I was up late, and CSPAN played the tape of the oral arguments in the Supreme Court’s campaign finance case — a special hearing, BEFORE the regular “First Monday in October” beginning of the Court’s session — this year on October 5, preceded by the creepy “Red Mass” at the National Cathedral and around the country, resurrected from a Medieval Catholic rite.
The Supreme Court examined the constitutional basis of campaign finance law when it re-heard Citizens United v. FEC. New Justice Sonia Sotomayor took part in this special session which was held before the official start of the new term.
Washington, DC : 1 hr. 37 min.
(Yes, I’m a bit nerdy about the Supreme Court. After all John G. Roberts and I have appeared in print together before; in Who’s Who Among American High School Students,1972-1973, Seventh Annual Edition, Vol I. Thus, am I keenly interested in making certain that LaPorte County, Indiana’s biggest numnuts doesn’t screw up the reputation of my high school class of 1973 TOO awfully bad — although what I heard was NOT encouraging. But’s for another day. He really is a narrow, small-minded, prissy little prick, sad to say.)
And Antonin Scalia — reputedly FAR TOO intelligent to have pulled this by accident — was making an astonishing false equivalence (the first Fallacy among Republican liars, which no Republican can live without).
Notorious Jackass Ted Olson
Scalia kept bullying the Solicitor General — who is the official Justice Department arguer of cases before the Supreme Court, OUR government’s lawyer, the “People” in any case entitled “the People versus BLANK,” with a long and sometimes ugly history, as when William Rehnquist, and then Robert Bork were Solicitors General under Nixon — with Rehnquist REFUSING to recuse himself from voting on cases that HE HAD ARGUED when Solicitor General, and Ted Olson, having succeeded in “arguing” Dubya’s case before thug Scalia and the rest of the Five Traitors — which, true to form, included Rehnquist — who became Duibya’s Solicitor General, and who participated in the reargument, with a nod and a wink to the remaining Three Traitors and their new tools, Alito an Roberts, as a “private” lawyer, representing America’s corporations, who seek to overturn any prohibition to their participation in campaign financing.
But Scalia wasn’t bullying THEM. No, he was bullying the current Solicitor General, Ellen Kagan, with a logically specious argument. I’ll make the argument and see if you “get” it.
Note: They don’t allow cameras in the court.
Scalia was saying (in that rude and interrupting manner that the Supreme Court uses for oral arguments — the intellectual equivalent of a dunk tank), come on now, Madame Solicitor General, isn’t it true that the vast majority of corporations are ONE-STOCKHOLDER corporations? (I’m making it sound nicer than it actually was.)
Kagan, to her credit, noted that each of the individual corporation holders was perfectly able to contribute to campaigns AS AN INDIVIDUAL.
So, what’s the fallacy? Take ten seconds and see if you can figure it out.
But she missed the monstrous (and typical GOP) fallacy contained in Scalia’s implicit argument:
The NUMBER of corporations says NOTHING about the effect of the few HUGE corporations: the Fortune 500 probably dwarf the remaining hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of small corporations. Scalia was implicitly creating the false argument that all corporations are equal, and one corporation like my wife’s company equals, say Microsoft.
This is one of the two key Republican arguments of the last 30 years: Your grandmother committed a crime (she double-parked). Charles Mansion committed a crime (I think you need no explanation). Both are criminals, and THEREFORE, your grandmother equals Charlie Manson.
Because of the great dumbing down of the American mind, nobody on the court or IN the court ever addressed the bald-faced BULL that formulation represented.
Just as we never address it in political life.
It is the false equivalence. Saying that ONE thing equals another thing, because, generally, they can be grouped in the same class. In Scalia’s argument, a one-person office is EQUAL to IBM or EXXON. In my example, that Granny is EQUAL to Charlie Manson.
Both are absurd, and I think you’ll have to agree that my absurd example isn’t much more absurd, IF AT ALL, than Scalia’s ridiculous assertion.
Now, at least he’s smart enough NOT to completely make the argument, because he undoubtedly realizes that none of the smart people in the room would let him get away with it.
(And, in case you’re wondering, Roberts and Alito confined themselves to constructing ‘precious’ little logical mousetraps, with Roberts coming across as a petulant and precocious brat, but not anything intellectually befitting the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Shameful.
If you want to read more about the reargument, take a look here:
Analysis: Two precedents in jeopardy — Analysis — If supporters of federal curbs on political campaign spending by corporations were counting on Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., to hesitate to strike down such restrictions, they could take no comfort …)
But the Republicans made exactly the same false equivalence on Tuesday, claiming that the hectoring and harassment of the President of the United States in speaking to school children was OK, because IT HAD BEEN DONE TO BUSH THE SMARTER.
Byron York / Washington Examiner:
When Bush spoke to students, Democrats investigated, held hearings
The controversy over President Obama’s speech to the nation’s schoolchildren will likely be over shortly after Obama speaks today at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. But when President George H.W. Bush delivered …
And, as usual, the critical information was excluded from the argument. It was a false equivalence. Obama = Granny. Bush the Smarter = Manson.
(And note that the “Examiner” is actually just a series of linked, localized group blogs, with the journalistic credibility coming from each individual contributor, not from any editorial quality control. Byron York is a National Review Online blogger, but the Examiner increasingly looks like another way to undermine traditional media, so he posted his nonsense THERE instead, drawing the USUAL blogswarm of false equivelencers — Scroll down to Byron York.)
From the same Examiner THREE DAYS EARLIER:
Video: Bush and Reagan school addresses were very partisan compared to Obama school speech
September 5, 10:27 AM
Political Buzz Examiner Ryan Witt
In my earlier writings discussing the nationwide school addresses of Presidents George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan it turns out I was wrong on one point. It turns out in watchings some clips of the two addresses they were actually very partisan. This new fact makes the conservative hypocrisy toward the neutral Obama school speech even more glaring…
And they were during campaign season, and may well have been an attempt by Bush the Smarter to use the office for campaigning, and use the video of the speech in political ads, etc. The hearings were fit and proper. Even if you don’t agree with that, the false equivalence was used, and in conjunction with the second (note the neat segué) indispensible GOP lie:
Two wrongs make a right.
Let me make the argument in the classical Republican form:
- The media is liberally biased.
(Hell, “Newsbusters,” that collection of trolls, toads and grotesques, prominently claims right in their header: “NewsBusters.org | Exposing Liberal Media Bias” This is the old Tricky Dick attack on media. But they continue to ride the old lie.)
- Therefore, we NEED Rush and Faux Nooz and Hannutty, and WorldNutDaily to FIGHT that bias.
(Because we need to have a FAIR AND BALANCED news).
- Therefore it’s OK for us to be biased. (Outright and straight up.)
You see both the false equivalence AND the two wrongs make a right fallacies involved?
If bias is bad (and the “media” — which includes Rush and Faux Nooz and Hannutty and WorldNutDaulty — is full of “liberal bias”), then it’s OK for US to be blatantly biased:
- Two wrongs make a right.
That is the argument. And nobody calls them on it.
Let’s assume that the predicate is correct (which it most assuredly IS NOT):
- Liberal media bias is bad.
OK. It logically follow that
- CONSERVATIVE MEDIA BIAS IS BAD, TOO!
But, instead, the former is used (when the mainstream media at least make an attempt at providing both sides of the argument) to justify outright and blatant bias in the conservative media as NOBLE and FAIR.
There is no lie more laughable and Big Brotherish than “Fair and Balanced” when applied to Faux Nooz, and anyone not psychotic knows that.
But the “two wrongs make a right” argument is used CONSTANTLY.
If one is bad, then the OTHER is bad, too. Two wrongs do NOT make a right, as has been understood from time immemorial. Wikipedia (but I could cite all day):
Two wrongs make a right is a logical fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that if one wrong is committed, another wrong will cancel it out. Like many fallacies, it typically appears as the hidden major premise in an enthymeme—an unstated assumption which must be true for the premises to lead to the conclusion. This is an example of an informal fallacy.
It is often used as a red herring, or an attempt to change or distract from the issue. For example:
- Speaker A: President Williams lied in his testimony to Congress. He should not do that.
- Speaker B: But you are ignoring the fact that President Roberts lied in his Congressional testimony!
If President Roberts lied in his Congressional testimony, that does not make it acceptable for President Williams to do so as well. (At best, it means Williams is no worse than Roberts.)
The tu quoque fallacy is a specific type of “two wrongs make a right”. Accusing another person of not practicing what they preach, while appropriate in some situations, does not in itself invalidate an action or statement that is perceived as contradictory.
A fallacy that a talented moron could blow out of the water, but each and every day, we accept this idiotic and ancient LIE as somehow meaningful. Here’s something pulled from Memeorandum, at this very moment. I didn’t plan it this way, but you can almost ALWAYS find the “Two wrongs make a right” argument in Republican rhetoric:
So, why do we put up with these two lies?
Strip them from the debate, call them out on them, and they would be as helpless as a stink beetle on its back.
Although they wouldn’t smell as good.