Monday, June 8, 2009

False Equivalence as Usual

False equivalence and bad analogies are staples of left-wing argumentation, so I wasn't surprised to see the following piece appear at Balloon Juice: Your Ticking Time Bomb Scenario. The author, John Cole, writes

Since there is no doubt that we have a history of anti-abortion domestic terrorism, and since we know that evangelicals already support torture for everyone, when do we get to start waterboarding this guy? Does he have any children whose testicles can be crushed? Will we keep him up for weeks on end in stress positions in extremely cold rooms to get him to break? Beat him? All the right made a very good show of how shocked and appalled they were when this man killed Dr. Tiller, so surely they will not object. So when do we get to start torturing this guy?
Since this is an excerpt, I want to make it clear that Cole isn't actually advocating torture. He's just using a ridiculous analogy combined with a couple of strawmen -- in other words, he's making a typical left-wing argument.

First, and this should be blatantly obvious, domestic terrorism isn't equal to foreign terrorism. Anti-abortion radicals, eco-terrorists, and other domestic terrorists aren't' part of an international movement or network that wants to kill people just because they happen to be Americans. Instead, they have much narrower, more specific targets in mind. They are a far smaller threat because they threaten a tiny portion of the population. If you aren't an abortionist and don't work in an abortion clinic, you have little to fear from some lunatic pro-lifer. All forms of terrorists are not equal. We don't have to worry about crazy pro-lifers planting a nuclear device in one of our major cities. It's also unlikely that they'll be flying hijacked airliners into buildings, bombing crowded subway stations, or perpetrating Mumbai-style massacres. Last I checked, we weren't in a war against a radical pro-life group that killed thousands of Americans. 

Second, saying evangelicals support "torture for everyone" is just idiotic, even as an exaggeration. And of course, Cole deploys the common strawman about torturing the innocent, in this case children -- as if anyone who favors torture in certain cases has been advocating torturing innocent family members. Using that strawman is basically an admission that you don't have a rational argument against the torture of known terrorists, so instead you'll argue against torturing the innocent.

And finally, like many on the left, Cole apparently can't tell the difference between U.S. citizens who happen to be criminals -- yet have Constitutional rights -- and foreign terrorists who have none. Hostile aliens captured during wartime are an entirely different category of person than domestic criminals who are U.S. citizens. You might think that would be obvious. Of course it's always possible that his post was just intellectually dishonest, instead of being as dumb as it appears.

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