Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Illogical Thinking - Part 2 (Fallacious Journalism)

As promised in part 1 of "Illogical Thinking", we shall begin to our efforts to tear down amazingly poor arguments that self-proclaimed journalists try to build out of thin air. Refer to the article here.

MULTIPLE expert analyses have now identified Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the man in the sex video.

(For starters, is this claim really true? Let us examine the argument to corroborate this assumption)

Earlier, a local video professional and a Korean expert had also pronounced the video as genuine and undoctored.

FALLACY NUMBER 1: (Hypothesis Contrary to Fact or "non sequitur") This means that the conclusion is arrived by assuming a false hypothesis.

The professional and Korean expert pronounced that the video is genuine. They did not claim that the man in the video is Anwar. Those are two VERY different things. The man in the video could be Najib for all I care, but they above to "experts" did not make any claim on who was in the video. Hence, their analyses DID NOT identify Anwar as the man in the video. Based on the lesson we learnt in Part 1, this argument commits the "non sequitur" fallacy. This is similar to claiming the following:

Premise 1: Anwar is in the video (false hypothesis, Anwar may or may not be in the video)
Premise 2: The video is genuine
Conclusion: Therefore Anwar is in the video

Now, on with the story:

Now Prof Hany Farid and Asst Prof Lorenzo Torresani of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire concur with those findings. Dartmouth is a top-notch Ivy League institution and among the most distinguished educational establishments in the world.

Prof Farid himself, a leading researcher and chair of Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science, had even developed some of the latest techniques of video analysis.

All the available evidence and all the best forensic science now point overwhelmingly to Anwar.

Farid and Torresani’s findings are said to be of “99.99%” certainty because to be 100% certain, a witness would have to be in the room at the time. That person is Datuk Shazryl Eskay Abdullah, who never had any doubts who was with him in the room.

FALLACY NUMBER 2: (Appeal to Authority or "argumentum ad verecundiam") This is like saying, someone smart and famous says something is true. That is why it is true. We don't have to examine his/her methods.

Prof Farid is a leading researcher and had developed some of the latest techniques of video analysis. Does this mean that he cannot make mistakes? Does this mean that he cannot be motivated by other factors to make "false" claims? Just because he is a leading researcher, does not mean all his work is 100% accurate. The results and methodology of the study needs to be examined before one can make such a claim. This is like saying:

Premise 1: Aristotle was one of the leading thinkers alive (appeal to authority)
Premise 2: Aristotle said that the earth is the center of the universe
Conclusion: The earth is the center of the universe

Next stop:

Reasonable people now know the truth, however much those with desperate political ambitions may deny and distort it.

PKR’s partners in DAP and PAS must also know what they are unable to bring themselves to acknowledge publicly.

(Appeal to ridicule or "reductio ad ridiculum") This type of argument presents the opponent's position in a way that it appears ridiculous.

When the Star claimed that reasonable people now know the truth, it is suggesting that if you don't believe in what they are proposing (which they claim to be the truth), then you are not a reasonable person. This is like saying:

Evolution is ridiculous! If it was true, there will be no more apes in the world as they would have evolved into humans.

More of the same:

PAS had earlier said it might have to review its Pakatan partnership with PKR if Anwar is the man in the video. Since there is no longer any reasonable doubt that he is, PAS now has to do the honourable thing as a reputedly forthright party with vaunted moral values.

FALLACY NUMBER 4: (Appeal to ridicule) If PAS does not review its partnership with PKR, PAS is not doing the honourable thing.

FALLACY NUMBER 5: (Appeal to flattery) This is a fallacy that praises someone so that he/she shares your views. By calling PAS honourable and a party that is forthright and has vaunted moral values, the Star is asking PAS to agree with its views, because perhaps the Star believes it is also forthright and has vaunted moral values.

When is it going to end???:

But if nothing changes within PKR or Pakatan, that should also be no surprise.

In politics, doing what is honourable can often be difficult, especially for those who like to accuse their opponents of all kinds of intrigue and plots.

FALLACY NUMBER 6: (Poisoning the well or "ad hominem") This fallacy attacks the opponent's characteristics in order to discredit the opposing arguments.

The above statements are trying to make you believe that PKR will not do the honourable thing. The Star indirectly suggests that the PKR likes to accuse their opponents of all kinds of intrigue and plots, and that is why the PKR will not do honourable deeds. The Star stops short of calling PKR a dishonourable party.

FALLACY NUMBER 7: (Appeal to consequences or "ad consequentiam") This fallacy creates a "desirable outcome" and argues based on the fact that if something leads to that desirable outcome, then that something must be true.

The Star creates this idea that the outcome of PAS reviewing or leaving Pakatan is "desirable" or "honourable". Therefore PAS must review its relationship with Pakatan.

It is simply amazing how a short article of 374 words can contain at least SEVEN fallacies. The flaws in the arguments are so glaring that I just cannot ignore it. This shows the kind of writing that we consider newsworthy and publishable, which some of us even try to pass for journalism.

P/S: Note that the author of the article is just "the Star". This means that this is the view of the publication company as a whole. With such a poorly constructed argument, one must conclude that the Star has ulterior motives in arguing what they did (logically speaking).

No comments:

Post a Comment