Joachim gives us part 2 of a series of articles dedicated to those interested in decoding twisted logic.
3. Definitional jujistu or the ‘hai-ya!’
Sometimes, out of the blue, someone who may have fallen out of bed in the morning, might launch an attack at you with labels and stereotypical insults. The trick is to accept the definition or label thrown at you and redefine it in your favour. Simple. Be like water and redirect it against your opponent. Examples:
Sack of shit: You suck!
You: If by ‘suck’, you mean I am a vacuum – and everyone knows nothing can survive in a vacuum – and therefore I am pure awesome, then I agree with you.
Jealous runts: You bloody activists are all trouble-makers, the lot of you!
You: If by ‘bloody’ you mean willing to bleed for a cause; by ‘activists’, willing to get off my arse to help someone; and by ‘trouble-makers’, willing to prick the conscience of our nation and its power-holders, why not? We all should be ‘bloody, trouble-making activists’, shouldn’t we?”
This category of mindfuck was illustrated perfectly by the fiasco calling for the hanging of Dato’ Ambiga a few months back. Naively, some people ran with it to further equate her with Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat. Smart. Equating a civil society leader you’re trying to bring down with a folk-lore legend close to everyone’s hearts. That’s a real nice way of shooting your own foot.
But the point? Never worry about insults and labels again. Simply turn them around, craft something smart with them and be proud of your creativity.
4. The “I said so” (a.k.a borrowed authority or hearsay)
We’ve been pretty much conditioned to believe experts in their respective fields as people to listen to. Beside that conditioning, well, we’re all simply too busy and unbothered to actually read up on matters for a better footing of a subject. As a result, society allows professionals and so-called experts to do the thinking for us. That’s why we have sheets of paper, fancy awards and rankings or review websites to declare someone an expert. It saves everyone a lot of time, never mind if we’re being conned by quacks since this system of belief is definitely open to abuse. Example:
Lord Bobo, His Supreme Emminenceness, commanded me to write this article. Who’s Lord Bobo? Why, Lord Bobo is the undeniable authority on all things to do with human rights, political commentary, comedy and satire in Malaysia. In fact, he must be an expert in human biology and STDs too given how his name, when rearranged, spells ‘boob’; and seeing as he has a preoccupation with giving out purple bananas to his followers.
The above is an example of my committing three common logical fallacies (while being a heretic on Loyarburok.com, which is only the greatest blawg, in the World, so have mercy on me, Lord Bobo, His Supreme Emminenceness!) The three are:
a) Purports absolutely that Lord Bobo is the uncontested authority in such matters
b) Presumes to be able to make grandiose claims that have no backing
c) Uses references which have nothing to do with Lord Bobo’s so-called expertise
Of course, if you didn’t notice these points and are not acquainted with Lord Bobo, you may easily assume that I’ve explained my case when I really haven’t.
In a court of law, statements given by people who were not at the scene of a crime, and whose character or demeanour may affect the weight of their evidence, cannot be used. That’s why lawyers always grill the ‘expert’ or ‘witness’ involved to gauge whether they’re in fact in good position to give evidence to the matter at hand. Even to gauge if they’re really experts in the first place. And for good reason, too.
Imagine a world where we persecuted people and sentenced them on this basis: “Well, I heard from Susan who heard from her best friend’s cousin’s sister’s nephew that he murdered someone by electrocuting him!” Shocking, right? But if we disguise hearsay better by quoting a so-called expert, we may be able to get away with it. Try it.
In fact, you probably have a long time ago when you were still a kid and when quoting parents to ‘borrow authority’ was the done thing. Case in point: “My mum/dad/grand-dad said…” Does this ring a bell? Parents are equally guilty of this seemingly naive (though not-so-innocent) mistake when answering their kids who put forward questions like “Mom/Dad, why do I have to do this?” Because “Because Mommy/Daddy said so” or “Because I am your Mother/Father and I said so” would be the reply. Sure, this choice of response is more time-friendly compared to reasoning (especially with kids prone to asking “But why?” a million times). But can we really blame society for readily accepting this sort of logical fallacy? Especially when events that shape our lives are involved? Having said that, there’s no harm in using it to your advantage if you’ve got the grasp for it. So, borrow some authority today and get things moving!
5. The slippery slope or ‘great illogical leap forward’
This one involves taking a statement and bringing it to an illogical but undeniable conclusion while bypassing any need to reason or justify it. An oldie but goldie example:
If we were to allow gay marriage, society would be destroyed or crumble like Sodom and Gommorah!
A statement like that will certainly invoke images of a wrathful God (which just won’t work on Atheists, of course) but it’s also just as dastardly, or worse, if you throw in words like ‘9/11’ and ‘Muslim’ in the same sentence. In truth, homosexuals couldn’t be more distant from swarthy AK-47-wielding and turban-wearing jihadists. Plus, ask yourself what the real issue behind gay marriage is – is it about people who love ‘their own kind’ wanting the same rights to property and children as us ‘regular’ folk? If we allowed gay marriage, would we all still want to get married? If not, would it then also automatically mean that we’d stop reproducing as a species? Once granted the rights to civil marriage, would homesexuals, transgenders and transexuals want to rampage the streets in celebration and bring forth the seven Horsemen of the Apocalypse?
Do you see what just I did back there? I associated God with gays and Muslims with violence all in one fell swoop and if this imagery was repeated enough, you’d be led to believe the following ‘conclusions’:
a) Gays + Marriage = Destruction of Society.
b) Muslims = Violence + Terrorism.
In fact, since many of us live in gated communities and behind locked doors, watching TV late into the night, it’s easy to be persuaded into thinking that there’s only one conclusion to every issue or topic. But have we ever left our comfort zone behind to find out what are ‘the facts of the case’ for ourselves? To reason out the prejudices and dodgy inferences? And if we have already, have we tried to free others from this sort of erroneous thinking? Or do we adopt these conclusions and force-fit them into our personal hopes and fears?
As with any science student, we should start with a premise, then search for data that supports it. Otherwise, our premise was wrong to begin with, in which case we must start from scratch again. The lesson is to never start with a conclusion and post-rationalise it with observations and mere opinions. We’d merely be disillusioning ourselves or acting on an assumption planted within us without our knowing. Data before the conclusion, my friends. And don’t let anyone persuade you about anything without your doing your own investigation first.
Remember, for this category of logical fallacies, room for reasoning and debate is usually quashed when one chooses to invoke a certain sort of imagery by tapping into your hopes or fears. It’s a very handy tool to have in our pockets if we want to sustain control over a conversation or a group but are feeling a tad on the lazy side. Try some slippery slopes in a conversation yourself and watch your opponent slide down with you.
For more sizzling examples, check out the top 10 slippery slopes used by the PAP in Singapore. For more synapse-shrinking mindfucks, however, watch this space.
(Featured image accompanying article on main page courtesy of Rex Morache, source: http://bit.ly/QYSVyo)