Tag Archives: weak analogies

Chicken Littles of Straw

Chicken Little freaked out when hit on the head with an acorn, and called out, “The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!”  Everyone goes berserk, then they see it’s just an acorn.  Chicken Little then retires to being an overreacting chicken, and things return to normal.  The end.

Calling someone a ‘Chicken Little,’ then, works as a form of analogy.  One sees someone reacting strongly to something, perhaps that it forebodes something worse, and one then points out that they are overreacting or don’t see the situation clearly.

It’s a pretty common feature of contemporary American political culture for folks to think and say that Donald Trump is a danger not just to this country’s prosperity and safety, but to the world’s.  He’s an authoritarian, he seems to have (or at least there’s the accusation that he’s) colluded with another state to secure his election, and he seems to be a general nincompoop who surrounds himself with avaricious doofuses.  That makes him dangerous as the President of the United States.

Well, Heather Wilhelm at NRO has had it with the doom-saying chicken littles out there.

The unprecedented volume of apocalyptic media pronouncements that Trump has inspired is unhealthy. . . .  How many times can one presidential administration end life as we know it?

The coverage of the Trump administration is “crazed and breathless” and bent on spurring your outrage or stoking your fears with predictions of doom.  Chicken Little apocalyptic journalists.  But Wilhelm has a counter to this:

[C]ongratulations! If you’re reading this, it means you’re still alive, and have survived the approximately 5,000 world-ending decisions that the Trump administration has supposedly made thus far this year. The Russians, at least as far as I know, have not yet taken over. Faced with budget challenges and various logistical challenges, including the fact more than 1,000 miles of our border with Mexico is actually a river, it seems that Trump’s much-decried Great Wall of America could be slowly shuffled off into the “it seemed like a good idea at the time, but maybe not really” pile. When it comes to health care, congressional Republicans seem to be in the political equivalent of that one unlucky bumper car that gets stuck in the corner, no matter which way you steer. As Francis Fukuyama addressed the panic in Politico this week: “Trump’s a dictator? He can’t even repeal Obamacare.”

The last line’s funny, I’ll give Fukuyama and Wilhelm that.  But how is this a reply to the worries people actually had about the Trump administration?
Seriously, the evidence here is that things aren’t SOOOO bad, so what’s with all the hand-wringing?  Moreover, it’s not that people were predicting that the world would end, or that it’ll be like RED DAWN up in here.  The worries were that he’s an authoritarian dingus, who will either do something belligerent or something stupid.  That he hasn’t done something mindbogglingly belligerent or incomprehesibly stupid YET isn’t reason that people who had worries that he will do something belligerent or stupid were wrong or had no basis.

The ad hitlerum manqué

Image 1: Analogy to a pro-gay marriage rally

The Nevada Coalition for the Protection of Marriage is my nomination for the first Glenn Beck Award for WTF Analogies.  Just as Glenn Beck recently argued that science education advocate Bill Nye is like the Catholic Church in his rejection of teaching Creationism in public school science classes, the Nevada Coalition argues that homosexuals are like white supremacists in their desire to change the definition of marriage.  Monte Stewart, their attorney, argues (via ThinkProgress):

On closer examination, this strategy reveals something deeply troubling. White supremacists engrafted the anti-miscegenation rules onto the marriage institution — and thereby altered marriage from how it had existed at common law and throughout the millennia — to bend that institution into the new and foreign role of inculcating white supremacist doctrines into the consciousness of the people generally. Because of the profound teaching, forming, and transforming power that fundamental social institutions like marriage have over all of us, this evil strategy undoubtedly worked effectively for decades.

Question: Where does one see today a similar massive political effort to profoundly change the marriage institution in order to bend it into a new and foreign role, one in important ways at odds with its ancient and essential roles? Answer: The genderless marriage movement. The big difference, of course, is the immorality of the effort to advance the white supremacist dogma compared to the morality of the effort to advance the social well-being and individual worth of gay men and lesbians. Whether that moral objective is sufficiently weighty to justify so bending and altering the marriage institution is for the free, open, democratic process to decide. Certainly, the comparison of laws that protect the man-woman meaning of marriage to anti-miscegenation laws is a false analogy that provides no basis for any court to mandate the redefinition of marriage.

Yes, that is a big difference.  It’s such a big difference, that I wonder why Mr.Stewart decided to compare the two.  This is just like what the Nazis did, only you’re not Nazis and it’s not like what they did.  Perhaps we need a name for this move: let’s call it the ad hitlerum manqué.

Things that are very different part 1487

Image of the battle against Obamacare, 2013

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.”

Where do these people come from?

Arsenic and old lace

Rick Warren, MEGACHURCH Christian minister, has a lot of gay friends.  You can tell this by the respect for them oozing from his well-considered words.  In an interview with Piers Morgan of CNN, he had the following to say about the naturalness of homsexuality.

WARREN: Here’s what we know about life. I have all kinds of natural feelings in my life and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn’t mean I act on it. Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don’t act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn’t make it right. Not everything natural is good for me. Arsenic is natural.

The iron manners among you will want to say that he is merely claiming that just because something is natural does not make it right.  And indeed in the very abstract such a point is a reasonable one. 

But this is actually not an abstract point.  Because the issue on the table nowadays is that Homosexuality is a natural form social interaction among humans and many other animals.  The evidence is that people and other animals lead purpose-driven, fulfilling lives as homosexuals.

Warren rejects that, however.  For him, homosexual behavior–i.e., sex–is morally wrong (because, he states elsewhere, the Bible says so).

So indeed, homosexual behavior is natural (though he says earlier in the interview that the jury is still out on this–he studies these things apparently), but it's natural like arsenic, the poison that will kill you, is natural.  Or worse, it's natural like his urges to violent reprisal. 

Identity Theft

Chicago's Cardinal Francis George is not the master of analogies by any stretch. Recently, when a persecuted minority wanted to walk by one his churches on a Sunday, they were "Nazis."  Now, if someone requires that Health Insurers Provide a certain standard of care regardless of the religious affiliation of the insured employee, it's "identity theft."

Sadly, this remark seems to have followed upon the following (from the Chicago Tribune story):

"The difficulty of public discussion … is that the political is the highest level of public discourse," George said. "Therefore, the primary categories of discussion and mutual understanding are liberal and conservative. But they're not evangelical, Catholic or gospel categories. The categories that count in the Gospel are true and false. The bishops try to be people of God. And those are the first questions we ask is: 'Is it true or false?' Political terms are not adequate to discuss it."

The Cardinal recognizes the seriousness of his words, so this must mean he is just terrible at reasoning.  Let's say we change the terms somewhat, and insist that a Jehovah's Witness who runs a hospital or university must, through a private insurer, provide coverage for blood transfusions.  Yes, it's against their religion, alright.  For them.  But you just work for them.  You are the janitor in Kingdom Hall, or you're their accountant.  Unlucky you.  I guess. How dare you steal their identity by wanting blood transfusions during surgery.

But we're talking about contraception for women.  Not in the Tribune article, but in the local CBS story, was the Cardinal's very respectful and truth oriented threat: if some women can get the pill, the three percent of Catholics who actually care about this stuff will be forced to take their ball and go home.

“In order to do anything publicly, we’re going to have to cloak it in some kind of explicit religious circumstance that would not make it possible to run big universities and large hospitals as we’ve run them before,” George said.

The cardinal told members of the Union League Club downtown that the Church may otherwise sell its hospitals, pay penalties, or in a last resort, close them altogether, rather than offer birth control. George says offering birth control would be cooperating with evil.

The ad baculum, the appeal to force–that's what the Cardinal thinks the highest level of public discourse is.