Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Guilt by association, organ trafficking libel, and poisoning the well


Jewish date:  27 ’Elul 5769.
Worthy cause of the day:  I got a flu shot earlier today.  Please consider getting one yourself and save someone else the inconvenience (or death) from getting the flu.  Thank you.
On with the daily dose of religious fallacies and misinformation.
Topic 1:  “Nazi Fetishist Suspended by HRW” (Subtitle:  “Human Rights Watch's weapons "expert" suspended following outcry over bizarre "hobby".”):  This affair is logically a rather strange one.  The fact that Marc Garlasco of Human Rights Watch collects Nazi memorabilia does not make anything he claims wrong; he could plausibly claim to be extremely interested in World War II.  Furthermore, even the fact that he took this interest to the point where he was caught “wearing a Nazi-themed sweatshirt” does not make his claims necessarily wrong; he could just be insensitive and offensive.  What makes him wrong is that he has done a lousy job as a reporter writing about the Arab-Israel War and failed to do proper fact-checking or aim for unbiased reporting.  And what is likewise strange is that outrage over Garlasco’s intellectual dishonesty was not enough for Human Rights Watch to suspend him, but outrage over his unpalatable hobby was.   Exactly where are their priorities that people have to resort to guilt by association to have action taken against a fraud?
Topic 2:  “Organ theft reports picked up by Arab media”:  Another report of dishonest reporting, in this case of an improbable, unsubstantiated claim of the trafficking of the organs of Algerian children, with Israelis and Americans as the scapegoats.  No documentation or other proof is known to exist.  The blood libel is unfortunately not dead.
Topic 3:  “J Street’s Shameful Attacks on Aipac”:  Rav Boteach correctly notes that disagreeing with someone does not mean one’s opponents are stupid or irrational (or even wrong).  Assuming they are without giving proof is a form of poisoning the well (an ad hominem used to stifle an argument, thus providing an illusion of victory without doing the actual work).  Such a tactic does nothing to bring anyone closer to the truth, and it has the nasty side effect that it causes pointless hatred.  We most certainly can do better than this.
Have a good day.

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