[conspire] A sometimes scarily small community, is ours

Adrien Lamothe a_lamothe at yahoo.com
Sun Jan 1 15:29:21 PST 2006

Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:

>By contrast, I'll generally start talking about something as a subject
>of interest without putting myself in the middle of the narrative -- or,
>if I'm in it for some reason, I try hard not to make my argument turn on
>points involving me personally.

>This is just partly how I was trained to write, as an essayist, and
>partly my instinct for rhetoric at work: If you stake an argument even
>in part on your personal authority -- or can even be credibly claimed to
>have done so -- that gives unscrupulous people who dislike your
>conclusion an easy cheap shot: attacking the basis of your authority,
>i.e., attacking your credentials or standing.

>When such attacks are, objectively, non-sequitur because your argument
>wasn't _based_ on your own personal qualities, then it's called the
>fallacy of argumentum ad hominem (argument against the man, as opposed
>to against his substantive points). The objection isn't to the tactic
>being unpleasant; rather, it's to it being inherently unresponsive to
>what it purports to refute.

Closely related to Argumentum Ad Hominem is Argumentum Ad Verecundiam, or "appeal to authority." This form of logical fallacy is closely intertwined with the marketing and branding process:  "This new software is great, because it was developed by MuchoMegaSoft Corporation (TM), and we all know that MuchoMegaSoft Corporation (TM) is the undisputed authority in computer software." (hey, why not wrap an Argumentum Ad Populum in the Ad Verecundiam? It makes the egg roll tastier.)

I attended a panel discussion event, at which the audience was invited to make contributory statements. A couple of audience members made what could be concieved as provocative statements (which were also, as far as I could tell, true statements.) One of the "experts" in the panel then stated that he "came from an era where people claimed ownership of their words, and there was none of this anonymous sniping from the sidelines." His statement sounded a lot like "no comments from the peanut gallery." His reference to the "sidelines" implied that the audience member's viewpoints were not as valid as the "expert" panel members, which is really funny when you consider that the audience was packed with "heavyweights." What that panel member didn't appreciate is that in the context of a town hall meeting, what is important are the concepts and information relevant to the topic, which is of vital concern to the community of people affected; what difference does it make who presents the
 points, of utmost concern is a thorough examination of the topic (leave your ego at the door, no one will steal it, it will still be there as you leave and please DO take it with you when you leave.) Now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense to put the less-effective people on stage and invite the movers-and-shakers into the audience, where the real consensus should be developed; this also serves to conceal what is happening (Machiavelli would have approved of this technique.)

>"Now, it's time to hack the real world, and let other people write Web sites about it."  -- Donald B. Marti

Very cool quote.

Cheers, Happy New Year!

- Adrien

Yahoo! for Good - Make a difference this year. 
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