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  xWednesday, June 18, 2003

wow


Simply amazing...Arthur Silber cites Ayn Rand (quoted below in italics) to point out the intellectual dishonesty of many hawks' rhetoric.
There is a certain type of argument which, in fact, is not an argument, but a means of forestalling debate and extorting an opponent's agreement with one's undiscussed notions. It is a method of bypassing logic by means of psychological pressure. Since it is particularly prevalent in today's culture...one would do well to learn to identify it and be on guard against it.

This method bears a certain resemblance to the fallacy ad hominem, and comes from the same psychological root, but is different in essential meaning. The ad hominem fallacy consists of attempting to refute an argument by impeaching the character of its proponent. Example: 'Candidate X is immoral, therefore his argument is false.'

But the psychological pressure method consists of threatening to impeach an opponent's character by means of his argument, thus impeaching his argument without debate. Example: 'Only the immoral can fail to see that Candidate X's argument is false.'

In the first case, Candidate X's immorality (real or invented) is offered as proof of the falsehood of his argument. In the second case, the falsehood of his argument is asserted arbitrarily and offered as proof of his immorality.

...The essential characteristic of the Argument from Intimidation is its appeal to moral self-doubt and its reliance on the fear, guilt or ignorance of the victim. It is used in the form of an ultimatum demanding that the victim renounce a given idea without discussion, under threat of being considered morally unworthy.

...Let me emphasize that the Argument from Intimidation does not consist of introducing moral judgment into intellectual issues, but of substituting moral judgment for intellectual argument....


For example, take the well-known accusation that anyone who opposed the war with Iraq is "objectively pro-Saddam," and was "damaging our troops" in voicing his concerns. Many people have analyzed in detail the numerous flaws in this kind of "argument," so here I will only address a few highlights. Most obviously, it is clearly not true: one can obviously view Saddam as a monster, and a ruler who deeply deserved to be removed from power -- but still have numerous questions about the best way to have gone about that, and to remove any threat he might have genuinely represented to the United States.

But this is a perfect example of the Argument from Intimidation. The meaning of the smear is simply this, following the pattern provided by Rand: "Only those who are evil, who support Saddam's continuing in power, who support the killing of children, who support torture, and who hate America, can oppose the war with Iraq." And this is explicitly what many supporters of the war said, numerous times. And here is the crucial point: as Ayn Rand has Ellsworth Toohey say in The Fountainhead, "But there's always a purpose in nonsense. Don't bother to examine a folly—ask yourself only what it accomplishes."

And what does this smear about those who opposed the war with Iraq accomplish, a smear which is all too obviously not true about many of those who opposed the war? It seeks to end the debate. [Emphasis in the original]

Impressive...and quite true. Keep these tactics in mind as Bush attempts to dodge questions about the veracity of his prewar claims with assertions of the nobility of deposing Saddam. The question isn't the condition of democracy in Iraq -- although such is obviously some time from appearing -- but the condition of democracy in the United States.

(via Ted Barlow)





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