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Thursday 13 October 2016

No, Really, Not The Same

There is a very common ailment that affects the logical process of many human beings on a daily basis. It is a form of logical fallacy, and it is known as False Equivalence.

I'm sure we've all heard this kind of argument. Dogs have tails, cats have tails, therefore, cats are the same as dogs. Absurd, isn't it? And yet, people genuinely engage in such things daily. Their worldview is coloured distinctly by all sorts of logical fallacy.

Let us take, for example, the assumption that - if one person does a job badly, and someone else does the same job, then they will both do that job badly. A lot of people have this with doctors. It's a form of anecdotal fallacy - I had a bad experience and so I don't trust doctors, or I heard that so-and-so had to wait for three hours and so the entire medial profession is corrupt. Regardless of evidence to indicate that most people receive fair-to-good treatment regularly.

In terms of politics, the "They're All The Same" line gets trotted out a lot. One can sometimes see why - back in the mid-90s, as the Conservative party under John Major faced the threat of New Labour's more right-wing leaning, there was a distinct race to the middle ground. Everyone tried to look like the moderate, and tried to paint everyone else who disagreed with them as a shade of extremist. That's probably where a lot of the rhetoric originated from - politicians desperate to get to the most middling position before their competitors.

It is a statement that can be challenged, though. It is objectively possible to measure if a politician is good or not. We can measure this by attendance, by claims of expenses, by all sorts of yardsticks. Even if we discard this particular means of judgement, however, the fact that you can look at all their voting records right here should tell you that they don't all vote the same. Regardless of the words that come out of them, regardless of whether or not they say aloud what they believe - voting records don't lie.

And yet still, their "all being the same" is a line widely touted - a false equivalence. Mhairi Black, a highly morally sound and upstanding young woman, is a politician; so is Boris Johnson, whose clown persona has more in common with Pennywise than Bonzo. But they are both politicians, and thus are both the same - right?

Often a false equivalency is generated out of a lack of more in-depth knowledge. Where money is being spent, what people actually get up to, what the law actually says, what statistics are actually reliable. It's easy to not pay attention to this kind of thing - but if you don't have a base of knowledge to work from, then you should be honest about that before you start making sweeping statements.

There's a current state of false equivalence highly prevalent right now, and that is that both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald John Trump are as bad as each other.

Let's pare this down to the basics.

Even IF Clinton had engaged in the kind of behaviour that Trump has made synonimous with his name - such as calling for the actual physical harm of protesters, mocking disabled people, making several veiled insinuations calling for the harm or arrest of his competition...

...even IF Clinton had outright said that she pays no tax (and is smart because of it) and that the majority of immigrants from Mexico are bringing a "lot of problems" with them...

...even IF Clinton had been recorded talking about sexually assaulting people being okay because she's wealthy...

...then you know what? She'd STILL be a better choice to run the country.

Even if in terms of character they were EXACTLY the same - which they objectively are not - then we still have to concede the difference of career. Clinton has spent nearly two decades in politics. She has lived the life and played the game. People find her objectionable for all sorts of reasons, but the majority of them are things she has done in the political arena. (And are things that they don't necessarily hold the right people accountable for, either - but that is, again, an entirely different blog.)

While Trump's political acumen is...well...

...yeah, there isn't any, is there?

Hillary Clinton receives flak for being "untrustworthy", while Donald Trump collects kudos for "telling it how it is". Now if I am living in a world of ideals, then I want all of our politicians to be 100% honest all the time - but we do not live in this world. We live in a world where diplomacy relies on humility, decency and tact. Look at each of those words, imagine each candidate, and tell me how far each apple falls from the tree.

I am not a huge fan of Clinton. She strikes me as a little more Hawkish than she wants to be perceived, a little more right-wing than my taste - but then, that is how you get to be president. It's no secret that I am a Bernie fan.

But there isn't any hope in hell that I could even conceive of her being worse at the job of the President than that man. She isn't even in the same ballpark. She outstrips him by such a degree that it is embarassing to even think they could be considered "just as bad as each other".

But some people do still think this.

Which is, let's face it, literally False Equivalency.

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