Big Les

the Drunken Prophet

    The unReason

    November 9th, 2020

    “You guys are literally killing grandma and grandpa.” This was what someone actually said to a friend of mine on social media. Apparently the video she posted spoke unfavorably about our response to COVID-19, and her detractor took issue with it. I didn’t watch the video, so I can’t comment on its content, but I can speak to what underpins an accusation like this. It’s been asserted that by shutting down, socially distancing ourselves and wearing masks we protect our most vulnerable. This argument has been widely circulated as valid justification for our response to the pandemic, but it cannot be reasoned, and the argument is replete with logical fallacies. In this case it was used to attack one who might question restrictions imposed by our leaders. The attacker made no effort to validate the restrictions or address the objections. The attack is a gross injustice, and the allegation deserves a reasoned, twofold defense.

    1. The Attack
      This type of attack uses a logical fallacy called ad hominem to discredit one’s opponent rather than addressing the objections raised. Instead of responding reasonably to the content of the post, the attacker took aim at the one who posted the content. This sort of reaction can quickly digress into another logical fallacy called strawman argument. In levying the allegation of killing grandma and grandpa the dissenter created a false enemy (a strawman) that could easily be defeated by painting a picture of one who cares nothing for old folks. These two fallacies can be quite effective in derailing a potentially fruitful dialogue, but here the assailant made an accusation that could be damaging to the character of the one attacked. One has a right to one’s good name, and the charge of “killing grandma and grandpa” is a serious one as 1) it implies intent to do harm, 2) it conveys that the accused cares very little (if at all) for the well-being of our elderly community, and 3) it hints at a selfishness that betrays society, community and family. This charge is unjust, and she is well within her rights to be righteously indignant.
    2. The Reason
      Now let’s unpack the argument which goes something like this, “You could have been exposed and not know it, so you could be spreading the disease unwittingly. Therefore, you should comply (wear a mask, et al) to protect our most vulnerable.” This is both an appeal to emotion and a false dichotomy. It’s a call for sympathy for those in most need of our help, but this personalization is an emotional plea that bears no impact. on the issue itself. To say we must protect our grandparents in the context of the argument is to imply that failure to comply is to endanger them instead. In other words the argument states that objections to the response to coronavirus fail to protect the elderly. It’s either you fall in line, or you kill grandma. No other options are considered. This is horribly narrowed in scope, and it is quite the non sequitur inasmuch as it simply doesn’t follow from objection to reckless endangerment.

    The thing that’s motivating this is fear and not reason. It just doesn’t make sense that by raising concerns and asking questions that we kill grandma and grandpa. None of us actually wants to hurt them, and we aren’t necessarily being careless. From the onset we’ve been faced with a lot of unknowns, but we mustn’t be guided by fear when discerning a proper course of action. While it is not unreasonable to approach the issue with trepidation, we must do so with intellectual discipline. If we do not, we run the risk of attacks like this one in an effort to promote and defend our individual perspectives and running aground in our discussions. The purpose of dialogue is to attain the truth, and the more perspectives the more insight, but when we decidedly ignore potentially valid points we betray our intellect, and we force upon others our viewpoints without exchanging ideas. This is what bullies do, and it must stop.

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