Arguments just don’t make sense
When I was in sixth grade, I took a high-level course in argumentative logic. Blessings be upon my home-schooling mom for making me take that class. Most of the terms and rules have escaped my memory, proving to me the uselessness (or so I thought) of studying such an esoteric discipline.
Now, I doubt that I, or anyone else not obsessed with procedural law, could remember exactly what is meant by the logical fallacy known as “asserting the consequent”, but I can, somewhere in the recesses of my ancient memory, recall a particular logical fallacy known as “ad hominem.” Anyone who has dropped a Latin class as recently as I have should know that “ad hominem” can be loosely translated as “toward the man.” Essentially, it means that anyone who has committed this fallacy has based their argument on an attack against their opponent’s character, instead of their opponent’s argument.
Let us now turn to a seemingly unrelated topic: The Union’s Opinion page. Over the past week or so, there has been a great deal of debate over Michael Moore’s controversial documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.” It has been roundly criticized, supported, and generally argued over in a heated and somewhat (if I may be so bold to point out) illogical fashion.
Let us, then, apply a logical analysis to both The Union’s Opinion section and to Mr. Moore’s film. Mr. Moore has never been afraid to state what he thinks, in as clear a manner as possible. Taking this into account, let us consider that his films are another way for him to speak his mind.
“Fahrenheit 9/11” depicts President Bush as incompetent, cowardly, and stupid. But again, let us remember that it is not an unbiased, perfect source that has compiled this collection of video, but Mr. Moore, whose agenda is to make President Bush look bad. I am friends with professional videographers who, using only newsreels and speech clips, coupled with heroic music by Aaron Copland, could create a picture of President Bush as a the most perfect, powerful leader of men ever to exist, doing what is Absolutely Right for his country.
I submit to you that neither picture is completely accurate. In most legal situations, an ad hominem attack is thrown out, not because it is not true, but because it is beside the point – the person’s character is not the issue at hand, only their arguments, or in President Bush’s case, his policies. I am not suggesting that we ignore Mr. Moore’s message – rather, that we realize that the main message of “Fahrenheit 9/11” is, essentially, beside the point.
By this time, the conservatives among The Union’s reader’s are snickering. Don’t laugh yet. The conservatives have denounced Mr. Moore as an un-American, unpatriotic member of the evil White Trashian race who lives for one purpose – to spread the Evil One’s messages of liberal lies and deceit by saying that the government is wrong.
I detect an argument aimed “toward the man.” It is ridiculous to label Mr. Moore as un-American – he’s living the American Dream! He can speak his mind and millions of people listen to him. On top of that, he’s making buckets of money. Un-American? Of course not. Name-calling directed at liberals and Mr. Moore is just as beside the point as calling the president a “stupid head.”
By this time, The Union’s liberal readers have forgiven me my earlier statements about Mr. Moore’s film. I suggest that the liberals re-read the preceding paragraph, and think about the times that they have written in to call conservatives “pseudo-patriots,” or dismissed an opinion because its author was a member of the massive right-wing conspiracy that is somehow both massive and confined to the obviously minuscule ranks of the foolish few supporters of Dictator Bush. Enough said, I think.
Everybody in this debate is right, and, unfortunately, wrong as well. So I suggest that the next time you feel the urge to write to The Union, do so in a calm, collected, ad-hominem-free manner.
My old logic course states that any argument made without respect is invalid. Who am I to argue with good old Aristotle? And in words that would do my 9-year-old brother proud, I bid all you “stupid heads” to shut up.
Blaise Douros, 19, attends St. Olaf College, where he dropped Latin last semester. He has three younger brothers and a younger sister, all of whom insult him daily.
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