Last Updated on January 25, 2021 by David Vause
I’ve noticed two logical arguments that are repeatedly used by Trumpists, both flawed. To America’s discredit, they seem to be gaining more general use.
In a recent conversation about COVID with a denier, I raised the fact that hospital ICU’s were being overwhelmed as evidence that strong action was needed to mitigate the spread. His reply was to cast doubt on my evidence, saying that hospitals are probably rewarded for inflating the numbers. This is similar to the approach used by others when confronted by statistics showing that nations who combine strong national response, contact tracing, shutdowns, and universal mask wearing have achieved national COVID death rates one or two orders of magnitude lower than that of the U.S. Their reply is often that the way the numbers are tallied must be different.
Generally, just because you posit something that is possible, that doesn’t mean that it actually has occurred or that it is even likely to occur. I’d call this the Stephanos Bibas rebuttal: “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so.” A reply with possible mitigating alternatives is nothing but a Kellyanne alt-fact without the constraint of supporting evidence. While it has internal meaning, it has no contextual value and is not relevant to the discussion in any way other than to confuse the conversation.
The other logical fallacy……if you can even call it logical….is the third person one. It usually begins with a vague look in the speaker’s eyes and the words “Many people are saying…..”. Unlike the previous strategy, this is a completely meaningless remark. While an alt-fact needs to be at least possible, what many people say can be complete nonsense. In fact, it mostly is nonsense, witness the Q-anon movement. Roughly 20% of Americans say that the Sun orbits the Earth. 64 million are a whole lot of people. But their opinion or belief has utterly no bearing on the truth of heliocentrism. The list is long.
When a blatantly erroneous logical argument has been made, it is incumbent on all of us to challenge it on the basis of its logic and refuse to engage in the subject. America is being swamped by conspiracy theories that are obviously not based on facts or have fundamentally flawed logic. If we do not challenge them now, when they occur, they may soon be dominating the nation.