Friday, July 08, 2005

Arguments I hate, pt. 1: hypothetical hypocrisy

One of the exasperating things about reading political blogs is the low level of argumentation that we find. There is too much name-calling and cheap-shots, and not enough thinking of high quality. This is a point that I suspect most bloggers agree with, although most of us find it easier to identify posts that offend against this when they are made by the other side. Such is human nature.

It struck me thta it would be helpful to create a taxonomy of false arguments that we all (left, right, and center) might try to avoid.

With this in mind, I offer the first 'argument I hate', which I dub 'hypothetical hypocrisy'. This argument begins with a political or moral position of its target; a hypothetical situation is concocted into wihch the target is placed; the target is imagined to act against their original position and is condemned for hypocrisy.

A classic example of this came a couple weeks ago when Laurie Hawn, conservative candidate in Edmonton-Centre, wrote a post with the title 'A conflict hypocrisies', which included this swipe at Jack Layton:
Okay everyone, hands up all who think that Canada's federal socialist leader, Jack Layton, would put himself at the back of the queue if he (or his wife) needed an MRI. I didn't think so.
The original post was worded slightly differently, causing a controversy about name-calling, but let's leave that aside, and whether it is true (which it probably isn't: Layton's wife is undergoing cancer treatment and apparently gets no special consideration). What is noteworthy is the unfairness of the argument. Layton is placed in a hypothetical situation, imagined to have acted hypocritically, then condemned for hypothetical hyprocrisy. In essence, it is as if I said 'X says theft is wrong; but if his family were starving, surely he would steal; therefore x is a hypocrite'.

This argument comes in various forms, and I invite people to include examples (left, right, and center) in the comments.


nitangae said...

One argument (or really word) that I absolutely can't stand is "self-hating" (and variations). One can complain about this with any partisan baggage, because all sides now use it equally often.

That is to say, x position is obviously prejudicial to a certain group (Blacks, Natives, Jews, evangelical Christians, Americans, Westerners, Chinese, Albertan, etc ad nauseum), y who holds that position can be described as a member of that group, therefore person y is a "self-hating" member of that group.

As a general rule, no evidence or argument is presented to show why such a position is harmful to x group, just that all people of that group are required to oppose it.

Now that everyone (right, left and center) is using it, could we not just declare a truce and abolish it? It absolutely engrages me. Except under rare occasions, it has no more place in civilized conversation than four letter words.

I say rare occasions, because, of course, there are cases in authoritarian regimes when a member of a certain minority group is dragged in to propose a policy that is widely disliked by that minority group. A friend of mine (a Khakass from Siberia) told me that a Tuva was used by the Putin regime to propose a bill to make Russian the sole language of the nation, also outlawing the use of non-Cyrillic scripts for the languages of Russia's minorities.

Even so, self-hating need hardly be used even under that circumstance. "Corrupted" perhaps. Or perhaps we could even argue why the policy is wrong, a mistake and harmful to a certain group. Any nonsense about a certain person being "self-hating", even if it is true, should not pass our lips.


v said...

Here are a few examples from discussions I've participated in at My Blahg:

The Too Obvious Divide And Conquer Question:

" Rube: "Will the right whingers condemn this act of terrorism?"

Me: Nah, I'm too busy fighting anti-Catholic hate ("Chester the Child Molester, or Bishop Fabbro as his flock calls him") from gay extremists like you to bite at this oh-so-obvious divide and conquer nonquestion."

The "Alberta is One Party so it's OK that Canada is one party" argument:

"Me: Notice the weak, judgement-free "logic" in this thread so characteristic of The Left:

-Once upon a time there was a one party state called Canada.
-Remarkably, a similar one party scenario once existed at some time and place over the course of history.
-Therefore it's OK that Canada is a one party state.

Silly Liberals! Hahaha!"

More Bad Logic:
"Some Catholic Hater: "As long as we throw out every priest who's ever had sex (not just move them to another parish), every Catholic who's ever used a condom or had an abortion, every pregnant catholic schoolgirl and the baby's father too... all of which are equally sinful as homosexuality."

Me: Notice the weak logic so typical of the left:
-Once upon a time the Catholic church mildly rebuked two politicians who passed laws which jeoparidized freedom of religion.
-Therefore, unless the church comes down on every single individual who has deviated from church teachings in any way they are "hypocrites"
-Bonus Illogic: All sins are equal!

It's not your fault our schools don't teach you the reasoning skills necessary to see why this line of thinking is full of shit, so I forgive you."