Byers Beware: The Fallacy of the False Analogy

Don’t take my word for it, though. Take John Stuart Mill’s word for it. Keep reading.


Fake Byers

Come the “media” critic who doesn’t understand basic argumentation 101:

Ted Cruz, Wendy Davis and media bias
Dylan Byers / Politico

Sen. Ted Cruz has been speaking on the Senate floor for almost 19 hours, as of this post. The talk is not technically a filibuster — he can’t actually block the Senate from going about its business — but symbolically, it’s more or less the same thing…

No, Dylan, it’s NOT. And therein lies the beclowning.

Dylan Byers

The real fake Byers (nobody would guess that this
guy is the same as in the idealized cartoon above)

We all remember that the GOP has claimed “media bias” as their eternal excuse for criminality, political debauchery and generalized cruelty ever since Tricky Dick lied self-pityingly that the media wouldn’t “have Nixon to kick around anymore” in 1962.

Richard-NixonSelf-pitying Dickie being tricky

Dylan isn’t a dim bulb (at least not superficially) and he knows that there’s nothing like a false equivalence to put him in the good graces of the GOP operatives he plagiarizes his stories from on slow daze. (sic) Listen to this politically slanted filth:

Which is why you can forgive conservatives for being upset with the mainstream media’s coverage of the Cruz affair. When a Democrat like Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis filibusters against abortion restrictions, she is elevated to hero status, her tennis shoes become totems. When Cruz grandstands against Obamacare, he is a laughingstock in the eyes of many journalists on Twitter, an “embarrassment” in the eyes of The New York Times editorial board.

“Gee I wonder why NYT and WaPo and everyone else gave ecstatic coverage to Wendy Davis but not to Ted Cruz. I just can’t make sense of it!” John Podhoretz, the conservative columnist, tweeted on Wednesday morning.

Yes, the difference between filibustering and grandstanding plays a part. Equally important is the fact that Cruz’s theatrics are frustrating members of his own party. But, part of the disparity in coverage is due to the fact that the mainstream media, generally speaking, don’t admire Cruz the way they admired Davis — or rather, they admire him only insofar as he makes for tragicomic theater, whereas they admired her on the merits.

Oh ghod. Dylan Byers defending poor Ted Cruz, wh0 is being SO UNFAIRLY called on his crap. This is pathetic for an alleged “journalist.”

ALG-howie rich-IRS-healthcare

Blatantly biased propaganda that doesn’t sound very
different from Dylan Byers’ – from Howard Rich’s
Americans for Limited Government

Cruz is portrayed in the media as “aimless and self-destructive” (NYT ed board), elitist (GQ) and likely guided more by presidential aspirations than principles (CNN). Josh Marshall, the editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo, had no qualms about coming right out and calling Cruz, his former Princeton colleague, an “arrogant jerk” — and worse.

These portrayals may be accurate or inaccuarate — Cruz certainly has an elitist strain and he certainly has political ambitions. But that’s not the point: The point is that the coverage of Cruz has been critical, and in some cases unforgiving, from the outset. At least initially, Davis wasn’t viewed through a critical lens at all. Her willingness to stand for 11 hours was evidence of the American dream in action. Period.

After Davis’s filibuster in June, she got a glowing Vogue profile and was interviewed by nearly every major network and show that deemed her the new superstar from the Lone Star….

This is the ne plus ultra of “False equivalence.” It is arguing by analogy, except, while it appears identical, it is not at ALL identical.


Politico at work


Analogical Reasoning

The simplest variety of inductive reasoning is argument by analogy, which takes note of the fact that two or more things are similar in some respects and concludes that they are probably also similar in some further respect….

And, a foreshortened analysis of HOW to evaluate such arguments:


Byers at home

Evaluating Analogies

Of course, this argument is not deductively valid; it is always possible that my new car may turn out to be an exception. But there are several considerations that clearly matter in determining the relative strength or weakness of my inductive inference:

  1. Number of instances. If five friends instead of three report their satisfaction with the model I intend to buy, that tends to make it even more likely that I will be satisfied, too. In general, more instances strengthen an analogy; fewer weaken it.
  2. Instance variety. If my three friends bought their Prizms from three different dealers but were all delighted, then my conclusion is somewhat more likely to be true, no matter where I decide to buy mine. In general, the more variety there is among the instances, the stronger the analogical argument becomes.
  3. Number of similarities*. If my new purchase is not only the same make and model from the same dealer but also has the same engine, then my conclusion is more likely to be true. In general, the more similarities there are between the instances and my conclusion, the better for the analogical argument.
  4. Relevance. Of course, the criteria we’re considering apply only if the matters with which they are concerned are relevant to the argument. Ordinarily, for example, we would assume that the day of the week on which a car was purchased is irrelevant to a buyer’s satisfaction with it. But relevance is not something about which we can be terribly precise; it is always possible in principle to tell a story in the context of which anything may turn out to be relevant. So we just have to use our best judgment in deciding whether or not some respect deserves to be considered.
  5. Number of dissimilarities*. If my friends all bought Geos with automatic transmissions and I plan to buy a Geo with a standard transmission, then the conclusion that I will be delighted with my purchase is a little less likely to be true. In general, the fewer dissimilarities between instances and conclusion, the better an analogical argument is.
  6. Modesty of conclusion*. If all three of my friends were delighted with their auto purchases but I conclude only that I will be satisfied with mine, then this relatively modest conclusion is more likely to be true. In general, arguments by analogy are improved when their conclusions are modest with respect to their premises.

[* Go ahead and laugh. When you’ve finished laughing your lol, LOL, ROTFL and ROTFLMAO, etc. I’ll be here. I’ll wait.]

Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis (D, Fort Worth)

KNOWING that claiming Texas Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster is NOT AT ALL the same as Senator from Texas Ted Cruz’s fill-i-bluster, he spends the ENTIRE “analysis” MAKING the two events “equivalent.”

  • Davis’ filibuster was real and stopped a bill shoved through by parliamentary trickery.
  • Cruz’ fill-i-bluster was fake and never could have stopped a bill passed legitimately and upheld by all three branches of government.
  • Davis’ filibuster was a desperation move intended to stand against the removal of a right guaranteed by the constitution by back door means. (Closing nearly all Texas clinics.)
  • Cruz’ fill-i-bluster was a fund raising and image awareness stunt, backed by powerful stealth interests and coordinated by an unseen cabal (named Charlie and David Koch).

I could go on.

kocha cola

Byers claims media bias is taking place by comparing the worst headlines against Cruz with the best headlines for Davis.

(As far as SHEER media saturation, Ted Cruz has garnered more coverage than Wendy Davis could dream of on her best day. But this is ignored by Byers, who also suppresses any negative coverage of Davis and any positive coverage of Cruz, even as Politico hangs on his every sophist’s sleazy word: “)

Oh, and sucking GOP ding-dong:

Which is why you can forgive conservatives for being upset with the mainstream media’s coverage of the Cruz affair …

No: I can not only NOT forgive conservatives for their utter bullshit “victim” stance every time they don’t like something, but I can’t forgive Dylan Byers’ blatant attempt to simultaneously mouth the Republican party line and THEN to pretend it isn’t HIM that’s speaking it. Dishonest, Dysfunctional Dylan.

tea party zombies koch3

Wendy Davis was engaged in an actual filibuster (that demanded she stay on topic and NOT read from Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham to kill time) to stop a clearly oppressive and back-door attempt to strip Constitutionally-guaranteed rights from an entire gender almost entirely by the OTHER gender.

Ted Cruz claims he is protecting the voters from what the voters voted for (twice), for what was passed by House and Senate and then upheld by the Supreme Court.


Wendy Davis was acting on behalf of her office and her gender.

Ted Cruz was behaving like a self-centered asshole. (His ‘base’ I realize, but it’s not the same thing.)

More importantly, he was TRYING TO SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT IN AN ACT OF LITERAL EXTORTION (“We lost the election last fall, but unless you give us what we demand — no health care for 30 million Americans — WE WILL SHUT DOWN THE ENTIRE GOVERNMENT.” That is called “extortion.” It is also called “blackmail” and is morally a crime, even if not literally so.)

L to R Badinov, Natasha, Fearless Leader

Not same as moose and squirrel

This is NOT an analogical equivalent, no matter how fake you’d like to gild your lies.

Wendy Davis was as maligned in the “conservative” media as anything Ted Cruz claims from the “liberal” media. But Byers has to distort this. His claim that being called a “hero” by Vogue magazine is the same as being called (with quite a bit of evidence) an “embarrassment” by the New York Times is laughable. Worse, it’s blatantly biased cherry-picking to create a false equivalency and a false argument:

triangle of fubar

False analogy

Several factors affect the strength of the argument from analogy:

The relevance of the known similarities to the similarity inferred in the conclusion.
The amount and variety of the examples in the analogy.
The number of characteristics that the things being compared share.

An argument from analogy is weakened if it is inadequate in any of the above respects. The term “false analogy” comes from the philosopher John Stuart Mill, who was one of the first individuals to engage in a detailed examination of analogical reasoning.

One of Mill’s examples involved an inference that some person is lazy from the observation that his or her sibling is lazy. According to Mill, sharing parents is not all that relevant to the property of laziness.

A basic example: “The model of the solar system is similar to that of an atom, with planets orbiting the sun like electrons orbiting the nucleus. Electrons can jump from orbit to orbit; so we should study ancient records for sightings of planets jumping from orbit to orbit.”

In this case, Wendy Davis would be the Sun and Ted Cruz the nucleus of a very small and smelly atom.

our friend the atom

Caveat Dylan: let the Byers Beware. Or, rather, Beware Byers. He’s a journalistic whore who will say whatever he thinks will benefit himself. Not a journalist. Journalists don’t behave like this.

If Politico weren’t itself a garbage rag in print and pixel, they’d take Mr. Byers to the woodshed.

But, since he brings them lots of clicks with drivel like this, I’m sure they fellate him at LEAST as enthusiastically as Dylan fellates his GOP “sources” in this piece.

By analogy, of course.

After all, it’s the SAME THING, right?


Beclowning themselves since 2007

I have long considered Politico a bunch of incompetent, amoral, self-centered clowns. This is merely the latest example of their modus operandi. I don’t know how Ken Vogel puts up with being the only real reporter they’ve got there.


Mr. Williams has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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