I love debate. Once upon a time, I liked competitive debate, too, and thought that I liked pounding other people's arguments into the dust. However, as time went on I realized that what I enjoyed was not winning per se, but having conversations with intelligent people. People with poor argumentation and poor logic not only made for poor debate, but simply annoyed me.
To this day, there are few things that annoy me more. So I'm going to blog about them. Hah.
1. "It is better to be consistent than correct"
Hypocrisy is an irrelevant ad hominem, but I see this all the time. Essentially, someone argues that because person/country/organization A has done something before, but subsequently advocates against it, the argument is invalid. A is hypocritical! Common examples:
- The US has violated someone's sovereignty before, therefore its advocacy against a violation of other people's sovereignty is invalid.
- <insert political party here> did something in the past, therefore its current stand against the practice is invalid.
- You once believed this, but now you've flip-flopped and your argument is weaker because of it.
When presented in simple terms as above, it's easy to spot how fallacious an accusation of hypocrisy is. I more frequently see it presented in forms more difficult to recognize. For example, if I were to hypothetically accuse the Republican party of being obstinate in their use of the filibuster in the Senate of the US, I might receive the following reply:
"But when the Democrats were in the minority during the Bush years, they also heavily used the filibuster and justified it by claiming that they were doing the job of the minority in protecting their interests, and you didn't complain then!"Sound familiar? Doesn't address the issue at hand, doesn't address anything but the parties to the argument (the Democrats and the proposer), allegation of hypocrisy. While pointing out how hypocritical a group or person is might cast aspersions on their character, it has zero to do with the argument. Instead, it's a statement that amounts to "it is better to be consistent than correct," or, alternatively, "consistency is a prerequisite for having a valid argument."
Top places I see that argument:
- Anti-colonial related rants
- Chinese uberpatriots
- American political debate