Tag Archives: Post hoc ergo propter

She loves me not

The standard critical thinking examples of fallacies, many argue, just don't ever occur in real life.  No one, for instance, would ever allege that the stock market is tanking on account of someone's appearance on a TV show.  Right?  Wrong.  Take the following interchange between Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera  (Via TPM).

“Representative? You know what, as we’re talking the market is selling off once again,” she told Grijalva. “Every time members of Congress come on, and I’ve got to tell you sir, I think you’re contributing to the fears that we’re going off the fiscal cliff because it doesn’t sound like there’s any compromise in what you’re saying. Do you care that markets are selling off dramatically when it looks like you guys can’t come to a deal?” 

What makes this hilarious is the implication that the stock market, with all of its wonderful complexity, was glued to CNBC, and CNBC's narrative of compromise, such that its hopes sank like a teenage boy at a high school dance when that compromise didn't appear to be imminent.

Sadly, the person who made this comment has a job as a journalist in the financial industry.  One might believe that knowledge, with all of its requirements of believing correctly and evidence and such, might be paramount.

Regrettably, no.

On farting

It's a book.  Check it out here. 

It's also a method of arguing.  Here's an illustration:

Here is another illustration:

Virginia Governor and Mitt Romney surrogate Bob McDonnell (R) on Sunday floated what may turn into a Republican talking point if the economy continues to improve: It wasn’t President Obama who made it happen, it was the GOP governors.

“Look, I’m glad the economy is starting to recover, but I think it’s because of what Republican governors are doing in their states, not because of the president,” McDonnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The Virginia governor unleashed a comprehensive broadside against Obama’s economic record and governance in his first term. “It’s been a complete failure of leadership,” he said. “He cannot run on his record. He’s had no plan for jobs or energy that he’s got passed, so he’s got a tough record.”

When things go well, the Republicans did it.  When things go badly, democrats, so the Governor farted.  As the author of the above snippett quickly pointed out, the Governor's claim is hard to square with the facts, as jobs were gained across the board (even in states with Democratic governors).

None of this is an argument for the claim that Obama did it.  This view, however, doesn't amount to much more than farting in everyone's face.  We need a shield.

Argumentum ad titulum

Here's a new fallacy.  It's a specific variation of the straw man.  It involves attacking the titles of someone's work in place of the work itself.  George Will–what would we do without him–has been working on this one for several years now.  Several years ago, before the NonSequitur, I saw him on ABC's This Week critique a series of New York Times' articles by reading their titles.  From what I could gather, he didn't bother to read the actual article.  The very same subject came up again this past Sunday.

Here is what he writes:

Listening to political talk requires a third ear that hears what is not said. Today's near silence about crime probably is evidence of social improvement. For many reasons, including better policing and more incarceration, Americans feel, and are, safer. The New York Times has not recently repeated such amusing headlines as "Crime Keeps on Falling, But Prisons Keep on Filling" (1997), "Prison Population Growing Although Crime Rate Drops" (1998), "Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction" (2000) and "More Inmates, Despite Slight Drop in Crime" (2003).

Headlines!  Without reading those articles, one can tell that the titles suggest a counter-intuitive irony.  Will challenges this by not reading it and accusing the author (and the newspaper) of denying an obvious causal connection.

We're Humean about such things, so we don't think causal connections can be divined a priori.