Discombobulated by Palin

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Over at (apparently, Not-Quite-So) RationalWiki is an unintentionally amusing "explanation" of the presumably fallacious charge that something is a "Gotcha argument". I ran across this while researching the so-called Argumentum ad tl:dr, itself a variant of the "Gish Gallop". In case it has changed since May 17, I quote the entry regarding "Gotcha arguments" in its entirety:

A Gotcha argument is a claim that another's argumentation is invalid because it backs an idiot into a corner that cannot be fought out of, usually through use of facts, logic and/or scientific knowledge to crush one's superstitions.

Sarah Palin accuses reporters of this -- by name of "gotcha journalism" -- as a way to "cover" her inability to answer simple questions and to make the "liberal media" seem like the bad guys.

To avoid such allegations when arguing with neoconservatives, one must avoid any and all use of facts, reason or anything deemed to be "elitist" (e.g., shoes, proper grammar, half a brain, a higher education that didn't take 6 years to complete, ability to answer simple questions, ability to talk, knowledge that the earth isn't flat and is also far older than 6,000 years old, basic understanding of anything outside the US, owning a foreign car). [links and footnote markers omitted]
Not to defend Sarah Palin, but observe that she drives the author of this piece (that RationalWiki calls a "stub", to be fair) so batty that he seems to confuse neoconservatives with religious fundamentalists, among other things. He is so beside himself that he seems to forget that he is writing to teach people about rhetoric and the use of logic, taking the truth of his own presumably leftist political opinions for granted. Had the writer not made me laugh, I would have been annoyed. In any case, how likely is someone to find this source reliable when such undisciplined writing appears there? If the author is so easily distracted, and makes such obvious mistakes, why should be trust him on other things? Other articles at RationalWiki seem fine, but it is fair to question someone in large things when he can't be trusted in small ones.

Aside from a good laugh, I came away with an unintended, easy-to-remember lesson in rhetoric: Remember why and for whom you write. Psychological distance -- waiting between drafts and before publishing -- can help with this, and prevent one from writing badly, and potentially harming one's own credibility.

-- CAV

P.S. I occurs to me that the entry was meant to be funny, If so, the humor is so ham-fisted that any laughter remains unintentional.


Snedat said...

Yo, Gus, that's the major use I have for Palin--watching ignoble louts froth at the mouth just because she exists. Sort of "Let's you and her fight!"

Hoondat said...

It's easy to be sympathetic to Palin because of the deranged hate she's borne. The day before she was announced as McCain's running mate, few had heard of her. The day after, the Left was frothing with rage over her, even though the only thing they knew enough to criticize was that they had never heard of her (i.e., she was "inexperienced").

By the time reasons emerged to rationally dislike her, they were only a footnote to the hate, and she got to show bravery by unapologetically facing wrath that she never had the stature to deserve in the first place.

It hurts me to draw this parallel, but I expect to see a lot of Republicans and independents lining up with Trump, as a backlash against the ridiculous attacks the Left will launch. I hope I'm wrong. I really want to be wrong.

Gus Van Horn said...


You're more creative than I.


I think lots of people like Trump because he appears to be unfraid to speak his mind. That can be a good quality, when the mind in question is a principled supporter of liberty. Sadly, that is not the case for Trump, and many of these same people are too mixed-up to see that. Many take his wealth, for example, as indicative of some kind of superior understanding of capitalism. Judging by his mixed-economy views, that simply isn't the case.