Winning Discussions: If-By-Whiskey (Effective Pirating)
Logical fallacies are techniques that people use to make an argument appear convincing even when it is wrong. Learning how to identify and refute logical fallacies is one of the best ways to win in a discussion. Catching an opponent committing a fallacy will force him to retract his error or he will appear foolish or manipulative to his audience. There is a dark side to this. Once you learn to identify logical fallacies you will also be able to use them. Do not deliberately use them against fellow Pirates; it is extreme bad manners and you will most probably be caught out.
The Logical Fallacy – If-by-whiskey
This is an example of political rhetoric that is effective despite being seemingly obvious. It is an argument that is designed to appeal to both sides of an argument. It will convince people as it is designed to appeal to the confirmation bias of all sides of a question. It got its name from a speech by a US politician known by the wonderful name of Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr. He was pontificating on the question as to whether Mississippi should continue prohibiting the sale of alcohol in 1952. His aim was not to get his audience on to one side or the other of the question but to make them think he supported both their individual views. In the lyrics to ‘The Boxer’ by Paul Simon: “Still, a man hears what he wants to hear/ And disregards the rest.” is a truth we can use to understand how someone, hearing what Sweat said below, could come away convinced the politician was totally on his side.
This fallacy does not have to be so long winded. It often uses strongly emotional terms with positive and negative connotations of the same thing such as freedom fighter and terrorist, democrat and populist, thrifty and mean, brave and foolhardy.
On a positive note this can be a technique for a moderator to use to add spice to a discussion.
Play the speech in audio player
My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:
If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.
But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.
You can read more about the if-by-whiskey logical fallacy in a wikipedia post and logical fallacies in general in this wikipedia article.
Remember that just because someone commits a logical fallacy it does not mean their argument is necessarily incorrect. If you have the time and resources then use the principles of scepticism to test their reasoning objectively.
This article is a part of a series called Effective Pirating:
Winning Discussions: If-By-Whiskey (Effective Pirating) /05/15
Winning Discussions: Special Pleading (Effective Pirating) 04/05/15
Winning Discussions: Argument from Repetition – ad nauseum (Effective Pirating) 02/04/15
Winning Discussions: No True Scotsman (Effective Pirating) 02/02/15
Winning Discussions: The Fallacy Fallacy (Effective Pirating) 09/01/15
Winning Discussions: The Gambler’s Fallacy (Effective Pirating) 28/12/14
Winning Discussions: argumentum ad ignorantiam (Effective Pirating) 21/11/14
Winning Discussions: post hoc, ergo propter hoc (Effective Pirating) 13/11/14
Winning Discussions: Ad Hominem (Effective Pirating) 23/10/14
Winning Discussions: Appeal to Fear (Effective Pirating) 21/10/14
Winning Discussions: Begging the Question (Effective Pirating) 17/8/14
Winning Discussions – The Bandwagon Fallacy (Effective Pirating) 11/8/14
Effective Pirating: Winning Discussions – Tu Quoque 24/7/14
Effective Pirating: Winning Discussions – The Straw Man 17/7/14
Effective Pirating: Choose your Opponents Carefully 7/7/14
Featured image: CC BY-NC Tom