This is an email exchange that I had with a reader over the past few days. I am not publishing their name for obvious reasons. But the emails are fair game as far as I’m concerned. They reveal how desperate the left are becoming and how far they are prepared to go to protect their gains.
Enjoy and despair.
Hi Adam, [Note: although this is quite critical of you I honestly say this with full respect to you as a person – gosh what a leftist thing to say!]
I followed the link to Sarah Hoyt’s article you posted about recently and it was enlightening, not for the reasons that you mentioned however. There is something that has been bothering me about the way you argue your points [though enjoyable as they are to read] and I now realize what it is. You are the king of the ‘straw man argument’, a term I learnt recently but which I’m sure you are familiar.
In case you are not.
[Debaters invoke a straw man when they put forth an argument—usually something extreme or easy to argue against—that they know their opponent doesn’t support. You put forth a straw man because you know it will be easy for you to knock down or discredit. It’s a way of misrepresenting your opponent’s position]
Sarah Hoyt gives us a text book lesson:
‘On the same path, but a different league, middle-class parents are entreated not to read to their kids, lest they give them privilege (cooties) i.e. a head start on other kids. As though this were bad; as though it meant they’re holding someone down by encouraging their KIDS to make the best they can of their circumstances’.
Who could possibly argue that this is not retarded? Of course it is. What parent would honestly stop reading to their children for fear of holding other kids back? A very bad parent, or more truthfully an extremely rare or non-existent one. My kids go to a ‘middle-class’ school and Hoyt’s idea would inspire nothing but laughter.
‘Let’s not forget that hilarious time when an upper middle class, white American woman who’s never done a days hard work in her life came over to lecture me — a first generation immigrant who started from nothing and is writing professionally in her third language about “sensitivity to the downtrodden and racism.”
Again, how could anyone argue that the women in question is not arrogant and ignorant? Of course she is. However Hoyt uses this as apparent ‘evidence’ to discredit decades of research and theories developed by men and women in the area of sociology and other fields of human studies. Now, you might think all those theories and research are bullshit but you actually need to use an argument to discredit them. Hoyt merely compares her own ‘superior self’ to some random ‘American women’ who gave a speech some years ago.
So after Sarah Hoyt has put forward these dishonest and highly subjective points she gets to summarise them as ‘all of this insanity’. Thus the straw man argument is complete, ready to convince people who do not have much knowledge on the subject but are keen to go along with the premise.
You do this in many of your posts Adam, I do not have time to go through all of them but will happily provide examples if you ask.
I’m writing to you because I don’t feel these thoughts would be appreciated in the comments section of your blog.
No need for a reply as I understand it’s exhausting engaging with annoying leftists like me!
Yes, I am well aware of the strawman argument. Let’s look at the definition shall we?
“A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent‘s argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be “attacking a straw man”.”The key word here is opponent. Pray tell, exactly who is my opponent when I write an article? Who is Sarah Hoyt’s opponent in the article she has written?
There are none. Your entire premise is incorrect.
Furthermore, your examples of supposed strawman arguments by Hoyt are in fact her personal anecdotes. To refute her personal anecdote you use your own personal anecdote:
“My kids go to a ‘middle-class’ school and Hoyt’s idea would inspire nothing but laughter.”
Is that a strawman argument as well? Nope.
“However Hoyt uses this as apparent ‘evidence’ to discredit decades of research and theories developed by men and women in the area of sociology and other fields of human studies. Now, you might think all those theories and research are bullshit but you actually need to use an argument to discredit them.”
Okay. Would a strawman argument do?
You argue that anyone in their right mind would see this as retarded. I agree. But the retardness does not stop there. This is from a major US university:
332 supposed genders. Count them if you dare. There is no limit to the retardness that decades of research and theories in sociology and human studies has provided us. To discredit them we simply present what they themselves are claiming. How many examples of this rubbish would you like me to provide?
Sociology is junk science at best.
I appreciate your reply and must confess that you’ve outdone me with the straw man definition. Touche.
However you have helped me refine my point which still stands.
As you pointed out, Hoyt’s arguments ‘are in fact her personal anecdotes’.
If someone was recommending a restaurant or a travel destination I would probably take on board their personal opinion or anecdote (depending on who they were). This is despite my awareness that they are an individual with subjective views that are not universally applicable. However I believe this is an acceptable way to form an opinion where the outcome is not earth shattering.
However, if someone is talking about important social issues involving class, gender and social justice, as Hoyt is doing, I would suggest that using personal anecdotes as evidence is highly problematic.
‘Misuse of anecdotal evidence is an informal fallacy and is sometimes referred to as the “person who” fallacy ‘
If Hoyt is making a sweeping point about the hugely complex issue of social justice using anecdotal evidence, then I believe it is perfectly reasonable for me to reject her analysis by providing my own personal anecdote as a way to expose her overall point, that ‘social justice is feudalism’, as fallacy.
My point is Adam, people read this stuff and believe it as ‘news’, they’re sick of the MSM and are increasingly turning to bloggers for their information and analysis who are often just promoting their own personal opinions without providing any real evidence or reliable arguments. This is as dangerous as a corrupt media.
You views on recycling are an example of using personal anecdotes in a problematic way. I’m referring to ‘The Modern man does not recycle’
If you knew anything about real environmental conversation you would know that there are three steps in reducing human waste 1. Reduce (consumption) 2. Reuse (you’re vegemite jar as a sugar bowl) and 3. Recycle.
Ask anyone is the conservation game and they will tell you that recycling is the least effective method of reducing human waste because the consumption has already happened.
So in the case of your friends who justify their gross overconsumption of plastic plates by saying ‘don’t worry we recycle’, they are doing jack shit to address waste and are simply part of the problem. Any Greenie would agree with you that this is ignorant and wrong.
However you use this personal anecdote to undermine recycling as a concept and by doing so you also undermine the far more important concept of reducing unnecessary and wasteful human consumption that is damaging our planet. A wealth of information here http://storyofstuff.org/movies/
Call it what you want, you and Hoyt are influencing impressionable people’s minds in a way that is not always leading them to the truth.
And back I go again:
I didn’t outdo you with the strawman definition. That you can wave away such a fundamental misunderstanding on your part in that manner truly astounds me. If I were you I’d seriously consider going back to the university at which you studied and demand a full refund.
And yet you shrug off what was the greater part of your previous email and soldier on as if nothing had occurred that was amiss. And then you have the sheer gall to lecture me that my opinions are “dangerous”. People read my articles as news? What are you smoking? Do you have any understanding of what you have written here? What you are advocating is totalitarianism through self-censorship. And I’m not going to bother explaining why because I’m beginning to seriously doubt your capacity to understand. And besides, it is only possible to convince someone who thinks that they can benefit from being convinced.
I’m not going to ask anyone in the conservation game anything because I don’t trust anyone who needs an income. And unlike you I don’t believe in saving the planet. I’m not that arrogant. The planet is perfectly capable of looking after itself. It has survived much much worse than us. Your “saving the planet” is a risible excuse to stop people from voicing uncomfortable truths.
“Call it what you want, you and Hoyt are influencing impressionable people’s minds in a way that is not always leading them to the truth.”
Unlike you I give people the benefit of the doubt to have the brain capacity to make up their own minds. I don’t go around attempting to shield them from “problematic views”. I present my argument in place of another one. After that then they’re on their own. If my views are so problematic then I would posit that your “truths” do not contain as much truth as you so desperately wish to believe.