Times In Which The Mundane Is Spectacularly Radical

Let’s say I write an article in which I assert that the mid-day sky is actually bright scarlet red in color.

You might respond “You’re just Mitch Berg. You’re a conservative, so you always think stupid things”. That response is half, maybe 3/4 true – but doesn’t say anything about the color of the sky. What it does is say “your argument is false because of who you are”. The term is “Argumentum ad Hominem” – latin for “arguing against the man”, rather than the facts the Man presented. It’s a logical fallacy. Who I am has no bearing on the facts I present, right or wrong.

You might then respond “You don’t have a degree in meteorology – how would you know anything about the sky?” That’s also true – I’m not a meteorologist. But it doesn’t address the facts presented, but rather my credentials. It’s called an “Appeal to Authority”, and it’s another logical fallacy. One’s credentials might lend authority to a statement – but not truth or falsity, all by themselves.

You could try another tack, something like “you are an idiot”. That’d be called an “Appeal to Ridicule”. Again – I might be actually an idiot, but it doesn’t address my factual assertion in any way. It’s…yep, another logical fallacy.

Maybe you could dig back on Twitter, and find some example of me saying “the sky is blue”, and post a before-and-after saying “Hah! You’re being inconsistent!”. That’s called the “Argumentum Tu Quoque” – focusing on the fact that one has changed their mind on a subject, rather than the facts at hand – which is a really dumb one; the fact that I was a Democrat growing up, for example, doesn’t make me less a conservative today (or vice versa for someone else).

You could go on the offensive, and claim that if I believe the sky is scarlet with “Sooooo, what you’re saying is you want old people to die”. That’s called a “Straw Man Argument” – trying to make someone defend an argument they never made. I said the sky was scarlet – nothing about Grandma at all.

You could write “the sky is blue, because as I noted above, the sky is blue”. That’s called “Begging the Question” – perhaps the most mis-used phrase in the quasi-educated dialect of English, which people usually use to refer to “asking a question again”. It means “using your conclusion as proof of your conclusion”.

Or – here’s a radical thought, you could post a picture of a bright blue, or dull gray, sky and tell the world “Look! The sky above is blue! It’s not even a little bit scarlet!”. That would address the actual facts of my assertion that the sky was bright scarlet.

And the technical term for that is “a factual argument”.

I’m writing this not because I’m trying to go all Jordan Peterson on you, but because our society would be a lot stronger, smarter and BS-proof if more people learned how to make a logical argument, and to spot and call out an illogical one.

“That’s just NPR!” or “That’s just National Review” or “that info came from people allied with “the swamp”” and many other arguments…aren’t really arguments at all. They are illogical deflections.

Not to go all Walt Kowalski, but there was a time people had to learn this stuff. And there are times I think, reading social media, that learning the basics of, if not logic, at least spotting gross illogic and not being illogical, should be required before people can vote…

much less post on Facebook or Twitter.

And if I’m ever appointed king, or otherwise become a benevolent strongman…

(Careful, kids – in some quarters, particularly academia, the above is very un-PC. It’s what we used to call Samizdat. )

This post was originally run on May 11 2020. I’m re-running it because, well, it seems appropriate.

64 thoughts on “Times In Which The Mundane Is Spectacularly Radical

  1. EI,

    I have resisted, for years, calls to ban you and the other Emery from the comment section – partly because I abhor echo chambers, and partly because debating even the run-of-the mill left of center opinion sharpens one up for the battle. I’ve never banned anyone for disagreeing with me, ever; only for behavior that derailed the conversation or, in four cases, got just a little bit creepy.

    And I do endeavor to keep it that way.

    So take it in the spirit intended when I say “never, ever use the word ‘Rube’ again in this space.” If the next word on the page ain’t “Goldberg”, and only in the context of stating a metaphor for absurd complexity, it won’t end well.


  2. I suggest a companion to Godwin’s Law, the Floyd Turbo Law. Meaning that the first person to use “rube” in describing others has thereby indicated he no longer has an argument to stand on.

  3. going all the way back to the post… as much as it really, really does seem there should be some basic limitations to voting that goes down a very, very dangerous, illegal, and frankly unconstitutional path so quickly its not worth starting the ball rolling in the first place.

  4. The inability of our elites to recognize when they are arguing using faulty premises is a bit scary. In this month’s The Atlantic, there is an interview with Social and moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt.
    From the article, we have this from the interviewer, Peter Wehner:
    I asked Haidt how a country can unify in the face of a pandemic with a president like Trump, who is so intentionally divisive.
    Now clearly Wehner is not a mind reader. He has no idea whether Trump is being “intentionally devisive.” This should be a giant red flag to any editor that the author is engaging in hackery, not a serious discussion of the issues. Wehner could have written asked Haidt how a country can unify in the face of a pandemic with a president like Trump, who is so divisive , but that would have meant that Trump was not necessarily at fault for being devisive, and Wehner will have none of that.

    And a little later in the article, Haidt, an academic psychologist specializing in morality, says:
    “The psychologists I spoke to before Trump was elected overwhelmingly said that the diagnosis they would make based on what they saw is narcissistic personality disorder, and I think we’ve seen that continuously since his election, that he tends to make everything about him. And so that is pretty much the opposite of ethical leadership, where it needs to be about the team and our shared interest. I don’t see much of a chance of us really coming together and overcoming our differences before the election. Or, basically, as long as Trump is in office.”

    From the APA’s _The Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry_:
    “Section 7.3

    On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

    So, as is typical on the Left, we have a psychologist who specializes in ethics blatantly breaking a rule of psychological ethics. This is corruption, using a thing for something other than its true purpose.

  5. MP, this was also the same crowd who tried to use psychiatrist evaluations of him so they could invoke the 25th amendment, so not much sense or logic coming from that camp

  6. And of course, his excellency Barackus Obamanus NEVER exhibited that “narcissitic personality disorder’ and NEVER “made everything about him”.
    I have several friends (five) that have had mental health issues, from mild to severe. Two of them are Vietnam veterans that have overcome mild cases of PTSD. NONE of them have benefited from working with psychologists. My opinion of that profession is a bunch of Dunning Kruger elitists. It’s funny how many of them end up committing suicide. I guess the adage “physician, heal thyself”, doesn’t apply.

  7. As brutal as it is, Trump’s behavior is not mysterious. But how do we explain the people who consistently enable him? What is their pathology? Is Trump’s mental disease contagious?

    There seems to be one element missing here — his intellect, or lack thereof. While he has likely always been mentally lazy, he at least seemed coherent. My guess would be that he was of average intelligence but had attention deficit. Now it looks like you may be able to add dementia. Mixed in with his psychopathy/sociopathy/narcissism and you have one very dysfunctional human.

  8. Emery on May 28, 2020 at 11:29 am said:
    As brutal as it is, Trump’s behavior is not mysterious. . . .

    I guess I don’t have your mind-reading powers. As far as I know, next week he’ll sign on to the New Green Deal, or order everyone to wear their underwear on the outside. My attitude towards Trump is entirely performance based. Yours is based on personal hatred.

  9. Emery, did you feel the same way about Obama when he said to his supporters that they should get up in the face of Romneu supporters and those who are undecided? Or is your outrage selective and only for Trump?

  10. The reason why the Left hates Trump so much is because he fought back because they had gotten used to the passive Republicans like Romney, McCain, Bush, Dole, and Bush Sr. The last time there was a fighter was Reagan and he always did it with a smile. The last true fighter was Nixon.

  11. Sidenote in 7th grade I read a 1200 page autobiography Nixon wrote. He is easily one of the most misunderstood Presidents ever

  12. Funny, Emery.

    As brutal as it is, your behavior is not mysterious, either. You are incapable of independent thought and want your government to run your pathetic, miserable little life for you. I also find your comments about Trump’s flaws, quite laughable and know that you must be looking in a mirror while you’re typing your hypocritical bull crap. Obama was more of a narcissist than Trump would ever hope to be, but you drooling, left wing true believers in the black messiah, can’t admit it.

  13. So, to recap: yesterday, the president got everyone to focus on “section 230 of the communications decency act” with 100,000 dead and 40 million out of work.

    ‘Look at the shiny object while I fail in my duties as President’

    Crazy like a Fox …..

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.