Wednesday, August 05, 2015
Over at (apparently, Not-Quite-So) RationalWiki is an
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.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.
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]
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.
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.