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    Heads We Win, Tails We Win More

    Here’s a brilliant example of the false-choice fallacy, which claims two alternatives when more (or fewer) exist.

    President Obama needs to decide between his goal of higher taxes, or a bipartisan plan to address our deficit. 

    Senator Mitch McConnell in the New York Times

    The Republican leadership has walked away from talks to raise the debt limit, putting the nation at risk of defaulting on loans and throwing world markets into chaos. The reason: the Democrats want to phase out “temporary” income tax deductions while slashing the deficit by $2 trillion. 

    Having successfully defined the elimination of deductions as tax increases, and having convinced the public that the economic doldrums were caused by the deficit, the Republicans are now claiming still more rhetorical terrain. But how do you turn Republicans’ refusal to budge on revenues into Democratic intransigence? With a false choice.

    The false choice analogy is the secret behind “push polls,” those fake voter surveys that ask you whether you’d like candidate A or, alternatively, Armageddon. McConnell presents a choice of (a) Obama’s “goal” to raise taxes, and (b) bipartisanship.  Ordinarily, bipartisanship means compromise. In the hands of smart rhetoricians, bipartisanship now means doing everything the Republicans say.

    The Democratic leadership, being the anti-rhetorical souls they are, will retreat. But they’ll make aggressive growling noises while they do it, and will feel much better afterward.

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    Reader Comments (2)

    I notice that a lot of television shows like to incorporate the fallacy of choice into their stories and the characters therein. House is a big offending when determining character's motivation.

    Just the thought I had while reading this.
    June 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarco
    You're so right, Marco. Dr. House creates false choices all the time, then comes up with new ones when the false ones prove, well, false. In the real world the man's license wouldn't just be taken away. It would have a stake driven through its evil heart.
    June 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterFigaro

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