Originally, I was going to use this in Sunday’s installment of my “Informal Logic 101” series. But, I opted not to, ‘cuz it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. It is still worth commenting on, though, so…
An example of a bad argument can be found in a recent editorial in Connecticut’s New Haven Register, in which various politically conservative individuals and institutions were accused of being very much like the notoriously racist & violent Ku Klux Klan. It was not only a vicious smear but an implicit argument by analogy.
I will attempt to fairly summarize the “argument”:
1) The KKK is an evil organization whose message includes a) the proclamation that Black people are an inferior race, b) fear of and opposition to immigration, and c) expressions of disgust and hatred toward gay people.
2) Conservative individuals like Ted Nugent and Ann Coulter, as well as the national Republican Party and a burgeoning array of fringe “conservative” media like Fox News have embraced this message.
3) These individuals and institutions must be called out, condemned, marginalized, and ostracized for their hatred and racism, just as we do the KKK.
Or, put another way, “Conservatives in America hold the same warped values and tout the same racist message as the KKK; therefore, they should be condemned and ostracized in the same way we do the KKK.”
If the comparison was accurate, I would agree. But, it isn’t, as any fair assessment demonstrates. The first premise is certainly true, but the second is a mischaracterization. There may be a fringe element on “the Right” that act/speak as if Blacks are inherently inferior, and that’s both disgusting and irrational. But, that view is not generally true of conservatives nor a part of historical conservatism. In fact, the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln, who freed the slaves, and the party of King, who led the Civil Rights Movement. The Klan, on the other hand, was founded (1866) & functioned as a militant, terrorist anti-Republican instrument of the Democratic Party.
The only immigration that conservatives fear and oppose is the illegal sort, and the various expenses and other problems that result from it. Implied in the accusation is a bigotry and hatred for immigrants themselves, who are predominantly (though not completely) brown-skinned. Of course, there are plenty of brown-skinned Americans who are against illegal immigration, too. Like them, what white conservatives like myself “hate” is the blatant disregard for rule of law and a nation’s sovereignty over its borders.
Sadly, there are probably more instances of “expressions of disgust and hatred toward gay people” from conservatives than I care to admit. Hopefully, those are in the minority, too. The emphasis should be on condemning homosexual behavior, which is damaging to individuals and society alike. Governmental policy and laws should not, therefore, encourage or promote such activity. Gay people, however, should be treated with love, compassion, and respect, even while disagreeing with them, and I know that many (most?) conservatives agree with me.
A couple points re Nugent and Coulter: 1) Yeah, Nugent is intentionally provocative and sometimes says stupid things that may betray a personal stereotyping of and condescension toward non-whites. In a nutshell, while I generally like him (i.e., I find him entertaining and somewhat fascinating), he can be a jerk, and that’s on him. But, even if he’s guilty of a measure of bigotry, he’s no Klansman. 2) Coulter also occasionally says some things that are intentionally provocative, polarizing, sometimes insensitive, maybe even “vicious”. But, while she doesn’t buy into the whole gay agenda (inc. SSM & sex ed.), to imply she is guilty of rank homophobia is ridiculous, since she has a lot of gay friends and is one of several notables on the Right associated with GOProud.
So, while there is some truth to some of the assertions, it is far too weak to support the author’s conclusion. He doesn’t like conservatives and conservative ideas, so, providing little-to-no supporting evidence, he resorts to libelous accusations. This “argument” fails. Of course, such rhetoric still wins the approval and reinforces the beliefs of those who already share the author’s views. Unfortunately, it may also influence the thinking of others who haven’t yet drunk the kool-aid but do not think critically or do their own research. The Register‘s “apology” didn’t help much, either.
And even more recently, notorious jerk (and that’s being kind) Florida Rep. Alan Grayson (D) likened the Tea Party to the Klan in an email, which depicted the “T” in Tea as a burning cross. He accuses the grassroots group of engaging in “relentless racist attacks against our African-American president”, including producing pictures and placards with very racist images and messages. I admit I have seen a couple of those signs in photos from Tea Party rallies over the years. But, assuming they weren’t “plants” by the Left, they are obviously by a fringey few, who have been publicly shamed and rejected by the 99.9+% of Tea Partyers who think they’re asses. Grayson went on to say,
“[T]here is overwhelming evidence that the tea party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation. If the shoe fits, wear it.”
This man is willfully blind to the facts and/or a shameless instigator of racial division (among other things), using hyperbolic fear- and hatemongering. Regardless, his “argument” doesn’t hold up, either.