Lefty's Fallacies

Some things just aren’t true, even if a lot of people believe them. One of the best examples is that critics of the Bush Administration are being muzzled. We hear this all the time. People complaining on television and in major newspapers that they are being denied the right to speak out. This is the about as close to perfect an instance of a self-negating argument as I have ever seen.

It is a lot like someone saying, "I am silent" or "I am dead." The fact that you say it indicates you are wrong. You can't open a paper, turn on the television or visit a bookstore without hearing from Bush critics. If this is what being muzzled sounds like, what kind of cacophony can we expect from a free-for-all?

What I think lefties are really angry about is people aren't listening or acting as they say we should. You have the right to speak, but I have the right not to pay attention, not to believe you, or not to act on what you have told me. There is no violation of free speech if I turn the channel to Fox News when I see Barbara Boxer or Michael Moore. It is not a violation of free speech if I skip an article that screams "Bush lied" in the first paragraph. Experience has taught me that paying attention to such things is not a good use of my time. You need not eat the whole egg to know it is rotten.

The next branch on lefty's fallacy tree is accusation of ad hominem smears. All sides in a political debate sometimes attack the person because it is (unfortunately) effective, but most recent accusations are unjustified. Ad hominem attacks refer to situations where we dismiss an argument because of the person who makes it. If you say that you don't believe anything Bush says because he is Bush, that is an ad hominem attack. It is not applicable when the person makes himself the target by claiming expertise or special standing because of who he is. If I give you advice based on my medical opinion, it is not ad hominem to reveal that I am not a doctor. When John Kerry made his time in Vietnam a central qualification to be president, it was not ad hominem to question this experience. When Cindy Sheehan makes policy pronouncements about the war in Iraq and why we should get out, it is not ad hominem to point out that her legitimate grief gives her no special expertise in geopolitics or executive decision-making.

If I say, "based on my meteorological training, I believe it is hot in July." You can justifiable attack my lack of meteorological training, but I would still be right that it is hot in July. It is a symptom of our quick information society that we are too interested in credentials and not interested enough in truth. That proclivity leads to what we consider ad hominem attacks. Experts want to pontificate with impunity about any major issue. When ordinary people attack their credentials to address a particular issue, they complain about ad hominem attacks. When we refuse to accept what they say, they complain that they are being muzzled.

Maybe if what they said made more sense, we wouldn't change the channel so fast.

Posted by Jack at August 21, 2005 11:46 AM