“Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.” -Proverbs 26:17
“Stay out of this. It’s none of your business.”
“Oh yeah? Well, you just made it my business.”
– Many a movie scene
There was an open letter presented to me on Facebook discrediting certain people outraged by the recent notoriety of the Penn swimmer going by the name Lia Thomas. Sadly, the letter’s writer discredited himself by concluding with assumptions and name-calling, but before that, he made some persuasive points. His strongest was that no one who doesn’t have a vested interest in women’s sports should voice their opinion on the aquatic UPenn Quaker.
While writing this article, I questioned my purpose in identifying the use of a logical fallacy. Aren’t I committing one of the same vein by attempting to discredit the opinion raised in elucidating its self-defeat? But then, I decided that in pursuing truth–the goal of a true debate—pointing out logical fallacies is not an effort to denounce the opposition nor their position. I do it to hone better arguments. Either party may have a good opinion, even holding the correct opinion if that is knowable, but they’ve got egg on their faces if they can’t persuade. Logic might not prove the verity of something, but it sure helps.
So, the open letter’s writer weakens his good opinion by establishing why he has a vested interest in women’s sports and Facebook friends he sees lambasting Lia Thomas do not. His standards are completely invented.
As the father of a high school female athlete, he wryly claims this as his “smidgen of street cred to express [his] humble opinion on the topic.” Additionally–and this is the first I’ve seen–he shamelessly admits to poring through his friends’ Facebook walls searching for “a shred of evidence that [they] are actually concerned about women’s sports.” However, he welcomes the reader to “Scroll through MY timeline.” His smug confidence tells us we’d find a history of his support for women’s sports, dating all the way back to, at the earliest, 2016.
On that same level of authority (his own) from which he demands of his online connections, “Who are you to talk?” I could ask, “Who are you to stop them?” His argument doesn’t hold water.
If we want to silence people who don’t have a dog in the fight like we think we do, we’ll want to avoid the credentials fallacy. What happens there is what this letter writer did; he claimed unique authority in the conversation and disenfranchised anyone who did not meet his expectations. But what about his daughter’s referees or coaches who may not have daughters… or a Facebook account? This father should appeal to higher standards than his own qualifications to determine who can say their piece.
We’d do well to heed the proverb above and not involve our passing opinion on every conversation. But with ours being a free country and with human nature being what it is and the internet giving just about everyone a space to voice their opinion, we’ll ?make anything our business. The open letter’s writer now trudges on, unknowingly uphill, having convinced only himself.
– Scot Bellavia