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Thread: The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

  1. #1
    Todd Ianuzzi Guest

    Default The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

    Posts on this Forum often make the False Equivalency Argument, or "both sides are dong it," when in fact their is no equvalency in degrees of culpability.

    In fact, even raising the argument of the false equivalency has been called an admission of being the "greater sinner."

    Here is an interesting article on the topic:

    The Dangers Of False Equivalence

    January 10, 2011 6:28 pm ET by Jamison Foser


    Like a lot of people, I've frequently criticized news reports and commentary that draw false equivalence between things that have significant differences in degree or in kind. There's a lot of that going around lately, so it's worth pausing to reflect on why false equivalences can be so pernicious. I do so here without pointing to specific examples, in part because we can all think of plenty, and in part to remain focused on the principles in question: This is not a post about whether X is worse than Y, but about the problems with saying that X and Y are equivalent when they are not.

    First, drawing false equivalence is not only "taking sides," it's taking the wrong side. There's a tendency to think that saying "both sides do it" is the way to avoid taking sides in a dispute (and that avoiding taking sides is imperative). But when saying "both sides do it" requires drawing a false equivalence, the speaker is taking sides -- on behalf of the people responsible for the greater sin. A journalist's imperative is telling the truth, not creating the false impression of neutrality by equating unequal things.

    Second, drawing false equivalence between unequal sins incentivizes bad behavior. When minor and major infractions draw the same penalty, it should be obvious that some people will realize that they may as well get whatever benefits accompany the commission of major infractions, since they won't be penalized any more than their rival who commits a minor infraction. Say you have two kids, Barry and Larry. Barry steals Larry's pencil. Larry steals 17 of Barry's video games, along with $20 from his piggy bank. You tell them "Both of you took something that doesn't belong to you. You're both grounded for a week." What lesson might Larry and Barry take from that?

    That's why people criticize false equivalence in news reports and commentary. Not just because it's lazy and timid journalism -- though it is -- but also because it has negative consequences. It incentivizes bad behavior.

  2. #2

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    Default Re: The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Ianuzzi View Post
    Posts on this Forum often make the False Equivalency Argument, or "both sides are dong it," when in fact their is no equvalency in degrees of culpability.

    In fact, even raising the argument of the false equivalency has been called an admission of being the "greater sinner."

    Here is an interesting article on the topic:

    The Dangers Of False Equivalence

    January 10, 2011 6:28 pm ET by Jamison Foser


    Like a lot of people, I've frequently criticized news reports and commentary that draw false equivalence between things that have significant differences in degree or in kind. There's a lot of that going around lately, so it's worth pausing to reflect on why false equivalences can be so pernicious. I do so here without pointing to specific examples, in part because we can all think of plenty, and in part to remain focused on the principles in question: This is not a post about whether X is worse than Y, but about the problems with saying that X and Y are equivalent when they are not.

    First, drawing false equivalence is not only "taking sides," it's taking the wrong side. There's a tendency to think that saying "both sides do it" is the way to avoid taking sides in a dispute (and that avoiding taking sides is imperative). But when saying "both sides do it" requires drawing a false equivalence, the speaker is taking sides -- on behalf of the people responsible for the greater sin. A journalist's imperative is telling the truth, not creating the false impression of neutrality by equating unequal things.

    Second, drawing false equivalence between unequal sins incentivizes bad behavior. When minor and major infractions draw the same penalty, it should be obvious that some people will realize that they may as well get whatever benefits accompany the commission of major infractions, since they won't be penalized any more than their rival who commits a minor infraction. Say you have two kids, Barry and Larry. Barry steals Larry's pencil. Larry steals 17 of Barry's video games, along with $20 from his piggy bank. You tell them "Both of you took something that doesn't belong to you. You're both grounded for a week." What lesson might Larry and Barry take from that?

    That's why people criticize false equivalence in news reports and commentary. Not just because it's lazy and timid journalism -- though it is -- but also because it has negative consequences. It incentivizes bad behavior.
    This article does make good points. I must confess to my use of the comment 'offences occur from both parties'. I say this because I believe it.

    YET, that comment does indeed give one engaged in a conversation the 'duck & dodge' advantage to remove themselves from a head on confrontation of which side is being honest and forthright. Different social events I find myself included in has made it most convenient for me to use that statement to remove myself from an angry confrontation. It seems to work as a very effective deterrent to what otherwise might become an angry and emotional conversation.

    While I am vividly aware of the social & political bias & corruption of the Republican party at this time...I am not blinded from recognizing that the Democratic party is vulnerable to these same offenses. Lee Hamilton has written an excellent article regarding the responsibility of our citizens for the quality of government we receive. YES...I've been a whiner about our congress, yet, Lee Hamilton is correct...we are receiving the government we are electing. The responsibility absolutely falls back on each of us and our votes. Stay informed folks...please place your votes after informing your own selves with accurate information.

    Lee's article is here: http://www.kpcnews.com/index.php?opt...ticle&id=28916
    "It is the power of thought that gives man power over nature."
    Hans Christian Anderson

  3. #3
    Todd Ianuzzi Guest

    Default Re: The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

    Quote Originally Posted by HoosierHelen View Post
    This article does make good points. I must confess to my use of the comment 'offences occur from both parties'. I say this because I believe it.

    YET, that comment does indeed give one engaged in a conversation the 'duck & dodge' advantage to remove themselves from a head on confrontation of which side is being honest and forthright. Different social events I find myself included in has made it most convenient for me to use that statement to remove myself from an angry confrontation. It seems to work as a very effective deterrent to what otherwise might become an angry and emotional conversation.

    While I am vividly aware of the social & political bias & corruption of the Republican party at this time...I am not blinded from recognizing that the Democratic party is vulnerable to these same offenses. Lee Hamilton has written an excellent article regarding the responsibility of our citizens for the quality of government we receive. YES...I've been a whiner about our congress, yet, Lee Hamilton is correct...we are receiving the government we are electing. The responsibility absolutely falls back on each of us and our votes. Stay informed folks...please place your votes after informing your own selves with accurate information.

    Lee's article is here: http://www.kpcnews.com/index.php?opt...ticle&id=28916
    Helen, you are correct that both parties, litigants, advocates, lobbyists engage in the false equvalency. Sometimes the equivalencies are not false and indeed valid. But often they are not and the false equvalency must be called out.

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    Default Re: The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

    “Unfortunately I have received so very many e-mails recently re-informing me of why Obama is not a natural born American, how he is sponsoring HB 4646 to charge all of us 1% for every banking transaction we incur, and these are being forwarded to me by well meaning good people.

    They are also people who have not taken the time to check the facts before forwarding false lies that will influence many others who in turn will not do their homework and check for the accuracy of these false rumors.

    IF ONLY those who show up to vote at our polls would take the responsibility of verifying and vetting these rumors before accepting them on face value because someone they know forwarded this e-mail to them...I would feel so much more comfortable. Votes cast upon false information are NOT in the best interest of our America.”
    "It is the power of thought that gives man power over nature."
    Hans Christian Anderson

  5. #5
    Todd Ianuzzi Guest

    Default Re: The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

    Quote Originally Posted by HoosierHelen View Post
    “Unfortunately I have received so very many e-mails recently re-informing me of why Obama is not a natural born American, how he is sponsoring HB 4646 to charge all of us 1% for every banking transaction we incur, and these are being forwarded to me by well meaning good people.

    They are also people who have not taken the time to check the facts before forwarding false lies that will influence many others who in turn will not do their homework and check for the accuracy of these false rumors.




    IF ONLY those who show up to vote at our polls would take the responsibility of verifying and vetting these rumors before accepting them on face value because someone they know forwarded this e-mail to them...I would feel so much more comfortable. Votes cast upon false information are NOT in the best interest of our America.”
    Unfortunately there is a vast right wing industry in misinformation that makes ridiculous claims about Obama and others, including Lugar. Verifiably false claims that supposedly mentally functioning people believe and repeat.

    When I hear such palpable falsities, I lose more faith in the nation. I can only hope that their children will develop reasoning and research skills. But I am not hopeful.

  6. #6
    HomeyG Guest

    Default Re: The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

    I believe some have been looking in mirrors, what appears to be right is really left.

  7. #7
    Todd Ianuzzi Guest

    Default Re: The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

    Quote Originally Posted by HoosierHelen View Post
    “Unfortunately I have received so very many e-mails recently re-informing me of why Obama is not a natural born American, how he is sponsoring HB 4646 to charge all of us 1% for every banking transaction we incur, and these are being forwarded to me by well meaning good people.

    They are also people who have not taken the time to check the facts before forwarding false lies that will influence many others who in turn will not do their homework and check for the accuracy of these false rumors.

    IF ONLY those who show up to vote at our polls would take the responsibility of verifying and vetting these rumors before accepting them on face value because someone they know forwarded this e-mail to them...I would feel so much more comfortable. Votes cast upon false information are NOT in the best interest of our America.”
    More birthed lunacy.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/0...l?ref=politics

  8. #8

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    Default Re: The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Ianuzzi View Post
    It incentivizes bad behavior.
    It also incentivizes bad behavior as long as one can claim their bad behavior isn't as bad as the other side, doesn't it?

    I mean, if it's really, really bad for one guy to call a woman a s*** lots of times, then it must be okay for some other guy to call a woman a c*** just a few times, right?

    While both s*** and c*** are demeaning, the one is okay because it's not as bad as the other one?

    This is not a wise argument because you are condoning the behavior that is "less evil", even though the "less evil" behavior is just as disgusting and demeaning.

    Wrong is wrong. Being less wrong is still wrong. It may not be as wrong, but it is still wrong.
    "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on the article of the Constitution which grants a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."
    --James Madison

  9. #9
    Todd Ianuzzi Guest

    Default Re: The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

    Quote Originally Posted by nathandiehl View Post
    It also incentivizes bad behavior as long as one can claim their bad behavior isn't as bad as the other side, doesn't it?

    I mean, if it's really, really bad for one guy to call a woman a s*** lots of times, then it must be okay for some other guy to call a woman a c*** just a few times, right?

    While both s*** and c*** are demeaning, the one is okay because it's not as bad as the other one?

    This is not a wise argument because you are condoning the behavior that is "less evil", even though the "less evil" behavior is just as disgusting and demeaning.

    Wrong is wrong. Being less wrong is still wrong. It may not be as wrong, but it is still wrong.


    Wrong is of course wrong. But human nature, law, and common sense recognize degrees of offenses. Factions will engage in conduct that have similarities but will not be equivalents. I might be driving five miles over the speed limit, but the driver that runs the redlight and ****ones my car could be driving 30 miles over the speed limit. If the offending driver states that "I was speeding, too," he creates a false equivalency.

    In the arean of public discourse, a false equivalency is a poor debating tactic, a diversion, and a tacit admission that the conduct of the claimant of the false equivalency is more culpable.

  10. #10

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    Default Re: The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

    Quote Originally Posted by nathandiehl View Post
    It also incentivizes bad behavior as long as one can claim their bad behavior isn't as bad as the other side, doesn't it?

    I mean, if it's really, really bad for one guy to call a woman a s*** lots of times, then it must be okay for some other guy to call a woman a c*** just a few times, right?

    While both s*** and c*** are demeaning, the one is okay because it's not as bad as the other one?

    This is not a wise argument because you are condoning the behavior that is "less evil", even though the "less evil" behavior is just as disgusting and demeaning.

    Wrong is wrong. Being less wrong is still wrong. It may not be as wrong, but it is still wrong.
    You are correct Nathan, wrong is wrong. I'm thinking that the use of the C**** word was done on HBO that you are referring to? There are different content standards for paid channel networks and our free public airways. The FCC is responsible for keeping our public airways free of these kind of inappropriate, hate filled remarks. The fact that Limbaugh has gotten away with this for so long when others have been pulled off the public airways for these same type of offenses really stinks as far as I am concerned. Hopefully the FCC will take a serious review of his repeated offenses, not just regarding Sandra Fluke (which did go on for 3 days).

    Snippet from CNN below:
    Ironically, the misogyny Rush Limbaugh spewed for three days over Sandra Fluke was not much worse than his regular broadcast of sexist, racist and homophobic hate speech:

    -- Female Cabinet members are "Sex-retaries."
    -- "The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies."
    -- The National Organization for Women is "a bunch of wh*res to liberalism."
    -- [Said to an African-American female caller]: "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back."
    These are just a few samples from the arsenal of degrading language Limbaugh deploys on women, people of color, lesbians and gays, immigrants, the disabled, the elderly, Muslims, Jews, veterans, environmentalists and so forth.


    http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/10/opinio...inem-limbaugh/
    "It is the power of thought that gives man power over nature."
    Hans Christian Anderson

  11. #11
    Todd Ianuzzi Guest

    Default Re: The Fallacy of the False Equvalency

    Quote Originally Posted by HoosierHelen View Post
    You are correct Nathan, wrong is wrong. I'm thinking that the use of the C**** word was done on HBO that you are referring to? There are different content standards for paid channel networks and our free public airways. The FCC is responsible for keeping our public airways free of these kind of inappropriate, hate filled remarks. The fact that Limbaugh has gotten away with this for so long when others have been pulled off the public airways for these same type of offenses really stinks as far as I am concerned. Hopefully the FCC will take a serious review of his repeated offenses, not just regarding Sandra Fluke (which did go on for 3 days).

    Snippet from CNN below:
    Ironically, the misogyny Rush Limbaugh spewed for three days over Sandra Fluke was not much worse than his regular broadcast of sexist, racist and homophobic hate speech:

    -- Female Cabinet members are "Sex-retaries."
    -- "The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies."
    -- The National Organization for Women is "a bunch of wh*res to liberalism."
    -- [Said to an African-American female caller]: "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back."
    These are just a few samples from the arsenal of degrading language Limbaugh deploys on women, people of color, lesbians and gays, immigrants, the disabled, the elderly, Muslims, Jews, veterans, environmentalists and so forth.


    http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/10/opinio...inem-limbaugh/
    My goodness, Helen. This is beyond the pale.

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