Saturday, 23 December 2017

A Master of Irrelevance

A Faithful Representative of the State Education System

Folk who cannot think their way out of a wet paper bag find themselves resorting to ad hominem attacks when their "arguments" are disappearing like fog into the ether.  Given that New Zealand's Government Education system is systemically failing, it's not unexpected that this sort of thing will happen more and more.

It seems the most favoured rhetorical epithet is to hurl "racist" at one's opponent.  The word is used with such regularity it has become monotonous and has little meaning any longer.  Verbal combatants might as well deploy epithets like "martian" or "dopple bopple" as "racist", so meaningless the term has become.  Here is an example of the trope.  One Josh Beck, aroused by the spectre of a former politician [Don Brash] criticizing state radio for mixing English and Te Reo in its broadcasts.  Beck wanted to defend the state broadcaster.  Apparently Brash did not approve of Maori language interjections in the news, and was therefore an old white racist.  At least that is the charge levelled at him by his inadequate opponent.  And that's it then.  Beck believes he has "won" the argument.  He writes:

I enjoyed what Kanoa Lloyd had to say on The Project about the opinions of old racist white men, but where I disagree with her sentiment of feeling sorry for them.  Going along with this idea that they're simply relics of a different time who failed to keep up with society downplays the very deliberate actions they have taken in order to be left behind.

This was their decision, and has continued to be for decades. I feel no sympathy for anyone selfish and vindictive enough to hold on to these prehistoric beliefs for such a long time despite widespread public condemnation.  Stop giving these dinosaurs' opinions room to breathe. We are indeed beyond it, and we hold the power to deprive them of the oxygen of publicity they need to survive.

You wouldn't have someone on air to debate whether the Earth is flat, so why invite someone to discuss whether 20 seconds of Māori on New Zealand's national radio station is an affront to anyone except racists.
Let's be clear.  If you criticise the state radio's mixing up English news broadcasts with  Maori, you are a racist.  End of argument.  End of story.  That's it.  The king hit has landed.  Raaaacist!

What can we say?  Well, we may point out that ad hominem is always irrelevant in an argument.  It's equivalent to arguing, "The criticism of state radio using Maori is wrong because the sun is shining today."  How can the sun's shining be relevant to the matter at hand?  Precisely.  You get the point.

On the other hand, we may decide to take up the racist charge and analyze it more seriously.  Was Dr Brash guilty of "raaaaacism"?  It's one thing to level the charge, but proving it is something else.  And in this case it's not just racism. It's worse.  There are additional ad hominem charges to face.   He is charged with "old man's racism".  This amounts to a treble-barrelled ad hominem attack.  Brash is a racist.  He is old. He is a male.  Ah well, if you are going to go in for ad hominem irrelevance, you might as well treble down.

The reality is that Josh Beck's argument failed badly.  Ad hominem is a fallacy of relevance.  In fact, his piece was full of irrelevancies.  It was less an argument and more an eructation of frustrated emotion.  It appears that Mr Beck is a poster-boy graduate of our badly failing Government School system.  In other words, he needs to go back to school--and a real school, at that.  Not one of those Government ones.

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