I’ve noticed that politicians and commentators on politics stick to particular fallacies. Personal Abuse is a favourite, but I also overwhelmingly detect Impugning Motives, Weasel Words, Poisoning the Well and the Burden of Solution. The Prime Minister’s solution to the crisis in Aboriginal communities drew the following responses and examples of the above. First we have the Queensland Premier Peter Beattie:
Mr Beattie said he disagreed with an alcohol ban…. He said the Government was willing to look at long-term sustainable solutions.
"We'll work on this but we're going to be sensible," Mr Beattie said.
"We're not going to do silly gimmicks because there's a federal election, like a total ban."
By claiming banning alcohol (one of the acknowledged drivers of abuse) is merely a “silly election gimmick” Beattie Impugns Howard’s Motives. He claims that Howard actually has a devious motive; he only cares about wining the next election. The unstated implication is that to Howard, the sexual assault of small, defenceless and innocent children is a secondary motivation or even no motivation at all.
Then there are these responses:
… ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope was the lone Labor leader describing the push as “racist”. “I think on any definition of racism, this is racist,” he told ABC Radio today. “Give me an example of any racist action anywhere in the world that has ever successfully led to change.”
Ensuring adequate law enforcement is racist? Stanhope was hoping that by throwing in a Weasel Word, a deliberate use of a dysphemism in this case, he could misrepresent the actual situation.
Not to be outdone, in less than a sentence Bob Brown Impugns Motives with these Weasel Words, describing …the plan as “selective, cynical and racist”.
Indigenous activist Michael Mansell said the same thing, but was far more prolix:
“This is a racist attack on the weak and an immoral abuse of power, amounting to nothing more than political vote scoring,” he said.
If anything, this plan is finally ending racism. If the same problems (students not attending school, extreme domestic violence and sexual abuse) were occurring in urban Sydney, for example, would it have gone on for so long?
In the age of the sound bite, we can almost forgive all these pathetic LAME comments… almost. Alan Carpenter, the Premier of Western Australia makes sure he gets a look in with more Motive Impugning, combined with Poisoning the Well:
Does anybody in Australia honestly believe that what John Howard's doing is not related to the forthcoming federal election? Does anybody honestly believe that? Come on. We've seen it before. I've seen it, we've seen it with the 'Tampa', we've seen it with other pre election periods.
Rann has attempted to undermine the plan by linking it to the Tampa, an event which has been denigrated as nothing more than a pre-election stunt by many commentators.
Not to be outdone, the Premier of South Australia Mike Rann referred to the plan as being based on ‘shock and awe’:
What I'm saying is that it's all very well to have the sort of the shock and awe approach, send in the troops, declare mission accomplished and then pull out, and see the whole thing fall apart. We've seen that before.
As with Carpenter’s humbug, Rann has Poisoned the Well. Arguably Rann has been even more impressive. He has linked Howard's plan to the Iraq war with the Weasel Words "Shock and Awe".
Note that with the exception of Beattie, none of the above explained how they think we should deal with this horrific and shameful problem. They are all guilty of the Burden of Solution. And with all these “criticisms”, the obvious rebuttal is best expressed with the following statement (which I am happy for anyone to use without crediting me): “So what?” Even if Howard was purely motivated by the thought of an election victory, does it matter? Surely all that matters is “will the plan work?”
This is a good piece on the Madness of the Critics by Miranda Devine. In particular, this from Noel Pearson:
Pearson, as always, had the most potent response: "There is within every community good people and it is an absolutely shameful thing that those good people are misled by people whose children sleep safely at night," he told Lateline on Tuesday.
"That's the horrendous thing here, that the people who are nay-saying any kind of intervention are people whose children, like my own, sleep safely at night. And I think that's a terrible indulgence. When our children sleep safely we seek to put roadblocks in the way and we wish failure upon any decisive action that's going to relieve the suffering of vulnerable children."
There's nothing wrong with arguing about how to best address this problem within our indigenous communities, but merely writing off the government's plan as self serving and opportunistic is not only fallacious, it is disgusting. FYI, here’s a link to a report on welfare reform by the Cape York Institute, launched by Pearson on June 19 – From Hand Out to Hand Up.pdf.
Update - 29th June - I can't believe I missed this from leader of the Australian Democrats, Lyn Allison:
Indigenous people have the answers and we need collaborating, not using a jackboot to seize powers.
This outdoes Rann's link to the Iraq war. The Weasel Word "jackboot" is a Well Poisoning association with fascism, in particular, the Nazis and SS. Delightful. (I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. She is probably ignorant of the connection and knows not what she says.) She needs to get some new material however. She has already used the "jackboot". (Ps Lyn - hire someone who understands possessive apostrophes to write your press releases.)
...at the Prime Ministers intemperate comments on Senator Obamas pronouncement...
Mr Howard's [got it right!] jackboot diplomacy puts at risk our relationship with the United States and a possible future president.
Mr Howards interference...