Category Archives: Appeal to Pity

Argumentum ad misericordiam

Boo Effing Hoo

I'm not trying to horn in on Scott's rock'n'roll fallacy posts, (kudos and kleos for correct guesses for what song is in my head right now), but I think there's a sub-type of the ad misericordiam fallacy that we might name by the title of this post. I don't have an example in print right now, rather I've been running into this argument occasionally in conversation. It runs something like this.

No really, it runs something like this:

A: "We think X is bad because it places significant burdens on us."
B: "That's nothing we have had much greater burdens placed on us."

Or, colloquially:

B1: "Oh, Boo Effing Hoo, that's nothing compared to what we suffer."

So, there are some forms of this argument that might be reasonable, but when it is offered as a reason against rejecting X it seems to me to be fallacious, unless some sort of substantive premise, a "shared misery premise" is added. Something along the lines of:

B2: "It is your turn to share the burden that we have already endured."

But, as I've encountered it out in the irrational wildernesses of discourse, it seems often to be a nice variation on the ad miseridcordiam fallacy–a way of turning an assertion about burdens into a misery pissing contest.

Les Mis

From Editor and Publisher:

>SECRETARY RICE: Look, let me tell you what I think about Scooter Libby. I think he’s served the country really well. I think he did it to the best of his ability. I think that he is going through an extremely difficult time with his family and for him. And you know, I’m just desperately sorry that it’s happening to him and I — you know, the legal system has spoken, but I tell you, this is a really good guy who is a good public servant and ought to be treated in accordance with that.

I wonder if such feelings of pity are proper for fallen soldiers.

Sweet misericordia

According to Bill Kristol, you’re not a criminal if you “seek to do what is right for the country” or “work closely” with the President.

>Will Bush pardon Libby? Apparently not–even if it means a man who worked closely with him and sought tirelessly to do what was right for the country goes to prison. Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino, noting that the appeals process was underway, said, “Given that and in keeping with what we have said in the past, the president has not intervened so far in any other criminal matter and he is going to decline to do so now.”

>So much for loyalty, or decency, or courage. For President Bush, loyalty is apparently a one-way street; decency is something he’s for as long as he doesn’t have to take any
risks in its behalf; and courage–well, that’s nowhere to be seen. Many of us used to respect President Bush. Can one respect him still?

And after all that Bush has done and failed to do, this is the reason Bill Kristol loses respect for him.