The Fallacy of False Equivalency

A while back I posted a Facebook picture of my wife and me at an inauguration event from 2008, saying this was the only “political” post you’d see from me until November. I think I’ve stuck by that. My posts regarding the bizarre proposals and threats offered by the GOP nominee are not political, they are warnings about the consequences of allowing fascism to take hold of a fearful and uncertain populace (whose fears and uncertainties are ironically exacerbated by the “law and order” candidate’s disdain for actual law and order).

But I have been frankly amazed at the contortions of logic being offered by those who see the election as more or less equivalent choices between two “nearly equally evil” candidates and, if one is to follow this logic, nearly equally “evil” outcomes should one or the other be elected.

I know this position to be baseless, and yet seemingly sincere individuals offer up this false equivalency as if I should accept such a glaring fallacy at face value. “Well,” so many people say, “Trump is terrible but Clinton is not much better.” Wrong. And I can prove it.

We’ve all seen the vast catalog of differences we are either voting for, or against, the differences that sophists and sour grapes types (and just plain ignorant people) would have you ignore because “choosing the lesser of two evils means we have already lost.” Wrong again, especially when there has been no proof of any “evil” actions or intent from candidate Clinton. For all the bluster and fake (i.e. political or apolitical/anarchist) umbrage spewing from the haters of all things organized and connected and global, they cannot offer a single piece of evidence linking Hillary Clinton to an actual crime.

False Equivalency – The Commercial Angle

Pundits with various political motivations for getting us to believe in a particular reality are relatively easy to spot. I think it’s important to point out the role of the press, and especially the new “social media” press, in helping generate this regrettably common notion, this false equivalency. It helps to employ critical thinking, healthy skepticism, and logical deduction when attempting to ascertain the source of what we consider to be “knowledge.” If we “know” something, from whom did we learn it? How reliable is that source of information? What is THEIR motivation in publishing the information? What do they gain if we buy their version of the truth, if we “believe” it?

If we don’t ask these questions, we risk becoming “vessels” for propoganda that has only a glancing relation (if any) to the truth. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that every single media source out there (including, and especially, slapped-up social media “news” sites) is a business, competing with other media for your attention and for the ability to influence the societal debate. Well, there’s no more compelling topic to Americans these days than a presidential election, unless it’s an “historic” presidential election. (Probably used to be boxing title fights, but times change). And there’s no bigger turn-off to potential consumers of media than a “non-story”, a done deal, a cake walk, yesterday’s news. In other words, the presidential election MUST be a horse race, and it MUST be neck-and-neck, or people will tune out the news media and go back to their first loves: American Idol, Netflix, and Facebook LOL cats.

So what is the media to do when one candidate is a traditional, qualified, highly educated, highly experienced former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, while the other is a crass, bigoted, ignorant reality TV star with exactly zero experience in government and zero commitment to public service?

You crank up the false equivalency machine, of course. You magnify the problems and potential disasters facing the “good” candidate, to the point that she starts to look as “bad” as the unequivocally “bad” candidate. You make what are essentially overprotective office management blunders (based on legitimate fear of domestic enemies) look like treason, while the other candidate engages in treason – actually requests a foreign power to commit criminal espionage against the U.S. State Department.

Her Convictions are Criminal?

Her “real” crime? Being in politics for her entire life and “playing the capitalist game” because – brace yourself – she’s been a government official in a country with a capitalist economy. So..lock her up for conducting foreign policy according to the President’s direction? Lock her up for changing her views on public issues from time to time, or for engaging in common political hyperbole, over a decades-long career? Lock her up for being the Senator from New York? Lock her up for Bill Clinton’s approval of a Senate crime bill in the 1990s? Lock her up for foreign policy missteps and failures that every administration and every Secretary of State experiences in an unpredictable and violent world? Lock her up for being a hawkish neoliberal? Lock her up for accepting speaking fees as a private citizen? Lock her up for her choice of friends? Lock her up for favoring her own candidacy over that of her primary opponent?

We’d have to lock up the majority of politicians for such “crimes.” Yet her opponent is breaking the law at this very moment – right now, soliciting campaign contributions from foreign nationals, which is illegal. It is happening right now. Is that just cute or something?

Compare and Contrast – For Real

Here’s just a few of the glaring, incredibly consequential differences others refuse to acknowledge or would have you dismiss as irrelevant:

Trump: “If I don’t win in November, it will be because they rigged the election.” This is perhaps the most dangerous thing any U.S. presidential candidate has said, ever. It is on the heels of his primary promise that there will be “riots” at the convention if delegates tried to challenge his nomination. It worked for the convention. But if Clinton wins the election (which Trump seems to be acknowledging here as the most likely scenario), he is basically calling for civil disobedience, for an uprising against an imagined criminal conspiracy. In the very, very likely event that he loses, he is signaling his white supremacist supporters to bring on a national calamity as retribution for his loss. At the very least this type of rhetoric (coming off the “Lock her up” theme of the convention) seeks to delegitimize a Clinton presidency before voters can even go to the polls. This, like so many of Trump’s insane statements, is unprecedented and indefensibly dangerous rhetoric.

Hillary has never tried to foment widespread unrest and violence in the event she loses. I’m guessing she’ll skip the “it’s all rigged” tactic as well – you know, since she’s running to be president of a democracy.

Trump: “They will follow my orders.” This is his response to a question from a reporter, referencing Trump’s promise to have the military “take out” the families of terrorists. To order summary executions would be an unlawful order, the reporter says, so how would Trump achieve this? His answer is a clear indication that he has no intention of obeying the law once elected.

Hillary has never proposed a policy that includes illegally targeting the families of terror suspects for summary execution.

Trump: “Ban all Muslims from entry into the U.S….monitor the mosques.”

Hillary is not proposing immigration bans and widespread surveillance of citizens based solely on religion, acts that would violate the Constitution.

Trump – to the Russians: “Please find the missing State Department e-mails.”

Hillary has not requested a foreign power to commit crimes of espionage against the United States in order to help her win an election.

Trump: “If Ivanka were not my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Hillary has never, to my knowledge, publicly mused about having a romantic relationship with daughter Chelsea.

Trump: No government experience whatsoever; no military service (draft deferments) or public service whatsoever; never elected to any office, ever. No evidence of any organizational or strategic aptitude whatsoever (trust fund/multiple bankruptcies). Extremely limited and self-deluded knowledge of world events (“I saw the Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 7-11”), world leaders (will learn the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas “when it’s appropriate”), foreign nations’ priorities (praising the Brexit vote in Scotland, where it lost by a huge margin), and of course the U.S. Constitution.

As a recent Secretary of State, Clinton is fully aware of both world affairs and the priorities of world leaders. As an attorney and former U.S. Senator, she is likely familiar with the Constitution.

I could keep going on and on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. The notion that there’s “no difference” between these candidates is beyond laughable. It’s patently absurd.

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2 thoughts on “The Fallacy of False Equivalency

  1. Pingback: Don Draper for President – Super Giant Squid!

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