The war against false equivalency

I’m going to start what I will call a war on false equivalency. False equivalency derives from our psychological tendency toward the appearance of balance. Few of us want to be seen as irrational extremists, and this leads us to strain to find two sides to every argument, even when there are not two legitimate sides to an argument. This is a very dangerous tendency when applied to arguments that have life-and-death consequences, like war, climate change, and economic policy. There is no evidence, for example, that climate change is a hoax, Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, or supply-side economics produces jobs. But we insist on crediting the proponents of these positions with good motives and at least average intelligence when no proponent of any of these positions could possibly be possessed of either, let alone both.

Today’s installment is about lies.  If I hear this one more time, I’m going to vomit: “Oh, what difference does it make which politician becomes president?  They all lie.”

Well, to the mildly sentient, it matters quite a bit what a politician is lying about.  When a politician says that a foreign country like, say, Iraq, poses and immediate and existential threat to the United States when that politician either does know or is duty-bound to know that that representation is not true, that is one thing.  If we are sold that lie, people die.

When a politician says that he never had a sexual relationship with a certain other person (an intern, let’s say) and that politician knows that that representation is not true, well, I, for one, don’t give a shit.

Next time you want to say they all lie, consider for a moment what they’re lying about and then ask yourself, have I just committed the heinous intellectual sin called false equivalency?  And if you have, promise that you’ll never do it again.  Our future depends on it.




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