argument21 May 2004
Two things, quickly:
First, fallacies are bad. Usually this goes without saying, but it seems one form of logical fallacy – the “slippery slope” argument – is being used increasingly as an actual argument. Indeed, the entire case against gay marriage these days is one giant slippery slope fallacy. But more disturbing is that I’ve seen it used intentionally with seeming obliviousness to the fact that it’s a logical error. Example: Bill Hobbs:
The slippery slope runs from having five judges decide for all of America that gay marriage is legal, to having judges order a pro-gay marriage content be inserted into the public school curriculum (so as to not discriminate), and then to defining speech against gay marriage as “hate speech.”
It has happened elsewhere, and will happen here.
If you’re going to try to get away with a slippery slope argument it’s usually best to not actually use the phrase “slippery slope”. I mean, come on.
Second, I want to talk about Godwin’s Law. Godwin’s Law has mutated from a simple observation to a cudgel used to bludgeon anyone that dares mention Hitler whatsoever. This exceeds its mandate. Let’s compare two hypothetical examples:
Person 1: I like cats
Person 2: Well, I don’t like cats.
… 60 or so messages back and forth …
Person 1: Well, you know who else didn’t like cats? HITLER, THAT’S WHO!
Is invoking Godwin’s Law appropriate here? Absolutely. Cats don’t really merit a comparison to Hitler. Don’t be an idiot.
Person 1: I’m against the war in Iraq.
Person 2: Why do you hate America? You shouldn’t criticize our president in wartime. Don’t you support our troops? You’re giving aid and comfort to the enemy. If you ask me, we should just nuke the entire region into polished glass, and take out the NYT headquarters while we’re at it. Those people just don’t appreciate our liberation.
Person 1: Whoa, settle down there, Hitler.
Is invoking Godwin’s Law appropriate here? No. When discussing the call to war and making a case for the fervent nationalism, propagandizing, and racist rhetoric that has led us there, a parallel to the rise of Nazism is pretty fucking appropriate. I think the lessons we learned from World War II and Hitler’s reign of terror are a little too important to be excluded from discussion because of some stupid law about USENET trolling. Don’t be an idiot.
That is all.