Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Shattered Logic of Identity Politics

If you have been watching the identity politics playing out in social media lately you may find it to be a disturbing trend as I do. There are many reasons, primarily that we are not taking principles seriously and instead breaking down into tribal mentalities. That being said I want to get to the actual logic of why it's not a good idea to buy into this concept.

The main problem in identity politics is that by identifying with a group, rather than as an individual, you begin to conflate a lot of information about yourself and about others. You begin to establish the belief that you share responsibility on the basis of identity and that others do as well. You then hold everyone of an identity group liable for the actions of a select few. In effect, you become the very thing you despise - a bigot.

So I'll get into the types of fallacies I've consistently been running into on social media with respect to this issue:

Hasty Generalization (a conclusion based on insufficient or biased evidence)

Identity politics assumes a person IS there identity; you are automatically assumed to literally have the stereotypical qualities of your identity. This is fallacious because there is no evidence to make such a claim aside from your "hasty generalization".

Slippery Slope (a series of iterations will produce a magnified effect over time)

It doesn't take much knowledge of history to know that the game of Identity Politics leads down a very dangerous and slippery slope - that over time as these ideas become more acceptable, they will be used increasingly, with increasing severity, and this will lead to tribalism and violence. This has unintended consequences over time which are not in line with the desires of any rational human, but can't be realized fully if one is not aware of our history. Over time, N = N+1, which means this problem will compound and evolve into something far more dangerous than it is today.

Genetic Fallacy / Ad-Hominem (the conclusion is determined not on the merit of the argument, but by attacking the argument's perceived origins)

This will be used frequently in debate when you are attempting to quote Nietzsche for example, or other thinkers. If the argument you present cannot be refuted on its own terms, the person will attack the source as lacking the proper merit to form the argument in the first place. The fallacy here is that you have not refuted the argument at all, and believe that the argument can be won on the merit of the source, not the argument itself. Character assassination and hit pieces are frequently used by the media to create the basis for engaging in this fallacy.

Begging the Claim (the conclusion is assumed as part of the argument)

"Why do you support the evil corporations?" - Here the person assumes that corporations are "evil" as part of their argument, which is the conclusion they want you to draw - but have done nothing to actually make their case. This is fallacious and presumptuous, and not really worth contending with.

Moral Equivalence (comparing minor misdeeds with major atrocities)

"If you support that guy you're a NAZI" This is very frequently being used and it's not pretty. I'm rather disgusted by it personally because there is a clear lack of respect for history and for what really happened in WWII. These are really just emotional, vitriolic attacks which are obviously fallacious.

Straw Man (re-framing the argument and defeating your own version of it)

This one is frequently used in the media - especially in the Channel 4 News interview between Kathy Newman and Jordan Peterson. Whenever an argument was put forth, it was re-phrased and loaded in a way which would make it untenable. "So what you're saying is..." is a fairly good indicator that this fallacious form of argumentation is being used.

Non-Sequitur (making a new argument which is unrelated, although seemingly related)

These are often used to project what I perceive as a type of empathy. "If you were X, then you would do Y!" This is clearly irrelevant since you are not X, and therefore actually have nothing to do with Y. This is a non-sequitur - you say "what has that got to do with the price of tea in China?" because it's fundamentally unrelated to the argument at hand.

Anecdotal Evidence (assuming that a subjective experience is the same as an objective truth)

You will definitely run into this a lot on social media. People will make a statement like "I see those people all the time, and they do this a LOT" and many will agree, and re-tweet. This is of course a generalization made from a very narrow perspective out of a very small sample size, and certainly not the result of any actual experimentation or statistical evidence. The result is that one begins to believe in these conflated and fallacious misrepresentations.

Exclusive OR (you're given two options, neither of which is correct)

"You're either for gun control OR you hate kids!" This is technically a XOR, an exclusive or. You are only allowing for one of two possibilities, neither of which is necessarily correct. This is the Kobayashi Maru of arguments and ultimately fallacious.

The reason that identity politicking leads to so many logically fallacious arguments is that it's an attempt to project an ultimately flawed model of reality into being, and it just doesn't hold up. The model lacks detail and complexity, it's fuzzy and without nuance. When you look closely at the parts of the model they fail to cohere with the other pieces. This is due to the amount of conflation which is ultimately a form of lossy compression - and what is lost matters significantly. Without looking at the individual, at the merit of the argument, or at specific instances, it is necessary that you will make mistakes in judgment. Relying on the shattered logic of this framework is a recipe for disaster.

The Shattered Logic of Identity Politics

If you have been watching the identity politics playing out in social media lately you may find it to be a disturbing trend as I do. There a...