Monday, April 20, 2015

There Oughta Be a Law, Part 2


If, Dear Readers, you are confused because you have been scrolling around looking for Part 1 of this post and not finding it, you just haven't scrolled far enough ... because it was posted on June 18th of 2012. Part 2 is only coming about now because I have recent personal experience with the topic.

If you don't feel like going back and reading the earlier post, here's the Readers' Digest version: a post by fellow blogger Angel had led me to something called Godwin's Law, which hypothesizes that, given enough time, any online discussion - regardless of topic or scope - will eventually include some comparison to Hitler and the Nazis. Here's the actual Law ...

"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."

This is common enough that there is a new addition to the list of logical fallacies titled Reductio ad Hitlerum, about which you can read here.

My latest brush with this logical fallacy came just yesterday, when I got into an online discussion with an old friend (old boss, actually, from my time in Berlin many years ago). He had posted a meme to his Facebook page which contrasted two quotes - one from Alan West and the other from Hillary Clinton:


I took issue with this as an overly simplistic reduction of a complex argument ... and a complex argument ensued. My point was that showing concern for the condition of the society as a whole is not the same as "feigning to know the societal good," or "dismiss(ing) ... unalienable individual rights." My friend kept trying to pin me down as a hysterically wild-eyed ivory tower liberal, with comments like, "So West's questions have no validity or relevance whatsoever?" and "So we must adopt Hillary's absolute, 'We must stop thinking of the individual...?'." The discussion spiraled around like water down a drain until a new person entered the discussion and posted this ...


... along with the comment, "... how about this comparison? Still think there (is) 'validity on both sides'?".

Yes, Dear Readers, it took exactly eight comments on my friend's original post to reach Reductio ad Hitlerum.

Now, at the risk of putting words in the lady's mouth, I think that what Ms Clinton should have said (and perhaps meant to say) was that it's not a good idea to focus exclusively on the needs of the individual at the expense of the larger society in which that individual lives. Completely unrestricted individual freedom is what used to be quaintly known as anarchy, and the need to regulate individual behavior in the interest of society is why we accept the limitations on our freedom that we call laws. There is, of course, a legitimate argument to be made about which laws are necessary, how intrusive or limiting they ought to be, and where the proper balance between rights and responsibilities lies, but that argument shouldn't rest on silly memes which rest on comparisons between individual gotcha quotes (usually without context). If we're going to resort to firing memes back and forth in lieu of principled discussion, here's mine ...


And just for the record, anyone who compares any present-day American political figure to Adolf Hitler* is utterly ignorant of history.

Have a good day. Think beyond the meme. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* By the way, I'm posting this on April 20th, which - as it happens - is the birthday (in 1889) of Adolf Hitler.

10 comments:

eViL pOp TaRt said...

That's a great meme you have offered. Too often Hitler is used as a cheap trump to any discourse.

Today is also Pot Day, at 4:20 PM, to be sure.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

That's a great meme you have offered. Too often Hitler is used as a cheap trump to any discourse.

Today is also Pot Day, at 4:20 PM, to be sure.

The Bastard King of England said...

Thinking exclusively about individual rights or perogratives leads to anarchy.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

It seems that in speech making the orator has to be very, very specific so as to close the door on that kind of sophism.

KathyA said...

Do you really think for one nano second that either of these folks put as much deliberation into their statements as any of you involved in this discussion?

Linda Kay said...

Sounds like legal mumbo jumbo to me...probably carefully planned as to not show any exact representation.

Banana Oil said...

Kathy A got it right!

John Hill said...

JH just shakes head and sighs.
I find myself doing this often rather than responding to posts.
My meme would say, "Never argue with idiots. They drag you down to their level then beat you with experience."

Mike said...

I think I've seen that Hitler meme posted at a couple of HOA meetings.

allenwoodhaven said...

Unfortunately, too few people actually do their own thinking and too few people are taught to think for themselves. I hope Hitler never said anything like that....