Will-You-Condemn-athon

by Henry on February 14, 2008

Sadly No! links to this Glenn Reynolds post arguing that Barack Obama should condemn some anti-Semitic black pastor in Murfreesboro, Tennessee who claims to support Obama, because otherwise

Obama’s big appeal—I’m a black candidate who’s not like Al Sharpton!—will be a fraud

He admits in a later update that the accusation of fraud was a “bit strong.” Indeed. But apart from the very unpleasant implication that black politicians need to be in the business of proving that they’re not Al Sharpton, this kind of ‘you must condemn …’ demand is a well established rhetorical trope. As John Protevi pointed out in the comments to a recent post, this entry in the Encyclopedia of Decency provides a nice encapsulation, and should, I suggest, become the standard reference point for this kind of nonsense in future.

Will-You-Condemn-A-Thon
Sporting pursuit

Amusing internet pastime, in which several Decents quiz a pro-fascist, repeatedly demanding denunciation of a vast range of randomly-chosen murders, atrocities, war crimes and military actions in an increasingly hectoring tone.

“I agree, Guantanamo Bay is an affront to democratic ideals. But Will You Condemn Palestinian suicide attacks on Israeli restaurants?…

Yes, well, Do You Condemn Jihadist chlorine-bomb attacks?…

Okay, I knew you would be too sly to openly support such acts, but Will You Condemn terrorist attacks upon the American military?

What about the Battle of Teutoberg Forest, then, Will You Condemn that? …I see.

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02.15.08 at 12:30 pm
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{ 36 comments }

1

rea 02.14.08 at 8:56 pm

I unreservedly condemn the Battle of Teutoberg Forest, and call upon Quintilius Varus to give Augustus back his legions.

2

Grand Moff Texan 02.14.08 at 9:01 pm

Ho-hum. We already went through this less than three weeks ago.

Instapundit is so dense that he’s punched a hole in the time-space continuum.
.

3

SamChevre 02.14.08 at 9:03 pm

Whoa–you got this one bass-ackward.

It’s the congressman being attacked–not the attacker–who is an Obama supporter.

4

Henry 02.14.08 at 9:13 pm

corrected – thanks.

5

Steve LaBonne 02.14.08 at 9:27 pm

Will you condemn Al Gore for inventing the Intertubes and giving Instalooney a soapbox?

6

bryan 02.14.08 at 10:03 pm

if you condemn instapundit for his sporting pursuits then you must also condemn Dick Cheney for his..

waitasec, I did that wrong.

7

Michael Bérubé 02.14.08 at 10:13 pm

It’s the congressman being attacked-not the attacker—who is an Obama supporter.

Indeed, that is central to my point, and suggests that Obama has an even stronger obligation to condemn the pastor.

8

Randy Paul 02.14.08 at 10:16 pm

FWIW, I sat at a luncheon with Steve Cohen once and I will make the case also that he is sharp and the sort of Democrat the party needs.

That being said, I have to agree that this is typcal of Instapundit.

9

Bill Gardner 02.14.08 at 10:28 pm

Rea,
Well of course I condemn the Battle of Teutoberg Forest. The plain and brutal truth is that if the Germanic Hordes are to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to the actual use of military force. But aren’t you are asking a lot from Quintilius Varus? Seeing as he already killed his own self?

10

jcasey 02.14.08 at 11:14 pm

Instapundit’s strategy is really a remarkable one and I’m glad that it has been identified by the Encyclopedia of Decency. But at this point I think this particular fallacy deserves its own name. What could it be? Perhaps argumentum ad amicum.

11

Mary Rosh 02.15.08 at 12:00 am

That John Protevi is a sharp fellow.

12

Lancelot Link 02.15.08 at 12:01 am

Of course, if Obama DID condemn the minister in question, the wingnuts would be trumpeting it as showing his hostility to Christians, wouldn’t they?

13

SG 02.15.08 at 12:24 am

Sadly,No! have single out Glenn Reynolds for condemnation. Will they also condemn the palestinian authority for failing to condemn the Archbishop of Canterbury? No! They’re all supporters of hamas!

14

James 02.15.08 at 12:49 am

McCain’s big appeal — I’m a white candidate who’s not like George Bush! — will prove to be a fraud.

That’s not strong enough.

15

P O'Neill 02.15.08 at 1:48 am

This evening at The Corner

Daniel Ortega [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
is into Obama.

16

John Emerson 02.15.08 at 2:04 am

In New Ulm, Minnesota there is a 102-foot-tall statue the man who defeated the Romans at Teutoburg Forest — Arminius, locally known as “Herman the German”. It was built in 1897 and somehow survived WWI and WWII.

The 2000th anniversary of the battle will be celebrated in New Ulm in 2009. Come one, come all!

http://www.hermannmonument.com/

17

Fats Durston 02.15.08 at 4:33 am

I yoostabee a Republican*, but since 9-11 (Teutoburg), I’m outraged by Publius Clodius Pulcher.

*Roman Republic

18

GreatZamfir 02.15.08 at 9:23 am

John Emerson, that’s cheating. If you put a 20 ft statue on a 50 ft pavillion, have him extend his sword 7 extra feet into the air, then put the pavillion on a 20 ft base and put the base on a hill, then the statue is still only 20 ft high.

It’s still too big, and pretty ugly.

19

Hidari 02.15.08 at 9:59 am

At this risk of sounding like the Monty Python character (‘No one likes a good laugh more than me. Except my wife. And my father. And my daughters. Any most of my friends. Actually, come to think of it, quite a lot of people like a good laugh more than me….’) there is a *cough* serious point to be made here.

The fact is that ‘will you condemn’ and ‘what about’ and the ‘friend of a friend’ fallacy (Much used by Christopher Hitchens: ‘Adolf Hitler was against smoking. Therefore, if you oppose the smoking ban, you, personally, are responsible for the Holocaust’.) and the ‘if you are against X you must be in favour of Y’ fallacy (‘a few years back, huge numbers of Londoners walked through the streets to support fascism….’) aren’t logical fallacies (or at least aren’t generally identified as such ‘in the books’) and yet they are clearly fallacious.

I wonder what this says about the logic of arguing and the logic of…well, logic? Are there an infinite number of fallacies? Or are these fallacies not logical, but simply unethical? Or something else?

Anyway that’s all I have to say: you can all get back to laughing at Glenn Reynolds now.

20

Neil 02.15.08 at 12:20 pm

Hidari,

They are all examples of affirming the consequent.

21

John Emerson 02.15.08 at 12:30 pm

GreatZamfir: Note that Arminius has a sword in his hand and a severed human head under one foot. If you ever happen to come by New Ulm, that head is yours.

22

jcasey 02.15.08 at 12:39 pm

Dear Hidari–

You write:

The fact is that ‘will you condemn’ and ‘what about’ and the ‘friend of a friend’ fallacy (Much used by Christopher Hitchens: ‘Adolf Hitler was against smoking. Therefore, if you oppose the smoking ban, you, personally, are responsible for the Holocaust’.) and the ‘if you are against X you must be in favour of Y’ fallacy (‘a few years back, huge numbers of Londoners walked through the streets to support fascism….’) aren’t logical fallacies (or at least aren’t generally identified as such ‘in the books’) and yet they are clearly fallacious.

I wonder what this says about the logic of arguing and the logic of…well, logic? Are there an infinite number of fallacies? Or are these fallacies not logical, but simply unethical? Or something else?

As logical fallacies are the province of informal logic, you’ll find a good deal of variation as to what counts. These arguments are clearly fallacious–egregiously so I think–but they defy immediate classification by most standard accounts. They’re not, as someone above suggested, instances of affirming the consequent (which is a formal fallacy relating to conditional statements). Many logic textbooks will have a kind of catch-all category–some call it “missing the point” others “non sequitur” for just instances like these. This is also the reason people can still publish about fallacies in journals such as Argumentation.

As for the other questions–there may indeed be an infinite number of fallacies–but all of them rest on either the ignorance or deceitfulness of the arguer.

23

jcasey 02.15.08 at 12:40 pm

Crud–sorry for the update, the third paragraph (“I wonder. . . “) above should be indented.

24

rea 02.15.08 at 12:55 pm

John, that monument in New Ulm looks an awful lot like this one, in Detmold, Germany (where the battle did not take place, according to modern research):

http://www.teutoburgerwald.de/hermannshoehen/hermannshoehen/orte_am_weg/detmold.php

25

John Emerson 02.15.08 at 1:02 pm

Rea, there was some sort of direct or inderect connection between the two monuments.

26

Bill Gardner 02.15.08 at 1:26 pm

“In New Ulm, Minnesota there is a 102-foot-tall statue the man who defeated the Romans at Teutoburg Forest—Arminius, locally known as “Herman the German”. It was built in 1897 and somehow survived WWI and WWII.”

That survival is interesting. I live in the German Village neighborhood of Columbus, OH. It just about the oldest part of the city, and in the late 19th century the public schools taught auf Deutsch, in part because that’s what was spoken and in part because it was believed that German schools were better. In 1917, however, they burned books in German and — we’re told — slaughtered German Shepherds in Schiller Park.

27

Hidari 02.15.08 at 1:28 pm

Incidentally the Christopher Hitchens fallacy, should, of course, be ‘Adolf Hitler was against smoking. Therefore, if you are in favour of the smoking ban, you, personally, are responsible for the Holocaust.’’

This is very closely related to his ‘You support X. Y also supports X. Therefore you are Y. And twice as ugly.’ fallacy.

28

chris y 02.15.08 at 1:31 pm

slaughtered German Shepherds

Dogs or peasants? I need to calibrate my outrage. Of course German Shepherd dogs have been known as Alsatians in Britain since 1914.

29

rea 02.15.08 at 2:22 pm

But aren’t you are asking a lot from Quintilius Varus? Seeing as he already killed his own self?

Suetonius reports that, after news of the battle reached Augustus, he walked his palace for days, banging his head against the wall, and shouting, “Quintili Vare, legiones redde!”

So, yeah, it’s asking a lot, but it’s not me that’s doing the asking . . .

30

John Emerson 02.15.08 at 2:24 pm

I imagine that the Arminius statues had something to do with the Franco-Prussian War.

31

abb1 02.15.08 at 2:40 pm

Hidari,
this is a garden variety argumentum ad hominem.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

32

neil 02.15.08 at 2:55 pm

Barack Obama: Will You Condemn the Weathermen?

33

Grand Moff Texan 02.15.08 at 3:06 pm

In New Ulm, Minnesota …

OK, now THAT’s funny!
.

34

bi 02.15.08 at 3:28 pm

Hidari, abb1:

It’s quite definitely a special case of the Fallacy of Association, which itself is a special case of the Ad Hominem. I think the distinguishing characteristic is the “condemnation” part.

Maybe an Argument by Lack of Condemnation?

35

Bill Gardner 02.15.08 at 3:55 pm

“Dogs or peasants?”

Dogs. The good people of German Village were brewery workers, not farmers.

36

Mrs Tilton 02.16.08 at 2:38 am

Don’t know much about New Ulm, Manitoba, or wherever the -u– it was. But may I just point out that the original New Ulm (or “Neu-Ulm”, as the natives quaintly spell it) is a complete shithole.

And, just across a not terribly broad river, Ulm proper is no great shakes itself. Should you find yourself there, though, you can usefully spend an hour or two in the Fishermens’ Quarter, or climb to the top of the Minster for the views.

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