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Many of the Facebookers among you will recognize a new meme that is occupying status updates this week. Disappointed by the degree of credit that President Obama is receiving for the death of Osama bin Laden, some of our less thoughtful friends are updating their status like this:

Let's be clear on this: OBAMA did NOT kill Bin Laden. An American soldier, who Obama just a few weeks ago was debating on whether or not to PAY, did!! Obama just happened to be the one in office when our soldiers finally found OBL and took him out. This is NOT an Obama victory, but an AMERICAN victory!! REPOST IF YOU AGREE!!

There are many things that could be criticized about this statement. I want to focus on one fallacy of reasoning that is committed here and an appropriate reply to it.

The opening of this unfortunate facebook meme asserts that President Obama did not kill bin Laden but that an American soldier did; in fact, it seems to take the fact that a U.S. soldier killed Osama bin Laden as evidence that President Obama could not have killed bin Laden, as though killing could not be a collaborative act. Thus the meme commits the fallacy of introducing a false dichotomy.

False dichotomy is the fallacy of mistakenly restricting a debate to two options, when in reality more than those two options exist. In this case, our facebook friends are mistakenly offering the false dichotomy "Either Obama killed bin Laden or a U.S. soldier killed bin Laden", where the 'or' is supposed to be treated as an exclusive 'or'.

A compelling reply to this unfortunate meme runs something like this:

If you accept the claim that "Obama kid not kill bin Laden; an American soldier did", you must also accept the claim that "Osama bin Laden did not kill anyone in the World Trade Center attacks; ten hijackers did." Given that you do not think bin Laden has killed anyone, you must be quite upset at the assassination of a man that you consider to be innocent in those attacks!

This reply, coupled with some commentary about the nature of false dichotomy, will cause your conservative facebook friends to immediately retract their post, to register to vote as Democrats, to join the Peace Corp, and to carry worms stranded upon the sidewalk to safe ground. I promise.
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Comment Preferences

    •  All (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andhakari

      dichotomy is false (giggle, blink), and all singularity is illusion.

      What safety in numbers?

      Popularity has its perks :-)

      When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace- Hendrix

      by Maori on Wed May 04, 2011 at 10:52:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nicely done but you dignify (5+ / 0-)

      stupidity far too much with your thoughtful analysis. I have lately been more predisposed to dismiss this kind of thing with a simple phrase I learned on the streets of Chicago many years ago: "Fuck off."

      Still pretty effective after all these years.

      :-)

      •  Your reply (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rightiswrong, G2geek

        has a certain elegance to it as well.

        I believe that both reasoned responses and brusque blow-offs are equally important, actually.

        Our replies are not necessarily for the committed conservatives, after all. We direct our replies to them--but our replies are not for them. Oftentimes, our replies are for the myriad others who are watching these exchanges, and by our replies we show them that we are reasonable, that we are passionate, that we are committed, and that we have right on our side.

        I happen to be very good at the reasonable angle, so that is what I do. But I can still appreciate a well-placed "fuck off" too. ;)

    •  and this as well: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OLinda

      It was not OBAMA who was "debating whether to pay the soldiers."

      It was the REPUBLICANS in Congress who were threatening to shut down the government, thereby suspending pay to the soldiers.  

      Know what?

      I wish they'd done it.  

      Then the headline would be:  "Seals take out Bin Laden while Republicans hold up their paychecks."

  •  It only works if they can think (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Philosoraptor

    Which is a topic of intense debate. I tried something similar on a winger in town. I got back some gobbledy-goop of twisted reasoning. Here's their "logic", see if you can follow it:

    Obama ordered some people to kill one man so his contribution was pretty tiny.

    Osama ordered some people to kill thousands to his contribution was great.

    It didn't sound that coherent, a few "damn ass liberals distorting the truth" were tossed in for good measure. But basically Osama had thousands killed so he was still important to kill. Obama had one guy killed so he wasn't an important part of it.

    As soon as you have people telling other people how to live/think/behave because "god gave them authority" you effectively get dictators in funny looking hats.

    by ontheleftcoast on Wed May 04, 2011 at 10:57:51 PM PDT

    •  Causal responsibility (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ontheleftcoast, exterris

      I agree that this sort of reply sounds rather thin.

      What is really being debated is the concept of responsibility. Our conservative friends want to assert the responsibility of bin Laden for the events of 9/11 and to deny the responsibility of Obama for bin Laden's death.

      If we treat responsibility as causal responsibility, this attempt fails. The best basic notion of causal responsibility works like this (I'm simplifying just a bit): "X causes Y" means "X occurred and then Y occurred and if X had not occurred then Y would not have occurred."

      On this account of causation, bin Laden's order caused the events of 9/11 and Obama's order caused the death of bin Laden. Then intervening mechanisms and the number of people involved don't effect causal responsibility.

      In short, I judge your friendly winger's reply to be inadequate.

      •  I did as well. But it didn't get thru the (0+ / 0-)

        defensive, excuse me, DUH-fensive shielding. They really have their hate on for Obama and nothing he does will ever be enough. If next week he cures cancer they'll complain it puts the drug companies out of business. If we found a trillion gallons of oil of the Jersey shore they'd complain it wasn't already in the gas stations. They want to complain and belittle his accomplishments.

        However, there is some hope, the swing voters are swinging back. They were willing to believe some of the anti-Obama rhetoric. But he's showing those people that the TP is just that -- asswipes.

        As soon as you have people telling other people how to live/think/behave because "god gave them authority" you effectively get dictators in funny looking hats.

        by ontheleftcoast on Wed May 04, 2011 at 11:26:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have taken to openly laughing at those kinds of (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GDbot

          responses. I say okey dokey and walk away howling. They have something emotionally invested in defending stupidity and calling em on it just hardens them into that position more.  So laughter is the only reasonable response to not wasting time.  That is what I recently did to my nutcase neighbor and so now he expresses no political crap to me anymore.

          It is like trying to take something from a toddler... if they are dead set on it they will cling so hard that they can destroy what they are attempting to cling to. Laugh, walk away and the toddler is likely to simply get bored with not arousing your faltering efforts to get the object away.  In effect you remove their clinging as the object to be defended (not the object itself).

          Fear is the Mind Killer

          by boophus on Thu May 05, 2011 at 12:07:28 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The same people would likely have been so happy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    begone, James Allen, jan4insight

    ...to give Bush credit if this had happened on his watch.

    "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." - Thomas Jefferson

    by rfall on Wed May 04, 2011 at 11:00:00 PM PDT

  •  Well, there ya go... (0+ / 0-)

    isn't false dichotomy a right winger SOP ?

    "If we work in unity, we will achieve our goal." ~ Aung San Suu Kyi

    by jan4insight on Wed May 04, 2011 at 11:10:34 PM PDT

  •  Facebook conservatives... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JohnInWestland

    The typical right wing mindset is often centered on adolescent style hero worship. And make no mistake, theese people put a lot of psychological quarters into their GW Bush piggy banks for 8 straight years, but still got no WMD, and no UBL.

    Now their enemy within, Obama, gets the job done. To simply say "Thanks" would be to deny their very investment, their self worth. So they resort to sounding like sore losers. Even tho they and we have gained from the removal of this dangerous cult leader, for wingnuts, only the political loss matters, exposing their "patriotism" for what it really is.

    "Patients are not consumers" - Paul Krugman

    by assyrian64 on Wed May 04, 2011 at 11:15:15 PM PDT

    •  Did you hear what that bubble brain Palin said (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      exterris

      Once again she proves that her greatest skill is not using her brain. As if this nitwit has any expertise in warcraft... What she absorbed some ideas from walking past her son playing video games?

      Fear is the Mind Killer

      by boophus on Thu May 05, 2011 at 12:10:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I love your name and this was great (0+ / 0-)

    but I fear too far above those it is aimed at.

    Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Wed May 04, 2011 at 11:59:46 PM PDT

  •  There's also the reverse extension of the logic (0+ / 0-)

    How did the SEAL get to bin Laden's hideout? He flew by helicopter? Oh - who made the helicopter that the pilot flew to get there? How did the pilot know where to fly to? Intelligence? Well who analyzed the intelligence? etc. etc. whereby this was not one man, but a team that required the support of the entire nation to carry out - a team lead by President Obama.

    Love the tactic!

    Regardless, we're dealing with sociopathic authoritarians who oppose reality because doing so gets them off by yielding to  authoritarian leaders who defy their lying eyes. The stronger the logic against them, the more they feel they are yielding, and therefore the more they are satisfying their deep authoritarian instincts.

    There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why...
    I dream of things that never were, and ask why not? ~ Robert Kennedy

    by Reality Bites Back on Thu May 05, 2011 at 12:02:33 AM PDT

  •  The Royal Nonesuch (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eiron, Philosoraptor

    Where Twain shows how frauds can continue their con because some people do not want to admit they've been bamboozled.

    “Hold on! Just a word, gentlemen.” They stopped to listen. “We are sold – mighty badly sold. But we don’t want to be the laughing stock of this whole town, I reckon, and never hear the last of this thing as long as we live. No. What we want is to go out of here quiet, and talk this show up, and sell the rest of the town! Then we’ll all be in the same boat. Ain’t that sensible?”

    Why else would people go to such lengths to defend Bush?

  •  Well durr. (0+ / 0-)

    I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

    by punditician on Thu May 05, 2011 at 05:19:40 AM PDT

  •  So Steinbrenner won all those world series (0+ / 0-)

    Why give the credit to the guys who actually played?

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Thu May 05, 2011 at 06:06:44 AM PDT

  •  My bro-in-law had this meme on his facebook. (0+ / 0-)

    I think I'll comment something like:

    "That's right! And Jimmy Carter didn't screw up the hostage rescue, that was the US military."

    I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

    by beemerr90s on Thu May 05, 2011 at 06:58:01 AM PDT

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