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Monday, August 09, 2010

 
Argumentum Ad Douthatem

by tristero

As I read this, I kept on muttering, "I don't think I've ever read anything in the New York Times so incompetently argued." Of course, once I had recovered from the brain-curdling altered state that Douthat's column induced in me, I knew immediately I was wrong - equally demented examples from the writings of William Kristol, Matt Bai, David Brooks, and Thomas Friedman instantly sproinged back into consciousness from whence I had so usefully banished them.

Still, the sheer abundance of fallacy on display in Douthat's latest published emission is truly something to behold. For example:
But if we just accept this shift, we’re giving up on one of the great ideas of Western civilization: the celebration of lifelong heterosexual monogamy as a unique and indispensable estate. That ideal is still worth honoring, and still worth striving to preserve. And preserving it ultimately requires some public acknowledgment that heterosexual unions and gay relationships are different: similar in emotional commitment, but distinct both in their challenges and their potential fruit.
Everyone together now! FALSE DICHOTOMY!!! I'll leave it to you worthy souls of the commentariat to find the numerous other failures of basic reasoning Douthat commits.

A question. Let us assume that Ross Douthat is sincere... On second thought, let's not. It's a thoroughly ridiculous assumption.* More importantly, whether Douthat is sincere or not is irrelevant. Obviously, Douthat's project is to find intellectually robust reasons to justify rightwing opinions, biases, and bigotries. It's a mission, you know, like in a war! Operation Make Stupidity Respectable.

But if he can't find any compelling reasons for some piece of rightwing nonsense - and so far, he's been batting zero - Ross'll settle for the simple appearance of intellectual heft. After all, he's on a deadline and no one expects (or even wants!) Spinoza when you have to grind out 700 words once or twice a week. So, really, it matters not a wit whether he believes what he actually writes. He surely believes in The Cause with a deep sincerity- or at the very least, in the paychecks that belief in The Cause bestows upon him. If rational argument contradicts The Cause, well, The Cause über alles.


UPDATE: Glenn eviscerates some more of Douthat's argumentation and notes that Douthat didn't even understand what the judge, in fact, ruled. I'm not so sure about that. I think it is quite possible that Douthat well understood that the judge didn't - and couldn't- rule on the morality of gay marriage but only on the constitutionality. So, Ross simply decided to change the subject, a well-worn rightwing ploy.


*For what it's worth my question wasn't terribly interesting, just ye olde nature v. nuture redux: Was Ross born with an intellectual capacity roughly akin to Swiss Cheese, or did little Ross, a child of no less than average intelligence, merely acquire his bad reasoning skills from ingesting too much rightwing nonsense at an impressionable age?

The answer is clearly, "Yes."


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