Blargh Blog

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Baseless Attacks

Here's a terrible argument: everyone who is in favor of the war in Iraq who is physically capable of serving in the military but has not volunteered is a coward who doesn't want to get his hands dirty.

As Richard points out, there are some reasonable arguments that are roughly in the neighborhood of this baseless attack, which call on war supporters to recognize the human costs of war and provide motivation to treat troops right. It is a long way, though, from these reasonable arguments to accusations of cowardice.

Here's another terrible argument: everyone who is opposed to the war in Iraq is ignoring and appeasing terrorism.

Are there any reasonable arguments anywhere in the neighborhood of this baseless attack? I suppose that we could say that it is loosely related to a request for alternate strategies for how to deal with terrorism. It a long, long way, though, from this kind of reasonable discussion to accusations of appeasement.

If you're looking at the links, you'll notice that both terrible arguments came from a post by Timothy Sandefur of Positive Liberty entitled "Straw Men". Surprisingly, the plural does not indicate that Sandefur is exposing both of these baseless attacks for what they are. Sandefur ably tears apart the former argument when a reader tries to use a form of it against him. However, he chooses to employ a version of the latter argument himself, against that very same reader.

I'm still adjusting to Positive Liberty being a group blog, and I haven't come to any sort of global conclusion about whether this is a change for the better. I will say this, though. Jason Kuznicki would never engage in baseless attacks like that one.


At August 09, 2005 7:06 AM, Blogger Richard said...

It isn't clear that Sandefur's attack is directed at "everyone who is opposed to the war in Iraq". He instead mentions "people... like this reader", which might (on a more charitable interpretation) merely mean people who make the first type of straw man argument.

Though perhaps I'm being too charitable?

At August 09, 2005 2:06 PM, Blogger Blar said...

It's true that both Sandefur and the reader direct their attacks at each other rather than at all supporters or all opponents of the war. The reader's attack is a response to the particular arguments for the war that Sandefur made (presumably in this post), and Sandefur's attack is a response to the particular arguments that the reader made (as quoted in the linked post). That's why I hedged and talked about them using a "form" or a "version" of these general arguments. (Perhaps a more accurate gloss of their arguments is "Iraq war supporters/opponents who I don't like are cowards/appeasers.")

I didn't go into any more detail in my original post because these narrower forms of the argument are just as terrible and baseless as the general versions that I gave. How in the world does calling a war supporter a coward imply that one is "more comfortable ignoring and appeasing terrorism than confronting it"? I'm all for charity, but in this case it gets you nowhere.

At August 09, 2005 11:59 PM, Blogger Richard said...

Ha, true, good point. (I wasn't thinking especially clearly at the time of writing that first comment. For example, the attack didn't actually involve any "straw man argument", at least as I understand the term. Though it was so bad that one might think it should only have been made by a non-real person.)

At August 11, 2005 11:30 AM, Blogger Jason Kuznicki said...

Sandefur and I disagree on the Iraq war. I do think he made valid points in this post, right up to the last line where the charge of appeasement comes up. I consider this baseless, as the quoted section shows no obvious inclination toward giving the terrorists what they want. Perhaps the larger message that he received contained such a request, though I have not seen it and cannot comment.

At September 17, 2005 2:37 AM, Blogger Genius said...

You make some sense Bargh.


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