Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Journalists don't know logic

From The San Diego Union Tribune , October 29,2008, defending Sarah Palin's position on illegal immigration," Boringly sensible":

Now, in a recent interview with Univision, the Spanish-language television network, Palin has staked out a perfectly reasonable position. We know that her position is reasonable not because she agrees with our point of view, though she does, but because she immediately came under fire from the extremes at the right and the left.

No, esteemed journalists of the Tribune, we do not know that to be true. You're committing a logical fallacy called the middle ground fallacy. The centrist position is not always correct, and sometimes the "extremists" are right. Would the Tribune argue that in 1860 we should have taken a middle ground between freeing the slaves and leaving them all in bondage? Maybe Lincoln should have only freed half of them. Perhaps—dare we say it—he was an extremist! He wasn't in the sensible center! What about genocide? How about in Darfur we let half of the people die. That may sound horrible, but we don't want to be extremists!

Please don't post comments on the merits of Palin's position. That's not the point

2 comments:

Greg Lasley said...

Although I agree that we do not "know" Palin is right because her views, as the Tribune suggests, represent the middle ground and are boring and sensible, the Tribune is making a point that your analogies do not address. You may be committing the fallacy of excluding the middle by offering analogies that either do not allow for a middle position (genocide) or ignore the middle position (your reference to Lincoln and slavery). To be more clear on the last point, Lincoln was not an extremist. He was not an abolitionist. He was against the EXPANSION of slavery which inexorably led to a battle over state's rights, the Civil War.
The debate over illegal immigration has a very wide middle. I recently saw a video on the Nova website that I think might more accurately express the sentiment that the Tribune was clumsily trying to express:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/0301/04.html

Jack Davis said...

Greg,

Thank you for your comment. Question: When you say Lincoln was not an extremist, what does that mean? An extremist is in the eye of the beholder. I agree that my analogies were not great. The UT just annoys me so much I had to blast them. This is by no means their first use of the fallacy of the middle, incidentally.