Why Outrageous Election Memes Are Actually Good

Science magazine recently published a fascinating article about an enormous battle in the bronze age. It caught my wandering eye of Saruman because we doubt and do the parental “mmhmmm dear” when it comes to what the ancients wrote about themselves (I’m pretty sure Ancient Egypt’s “NFL” was called “WCETB” or “Who Can Exaggerate The Best”) so finding physical evidence to validate such claims is kind of a big deal. But what does this have to do with Trump vs. Hillary? It’s that people have been fighting for a very long time.  

To parents I'm sure this is obvious. This morning I optimistically checked the tide chart and threw everyone in the car for a spontaneous tide pool hike. I error intentionally on the side of not thinking through the ramifications of such actions so that I don’t talk myself out of it, but suffice it to say I was paying the consequences (willingly) when three hours later I ended up back at home with four soggy kids and a vehicle that’s slowly turning into its own ocean eco-system of sand, seaweed and something that smells suspiciously like rotting crab. Give it a few more weeks and our Mazda will be in contention for the world's smallest pacific island. As such, it is hard for me to differentiate one super special, one-of-a-kind, one-rock-to-rule-them-all from another. In the mayhem I misguidedly shut down one of my sweet angel children multiple times thinking he was asking for ice cream when he was really asking for anti-theft protection. His brothers capitalized on my distraction, joined forces and claimed power of the one true rock to rule them all.  

...And that’s how I ended up with my own Bronze Age battle on my back porch. You can’t shut someone down consistently without frustrations building up like a pressure cooker.

There are no perfect sides. Every opinion this side of heaven is a pie graph of partly true and partly flawed. I’m not even sure it’s a bad thing that we usually see the insanity of another person’s political opinions but not our own. Human brains can’t help but try to fix things, build things, and improve on things, so disagreeing is the biological chisel in the toolbox of modern thinking.  

But if it helps... next time you feel your blood pressure rising as you research other countries to move to if either one of the political candidates becomes president… remember that this is how history sorts itself out. Don’t try to shut down, police or parent the rhetoric war going on right now because discourse (even if it’s Nazi/Doltist/Fascist/Marxist/Imbecilic etc) is better than World War II. Ideas have to go through the gauntlet and stand on their own merit.  Embrace it! It’s a good thing and join it if your conscience dictates.  

...at the very least it might give future historians something to do.

 

3 Logical Fallacies And Why They're Good

There is literally no one less qualified to talk about this than me, but since that’s actually kind of the point… I’ll carry on and hope Aristotle doesn’t roll over in his grave.

A long time ago someone observed the way humans argue about things (the kind that wasn't entirely comprised of stabbing them or something). This person waxed eloquent with a pen for a very long time and dubbed it "Rhetoric" i.e. "How to convince someone Trump is Hitler by saying "I can't even....<emoticon> <emoticon>" (I kid, I kid, that's obviously only one example). 

There are two sorts of Rhetoric, external and internal.  External is boring, so moving on…

Internal Rhetoric is where it’s at. It’s the Rembrandt of persuasion, the beauty of The Colbert Report and pretty much the gas station that fuels Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (my exact age can probably be deduced Sherlock Holmes style from that sentence). Under this internal rhetoric is a whole bunch of important stuff like charisma and logic but zooming way in there is fallacy (which sounds vaguely dirty and probably has some etymological correlation). Fallacies get a bad rap these days and it’s such a bummer. Instead of thinking of fallacies as bad logic (which it is), think of it as shortcut to winning! Logic is like bringing a knife to a gunfight...you can only use knives if everyone else is.     

For your perusal, here are the three best ones to use during this election season. All sides, including my own bastardized side use it, so I’ll try to be fair. 

Ad Hominem

The two presidential candidates aren’t even the guiltiest of this and you see it mostly in comment threads when things get heated. I think the reason is actually biological. When someone encounters views they consider dangerous the first instinct is to do the philosophical version of curling up in the fetal position and yelling “LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS!”. If you feel your chest start to tighten up and your blood start to pound in your ears as you can’t believe the rubbish someone is posting this is a warning sign you might be about to launch an ad hominem attack.  

 

Correlation does not imply causation

This is a personal favorite and I find myself using it all of the time. In my defense I think humans are infinitely suspicious creatures and it’s second nature to see connecting strands. Often times those connecting strands might even be correct! I vote everyone puts their correlative/causation opinions in a big jar and bury them in a time capsule. In twenty years take them all out and see which ones Father Time has fulfilled with missing pieces and see if there is a pattern on who had the more right correlations. I think this is what Solomon would do.  

 

Strawman

Straw man fallacies are more of a team sport. It typically happens when you’ve split a concept into two sides (Vaccines are bad/good...public school is bad/good…immigration is bad/good). This sets the stage for the strawman catapult which is a projectile you launch into the enemy camp with the word “seems” loaded on it. Anytime you see someone say “it seems like…” you can rest soothingly in the knowledge you’re about to get taken out by a strawman attack. Related to this is calling a position “hate” or arguing for “love”. Both are abstract concepts with a multitude of interpretations, but they carry strong emotional weight so it’s an easy way to take the opposing side down.  And it’s understandable, humans like to win. If we didn’t, we would have died out a long time ago. No one wants to be on the losing side, and no one wants to look foolish so we all hope we’ve picked, if not the winning side, then at least the righteous side.  

 

Of course the number of fallacies are like stars in the sky, and this list barely scratches the surface, but knowledge is power and all that. My rule of thumb is this: If the person is waving the white flag of reason, then by all means bench the fallacies and discourse accordingly. But if the battle lines are drawn and everyone has shown up with rhetoric, then it’s not only a waste, it’s counterproductive to use anything dialectic, so let it go and let your fallacies fly.