Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘argumentation

Who cries the loudest wins

with 3 comments

Something I have seen again and again is that issues are not judged based on the facts at hand, factual arguments, comparisons with other issues, or similar—but on who cries the loudest and who has the best sob story, greatest scare factor, whatnot. (Of which almost all are exaggerated, most are misleading, and many are detached from reality.) In a bigger picture, outside the scope of this post, what amounts to popularity contests are all too common (c.f. e.g. my discussion of Harriet Tubman and the twenty-dollar bill or any number of TV shows following a certain template).

This is particularly dangerous when combined with opportunistic politicians (of which there is no shortage…) who are keen on keeping the majority and/or those most likely to switch allegiances happy*. Similarly, it is a major contributor to some problems like athletes being sanctioned or people being fired for having the wrong opinions or saying the wrong things, because many decision makers fear landing in the cross-hairs of e.g. the politically correct or whoever cries “offensive”** the loudest. Another recurring problem is the common case of “apologies” being issued for which no apology should have ever been needed, as with the recent Denise Young Smith incident***, or the absolutely horrifying Larry Summers’ incident****.

*An interesting, but slightly off-topic, example is the issue of migration, which within my life time has moved from an issue like any other to a taboo, where to even mention any opinion other than politically correct orthodoxy was grounds for a shunning even among those parties who have a history of skepticism—but where the public opinion and the success of political new comers (e.g. the German AfD or the Swedish SD) is now making the topic acceptable again (outside of the Left). Of course, this is all for the wrong reason: They are not standing up for their ideals or what they believe is good for the country—they are, by all signs, just fishing for votes.

**To which I note that many of the allegedly offensive things are not so to a neutral and rational third-party, that offensiveness is inherently subjective, that I consider much of what happens in the PC movements offensive—including, among many others, the presumption of defining what is offensive, the obsession with avoiding it, and the too common accusations towards others. As Eminem put it: You find me offensive. I find you offensive for finding me offensive.

***A black woman (!) claims that a group of white men can be diverse too—and is shouted down and vilified for it. Her claim, however, is 100% correct: The problem is that her new enemies live in a world where any difference in outcome is seen as ipso facto proof of differences in opportunities, cultural indoctrination, or whatnot, in a severe case of reality detachment—and often where women, Blacks, Hispanics, gays …, all magically have some talents or abilities that no straight White man has. To boot, it is highly naive, as some do, to see it as an automatic positive to have a certain mixture of people in a certain setting: Positive is to have people with the right capabilities and sufficient motivation in the right place—even if this means that we have e.g. more male engineers and more female social workers.

****He mentioned the possibility that some of the differences in outcome between men and women could be based in different abilities (in both case referring to groups or distributions, not individuals)—a claim with scientific support that explains the results that we actually with great economy (while e.g. feminist theories fail to provide such explanations without going through extreme contortions and making unproved and often implausible postulations). It followed a protest campaign of great hatefulness, irrationality, and ignorance—and repeated apologies from Summers. Apologies from his persecutors would have been far more called for. (As an aside: In the past, I have repeatedly referred to his being fired over the incident, and originally intended to give him as an example one sentence earlier. There is a fair chance that this is true, in form of a forced resignation, which would make the situation all the worse; however, based on “common knowledge”, it is at least possible that he resigned for other reasons.)

To look at some examples:

  1. Breast-cancer campaigns: While the noise has died down over the years, it was not that long ago that breast-cancer campaigners had celebrities lined up, everyone and his uncle was carrying pink ribbons, and breast cancer had gained an image as possibly the most important health issue around (in at least some circles).

    Now: If these campaigns had been directed against cancer (in general), I would have had no beef and be short one truly excellent example. So, why were they not? (Even though cancer is necessarily a bigger problem than any single special case of cancer; and even though breast cancer has one of the highest survival rates.)

    Similarly, why has there been so great an emphasis on mammography, to the point that I have repeatedly heard claims that the rate of mammographies is too high*?

    *I lack the expertise to judge this issue and do not necessarily say that these claims are correct. However, arguments around cost effectiveness, the number of false positive, and the relative benefit of testing for one specific type of cancer and not another, do not seem obviously unreasonable. If I do not misremember, I have also heard similar claims about prostate-cancer checks.

    The explanation is the mixture of scare factor and symbolic appeal: Very many women do not primarily see the risk of death, but the risk of losing their breasts. This hits home harder and opens the road for manipulators, both well-meaning and more sinister.

    (Many charities and other forms of campaigns are similar, e.g. in that an “aid to Africa” charity is unlikely to cite facts and extremely likely to show an image of a black child on the verge of tears, preferably an emaciated one: Emotional connection over intellectual connection.)

  2. Nuclear power: For decades, nuclear power has been commonly seen and treated as a great evil. In Germany, there is a long history of active and destructive, sometimes even violent, protests; some parties (in at least Germany and Sweden) have had the fight against nuclear power as a central item for years; during my school years, we were basically told* to be proud that Sweden was the first country that had decided to abolish nuclear power; …

    *Generally, my Swedish school years contained a lot of indoctrination of a type I (as an adult) consider unethical. Notably, topics like nuclear power, at least before high school, were treated in a black-and-white manner, without a presentation of positives and negatives: This is bad. This is good.

    At the same time, fossil fuels kill more people and do more damage to the environment each and every year than nuclear power has throughout its entire history.

    Nuclear disasters and radioactivity scare people in a very different manner than does the continual damage through fossil fuels, likely aided by the association with nuclear weapons* and many inaccurate fictional depictions. There is a lot of concern about various types of pollution and their effects, but there is nowhere near the type of fear and urgency so many people appear to suffer from with nuclear power.

    *In turn sometimes, in some contexts, vilified out of proportion: Consider e.g. that the conventional bombings of Japan during WWII killed more people than did the two nuclear—yet the former is almost without exception consider merely war and the latter very often a war crime.

    To boot, the image of nuclear disasters is often horribly distorted: Even a far worse disaster than Chernobyl would be highly unlikely to cause any type of rapid death outside the plant it self, likely even outside the immediate vicinity of the reactor. (In fact, I would be unsurprised to see radiation risks lose to e.g. risks through steam and steam explosions on the day of an accident.) The reactor will not explode with the force of a hundred Hiroshima bombs. The nuclear core will not travel through the earth and re-surface in China. Etc. For that matter, I would rather see a repeat of Chernobyl at my city of residence than I would a Wanggongchang or a Bhopal disaster.

  3. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict* (and many others through the years): There are a great many examples of some Palestinian group provoking a situation and then casting blame, fishing for sympathies from the international community, or similar, in a grossly intellectually dishonest manner, similar to the way some children manipulate their parents vs. their siblings: Punch the other kid—and when he punches back, go crying to mother. Cf. e.g. the Mavi Marmara incident.

    *Note that this item deals with a particular aspect of the argumentation around the conflict. I do not claim that Israel would be guilt- or flawless. This particular behavior, however, is comparatively one-sided.

  4. The Left and the extended PC crowd provide many examples, including scenarios* like the Zimmerman–Martin tragedy and the Jason Stockley situation , the drive for “equal”** rights for transgenders, or the whole recent “kneeing sports people”*** phenomenon. See also above and many past articles.

    *These cases are picked because the latter is a recent article and the former covers the same recent theme on this blog. They are not necessarily prime examples in other regards.

    **Which often have nothing to do with equal rights and a whole lot with prioritizing the special interests of one group over another, as e.g. when transgenders want to use another bathroom than they biologically would (what about the women/men who do not want to share a bathroom with biological men/women who might or might not be honest about being transgenders?), or when biological men want to compete against women in sports (despite having a massive unfair advantage).

    ***In many or most cases “useful idiots” who pledge themselves to issues they have a simplistic or outright faulty understanding of. More generally, it is quite common for celebrities to be loud in their support of issues they simply do not understand, often based of injustices that have been exaggerated/misrepresented or do not even exist (especially in the area of feminism).

As an honorable mention*, what prompted me to finally write this post: The claim (by German TV sender ARD’s video text) that European courts had decided that it would be “discrimination”** to apply the same size standards to male and female police applicants. This is wrong on a number of levels. Most notably, this amounts to requiring that a different standard is applied to men and women when judging whether they are capable of performing a particular job duty***, unethically and unfairly skewing the process in favour of women—and doing so at the potential cost of the citizens. This is just one example of how laws against unfair discrimination is arguably used to institute exactly unfair discrimination. An earlier example that ticked me off very badly was a German ruling, some years ago, that it is illegal to apply different health-insurances fees to men and women, even when the actual payouts show statistically significant differences.****

*It is not a perfect topic match, but is at least over-lapping.

**Presumably of the illegal type: The utter inability of e.g. journalists to understand what discrimination actually means and implies is astonishing.

***It can to some degree be disputed whether a size requirement makes sense in this particular instance; however, either it does, and the application of different standards is wrong, or it does not, and then size limit should be removed completely. In other cases, e.g. when actual physical performance tests are concerned, the question is quite clear. (Consider, for instance, the U.S. controversy over criteria for firemen and soldiers.) To boot, if the principle is taken to its natural conclusion, it would also have to apply to any ability test or performance evaluation where there was a difference in results between men and women, including e.g. that women are admitted to college with lower SAT scores (or men with lower GPAs, except that discrimination pro-men would likely be unacceptable).

****Another instance of “either it makes sense or something else must be changed”: Either insurance companies are allowed to use statistical group criteria (e.g. sex, age, education level) when setting fees or they are not—end of story. There must not be a rule “you may use such criteria, except for sex” (or, worse, “you may use such criteria, but only if specifically women have no disadvantage”).


Written by michaeleriksson

October 22, 2017 at 7:46 pm

Strawman or hyperbole?

with 2 comments

One of the most common problems encountered in debates (in particular, against groups like feminists or creationists) is the use of misrepresentations in the strawman-line: A statement is made that is partially true, but which is distorted, exaggerated, or otherwise made into an easy, but ultimately irrelevant, target. A classic example is the sometime creationist claim that evolutionists think that pure chance is behind evolution—followed by “counter-proofs” like the analogy with the Shakespeare-replicating monkeys or the jet plane assembled by a tornado.

I recentlye encountered a debater who made several statements that I took (and still take, actually) to be strawmen, but where the author claims that they were merely hyperbole. For example, to support the speculation that children would be affected by what they perceive as “gender-adequate” behaviour:

Pojkar leker inte med bebisdockor. Men män tycker (i allmänhet) om att umgås med sina riktiga bebisar.

(Boys do not play with baby dolls. But men (generally) like spending time with their real babies.)

Now, the second half may or may not be true (I suspect very great individual variations and a far lower “saturation threshold” than for the mothers); however, the first is very decidedly an exaggeration.

The most obvious conclusion is that this is simply a strawman: The reasoning is based on a claimed change in behaviour between boys and men—and this change, if at all existent, is noticeably smaller in reality than in the claim. With the exaggerated difference, a point can be made; without the exaggeration, the point is no longer, or only partially, valid.

(As an aside, even if the statements had been true, the proposed conclusion was but one of several possible explanations. Indeed, the opposite conclusion seems more natural to me: Little boys go by their inborn instincts towards babies, whereas fathers have an altered behaviour towards specifically their own off-spring as the result of some bonding mechanism—or through brain-washing about what the “correct” behaviour for a modern man is.)

My pointing to a strawman, however, was rejected by the author: She had merely used hyperbole—or what Wikipediaw describes as:

[…]the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech.[…]

[…]An example of hyperbole is: “The bag weighed a ton”. Hyperbole helps to make the point that the bag was very heavy although it is not probable that it would actually weigh a ton.[…]

If we are kind and take the author at her word, she actually meant “Boys rarely play with dolls.” and used the stronger formulation for effect. In a next step, the question arises: What proportion of perceived strawmen are actually strawmen and what is merely incompetent (s. below) reasoning/formulation? Seeing that perceived strawmen are particularly common with feminists and related heavy-with-women groups (e.g. the politically correct or those in favour of social-constructivism) and that women are very prone to categorical exaggeration in arguments (“You never take my side!”, “You always forget to [x]!”, “You never do the dishes!”), the proportion could be quite high. If so, this has non-trivial implications both on how a particular misstatement should be interpreted and on how it should be reject/corrected. (While the details will vary from case to case, greater diplomacy and constructiveness is called for when dealing with errors in good faith and incompetence than with deliberate or malicious distortions.)

Obviously, incompetence is better than malice in this case; however, incompetence is bad enough and hyperbole (and similar forms of exaggeration) should be avoided: Most notably, it becomes hard to tell when a statement should be taken literally and when as exaggeration, which damages all involved parties. Further, unnecessary ambiguity is introduced: When I replaced “never” with “rarely” above, I speculated—possibly, the true back-translation is “less often than girls”/“less often than the men in the next sentence”, “almost never”, “not that often”, … Because the author did not say what she actually meant, there is no way to deduce the exact intention from the text alone. (See also an earlier text on litotes, a form of rhetorical understatement.)

More generally, rhetoric is largely the art of making people believe things irrespective of the facts—and as such it should be used sparingly: If the facts support a claim, then the facts can talk and the rhetoric be silent; if they do not support the claim, then rhetoric should certainly not be abused to shout the facts down.

(Note: “Strawman” in the strict sense applies to misrepresentation specifically of the opponents opinion. Above, and often elsewhere, I slightly misapply the word to represent a more general group of distortions that have the common aim of making a weak argument/position/enemy appear to be the “real McCoy”.)

Written by michaeleriksson

January 2, 2011 at 8:31 am

Unfair argumentation methods XII: Stumbling into the hornets’ nest

with 4 comments

Some time yesterday, I skimmed through a post discussing the perceived need for a woman to be “fuckable”e. Seeing a common misperception of what men want and who imposes what onto women, I jotted down the following comment:

My view, as a man (and while I cannot guarantee that I speak for the majority, I do speak for many others):

If women would spend less time and money on their looks, I would be quite happy. Apart from shaving, most of what a woman needs to do for men are things that she should do anyway—for the sake of her health and hygien. Break-legs heels, stinky perfume, too much make-up, weight-obsessions, whatnot, have a negative net-effect.

By the by, unlike what is claimed above, there is something that men spend similar amounts of money on—drinks, dinners, movie tickets, whatnot to get women.

Unfortunately, I was too much in a hurry to move onto a topic I had not already heard several dozen times—and overlooked that the page was not a discussion among “normal” women, who happened to have a faulty understanding of the men’s side and might be open to a friendly pointer, but had a strong pro-Dworkin take (for those not in the know, Andrea Dworkinw is the patron saint of men-should-be-gassed-to-death-in-concentration-camps feminists).

(While I almost always read the post, and usually the comments, carefully before commenting, some issues are simply so repetitive that they can be “filed away” too soon and be given a stock answer.)

The ensuing until the point where I unsubscribed to comments:


AaaaaahahahahHahahahahaha! HAHAHAHAHAHHA!! Anyone care to take a crack at this clown? I’m a little busy at the moment. Remember: he speaks for many others. But my guess is, he listens for none.

(That this comment is directed at me is clear from the notification email, but not unambigiously from the page.)

Note the complete lack of arguments, the extremely derogatory tone, the insults and ad hominem attacks, and the wild and unfounded speculations.


Since when is bringing in a perspective that you lack being a clown? Since when is it OK to use vague and unfounded ad hominem attacks against people you do not even know?

(I can, by the way, assure that I listen to far more people and opinions than the typical person.)

A more than polite answer considering the circumstances.


Yes, and you are demonstrating your fine listening skills now. By continuing to talk. I may or may not deal with you later, and others may or may not respond to you as well. In the meantime, this is the sound of you, shutting the fuck up.

Note the oft-observed feminist wish to disallow any dissenting comments and the further use of ad hominem attacks, with the addition of a threatening tone. That she further presumes to, very rudely, dictate to me what I should or should not do is moving into the inexcusable.


I just want to say this, douche lord.


Except, apparently, get schooled in perspectives we “lack.”

The fact that you think you can speak on the experience of women in a
definitive way makes you a misogynist.

More of the same old, with the addition of the standard claim that the opponent is a misogynist. To make matters worse, this claim is made based on a very severe distortion of what I actually say (I do not speak on the experiences of women, I speak of a man’s perspective); further, even if I did speak on women’s experiences, this would not in anyway make me a misogynist (and I note that feminists quite often presume to speak about men’s experiences and, worse, intents in a way that demonstrates that they have no clue about what goes on in a man.)

The one point of even semi-merit is the formulation “needs to do for men” in my original comment, which I grant could conceivably be misunderstood—but where any sensible thinker correctly would assume that I in context meant “needs to do for the purpose of getting men” (or some variation of the same). Certainly, anyone applying Hanlon’s Razor would stop to at least ask for a clarification or to qualify her responses—to jump out in all-caps, shouting obscenities, is the act of a child.


“Since when is it OK to use vague and unfounded ad hominem attacks against people you do not even know?”

Oooh! Oooh! I know! I know!

When that person doesn’t have a penis?

Again a very childish behaviour that tries to deflect the issue from the extreme rudeness and unfair argumentation of factcheckme—and turn into yet another men-are-evil/women-are-victims argument. (The more hypocritical, seeing that personal attacks is a standard strategy among many feminists.)

In the end, feminist like these do far more damage than good to their own cause.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 11, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Unfair argumentation methods VII: Swedish example

with 9 comments

We now move on to the post that provided the original triggere for expanding the one article on racism to an article series:

A woman wrote a post complaining that an online test by Swedish paper SvD had identified her as having a match in opinion with the “wrong” parties. The telling title in translation “SvD lies about me (SD is not a center party)”.

(For more information on SD/Sverigedemokraterna and related cases, see Unfair treatment of Sverigedemokraterna.)

I suggested that she should not jump to the conclusion that the test was faulty (let alone lying), but that the opinions of the parties might have drifted over time, that she might simple not be aware of the current opinions of various parties (notably, my own image of the parties is still heavily influenced by what they were when I first informed myself as a teenager; further, it is not uncommon that the opinions of parties are misrepresented by their opponents), and that she, in particular, viewed Sverigedemokraterna through the flawed one-issue lens of immigration.

She (aided by a similar minded debater) went through several iterations of decreasing rationality—and ended in complete idiocy. In fact, her idiocy was such that I have to admit that my annoyance partially got the better of me when I answered. Most notably, she repeatedly misrepresented the stated opinions of Sverigedemokraterna. However, she also ended up wanting to brand me as a supporter of that party, attacking me for allegedly wanting to ban gender-feminism/-theory (while I, in actuality, have the very different wish of removing the artificial support it is given and making sure that its distorted world-view is not uncritically repeated by naive journalists, politicians, whatnot), and starting a tirade about how much worse women have it than men.

The latter, in a Swedish context, proves that she was clueless (and, notably, her CV is heavy in gender-studies, which are well-known for gross misrepresentation and reality distortion). Specifically, she re-iterated a number of oft-repeated feminist myths:

  1. Women still have lower pay for the same work:

    This is not true when we actually look at the same work, the same qualifications, the same experience, etc. A Swedish source (details in the comments)e has made the comparison—as have other sources in other countries, e.g. Marilyn vos Savante. In the end, obviously, the claim is nonsensical already because market forces would make organisations hire more of the (allegedly) cheaper women, pressing their pay upwards and the men’s downward—unless, obviously, we assume that they very deliberately try to oppress women…

  2. Women are abused and murdered by their men more often than vice versa:

    Modern research shows the exact opposite, cf. e.g. http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htme.

  3. Women are raped, exploited, and forced to sex infinitely (“oändligt”) more often than men:

    This statement is obviously very hard to check in any detail, because of matters of definition, lack of statistics, etc. I note, however:

    1. That while more women than men are raped in everyday life, rape is a very rare occurrence even among women: A clear majority of all women will never be raped—and common feminist “statistics” like “One in four women are raped in college.” have no connection with reality (cf. What campus rape crisis?e).

    2. In at least the US, the number of raped men within the prison system is very high. So high, in fact, that some speculate that the numbers for the population as a whole show more men than women being raped.

    3. Men are forced to sex by women quite often: It is true that these instances seldom involve physical violence (or threat thereof), but overall I would not be surprised if men are forced more often in other ways—many of which would qualify as rape in the extremely over-extended meaning sometimes applied by gender-feminists. See also e.g discussions of
      the likelihood of men being coercede and men’s reactions to coercione.

    4. Under no circumstance is the formulation “infinitely more often” justifiable.

  4. Women are worse off in terms of physical and mental well-being:

    A highly dubious claim, considering e.g. that women live longer and men’s suicide rates are higher—however, above all, an irrelevant claim: Unless it can be made plausible that these factors are rooted in mistreatment of women, they are irrelevant for the topic at hand.

    In particular, in my impression, women are more prone than men to create problems for themselves, e.g. by doing some form of inverted CBTw.

  5. Women do “djävligt” (one of the nastiest expletives in Swedish) more unpaid house-work than men.

    Firstly, highly dubious in Sweden, were the rates of house-work are comparatively close. Secondly, this does not take into consideration that men spend more time earning money for the household than women do—nor that the work done by men is often more strenuous or dangerous than house-work. Thirdly, it overlooks that women voluntarily do much house-work that men simply consider superfluous or pre-mature, e.g. washing, vacuuming, whatnot, twice or thrice a week, when once would suffice perfectly—if women create unnecessary work for themselves, they have only themselves to blame. (In fact, I have repeatedly heard joking statements along the lines of “How come the house-work went from a few hours a week to a full-time job when my girlfriend moved in?”—where one would actually expect the per capita house-work to decline when moving to a two-person household.)

    Some illuminating US numberse.

  6. Women have noticeably fewer positions of influence in politics, business, and government:

    The part about politics is, in Sweden, highly dubious: The 2006 proportion of women in the Swedish parliament is 47 % (according to the parliament’s homepagee). Sweden’s largest party and the extremely powerful Central Labor Union both have a female leader. The number of male and female ministers are roughly the same. Several parties have more women than men in important positions.

    According to official statisticse women actually dominate among public service bosses, with 58 % to 42 % for men.

    In business, there is a significant dominance of men, but this should be seen in the light of different levels of experience, dedication, numbers of male and female applicants, and similar. Only after correcting for such factors, would a comparison make sense—and the chances stand very good that the numbers are roughly fair (or even to the women’s advantage) after such corrections.

    (Those who read my website will know that I consider incorrect promotions to be a major problem; however, in the cases I have seen, there has been no indication that women would be disadvantaged—if anything, the opposite.)

In addition to this, it is noteworthy that cherry-picking allows more or less any “truth” to be presented, and that a far more holistic approach must be taken than just claiming “Women are disadvantaged wrt X; ergo, women have it worse than men.”: Any fair discussion would also include all the areas where men are disadvantaged, including e.g. criminal and family courts, divorces, workplace risks, suicide risks, the current school system, mandatory military service, …

Indeed, while writing this article, I encountered a Swedish blog post discussing an equality indexe that attempts to give a true measure of equality (whereas those cited by feminists tend to focus on areas where men have, or traditionally have had, advantages). The results included that Swedish women have 54 % more power and 72 % more privileges than Swedish men. If this index (which I have not had the time to investigate) is even remotely reliable, then the gender-feminists’ case can be summarily dismissed. Certainly, the outcome is in the general direction that I and many others have anticipated—in fact, noticeably further down the road than I thought.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 1, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Unfair argumentation methods I: Preliminaries

with 2 comments

As the recurring reader knows, I have an article on misuse of the word “racism” (and some related issues) in the workings—but it does not seem to actually become written and, further, is branching out in scope.

To counter this, I have decided to make a series of somewhat shorter articles dealing with unfair argumentation methods. The preliminary schedule is (within, possibly, the next week): This entry dealing with preliminaries; a discussion of this problem in general and on the Swedish left; a discussion of the Swedish party Sverigedemokraterna, and how they are treated; three specific examples from discussions I have myself been involved in recently from respectively Germany, Sweden, and the US; and the originally intended article (maybe split in two, depending on developments). Possibly, I will throw in a post with links to my previous writings on related topics or interesting discussions by others.

Obviously, this series of articles can only cover a few aspects of a very wide topic—and the reader is cautioned to be wary of the incompleteness of the discussion.

Considering the topic (and for reasons that will be clear in due time), I will use a stricter comment policy than usual for this series of entries. Notably, comments containing any form of bad language or personal attacks, controversial claims not supported by links, misrepresentations of others opinions, or any indication of foul play or ill intentions (regardless of the target), will be blocked or edited.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 4, 2010 at 12:27 pm