USA Today recently reported that “not all Christians believe there is a War on Christmas.” Most who don’t have this belief have the contrary belief – that not only that there is not a war on Christmas, but that the holiday is doing just fine and one doesn’t need to force it on the non-believers.
A recent USA Today story carried the headline “Not all Christians believe there is a ‘War on Christmas.’” Hardly surprising. Not all Christians believe Elvis is dead. The obvious escapes many, pious or heathen.
The title of the piece is “Objection, Your Honor. Relevance?”
Two important things. First, ad populum arguments are not failures of relevance. Otherwise the fact that something is ‘traditional’ or ‘common sense’ wouldn’t lend any support to anything. But it does – else conservatism would, at it’s core, be a fallacy. Ad populum arguments suffer, instead, from problems of weak authority – the matter is whether there are other reasons undercutting the authority or the accuracy of those attesting.
Second, the analogy between those who don’t believe in a War on Christmas and those who believe Elvis is still alive is mighty ridiculous. The difference between the two is that Elvis-death-deniers fail with empirical evidence. War-on-Christmas deniers distinguish being oppressed from tolerance.
Republican politicians have tried to pay homage on Facebook to the late Nelson Mandela since his death on Thursday, but many of their conservative supporters want to hear none of it.
Peruse through comment sections of the GOP’s Facebook tributes to Mandela, and there’s a good chance you’ll find plenty of vitriol for the former South African president and for the politicians who praised him.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wrote that Mandela “will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe.” One commenter took a different view of the anti-apartheid leader’s legacy, urging “all you Mandela lovers head on over to South Africa and see what’s going on now that ‘Mandela’s people’ have control of the nation.”
No kidding. “Peruse through the comments on Facebook” tells you all you need to know. More interesting, however, are the actual comments from the Republicans themselves over the years. See here for that.
Yesterday, Nelson Mandela died. This somehow prompted Rick Santorum, former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, to equate Mandela’s epic struggle against Apartheid with the GOP battle against Obamacare and fictional government enlargement:
“Nelson Mandela stood up against a great injustice and was willing to pay a huge price for that. That’s the reason he’s mourned today, because of that struggle that he performed,” Santorum said. “But you’re right, I mean, what he was advocating for was not necessarily the right answer, but he was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that.”
Arguments in the real world involve the expenditure of finite resources: time, attention, good will, among other things. This is one reason people are reluctant to get into them. It’s not worth arguing with Uncle Dewey at Thanksgiving, because nothing will be achieved. Sure, this runs counter to our Millian intuitions–that every crappy view, (even uncle Dewey’s unrepeatably racist theory about Detroit) deserves a hearing, if only so we can strengthen our views against it–but time is short here on earth, and we need to get stuff done.