Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Domino Fallacy

Monitor your confirmation bias as you read this:
"Anti-Trump Republicans wringing their hands at what's become of their party are not intellectually honest. If they can't see Trump as the inevitable outcome of Palin, they're failing to come clean. And Palin was the inevitable outcome of Gingrich, who was the inevitable outcome of Saint Ronnie. Given that mainstream Republicanism has sowed these seeds for some time, these guys shouldn't be shocked at what they've reaped."
For those left of center, the above might sound completely reasonable. But it's fallacious. Here's a visual representation:

By the same token, 60's leftist terror groups (Weather Underground, Symbionese Liberation Army, etc) could be seen as the inevitable outcome of militant, uncompromising radical groups like the Black Panthers and Students for a Democratic Society. And the Black Panthers and SDS could be seen as the inevitable outcome of GreenPeace, the ACLU, and NAACP.

And a bomb could be seen as the inevitable outcome of a Molotov cocktail...which could be seen as the inevitable outcome of a nice stiff drink. It's temptingly easy to trace literally any super-bad thing back through progressively milder antecedents - and to paint the entire chain with the same brush. Especially if you feel a general disdain for the group you're looking to condemn.

Many will argue this by insisting that Palin, Gingrich, and Reagan were truly awful - as bad (or nearly so) as Trump. While I'm no fan of any of those figures, if that's truly your thinking, I'd urge you to have a very long walk in a quiet place until you've regained your mental faculties. My only solace in this political era is the prospect that its sheer cataclysm may finally help the fuzzy-headed realize that everything they dislike isn't The Worst Thing In The World.

Trump - a paragon of vileness, ignorance, treason, and corruption - is the ideal vehicle for restoring perspective. That said, I haven't yet spotted much maturation in people's sense of proportion (watch folks howl when we wind up with President Pence, who, being on the wrong side of issues like abortion and LGBT, is The Devil Incarnate).

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