconsistent with a judgment, and is thus, like poisoning the well, a specific variation of ad hominem. While it does indeed add a hypocrisy element on top of some evil and is therefore two evils on top of one another, hypocrisy is not a debunker. There are at least two recent examples of left-wing use of tu quoque.

One such example is the Left's most commonly used argument about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch: they assume that Republican obstruction of Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, back in 2016 justifies their obstruction of Gorsuch. News flash: Because A, the Dems were the first ones to use that argument with regard to SCOTUS nominees in the final year by Reagan and by Bush 43, and B, the entire argument is a fallacy, no it doesn't.

Another example of left-wing tu quoque is the "Buy American, Hire American" executive order. The left wing is claiming that almost all of Trump's memorabilia — including things like campaign hats — are made in China. Again, aside from the fact that this is a fallacy to begin with, as a businessman, memorabilia isn't even where most of Trump's money came from. The vast majority of his money came from writing books — on American soil — construction — on American soil — and, in the case of more than 80% of his wealth, buying and selling American real estate. Therefore, this second example is not only tu quoque but a red herring on top of that.

12. False equivalence

When equating something or someone with something or someone else, factors like order of magnitude in the case of something or political positions in the case of someone always matter. Failure to take into account every single detail of every single thing that you equate is called false equivalence. An example of this is when you equate something like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with a small leak in a car's oil tank. While they both are examples of uncontrolled release of oil, one clearly releases more oil than the other. What, meanwhile, is a political example of this fallacy? That's right, the Trump vs. Hitler comparisons that the left makes. Why? Because fascism is for big government, while Trump, with the glaring exception of building the wall, is for small government. Fascism is for abortion (Harvest of Hate pp. 273-274) while the Trump administration, along with Trump since 2011, is against abortion. Fascism is for increasing welfare; Trump is for a decrease in dependence on welfare. Fascism is for economic tyranny; Trump is for economic freedom. Failure to take all of these factors into account is, yes, false equivalence.

13. Historian's fallacy

When examining past events, always, always make sure to examine them assuming an attitude toward them that is similar to the general population at that specific time period. Failure to do this ― and instead assuming that a person of the past had the same perspective as the modern analyst ― is called the historian's fallacy. An example of this is when people are quick to call fascism right-wing. According to modern standards (which were mostly a result of partisan blame-shifting), it is to a degree (particularly on only one social issue ― homosexuality ― but nothing else), but according to the standards of the early 20th Century, it was as left-wing of a policy as you could get. While Hitler couldn't care less about anyone but himself, Mussolini and FDR, especially in the early 1930s, mutually admired each other ― Mussolini called FDR "one of us" as he read a book by FDR, a book in which he specifically cited Italian fascism as the model on which to base American progressivism. Failure to examine history in the same light as contemporaries examined it makes you doomed to repeat it.

14. Slippery slope

If there is any fallacy that serves as the sole justification for nearly all the evil that the left commits ― the riots, the vandalism, the assault, and in some cases, even murder ― it's this fallacy. Groups like ANTIFA base all of their violence on the assumption, in turn based on previous fallacies on this list, that Trump will someday use government force on them. When someone inherently assumes that the path Trump is taking this country on is a bad one with no proof, that's called the slippery slope fallacy. It is in a way related to the hasty generalization ― it's a hasty generalization of future events, based on a small sample of current events.
 
15. Appeal to emotion

Ah, here we come to the mother of all left-wing fallacies. An appeal to emotion is when someone disregards facts or statistics and assumes that people might get hurt feelings, which therefore must have priority. Oh, wait, you didn't know that was a fallacy, did you? Well, it is. When people put feelings above facts in political debate, they are creating a political environment that stifles agendas for the sake of not "offending" people. Use of this fallacy creates an environment in which no one can get anything done. It creates a political environment in which all politicians dwell on the minutiae while neglecting the weightier matters of the law that they were voted in to enforce. Such is the environment that, thankfully, now-President Trump is destroying, replacing it with one that once again puts logic, reason, and (as agreed by both conservatives and leftists) facts above baseless emotions. This return to placing reason and logic above baseless emotions is exactly what "Making America Great Again" is all about.