Argumentum ad infantem

This probably ought to be a new fallacy–something akin to the Reverend Lovejoy’s wife’s plaintive cry on the Simpson’s:

>”won’t someone please think of the children, think of the children!”

I ran across it yesterday in the pages of the Washington Post. The argument–if you can call it that–seemed to be that Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” makes points which are all basically right and makes recommendations we should follow, but it’s scaring the children, among other things:

>In “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore tells us that unless drastic global changes are made, our cities will be inundated and those of us who haven’t drowned will face a world wracked by cataclysmic weather and swarming with pestilence. One of his devotees, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, is coming out with his own environmental horror movie warning of human extinction if we continue living as we are. This would have a negative effect on the box office, but extinction might be preferable to the future Gore envisions.

>I, however, refuse to see the apocalypse in every balmy day. And I think it’s wrong to let our children believe they’ll be swept away before they get a chance to fret about college admissions. An article in The Post this spring described children anxious, sleepless and tearful about the end; one 9-year-old said she worried about global warming “because I don’t want to die.”

>Usually we want to protect our children from awful events, adjusting the message to suit their age. Certainly we tried to do that after Sept. 11. But an essential part of the global warming awareness movement is the belief that scaring us to death is the best way to spur massive change. Gore explicitly compares warming to the Nazis of the last century and terrorists of this one.

>And a recent New York Times profile of Gore tells that we are to be flooded with “An Inconvenient Truth.” It is going to be shown in schools; book versions for children and young adults and a children’s television show are planned. The global Live Earth concerts scheduled for July 7 are expected to raise millions, going to a three-year public relations effort, headed by Gore, to deluge us with bad news.

>All this is not to say that it’s not getting warmer and that curbing our profligate environmental ways is not a commendable and necessary goal. But perhaps this movement is sowing the seeds of its own destruction — even as it believes the human species has sown its own. There must be a limit to how many calamitous films, books and television shows we, and our children, can absorb.

Commendable and necessary it may be, but won’t someone please think of the children?

2 thoughts on “Argumentum ad infantem”

  1. This Op/Ed column was very frustrating to me. It was riddled with defects, from unsupported statements, to strawman arguments, to murky phrasing. If there’s an argument to be made for not being concerned about climate change, the author of this piece hasn’t made it. Frankly, I just don’t know how the editors waved such poor work into print.

    I notice the debate in the WaPo comments section for this column is vigorous and runs heavily against the piece and its author. I would be unsurprised if she drew the following conclusions from this.

    1. “I made a big splash and got a lot of attention. Yay for me.”

    2. “Anti-me comments are just hate-filled bashing from Al Gore partisans, who I’m free to ignore.”


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