Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Great (subversions of legitimate) Debate!

This election cycle, passions are running high. Unfortunately, actual knowledge is running quite low. Engaging someone with high passion levels by using actual knowledge is likely to render a hysterical response consisting mostly of whatever talking points said person ingested that day. Of course, in the political sphere, this generates a high number of logical fallacies and outright dishonest discussion. Here are a few of my favorite "debate subverters".

ARGUMENTUM AD HITLERUM

Example:

Chester: George W. Bush's domestic spying program makes him exactly like HITLERRRRR!

Analysis:

What the speaker has done here is associated GWB with Hitler. People don't like Hitler, and so a semi-famous pseudo-latin phrase is born. Of course, if Hitler had simply been a micro-manager who trespassed over certain liberties from time to time, we wouldn't remember him as evil, or remember him at all. Willy Brandt won a Nobel Peace Prize, and was Time Magazine's man of the year. How often do you hear about him?

Unfortunately for his legacy, he never murdered millions of people out of hate. Neither, as luck would have it, has George W. Bush.

ARGUMENTUM SIN HITLERUM

Example:

Chester: All war is bad and leads to bad things!
Earl: What about WW2?
Chester: Argumentum ad hitlerum!

Conversely, it is reasonable to evoke Hitler if his entire body of work (so to speak) can be applied to a situation. The insistence otherwise renders many debates rather incomplete.

TREATING A JEST AS FACT

Example:

Chester: Earl doesn't care about poor children in America!
Earl: I care about them immensely. Where else will we get bio-fuels ;)
Chester: Earl literally proposes we devour children for fuel, so we can see where he is coming from.

In this example, Chester is being intentionally obtuse in an effort to cast his opponent as a monster. John McCain experienced similar after his "Barbara Ann" "Bomb Iran" schtick was lambasted by the left.

A corollary to this is the suggestion that beneath every joke lies a bit of truth. This is demonstrably false. For example:

Chester: I really respect Judi Dench as an actress.
Earl: Judi Dench is a slut.

This joke is funny precisely because it is at odds with reality.

WEASEL WORDS

Example:

Chester: One wonders whether Republicans even care about the poor. Many people have come to the conclusion they do not.

Translation: I do not think Republicans care about the poor. It is my opinion that Republicans do not care about the poor.

Of course, that doesn't exactly sound persuasive, does it?

ACCUSATIONS OF RACISM

Example:

Obama, Barack (D-IL)

CARICATURE

Example:

Earl: I think Congress needs to take a look at the farm bill. It is time to extricate its individual components so that we can more pragmatically (etc, etc, etc...)
Chester: So you are saying that you don't want people to eat!

To be fair, caricature can be inadvertent. Many people believe they are living at the precipice of utter destruction, and that only their ideology stands between us and utter doom. As such, it can be difficult to understand the nuances of one's position, or even comprehend the need for nuance.

CLAIMING THE HIGH GROUND

Chester: Bastards like Earl want to ruin the country by stealing from the poor and distributing the proceeds to their oil loving corporate cronies. Earl can go to hell.
Earl: I don't have any friends in the oil industry, I simply think that bee preservation efforts should be postponed until all the dats is in.
Chester: It looks like we are going to have to agree to disagree on this. You have your opinion, and I have mine. One thing is for sure, we both want more bees.

In this example, Chester quickly pivots from flaming screwball to conciliatory gentleman. He thus gets to have his cake and eat it to, appearing to win the argument about bee populations without having provided any evidence for his position.

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION

Chester: Republicans just sit and wait for Pat Robertson to give them directions.

Similar to Argumentum Ad Hitlerum, Chester knows that people don't like Pat Robertson, and so wants to bludgeon his opponent with the ideological similarity in lieu of arguing his point. Of course, few people listen to Pat Robertson, largely because he is bonkers.

THE BS PRAGMATIST

Example:

Chester: George W. Bush will probably declare military rule so that we won't have elections, then he can go about his plan to systematically eliminate black people.
Earl: I think George W. Bush will simply vacate the presidency.
Bill: You both have equally reasonable points.

Bill is sympathetic to Chester's worldview, and equates to decidedly unequal statements. Essentially, this is claiming the high ground by way of third party.

What are your favorites?

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Thom said...

What about..."The Question".

It's usually something weird or outright insane...

Sam: Hmmmm...what's with the Obama's fist bump? Is it a terrorist signal? HMMMMM?

Of course, when you call the person on it, they declare, "Oh, I wasn't saying it *was* a terrorist fist bump! It's just what people are asking-I don't believe that it is myself.

This is also known as "The Fox News Style".

9:11 AM  

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