Sunday, January 14, 2007

The most illogical comment ever

You, TonyS, poster at, have won the honor of having your comment disassembled, in a game I like to call, "Fisk the Troll". I can tell you right now that your post is a difficult one to analyze, because it is so dense with fallacies. I will do my best to be fair, despite the inherent unfairness in the name of the game itself, but with material this rich, the likelihood for error is pretty high.

  1. Finding scapegoats is fully unhelpful to the Iraq problem.
    While that is vacuously true, I must note that as it has been a principal occupation of anti-war bloggers, whose water and mantle you appear to carry, to cry failure and assign blame to that failure ever since the Iraq war began. It is now profoundly and insincerely disingenous to disclaim a desire to point fingers. Nevertheless, since you used the word "scapegoat", I have to agree that finding them is unhelpful (in any arena, not just Iraq, whence the charge of vacuity).

  2. Let's be serious...if the media was so influential against Bush & the war, then why did he win reelection?

    Logically, that is:
    1. If the media is against a candidate, he will lose.
    2. Bush won.
    3. Therefore, the media was not against him.

    The problem with that is that the media does not always get what it wants. It is not, after all, monolithic and also tries to give the appearance of balance. Sometimes, it takes a while for their bias to infect the masses. In other words, your first premise relies on not just one but two unstated co-premises: 1) the public is anti-Bush, and 2) the public was just as anti-Bush in 2004 as now. Both of those statements would require proofs longer than your post.

  3. If it was just the media, then why was bush taking responsibility for the war failures in his speech?

    As that is written, it is an obvious non sequitur, resulting in the fallacies of the false dilemma, the complex question, and the missing middle. It needs to be addressed, however, because it seems to have taken hold in the lefty nutosphere.

    There are several links missing in your chain of reasoning, and some of them in themselves may be fallacial. However, I will do my best to reconstruct the chain.

    1. Only media bias or significant mistakes could make the war unpopular
    2. There were no known significant mistakes before 2005
      1. If there were any known significant mistakes, the war would have been unpopular in 2004.
      2. The war was not unpopular in 2004, because Bush was reelected.
      3. Therefore, there were no known significant mistakes before 2004
    3. Therefore, if the war were not made unpopular by the media, then it would have been popular.
    4. The public has recognized serious mistakes since 2004
      1. Since the war is unpopular now, either there was media bias since 2004 or there were significant mistakes recognized since 2004.
      2. There were significant mistakes recognized since 2004
        1. Only significant mistakes could cause the President to take responsibility for any in his speech.
        2. Bush took responsibility for the war mistakes in his speech.
        3. Therefore, there must have been significant mistakes.
    5. Therefore it was not just the media.

    6. As always with the fallacies of this type, reconstruction is problematic, but I have attempted to do so in good faith. The major problem with the argument is that it presupposes a link between acknowledging mistakes, which is a leader's responsibility, and public opinion, which is shaped by media focus on mistakes. How did the public discover the mistakes, except through the media? If the war were still popular, would the President not have taken responsibility for any mistakes? Of course he would, as in a popular war there would be even less pressure on him not to accept his official responsibility.

      An essential ingredient in the above is the idea that the President would not have admitted any mistakes unless the public, without media assistance, insisted on it.

  4. It wasn't the media that influenced him to ignore early military advice, it was Cheney & Rumsfield. What is the problem is that we entered the war being told that it will be a quick fight, we will be rewarded by the Iraqi people and all is well.

    What an ingenious use of the fallacy of false choice: you assume he ignored military advice, and that Cheney and Rumsfeld (not "Rumsfield") advised him to do so, and present the obviously false choice of the media as the only other thing that could have made him do what you falsely assume him to have done. In fact, he weighed all the options and concluded that a smaller force, with a smaller footprint, was better, essentially because in modern warfare against a non-traditional foe, agility is required. I have elsewhere argued that we did not defeat Iraq thoroughly enough, stopping before they apologized. There were reasons for that, but in the end they boil down to wanting to avoid bad PR. So in effect, it was the media which made him go in with too light a force.

  5. Rumsfield excused the killing by saying that people die in every big city.

    At the time he said that, the death rate was comparable to that in major world cities.

  6. They built us a house of cards & now it's falling.

    That's a poor metaphor, because a house of cards can't be renovated. They destroyed Dracula's Castle, but then the Turks wanted to build a mosque in its place, and they got trapped into allowing it.

  7. Finally, it seems to me that the media followed the lead of the populace, not the other way around.

    This is your argument, in a nutshell, that the media is just telling the public what it wants to hear. It seems to me, on the other hand, that the media have pushed their anti-Bush agenda at least since April, 2003, when to their horror they saw an American flag raised over a foreign capitol. We'd "won", and they could not stand it, so they have done their best to make sure we "lost".

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