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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Short ideas sometimes need stilts

In addition to his addiction to the ad hominem argument, Ken Blanchard loves to indulge in the rhetorical fallacies of bifurcation and equivocation. He gives a very narrow definition of the straw man fallacy and then asserts I was wrong in a definition I gave. Insisting that only his definition is correct, he says mine was wrong. That is called the fallacy of bifurcation.

Here from one of numerous sites listing definitions of rhetorical fallacies is another definition of the straw man fallacy:

Description: It is a fallacy to misrepresent someone else's position for the purposes of more easily attacking it, then to knock down that misrepresented position, and then to conclude that the original position has been demolished. It is a fallacy because it fails to deal with the actual arguments that one has made.

He uses the same tactic on the definition of fascism. Twelve years ago Italian semiologist and novelist Umberto Eco published an essay in The New York Review of Books exploring how fascism exists in our contemporary times. It launched an awareness and a continuing disccussion of how fascism pervades our contemporary lives. Here is the concluding paragraph of the essay:

  • Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, "I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares." Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances — every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt's words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: "If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land." Freedom and liberation are an unending task.

    Umberto Eco
    (c) 1995
I also take issue with his gross misrepresentation that I have contempt for the people of South Dakota. Pointing out that some people in the state have a provincial outlook and that some have fallen victim to a propaganda campaign is not registering contempt. I do have contempt for such misrepresentations.

1 comment:

Douglas said...

The strawman argument is a real favorite of those with a very weak position or no really defensible position at all.

As the lawyers are alleged to say, if you have the facts use them. If you don't, pound the table.

Wingnut loons of the left and right spend a lot of time pounding the table. Some supporting George Bush. Some supporting religious intrusion into politics as they demean the contributions of secularism to morality.

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