Logically Delicious is part of a continuing series within Thinking About Thinking. I’m hunting Bad Takes in The Wild, and exposing the logical fallacies that fester within.
THE BAD TAKE
Anyway all this discussion about the banning of Alex Jones, distasteful though he may be, is moot. The horse is out of the barn. Censorship will become so commonplace in the social media cesspool going forward, we will barely remember life as it was before the purge began.
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) August 8, 2018
FALLACY DIAGNOSIS: The Slippery Slope
The slippery slope fallacy asserts that because one thing happens, another thing must inevitably follow from it.
As long as you can show a clear, inevitable link from A to B — and C, D, E, etc. — it’s not a fallacy. It becomes a logical fallacy when there’s no way to demonstrate that your conclusion is inevitable.
WHY IT’S WRONG
The problem with relying on a Slippery Slope argument is that it avoids engaging with the issue at hand.
Rather than making the argument that a thing is bad on its merits, attention is diverted to some unprovable hypothetical. As a result, the conversation is framed around that hypothetical as opposed to the thing that actually happened.
Recently, several websites banned conspiracy theorist/political provocateur Alex Jones from using their platform to promote his content. Fans of Jones were upset by this, of course.
“Sure,” the argument goes, “you may not like Alex Jones, but you know what? Next week it could be YOUR favorite content producer getting the ban!” Consider this the social media version of Martin Niemöller’s famous “First They Came … ” framing.
The official reason given for Jones’ ban was ‘use of hate speech,’ which has long been a policy violation of virtually all social media platforms.
In order to credibly make the argument against the Jones ban, one would have to show that these websites are making moves to expand the types of speech they disallow, or expanding the definition of hate speech beyond its natural bounds.
HOW TO CONFRONT THE FALLACY
Once you spot this fallacy, it’s pretty easy to disarm.
Simply insist that the arguer demonstrate, in concrete steps, how one thing must inevitably lead to another. Don’t allow tenuous links; force them to show you how the steps are inevitable.
If they can’t, point out that they’re deflecting from the subject at hand to discuss a hypothetical situation, and bring the conversation back around to where it belongs: The original point of contention.
Semicolon Count: 1