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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Exposure and Vulnerability

When you choose to put yourself -- your body, your words, your voice -- into the public eye, you must expect an avalanche of public reaction. Some of this response is positive; some is inquisitive; and some is negative. With any increased exposure comes increased vulnerability. You soon find, people bent on squashing your opinion will use almost any means available or fabricate almost anything at hand to defeat your cause.

Ad Hominem

Of course, people who often insist upon hurting a person while avoiding the real argument that person presents find fault in his or her conduct or character. This personal attack is the classic fallacy know as argumentum ad hominem or simply"attacking the person."

Ad hominem attacks may or may not be true. The point is that an ad hominem is logically fallacious because insults and even true negative facts about the opponent's personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of your opponent's arguments or assertions. Decisions should be based on a rational evaluation of the arguments, not on an emotional reaction to the person or persons making that argument. But you often react more strongly to personalities than to the sometimes abstract and complex arguments they are making, so ad hominem can be very effective fallacy to employ.

When may ad hominem be logically linked? Yvonne Raley ("Character Attacks: How To Properly Apply the Ad Hominem," Scientific American, May 29 2008) reports, "In 1987, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart was seen at a motel with a prostitute. Because his behavior undercut his preaching and status as a Christian role model, a character attack based on this incident would have been spot-on." As you can see, the attack seems warranted at the time considering Swaggart's position and preachings.

Still, you should not discount everything any person says, no matter how badly he or she has been discredited. The fact that a person lies or behaves improperly on one occasion does not mean that he or she lies or behaves inappropriately all the time. Face it: which position is right is usually independent of a person’s character or conduct. You must develop skill at discerning arguments from such personality concerns.

The following is a simple example of the ad hominem fallacy in action.

"You say the gap between the rich and poor is unacceptable.

"But communists also say this, and therefore you are a communist.

"Communists are unlikeable, and therefore everything they say is false, and therefore everything you say is false." (

Straw Man

On the other hand, a straw man component of an argument is based on misinterpretation of an opponent's position. Attacking a straw man, the perpetrator simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated, or misrepresented version of that position.

Here is the pattern of the straw man fallacy.

1. Person A has position X.
2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted view of X).
3. Person B attacks position Y.
4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

Here is a straw man used in argumentation

"In the 1988 vice-presidential debate between Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen, Quayle made the mistake of deflecting questions about his youth and inexperience with the observation that John F. Kennedy was even younger when he ran for president.

"Then, Bentsen, in a famous retort that was the most telling moment of the debate, said to Quayle, "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. And, Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

"This proved to be an effective and memorable remark--but did Quayle ever say he was a "Jack Kennedy"? Did he really intend to compare himself to Kennedy, or was he using Kennedy merely as an example that one's age doesn't necessarily determine one's qualifications? Bentsen, obviously a consummate debater, was able to create a false image of his opponent's remarks with the man still standing there in front of a national television audience." ("Fallacy: Straw Man," Mission Critical,
Does straw man ever play an somewhat honest role of  representation? To demonize someone or some thing has some effectiveness in argument, since you know that evil does exist in the world, and you are always happy to be able to locate evil outside of yourself. You may well remember President Reagan referring to the Soviet Union as "the Evil Empire." With due respect to varying connotations of the word evil, Reagan was stunningly effective in using metaphor to illustrate something he truly believed -- there is a great difference between a true democracy and a totalitarian state.

But beware. You must become very attentive and reason very carefully. Misunderstandings are often cruel grounds for many regretful consequences. Logic demands you possess a complete understanding of the terms in an argument before making conclusions. Also you may do well to look at yourself very carefully before you accuse others of anything. 


"Fall For Anything"

"Is the world so big it makes you feel small
Is the hole you dig even deep enough at all
The graveyard's full my grandma used to say
If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything

"Is time worth saving in paper dollar bills
Coz we always just done it don't mean we always will
Is it worth singing along if you have a song to sing
If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything

"Can one single person make a change if they try
It's true all the martyrs that ever lived already died
Is the road so long we're gonna have to drive
If you don't stand for something you will fall too far behind

"Is there meaning in all these words that we say
Is there a reason for living life anyway
Is confusion a state like Iowa or Maine
If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything

"Are the waters so rough coz we try to scrub em clean
Do we mean the things we do, do we do the things we mean
When a child is born is it coz she has sinned
If she tries to stand for something will she take the fall for everything

"When the day has come and your shadow's lost its light
Will you see in the darkness who was wrong and who was right
Will the devil pay your tab and take you home with him
Coz you either stand for something or you fall for anything"
- Jeremy Fisher

I choose to stand for the fight against drug abuse. I have been attacked with these fallacies by those who wish to wreck my agenda. Soon, I came to the realization that people's harsh words, accusations, back stabbing, and threats are all part of the game I chose to play. These despicable tactics are the tools of those without legitimate claims for defense. The love of money fuels the bonfires of  people willing to ignore their fellow human beings' rights of life and liberty.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion; however, many do not take the time to investigate the facts. Then, even beyond investigation and understanding, few prefer to do more than profess agreement or disagreement. You should be aware that when you take the next step - ACTION - you risk ridicule and you face false allegations. Why? Because the very nature of change involves opposition. Opposition may well invite danger.

For you first coming on board the engines that fight drug abuse, I urge you to find an unquenchable thirst for knowledge - read, listen, discuss. Make every attempt to broaden your horizons and to view the opposition, but TAKE A SIDE.

I believe evil does exist in bogus prescriptions and in criminally obtained pill bottles. If those connections make me guilty of committing a straw man distortion, I profess a false leap. Still, I want to state to you that I believe the epidemic of drug abuse is saturated in pure evil, and I challenge you to define its various deadly operations in better metaphorical terms.

Jeremy Fisher  "Fall For Anything" Video


“A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.” 

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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