By Anthony Deyal
Comedian Robin Williams, famous for his quips like, “Cricket is baseball on Valium” and “Never pick a fight with an ugly person, they’ve got nothing to lose”, has two that are related to today’s politics. “People say satire is dead. It’s not dead; it’s alive and living in the White House” and “When in doubt, go for the dick joke.” This is my cue to bring in Donald Trump and other politicians who satisfy Robin’s definition of politics, “Politics: ‘Poli’ a Latin word meaning ‘many’ and ‘tics’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures’.”
On Wednesday, Huff Post reported, “Trump dangerously suggested, with no evidence whatsoever, that a 75-year-old protester shoved by police in Buffalo, New York, last week could be ‘a set up’ by ‘an ANTIFA provocateur’. Martin Gugino, a longtime activist, remained hospitalized with a serious head injury.” During the Republican presidential primaries, Trump pointed to what he called the “horse face” of his rival candidate, Carly Fiorina, and maliciously quipped, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?”
Trump’s ultra-aggressive and disrespectful behaviour towards his opponents is part of a growing political pattern in the Caribbean. It is what is called in logic a “fallacy” or mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound arguments. One example of a fallacy is, “Given what some people can do with PhotoShop, the notion that the camera never lies is a fallacy.” The online site, “bigthink.com” in an article, “6 logical fallacies politicians often use- and how to guard yourself against them” makes the point, “Logical fallacies will be everywhere this election season. Here’s how to find the bad arguments and beat them.”
While there are many people, especially in the US right now, who would prefer to beat the bad politicians and not just their bad arguments, we need to understand that succumbing to a political fallacy is easy, detecting its flaw is much more difficult especially if you want to believe the person peddling it. “THE HILL” online came up with a reality-based game for Trump watchers called, “Name that Fallacy” and made the point from King Lear (to the blind Duke of Gloucester) “Get thee glass-eyes and like a scurvy Politician, seem to see the things thou dost not.”
The most common of the many different types of fallacies and the one politicians use as their first response is the “Ad Hominem” (Against Man) in which the personal traits of opponents are attacked rather than the merits of any argument they make. Although Trump has made this fallacy his “go-to” and trademark, it did not start with him. Socrates, the Greek (470 – 399 BC.) looked like a Satyr and so his opponents used ad hominem attacks to shoot down his undoubted logic, “Socrates arguments about the good life are worthless. What could a man so ugly know about anything?”
In the British parliament, playwright and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan said of the Earl of Dundee, “The Right Honourable Gentleman is indebted to his memory for his jests and to his imagination for his facts.” General George McClellan criticised his Commander-in-Chief, Abraham Lincoln, as “nothing more than a well-meaning baboon.” Trump, though, is the master of attacking the person and not the facts. He refers to his major political opponent, Joe Biden, as “Sleepy Joe”, “Crazy” and “Quid Pro Joe.” Former president, George W. Bush is, “Bush Original”, Bill Clinton is “Wild Bill” and Hilary is “Crazy”, “Crooked” and “Skank.”
The fact that Trump seems to be walking or even dancing on a very slippery slope, might explain why the “Slippery Slope” is his second favourite fallacy. Essentially, this fallacy assumes that a minor action will lead to major and extreme outcomes. A Non-Trump but useful example is a parent saying, “If we allow our 14-year-old to have her first date tonight, what’s next? A wedding? Children?” A political example from the past is, “If we let women vote, the next thing you know we’ll let animals vote!” In the US we have been hearing for years, “Ban semi-automatic assault rifles and, the next thing you know, we’ll be living in a totalitarian state.” Trump used this one, “You know what’s going to happen. Ford is going to build a plant and illegals are going to drive those cars right over the border. Then they’ll probably end up stealing the cars.”
Commenting on the growing public demand for the removal of the statue of Confederate and anti-black General Robert E. Lee, Trump took his audience to illogical extremes, “This week its Robert E. Lee. I notice that Stonewall Jackson’s (statue is) coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” What is interesting is that Trump actually uses the term “slippery slope” himself. Echoing an argument by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that even modest gun control regulations would inevitably lead to more stringent ones, Trump claimed that the US already had very strong background checks and that officials needed to be wary of the prospect of “a slippery slope” where “everything gets taken away.”
Fearing a red-neck reprisal, Trump is trying to go back on his commitment to enhance background checks following two mass shootings that killed 31 people in August 2019.
There are a lot of other fallacies that (poli) tick me off. There are “Unwarranted Generalizations” like Trump using a snowstorm to say he had prayed for “that good old-fashioned Global Warming.” The “Straw Man” which attacks an opponent on a position the person or organisation does not actually hold, for example, “Democrats don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth” or that they have become “a party of crime” and “want to open our borders to a flood of deadly drugs and ruthless gangs” and create a “giant sanctuary for criminal aliens and MS-13 thugs.”
There are others but I will end with what we call the “Red Herring”. Two days after attorney general Sessions (who Trump said was mentally retarded and a dumb Southerner) recused himself from the Justice Department investigations of Russian meddling in the election of 2016, Trump tweeted, “Terrible. Just found out that Obama had ‘my wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.” While Trump predicts that “Obama will go down as the worst president in the history or our country”, there are many people who are hoping, praying and doing their best to ensure that in the interest of their country, Trump just goes down.
*Tony Deyal was last seen saying that believing Trump and other politicians is like being breastfed through falsies.