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    It's OK. We're Already Killing Gays.

    From “Ask Figaro”:

    Dear Figaro,

    On his blog “wakingupnow” Rob Tish has coined the term “argument-ex-contradictio”, describing the behaviour of making several mutually contradictory statements that are worded to sound superficially as if they support each other. He gives a good example in this blog-post:http://wakingupnow.com/blog/the-argument-ex-contradictio. They efficiency of the method would come from the fact that the opponents cannot really mount a counter-argument, since the original argument has no clear line to attack… each counter-argument would somehow seem to be already refudiated by one of the contradictory factoids presented in the original “argument”.

    I knew at once the sort of rhetoric he means, and I was wondering is there is already some term in use to describe this infuriating bahviour.


    Dear Martin,

    Rob’s Latin leaves something to be desired, and I’m not sure that a string of self-contradictory ill-logic deserves any label but “mess.” To rebut it, there certainly is a clear line of attack; just about any line, in fact. The commentator Rob refers to says this, for instance: “Uganda’s anti-gay bill formally extends the death penalty to homosexuals who commit pre-existing capital crimes.” A simple rebuttal would ask, “How can the death penalty be ‘extended’ to a group already covered by it?” 

    But the commentator’s technique, if there is any, lies not in any abuse of logic but in his refusal to engage at all. Rob’s attempts to learn more about the issue led to his being de-friended on the commentator’s Facebook page. And here’s the rub: most political argument isn’t about logic at all. It’s about tribes. Get your own tribe more riled up than the enemy’s tribe, and you’ll win the battle. 

    The problem, in short, isn’t logic at all. It’s our increasingly tribal culture.


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