Category Archives: Weak Analogy

Santa brought you a fallacy

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.

But Larry Thornberry at AmSpec sees a fallacy:

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.

 

Ad Fuhrer-em

We’ve been doing a lot of Ad Hitleremspotting these days at the NS, but, hey, it’s the season of the Godwin.  Check out the statement from Brenda Barton (R) from Arizona on Facebook:

Someone is paying the National Park Service thugs overtime for their efforts to carry out the order of De Fuhrer… where are our Constitutional Sheriffs who can revoke the Park Service Rangers authority to arrest??? Do we have any Sheriffs with a pair?

I object for a few reasons.  First is just linguistic.  It’s der Fuhrer.  Second is analogical – how in any way is using the force charged with protecting the parks to close the parks like Hitler’s abuse of power in Germany? And park service rangers are given police force training.

Here’s the rich part.  Barton’s responded to criticism of her post, and she’s issued the following clarification.

What I did suggest, rather directly, was that the National Park Service enforcement personnel (referring to them as ‘thugs’ for their reported behavior) were simply following orders of ‘their leader’ – and I used the German phrase for emphasis, Der Fuhrer. . . .I am referencing the Presidents behavior as indicated by his actions. The Merriam-Webster New Collegiate Dictionary defines ‘Fuhrer’ as ‘(2) a leader exercising tyrannical authority. . . . As many are aware, some recent comments of mine on Facebook have touched a sensitive nerve with many people. Additionally, many have simply taken my posting out of its contextual environment. . .  Had I chosen my words differently, or had the President offered to use the power of his office to lessen or mute the public impacts of this impasse in Washington, we might not be having this discussion.

OK, so the defense is as follows:

1. When I use ‘De Fuhrer’ I just mean ‘tyrant’

2. When I used the term it was for emphasis, and to take it as more is to take it out of context.

3. It’s the president’s fault that I had to compare him to Hitler.

Point-for-point, silly.  In fact, to use 1 and 2 together is inconsistent.  The term ‘Fuhrer’ has the emphasis it does not because its usage as leader, or even tyrant, but as THAT tyrant named Adolph.  The context of using ‘Fuhrer’ is the context of exemplifying Godwin’s Law.  3 is amazing.  In effect – it’s not my fault that I can’t think of another apt analogy… I mean the guy’s literally like Hitler when he does this!   (This is, really, a case of instead of backing away from the Ad Hitlerem, but embracing it!)

My Godwin-Sense was tingling

CRUZ Budget_Battle-0a51e

In Godwin’s Law news (and another instantiation of the Ad TyrranemAd Hitlerem), Ted Cruz’s recent Senate speech has a classic:

I suspect those same pundits who say [defunding Obamacare] can’t be done, if it had been in the 1940s we would have been listening to them. . . .They would have been saying, ‘You cannot defeat the Germans

In this case, it’s not an argument that what’s being opposed is wrong, but that not actively opposing the thing is wrong.  I think, then we have two different forms of the ad Hitlerem.

Direct Ad Hitlerem:

You do X or propose X

Hitler did X or proposed X

Therefore, you’re like Hitler and X is wrong.

Here, I  think Cruz is making an indirect form of Ad Hitlerem.  It runs roughly:

He does X (and X is wrong)

We can stop him from doing X

His doing X is like Hitler’s doing Y

Therefore, he’s not only wrong to do X, but we’re wrong (read: appeasers) to not actively oppose and stop his doing X.

My view about Ad Hitlerem is that it’s a weak analogy, and that’s the case for both direct and indirect.  A further thing about the indirect form is that it depends on the direct form.  Essentially: This guy is like Hitler , so this guy is bad (Direct form); If you can stop a guy who’s bad like Hitler, you should as to fail to do so is appeasement (Indirect form).

Ad tyrannem

glenn_beck

OK, the old Godwin’s Law observation with Ad Hitlerem is standard.  And we’ve here noted the Ad Stalinem.  But Glenn Beck just used, in his NYT interview, an analogy with Mao Tse-Tung with similar effect.

 I think these guys (progressives) are the biggest danger in the world. It’s the people like Mao, people that believe that big government is the answer, it always leads to millions dead — always.

For sure, Hitler analogies deserve their own name, but they are of a specific class of arguments by analogy roughly captured as the argument by analogy with some tyrant, so I’ve proposed Ad Tyrannem as the general class.

Oh, another irony is that not but a paragraph up from the implication that progressives will be putting people to death, Beck wishes that the American people could just get along.

Ad Stalinem

obamarodeoclown

We’ve had discussions of the Ad Hitlerem and Godwin’s Law here at the NS a few times.  There’s a close cousin to it, which is the Ad Stalinem.  The argument runs in the form:

You did X

Stalin did X (or something like it)

Therefore, your doing X is wrong.  And you’re like Stalin.

Arguments by analogy have trouble with relevance, and this one has plenty. In recent news, a rodeo clown took over the mic at a state fair in Missouri and put on an Obama mask.  The announcer asked if they wanted to see Obama run down by a bull.  That’s pretty crazy.  The rodeo clown in the mask has been banned for life from participating in rodeos in Missouri, and all the other cowboys have been required to attend sensitivity training seminars.

The RIGHT, instead of feeling a little silly for catering to people who think that having bulls trample a president in effigy is good political commentary, they rush to these guys defense.  This is where the Ad Salinem comes in.  So here’s a taste of it over at the American Spectator:

I’m surprised, in the efforts to lynch the Obama Clown and brainwash other cowboys with sensitivity training, that the Obama regime and cronies have failed to recount one of my favorite Stalin stories from long ago.

After a hard day’s work, Uncle Joe blessed a Moscow circus with his presence. The clowns performed a bit that contained (what Stalin perceived as) political commentary obliquely critical of him. Yet the audience roared with delight at the funny clowns!

True to form, Stalin had his armed guards line up the clowns in center ring and execute them, on the spot.

Then, as a clever follow-up on Stalin’s part, he had the guards turn their guns on the audience and slaughter dozens. Call it a curtain call: it was curtains for all.

Oh, the dangers of mocking Great Leaders.

For arguments by analogy to work, there must be some important factors in common between the cases.  Here are a few.  1. The objection to the clown’s portrayal of Obama wasn’t about criticizing his policies, but about the racist overtones of the portrayal. 2. None of the consequences visited on him are from the Obama administration, but from the Missouri State Fair officials.  3. Nobody in the audience had anything bad happen to them.  4. If you look at the picture closely, you’ll see that it looks like the guy’s got a broom halfway up his butt.  He should be fired for that, solely.  That’s not funny. It’s weird. Even for a rodeo clown.

A bad analogy is like a slacker boyfriend

Check out the report on the new conservative women’s movement, or conservative feminism at AmSpec.  The best part was that they thought the best way to reply to the Republican war on women meme was to analogize the Obama Presidency to a bad date or an unreliable boyfriend.  That’s, by the way, not a way to relate to women in a way that will undo the thought that the Republican Party doesn’t take them seriously.  See the video:

The NSA knows about your analogy and slippery slope

In response to challenges to the legality and morality of the NSA’s surveillance program, President Obama said we should have a healthy debate about it (video HERE).  This occasions George Neumayr at the American Spectator to make this comparison:

He is open to a “healthy” debate about it. Holder and Obama are like drunk drivers who cause a pile-up and then stroll back innocently to see if they can “help.”

And when President Obama makes it clear that the content of the calls is not monitored, Neumayr sees a slope looming:

In a few years, the line will move to: yes, we are listening to your calls, but we are not recording them; yes, we are forcing you to pay for abortion but we are not requiring you undergo one.

The trouble is that in both the analogy and in the slippery slope, we have Neumayr assuming that the harm is already in the surveillance as it is.  Notice that both of the Obama replies to criticism has been to challenge that thought — the harm of surveillance would be on content.

 

Pretty in pink

Check out Charles Krauthammer’s downplaying analogy over at the NRO for Obama’s ‘Red Line’ ultimatum with Syria using chemical weapons and what the Right thinks is dithering (or “fudging and fumbling”) in the face of the worry they’ve used them.  The headline:

Pink Line over Damascus

Get it?  Not red, but pink.  You see what he did there? Replaced red with pink. So, it’s like a girl’s ultimatum, which is, you know, not very decisive:

He would have it both ways: sound decisive but never have to deliver.

Yeah, just like a little girl, so pink.  And conservatives wonder why they have a problem with women.

The Kim Jong-Un of rhetorical analogies

David Brooks, arguing that sequestration has put government spending well below ideal levels for sustainable economic culture:

Right now, we are the North Korea of fiscal policy.

That’s laying it on pretty thick.  Though, given the way Republicans talk about Obama being a socialist, it may be the only way to cut through the nonsense.

Some analogies are are like propositions that aren’t true

Sometimes when you make an analogy, you really just show how little you understand. Or, perhaps, how little you want to.  Charles Cooke at NRO thinks that taxing ammunition at a higher rate, perhaps at 50%, is not just bad economic policy, but is an infringement on basic rights.  He makes this point with an analogy.

When it comes to our basic rights, the rule of thumb is that as little as possible should be put in the way of their exercise. The Second Amendment is often treated differently from the other component parts of the Bill of Rights, but it damn well shouldn’t be. Unless you consider that the right to bear arms is less important in a republic than is the right to vote — which I most decidedly do notthen putting a special tax on firearms is no less outrageous than putting a tax on voting. Why one but not the other?

Notice, first, that this is an argument that, as we say in philosophy, proves too much.  If we’re really to take the conclusion seriously, then it should be that we shouldn’t tax gun or ammunition purchases at all.  If there’s no taxing voting, then there’s no taxing guns and gun-related stuff.   His argument isn’t one that proves that we shouldn’t tax ammo at a high rate, it’s that we shouldn’t tax it at all.

Second, notice that Cooke thinks that gun-rights are more important than voting rights.  I wonder what he thinks of Canada.  A real democracy? Germany or England?  If you click his link, there’s a paywall for the whole article — but he does answer one question.  With another question.  To the challenge why does he need military style firearms?  His reply is:

A better question: “Why don’t you want me to have one?”

Yep.  His argument is pretty much that his possession of a firearm ensures that his voting rights can’t be taken away.  Seriously, though, who’s he gonna shoot if his voter registration card doesn’t get recognized at the polling station?

Third, and finally, isn’t the difference between voting and buying guns and bullets is that with the latter, you’re purchasing a product?  It’s a financial exchange of goods and money, one that the government can tax as necessary.  It’s not that the argument by analogy proves too much, it’s that the analogy isn’t appropriately framed.