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Political cult rhetoric August 27, 2009

Posted by dissident93 in Medialens.
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This just in. It concerns a couple of old posts (this & this – which have just had a lot of traffic from the New Statesman magazine website):

Just linked to your blog from this New Staesman page. I liked the comment [there] claiming Media Lens “very thoroughly” answered your charges of hypocrisy. They “very thoroughly” addressed something,  but it certainly wasn’t that!

Only one thing wrong with your response on the “misrepresentation” thing ~ you should have mentioned the bit in their alert [link] where they say it’s “vital for democracy and freedom” that journalists do “hurt the feelings” of their employers (by subjecting “their host media to serious and sustained criticism”). That really nails it in your favour, and it’s actually in the part of the alert they quote to attempt to show you’re “misrepresenting” them.

How do they manage to bamboozle people like that?



Yeah, point taken – I missed that. But it was redundant anyway (see ‘logic check’ below). How do they hoodwink people? I don’t know. I suppose the power of language in “evangelical” settings is undeniable – it can make people writhe on the floor and speak “in tongues” (ie in gibberish). And I guess one gets equally bizarre effects in political cults – memory loss, hysteria, paralysis of logical brain functioning, and a net effect of persuasion.

Talking of logical dysfunction, try this:

Basic logic check

Consider the following statement: It’s astonishing that person X is unwilling to perform activity Y.

What inferences can you draw from that, in plain English (since this isn’t formal mathematical logic – it’s what’s known as ‘informal logic‘). Think about it for a moment…

If you’re stuck, here’s a clue. You could logically infer a prior expectation that X is willing to do Y, or that he/she “should” be willing. Otherwise, why would anyone be “astonished” at X’s unwillingness? Is the validity of this inference conditional on the nature of Y? If your answer is “no”, I would agree. Even in the extreme case of Y as an “impossible” activity, the inference seems valid. (Of course, in that case, one would wonder why it’s “astonishing” that X is unwilling to do the impossible).

(Note: paraphrasing often consists of a straightforward unconditional inference, especially when the original statement is simplified by the inference.)