Begging the Question Fallacy: “This is not who we are” … again and again and again … 

Previously I wrote about the “Begging the Question” fallacy (and another example here). Immediately after an event, say a mass shooting, a city Mayor says “this is not who we are…

after actual events just showed that this is precisely who they are.

Source: Begging the Question Fallacy: “This is not who we are” … once again | SocialPanic.org – Occupy Propaganda

Predictably, after 70 people were shot in Chicago this past weekend, confirming the cities long time reputation for gun violence, Mayor Rahm Emanuel says

“All of us know that this is not Chicago, what we saw. We are better than what we saw.”

This is known as the “begging the question” fallacy, which is to assert that something is true, in spite of actual events, and assert everyone agrees with this. This method is extremely common in corporate and government propaganda efforts.

Begging the Question Fallacy: “This is not who we are” … once again

Previously I wrote about the “Begging the Question” fallacy (and another example here).

Immediately after an event, say a mass shooting, a city Mayor says “this is not who we are” – we live in a safe community. But empirically, based on what just happened, they are not a safe community.

These scenarios play out frequently – and the response “this is not who we are” is a staple of public relations staff, even though reality demonstrated that this is who they are. See the links, above, for many examples of how this technique is commonly applied.

Today, a Fresno State University professor made rude, mean spirited, and vile comments on her Twitter account.

Not surprisingly, the University President issued, via Twitter, a statement saying in so many words, “This is not who we are”, even though empirically, they just demonstrated that this is who they are (in fact, this is the 3rd Fresno State professor in 12 months to engage in hurtful or illegal speech – see below).

Note the President’s attempt to distance FSU from the Professor and her comments (they were “made as a private citizen” even though her platform clearly identified herself as a professor at FSU and furthermore said that people listen to her because of that). The President then refers to her as “Professor”, using her university title, apparently wanting her to be a citizen when she casts a negative light on the University but a professor otherwise.

In so many words, he is saying “this is not who we are” even though a member of his faculty just demonstrated the behavior being denied (with evidence this is not the first time this has occurred).

Empirically this is precisely who they are.

Fresno State is going the way of the University of Missouri and Evergreen State College in Washington. The President’s words saying this is not who they are are bogus.

See: News conference: Fresno State professor calls Barbara Bush “racist” | The Fresno Bee

Another example of “Begging the Question” fallacy

The very first passenger train with paying customers crashed on a brand new rail line with a brand new locomotive.  A spokesperson then proceeds to tell us that the railroad is safe:

“It’s important to note, this is not a comment on the safety of those tracks. We have no reason to believe those tracks are anything but safe,” WSDOT spokeswoman Barbara LaBoe said. “This is a decision based on sensitivity both to the people involved in Monday’s tragic events and our ongoing passengers.”

No reason? After you’ve just experienced a spectacular crash on the first passenger run? Seriously, no reason? Empirically, the rail service was not and is not safe.

See here and here for other examples of this fallacy.

This is a common propaganda spin – after something bad happens, we assert that this is “not who we are”, or “our streets” or “our rail lines” are safe. When you see this you are seeing propaganda drivel at work.

Another post will look at other, louder propaganda that emerged after this rail crash.

 

 

Begging the question fallacy: Another illustration today

Just days ago I wrote about the “Begging the question” fallacy “sometimes known by its Latin name petitio principii (meaning assuming the initial point), is a logical fallacy in which the writer or speaker assumes the statement under examination to be true” (See Begging the question (fallacy) in propaganda messaging | Occupy Propaganda)

I noted classic examples after well publicized corporate gaffes, such as United Airlines dragging a legitimately seated, paying customer off a flight and then issuing a statement that “this is not who we are” even though actual events showed the opposite.

After the horrific events in Las Vegas last night, “Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak offered assurances that Las Vegas was safe” even though his statement was empirically proven false hours earlier.

 

Begging the question (fallacy) in propaganda messaging

“Begging the question, sometimes known by its Latin name petitio principii (meaning assuming the initial point), is a logical fallacy in which the writer or speaker assumes the statement under examination to be true. In other words, begging the question involves using a premise to support itself. If the premise is questionable, then the argument is bad.”

Source: Begging the question (fallacy) – Grammarist

This is explained by example at a conservative leaning blog:

This insidious process of begging the question is typical of totalitarian propaganda which made abundant use of expressions like “undeniably”, “unquestionably” or as “everyone knows” or their more modern equivalents like as “all decent people agree …”, “the science is settled” or “this is not who we are” to assume what must otherwise be proved. But it nevertheless compels obedience like a herd driving itself along.

This has the effect of positing a consensus which in fact may not exist.

This is the basic concept of asserting something to be true, followed by asserting that everyone already agrees (“Get on the Bandwagon” propaganda method).

This propaganda statement is extremely common as illustrated by the last item, above “this is not who we are” – this statement, often in exactly those words – was issued by United Airlines after they assaulted a paying customer, was used by Equifax after losing personal data on 143 million Americans, and is used in almost every press statement after a company has been caught doing something wrong or just plain stupid. Yet empirically, this is exactly who they are as illustrated by the event they are responding to!

Statements such as “everyone agrees” are intended to anchor you to the thought that the discussion on the topic is settled.

Update:In late 2017, numerous entertainment, media and political leaders have been accused, often with numerous accusers and witnesses, of using their position of power to sexually assault or harass women. In almost every case, the accused has used the “this is now who I am” defense even when admitting to the behavior.

Sen. Al Franken’s resignation announcement text using the now traditional “this is not who I am” phrasing:

“I am proud that during my time the senate I have used my power to be a champion of women and that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside everyday. I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am,” Franken said on the U.S. Senate floor Thursday morning.