Saturday, August 07, 2010

It Doesn't Matter if a Politician or Officeholder is a "Liar"

What's the worst thing anyone can say about a politician or public official?  It's not that he/she is a fraud, a crook, or, the most toxic: a liar. In fact, these are almost totally useless, to the point that, when I hear them, I'm tempted to say: "Who cares?"

The trouble with these appellations is that they go to motivations, a real danger zone for public debate. And they commit the "argumentum ad hominem" fallacy, opening the unwary accuser to easy counter-point. They also continue the diversion from the issue at hand.

But shouldn't we be concerned about a public figure's veracity and trustworthiness? Sure, but instead of making personal accusations, prove him/her wrong - enough times on enough issues, especially those of public focus and concern - and you've effectively disabled that person as a persuasive voice.

Well then, what IS the very worst thing we can say about a politician or officeholder? Simply this: "You are wrong."

Demonstrate error - either of fact or in reasoning process - and you've done far more to extinguish a pol's statements than any amount of accusation can do. Nor are the two methods needed in conjunction - the bad one detracts from the good one. Focus on the good one and leave it at that.

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