Tuesday, March 30, 2021

False equivalences and other "what abouts"

A version of this was published in the Winter Park Time, April 2, 2021, https://winterparktimes.com/opinion/columnists/apples-to-apples-and-oranges-to-oranges/

There is a  time-tested political strategy of making false equivalences to fog up clear thinking.   The term is often defined as “ comparing apples and oranges”, but politicians use it as a trick to make an issue more acceptable to voters that otherwise would have been considered unacceptable. A classic case of false equivalence was Donald Trump's calling both the neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville and the counter-demonstrators as  "fine people on both sides”.  Like apples and oranges, both fruits coming from trees and round that are nowhere alike on the insides, the Neo-Nazi and white nationalist marchers were shouting slogans of their inspiration, Hitler, and the counter-demonstrators were there inspired by civil rights.  Both were exercising their rights.  However, Donald Trump calling white nationalist tiki torch marchers flying neo-Nazi symbols fine people rankled many who believed neo Nazi’s were evil racists.  The howl of anger by the outraged echoed throughout Trump’s presidency and was used by his critics as evidence he was a racist and white nationalist whenever the issue arose.

Some false equivalences have had serious consequences.  Remember a year ago when Donald Trump told the public that COVID 19 was not worse than the flu,  and he admitted on tape to journalist  Bob Woodward, that he intentionally played down its danger? He knew better, even reciting COVID’s danger as much worse than the flu to Woodward.  Even as he emerged from Walter Reed for treatment of COVID 19 he told the public COVID 19 was no worse than the flu. As we later learned, he was much sicker than we were told and was nearly put on a ventilator. He kept that charade up, even secretly getting vaccinated in December before leaving office Many of his followers have become anti-vaxxers and anti maskers due to his “mixed” messages. COVID 19 attributed deaths outnumbered the usual seasonal flu deaths per the CDC by at least three times and variants still threaten that are even more infectious than the initial COVID rates.  Dr. Deborah  Birx, Trump's COVID coordinator estimates 400,000 lives could have been saved if the response had been different. Deborah Birx says Trump’s COVID response may have cost 400,000 lives: Did she do enough? | Salon.com    The anti-COVID vaxxers are harming the ability to reach herd immunity and to stop the more deadly variants. Anti-vaxxers jeopardize plans to protect U.S. against Covid (cnbc.com)


Five reasons why COVID herd immunity is probably impossible (nature.com)

The false equivalences and “what about” hangovers still continue even after Donald Trump left office.  Still at it are recent media talkers who tried to paint Biden as senile because he used notes at his press conference this month to reference data. " Why Donald Trump would have been embarrassed if he did that", the memes contend flying around the internet. Fact Checkers tallied Trump's untruths as 30,000 over four years.  With that many untruths, Trump could have benefitted from some cheat sheets, too, if he cared. For him and his followers, facts and data that provided evidence contrary to his notions were to be ignored or called false.  Just riling up the crowd with repeated slogans like  “build the wall” and “lock her up” was more effective and entertaining than accurate data, negative evidence, and boring figures.   Nonetheless, polls showed that whatever came from his mouth was considered the truth to his loyal followers and it dictated public policy.

 The newer “false equivalences” are trumpeted by  Trump followers “ If you think the capitol riot was bad, what about Seattle and Black Lives Matter last summer.” The apologists for the rioters claim they were equal to the anarchists' attacks in Seattle during the summer and indeed the anarchists broke some windows and painted graffiti on federal buildings.  Loyalists to Trump have attempted to say  Seattle rioters are like the violent attackers and invaders of the Capitol. The Black Lives Matter protests last summer. were mostly peaceful, but marred by some violence, but that is where the similarity ends. The inspiration and intent of the January 6 rioters were to overthrow the government and democracy by terrorizing the legislators whose constitutional task it was to certify a presidential election and they broke police lines to enter and vandalize the Capitol. That kind of intentional action is in a league by itself. The FBI is still toying with a decision of bringing sedition charges against some they already arrested for vandalism of federal property, assault on police officers, and unlawful entry. Donald Trump’s laughable attempt to rewrite history is his claim last week the Capitol police were hugging Oath Keeper rioters and just let them in. The videos and frantic calls for backup from police when their police lines were breached damn that claim.  A hundred and forty police defenders,  one dead, were injured, some seriously by those love hugs. What about that?


Here is the newest apples to oranges deception. Georgia passed some new voter laws aimed at making it harder to vote, and especially harder for African Americans.  It was thinly disguised voter suppression.  Major League Baseball, among other corporations, took issue and MLB reacted by moving the All-Star game to Denver.  Georgia officials tried to paint Colorado laws as being similar to Georgia's in the grandfather of all false equivalencies.

My response on Facebook: How stupid do Georgia officials think we are? Cut out the misleading BS Georgia.. We in Colorado do not require pictures on our ids and we accept many different kinds of ID. 90% of voters vote by mail...easy drop-off locations. All voters get ballots (no requests, no excuses required)..just comes to registered voters. Extremely secure...ways to administer...no sweat, no problem, no suppression, no discrimination.

, no fraud.

.. This Is Not Equal To That: How False Equivalence Clouds Our Judgment (forbes.com)

Fresh out of Walter Reed, Trump compares Covid to the flu. Experts say he's flat wrong. (nbcnews.com)

Trump deliberately played down virus, Woodward book says - BBC News

China grants 18 trademarks in 2 months to Trump, daughter (apnews.com)  Nov 2018

2019 trump pressures ukraine president beginning in July 2019 's Guiliani's fforts Ukraine Releases ‘Shock’ Call With Giuliani As Trump’s Impeachment Trial Begins | Time

False equivalency between Black Lives Matter and Capitol siege: Experts, advocates - ABC News (go.com)

How Republicans Are Warping Reality Around the Capitol Attack - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Over and over and over, arrested rioters say what spurred them: Trump - The Washington Post

What we know about the Capitol riot arrests - CBS News

.. This Is Not Equal To That: How False Equivalence Clouds Our Judgment (forbes.com)

Fresh out of Walter Reed, Trump compares Covid to the flu. Experts say he's flat wrong. (nbcnews.com)

Trump deliberately played down virus, Woodward book says - BBC News

The newest attempt to denigrate Biden is to call him senile and had to use notes. Trump would have had to leave in disgrace, if he did a recent meme went:.  That is a very false equivalency, to say the least.  Here is my answer to that BS made in a group facebook exchange 

  • (Trump).. could never remember facts and just made it up or lied. He masked that in his constant repetitiveness of slogans he was sure to get a rise from his faithful crowd who believed every bit of his tall tales. He was a demagogue and a very skillful one which kept blood and hate and fear boiling. Fact checkers could never even keep up....and his loyal followers swallowed every bit up as the gospel truth.
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    In addition, he was famous for not being able to comprehend the written word, having everything delivered to him in simple bullet points on one page and famous for dozing off or changing the subject. His briefers could not keep his attention. I frankly think he was learning disabled but he covered it up in bluster and blunder and bullying anyone who questioned him. What he was was an adhd auditory learner and he knew what words riled up his listeners. He got his news and feedback from the echo chamber of his FOX trusted personalities and his short blasts were suited for tweets. His early tweets also showed he could not spell or write, but in time it improved so much, I suspect he had a tweet editor. Most of this has been documented by those who tried to brief him....and one, his secretary of state, called him an f.......moron after an attempted briefing. I'll take Joe the stutterer and sticking to the facts, please, over that even if he looks at his notes. .Incidentally, Joe addressed every question asked him at the press conference with knowledge of wide-ranging subjects and he didn't stalk off the stage in a twit of rage or leaving a trail of insults behind him.

  •  I frankly… 
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  •             Fox News poll: Biden leads by 15 points on who is more 'honest and trustworthy' | TheHill    a poll taken by FOX a week before the election.

Best definition: apples to oranges