Logical Gal and her Daily Newspaper

8 Jan

It’s a snow day and school was cancelled.  So I had time to read the local paper and enjoy my daily entertainment of picking out fallacies and irrational comments on the Opinion Page.

I was not disappointed.

A guest columnist had written a couple of weeks ago criticizing the Affordable Care Act and offering reasons for why it should be canned and what steps COULD reasonably be made to fix our country’s health care delivery system.

Today, two people responded.  One did so ineffectively; the other writer more reasonably. The contrast provided a helpful illustration of what TO do and what NOT to do.

The first, by an ‘outraged’ letter-writer, spent most of his 200 words attacking the original author’s person and his circumstances (retired state worker, for what it’s worth). He made blatant assumptions about the man’s spending habits.  This type of ad hominem circumstantial argument works like the following fabricated  example:

What is said:  This guy beats his kids and hoards his food; therefore, his argument about the best fuel-efficient car can’t be trusted.

It actually doesn’t matter what a person’s set of beliefs, practices or past errors are.  What counts are the merits of his argument.

The letter writer also vilified the Tea Party by creating a Straw Man argument.  He assumed that because the guest columnist disagreed with the Democratic Party’s passed legislation, that he belonged to the much-maligned Tea Party.  Then he described this conservative party’s one and only solution ‘to our country’s problems’ as “The whole world revolves around me”. What’s with that?? How is that so-called philosophical statement even a solution? He never explained what he meant.

The truth is that most of the time when people resort to mean and biting words they do so because they have nothing substantive to say about the ARGUMENT.  They just want to attack and minimize their opponent.

With many people writing and speaking like this guy, it doesn’t take much for a ‘thought-ful’ person to stand out.  We must be encouraged to make the effort to speak and write carefully and reasonably with evidence to back our points.  Avoiding fallacies helps us to be taken seriously.

Fortunately, the 2nd man to write in to the paper had at least one good point when he addressed his opponent about the Affordable Health Care Act.  He developed his argument, supported it with reasons and stayed clear of fallacies. And I’ll even forgive him for his last sentence, a rhetorical and sarcastic jab at Republicans.

I recommend following the daily newspaper, whether on-line or in print.  It’s good practice for critical reading and thinking.  And remember, it’s your right as an informed citizen to write the editor and share your views.  You might actually influence someone for the better with your clear thinking!

Question: What issue could you write about cogently and persuasively?

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