What kind of argument is this?

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
Erik
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Location: Sweden

Post by Erik » 10 Jul 2003 20:33

Mr. Thompson wrote:
Erik -- You asked: "And the instrument varies, according to whose ox is to be gored?"

No. Here I was just talking about a single type of goring device, not the ownership of the oxen.

You also asked: "If it gores, it is OK?"

As I said in an earlier post: "I'd seen the form of argument before and never liked it, regardless of what point was being made."
Mr. Thompson wrote earlier:
This form of argument is frequently employed in arguing the sort of controversies we discuss in this section of the forum. In my opinion, the use of this form of argument has been more frequent since public schools stopped teaching logic and rhetoric.

How convincing or effective is this approach to a discussion of historical problems? Should this type of argument be censored on the grounds that it is insulting or in bad taste?


Dan wrote to Mr. Thompson:
Quote:
The salient features of this form of argument are:
(1) a series of claims with little or no underlying evidence, and
(2) the use of as many insults and offensive insinuations as possible to:
(a) emotionally charge the argument,
(b) psychologically distance the target audience from the writer's opponents,
(b) recast complex issues of fact into primitive and simplistic moral terms, and
(c) to challenge the reader to take sides immediately.


Is this original thinking on your part? If so, I am impressed.

I think it may be difficult to build a systematic matrix incorperating all these points which would describe a particular method of argumentation, but I'm very interested if you think you see a common enough pattern to do this.
And, earlier:
Hypothetically, the arguement form is inferior in some respects, but still serves a purpose, especially to less well educated people.
Scott Smith recognizes modern(?) advertising in this “argument form”:
Mass-marketers know that in order to sell a product you do not want to confine yourself to rational arguments. So one of the pillars of Democracy-Capitalist society is the importance of irrational arguments to commercialism and even to elections.

You want to target different approaches to different groups and kinds of people. The advertiser makes a big mistake only going with the advertisements that he likes rather than those suggested by his ad man.


Indeed, if you substitute a few terms in Mr. Thompson’s “matrix of points” above with a few others of the same “value”, you will find it a common “ad man” agenda:
>>The salient features of this form of advertising argument are:
>>(1) a series of claims with little or no underlying evidence, and
>>(2) the use of as many commendations and suggestive insinuations as possible to:
>>>(a) emotionally charge the argument,
>>>(b) psychologically distance the target audience from the product’s competing brands,
>>>(b) recast complex issues of fact into primitive and simplistic bartering terms, and
>>>(c) to challenge the reader to take sides immediately.
Advertising is a form of public relation. Public relations have their own offices and, hence, “officers”. The officers are assigned with the charge of keeping public relations “good”.

Is that the same as “propaganda”?
It is strange how in some circles these two words can be understood to be synonymous while general perceptions of them are quite different. Public relations connotes a positive image while propaganda carries a very negative one. Perhaps this is due to its association with wartime propaganda, communism and Hitler. Nevertheless, its use has a much more historical background.
http://collection.nlc-bnc.ca/100/202/30 ... ganda.html

The author asks:
In essence to propagate is to make known, to "spread the word". Is this not one of many functions that a public relations dept. or firm ensues? But what about the messages they are delivering, where does it come from? How do we know that the rhetoric of the propagator is done with the public's best interest at heart? Who do the P.R. people work for and from who do they receive compensation?


He quotes:
Harold Laswell: "Propaganda is the control of opinion by significant symbols, or, so to speak, more concretely and less accurately by stories, rumours, reports, pictures, and other forms of social communication. There is a need for a word which means the making of a deliberately one-sided statements to a mass audience. Let us choose 'propaganda' as such a word."


To repeat Mr. Thompson’s estimate:
This form of argument is frequently employed in arguing the sort of controversies we discuss in this section of the forum. In my opinion, the use of this form of argument has been more frequent since public schools stopped teaching logic and rhetoric.

How convincing or effective is this approach to a discussion of historical problems? Should this type of argument be censored on the grounds that it is insulting or in bad taste?
And Dan’s:
Hypothetically, the arguement form is inferior in some respects, but still serves a purpose, especially to less well educated people.
Mr. Thompson asked:
Erik -- You didn't tell the readers what you thought of the argument. How convincing or effective do you think this approach is to a discussion of historical problems? Do you think this type of argument should be censored on the grounds that it is insulting or in bad taste? Don't you think that the passage "Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that a few buildings might not have burned down, and that maybe a few people weren't singed or even killed as a result." takes the argument out of the denial category?
So the essence of the “What kind of argument is this?” seems to be that

>>Holocaust Denial, as parodied by the Mad Revisionist, is propaganda, and propaganda is something being done by the enemy, as opposed to “our” use of public relations (PR).

>>PR is a legitimate approach to historical problems. The results of legitmate historical science must be related to the public, lest it repeats the mistakes of history.

>>Propaganda is not a legitimate approach to historical problems. It serves to prepare a repeat of the said mistakes, not to mention that it is insulting and in bad taste.

Mr. Thompson wrote:
Erik -- You're saying something. What is it?
Erik likes to know. So he asks, rather than answers.

What are the differences between propaganda and PR as “instruments” and “forms of argument”?

I think you have analyzed typical propaganda, that is deliberately and consciously deviced to be “irrational but effective”, as you say:
This form of argument is irrational but effective. It relies almost exclusively on autosuggestive principles, rather than reason, to make its point.
Another “irrational but effective” device is the “straw man” logical fallacy.

Dan wrote:
Quote:
The author is turning what he percieves as the same form of arguements certain revisionists use when they are making points.

I think he is exaggerating the bad logic of most revisionists, but it is healthy in that it helps one to clairify his own thinking, and to review his objectivity.
A parody is a straw man argument par excellence, but with the difference that the object (or rather, the "trick") of the parody is to look like the real thing without making pretence to be.

If it plays with prejudices, it must be handled with a delicate touch, lest the prejudices are fed instead of poisoned by the parody.

I’ll spare you the bull and the ox this time. But the difficulties in distinguishing between PR and Propaganda are repeated here – that is, in distinguishing the parody from the strawman. One is legitimate, the other is a logical fallacy.

Dan wrote:
Hypothetically, the arguement form is inferior in some respects, but still serves a purpose, especially to less well educated people.
Agreed, if the argument form referred to is the “straw man” logical fallacy; but a parody is probably serving its purpose only with very well educated people.

Repeat:
Erik -- You're saying something. What is it?
You have been inspired by a propaganda-parody argument form to take apart as a straw man, perhaps on the following grounds?:
Don't you think that the form of argument is the same in both the parody and the inspiration for the parody?
If you know the inspiration well enough to know that it is of the same form as the parody, why not use the inspiration of it, and avoid the straw man logical fallacy?


I invite the readers to take this form of argument apart.

What specifically is wrong with it?

Should or shouldn't this form of argument be taken seriously?

How convincing or effective is this approach is to a discussion of historical problems?

Should this type of argument be censored on the grounds that it is insulting or in bad taste?

……..
What specifically is wrong with it?
If the people parodied are “bad”, then the parody is “good” if it “wrongs” them.

If it is a straw man deviced for a voodoo healing of the “less well educated”(i.e., the “inferior” argument alluded to by Dan), it is a logical fallacy, exploiting the very tendency you deplore here :
“…the use of this form of argument has been more frequent since public schools stopped teaching logic and rhetoric.”
Should or shouldn't this form of argument be taken seriously?
If it is a parody, you have taken its “form of argument” apart far too seriously. If you think that it is for real, then you can be accused of crushing a straw man.
How convincing or effective is this approach is to a discussion of historical problems?
I take the “approach” to be what is parodied, i.e., Zundel’s site:
An Open Response to Ernst Zundel's"Z-Gram" of February 13, 1999
by
THE MAD REVISIONIST
Is propaganda effective or convincing? As an approach to historical problem?

You have made a convincing analysis in several points of its “salient features” (above), laying bare its structure (propaganda structure). You describe it as “irrational but effective”. And
“…the use of this form of argument has been more frequent since public schools stopped teaching logic and rhetoric.”
Hopefully, a sound teaching of logic and rhetoric would make it less effective and convincing.

Still, it can be argued that you yourself stooped to the folly of a “straw man fallacy” by analyzing a parody of the phenomenon you dislike, instead of the “real thing”.

For "PR" reasons(see above)?

WHAT ELSE is convincing or effective then, if even you must exploit it?
Should this type of argument be censored on the grounds that it is insulting or in bad taste?
The parody argument serves to “insult” what it parodies, i.e., to make it out as absurd and/or ridiculous. If this is censored, then the absurd and the ridiculous will be left to parody itself.

And how do you censor THAT???

So it can’t be the parody form that is to be censored. That would be a parody of censorship, really.

The effort to censor insults and bad taste in any form is surely an ambitious one; it is also an inevitable effort. We cannot accept insults and bad taste here at TRF, can we?

But if it works splendidly in public relations to the "less well educated people" eventually looking in here, can you censor its use?

You wrote:
Directly questioning someone's honesty is likely to enrage the person whose honesty is questioned. I would find such an allegation grossly offensive if it were applied to me, and I find it offensive when I see it applied to others.

Also, if such insults were permitted the discussion might quickly degenerate into a ridiculous exchange in which all the participants accuse each other of lying. ("Liar! Double liar! You are the biggest liar! No, you are!" etc.)

http://www.thirdreichforum.com/viewtopi ... 718#232718

(The users will not easily kick the habit, I guess.)

Am I implying that you are “dishonest” in using a parody argument in order to (deliberately?) build a straw man?

And so, am I insulting you?

Should I be censored when I argue such a point for this reason (i.e., that I am implying dishonesty on your part)?

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 11 Jul 2003 18:12

Erik -- Thanks for the detailed answer to my question. Bluntly, I think you missed the point of my discussion. Here's why:

(1) My discussion dealt with the form of the argument used to present the point of view, not the point of view itself. As I pointed out repeatedly, the form of the argument is fallacious without regard to the point of view it is used to advance.

(2) The fact that the parody had a ridiculous point of view, which no one was likely to be committed to defending, made it a useful tool for a discussion of the form of the argument -- a point Dan brought to my attention. There's no need to build a straw man to attack an obviously ridiculous point of view.

(3) I don't make the distinction which you drew between public relations (PR) and propaganda. Both PR and propaganda are terms which describe methods of presenting a point of view to others.

(4) You conclude: "And so, am I insulting you? Should I be censored when I argue such a point for this reason (i.e., that I am implying dishonesty on your part)?

My answer to your first question is no. Your belief about my use of "a parody argument in order to (deliberately?) build a straw man" does not insult or offend me -- it's just a mistake. My answer to your second question is also no. If I think you are trying to imply that I am dishonest I'll ask you about it directly.

stavrogin
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Post by stavrogin » 13 Aug 2005 22:36

It may be a legitimate form of criticism, but I am not sure if it should have a place in serious discussion of the matters. The first thing that needs to be asked in cases like these is "Will what I say change anyone's mind?" and if there is another way to get the same points across without having to resort to a belittling of the deaths of innocent people who are not responsible for what the target of the satire does. Is this a parody or a taunt? When the taunt overwhelms the parody aspect, it may be less effective in what it is trying to say. While it is true "revisionists" endlessly drone on about Dresden, the people who died in Dresden did not choose these people to incorporate them into their agenda. The parody is actually more for the people who oppose the revisionists than a tool to change anyone's mind. The ones who oppose it will be more able to appreciate the points, but that being said, they already stand on the same side. The question that must be asked is "How necessary is it?" Does the need for it outweigh the respect that should be given to the memory of the innocent and the dead? And also if the author of the parody is doing something that they accuse their opponents should never do. It's no doubt the piece is funny, but the humor comes at a price of saying things that should be beneath them and of what they say disgusts them when the other side is engaged in it. If someone is really clever, they can create the same parody with the same points without having to include the deaths of the people of Dresden in it, who are innocent in regards to how they are used by the opposition.

Reviewer
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Post by Reviewer » 19 Aug 2005 04:09

That so called "mad revisionist" isn`t that mad, may he had sayd something similar about the elimination of the jews, he`d go to prison right away! :?

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 19 Aug 2005 04:49

Reviewer -- The topic here is the form of the argument, not anti-denial laws. If you have something to say on the subject of anti-denial legislation, post your sourced arguments to a thread discussing that topic.

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