Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Attn “Mr.” Beck: Sarcasm is a poor substitute for logic

So, LB was telling me a short while ago that he can’t stand Glenn Beck, but he hasn’t yet been able to discern why. I don’t normally watch pundit shows of any type, but this piqued my interest, so I have been watching his show instead of flipping past during the commercial breaks of my normal shows. I have been quite able to put my finger on why LB wouldn’t like him, and frankly neither do I. Last night’s episode serves as a prime example of why. Aside from needing anger management therapy, what is truly disturbing about this pundit is his utter lack of any ability to put forth a logical argument. (One could argue that this is true of any pundit from either end of the political spectrum, but I think this one is particularly bad and, frankly, it probably contributes to his rather poor ratings for a conservative pundit).

In his show from Monday, March 3rd, he opened with a rant about Gloria Steinem. In the following paragraphs I will dissect his arguments with respect to logical fallacies, of which descriptions can be found here. But first I’d like to add a disclaimer: yes, I’m a feminist. In fact, sometimes I’m even cranky. I respect a lot of what Gloria Steinem has done to improve the lives of American women, and I even support some of her ideas. I actually disagree with a lot of her positions; I tend to ascribe more to third wave feminist thought as well as many of bell hooks’ theories. Just cuz Gloria and I are both feminists doesn’t mean we think the same. But that’s beside the point. Anyway, I don’t plan on addressing her or her positions here (aside from clarifications); this post is only focused on Mr. Beck’s arguments. Oh, and also, the transcript from which I pulled text can be found here.

On to business.
Well, hello, America.After this past weekend, blood shot right out of my eyes*. I can`t -- Hillary Clinton must be asking herself, "What the hell am I doing? With supporters like mine, who needs political enemies?"

According to the "New York Observer," cranky feminist Gloria Steinem spoke Saturday night at a women for Hillary campaign event in Austin, Texas, where Ms. Steinem shared some choice words for the likely Republican nominee and war hero, John McCain. So here`s "The Point" tonight.
First stop. Not included in the transcript is how Glenn used finger scare quotes (and dripping vocal sarcasm) around the title Ms (and around the word choice, too). I’m not sure what his intent was exactly, however finger quotes in a similar context are often used to denote that the word isn’t real or appropriate. “Mr.” Beck might like to know that the usage and entymology of Ms. as a title for women predates second-wave feminism and is, like Miss and Mrs., an abbreviation of the title Mistress. It had been, for quite some time, used as a title for women not specific to marital status (prior to the 17th century). The use of Ms. is actually a way in which feminism has reclaimed a word that had been traditionally used and resurrected it into the English colloquium. It wasn’t made-up by any means. If Ms. can be put in scare quotes, then, so can Mr., I suppose. This is the first example of his many ad hominem fallacies. That, or "Mr." Beck has no idea how to use finger quotes.
Good news. Gloria is irrelevant. She`s out of touch, but she is enjoying her equal right to be as moronic and idiotic as anybody else. And here`s how I got there.
Another ad hominem fallacy (in bold).

I want you to know I am -- as you can probably tell -- no fan of the 73-year-old Gloria Steinem. Never have been. Never liked her all that much. Has nothing to do with her fight for women`s rights. I support equality for women across the board. That`s the way it should be.** But I differ from Steinem in one important way: I`ve always supported a women`s right to do anything that she wants to do, and that includes staying at home and raising a family. Being a full-time mother is infinitely much more of a full-time job than anything I possibly could do, and I feel it is life`s greatest honor and responsibility. And yet, feminists like Gloria Steinem trash women like that all the time. Steinem and her all-too-aging hippy gal-pals just don`t see it that way. I believe they`ve done more to hurt the self-esteem of those women than men ever did.

Straw man fallacy (in bold). Also a lie. Ms. Steinem has said again (between 20:00 and 25:00) and again (about halfway down, on the question about the “revaluing Economics” chapter) and again that she supports homemakers, she recognizes that they perform necessary, grueling and unpaid work. One of her platforms is that homemakers should be more valued, semantically, economically and socially.

Additionally, this entire section can be seen as an ad hominem fallacy because Mr. Beck’s real point in this episode is to address her quote about John McCain. None of the above has anything to do with that quote.

She also is fervently antiwar. What a surprise! You`re kidding me! A peacenik `60s era radical? No way. Really?
Of course a peacenik is antiwar. That’s the definition of peacenik. “A bean is a legume? No way. Really?”
She was out in full force in Austin over the weekend. She wasted no time laying into John McCain. She said, and I quote, "Suppose John McCain had been Joan McCain and he got captured. The media would ask, `What did you do wrong to get captured? What terrible things did you do while you were there as a captive for eight years`?"
This is a non sequitur. Just because Steinem uses John McCain’s name in an example, doesn’t mean she was criticizing or “laying into” him. Her argument is that a female POW from that era would not be treated the same way as a male POW was.
Unbelievably, the audience laughed.

And then she followed up with, quote, "I mean, hello? Is this supposed to be a qualification to be president? I don`t think so." That was clever. She must have speechwriters. "I am so grateful," she went on to say, "that Clinton hasn`t been trained to kill anybody." Well, you know what? With all of that malicious bull crap, here`s the point you need to know tonight, America.
In bold: again, non sequitur. This actually just a continuation of the previous non sequitur. Italicized: A separate non sequitur; Mr. Beck does not show how the statement is “bull crap” ergo there is no logical reason to believe it is.
You may not want to vote for John McCain, and you know, you may not respect John McCain`s politics, but he has earned the right to be respected for his service and sacrifice to this country, hasn`t he? I can`t even imagine the full extent of his wounds. He lived in a bamboo cage for five and a half years. And they pulled his arms out of the sockets.
This is a false continuum. Saying being a POW is not supposed to be a qualification for president is not saying that he hasn’t earned the right to be respected for being a POW. This might also be considered a straw man.
I believe the time that he spent living in Vietnam prison camps in a bamboo cage probably taught him a couple of things about commitment, about loyalty, about courage. Those sure sound like traits I want in my president. Now, let me be clear. If -- if -- if the liberal thinking is that you can`t take apart John Kerry, you know, for throwing away medals, how could you possibly take apart John McCain for living in a bamboo cage?
In bold: both a false reductio ad absurdum (one doesn’t have to “take apart” Kerry to “take apart” McCain, even though they both served in the military) and a false dichotomy. (Mr. Beck also seems to think that Steinem speaks for all liberals and/or is the only source of liberal thinking. I’m not sure which type of logical fallacy this is, but it’s certainly incorrect). Italicized: The same, original non sequitur/straw man. Steinem never criticized McCain for “living in a bamboo cage”.
You know what? Sorry, Gloria. But in case you haven`t realized, we need selfless Americans like John McCain serving our country. And John McCain ain`t alone. There are countless thousands like him, and they are trained to kill people because people are trying to kill us. Although you`re scary enough to scare away some of our freakiest enemies, I`ll bet.
Another ad hominem (in bold).
Old lady activists may be good at getting applause from progressive political rallies, but they suck at defending our nation.
Ad hominem. Yawn.

I stopped watching at this point, because I figured the commercial break for Futurama was over (I was right). However, when I looked up the transcript for this show, it seemed Mr. Beck’s guest had a much better grasp of logic than he did:
Rep. Heather Wilson (R), New Mexico: I thought that what Gloria said was appalling and offensive to everyone who`s ever served in the military, including the many men and women who have -- have been captured in the service of their country.
This actually follows from Steinem’s assertion that a female POW would not be as respected and honored as a male POW. See, Glenn? Countering your opponent’s argument logically and concisely isn’t that hard. It seems you entirely missed “The Point.”

* I would truly love to see that. I am glad, however, that he did not use the overused, wrong and stupid adjective of “literally”.

** Translation: “I’m not sexist, but…” A nice way to subvert the truth of the following statement, much like “No offense” and “Bless her heart”.

1 comment:

M said...

So I have no time to read but EEEK I am super glad you're blogging and it's good to 'see' you again! I've missed you and those black pets too!!! xoxoxo