As a logician and semiotician, the power of fallacious rhetoric to completely defeat truth and rationality never ceases to amaze me. The 2016 election is panning out to be a grand circus of sophistry galore, and we have only ourselves to blame.
Know first that I am an evangelical Christian. That spiritual commitment is integrated with logic, semiotics, and a well-reasoned philosophy of science to form my worldview. All the rest of who I am and how I live derive from those grounds and foundations.
Taken together, the quotes above from the 19th-century British 'Prince of Preachers' Charles Spurgeon address fatal flaws at the heart of the 2016 election it is already unfolding:
- anyone still failing to see the most likely scenario - i.e., a ballot with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the 'candidates of choice' - as a forced choice between the lesser of two evils suffers severe cognitive dissonance; and,
- the same is true of anyone believing what 99% of the media - mainstream and fringe stream alike - are feeding us about the candidates, and the truth will almost certainly never surface and be settled with rational clarity and assurance.
At its very best, a Trump vs. Clinton decision requires taking either of two equally severe risks. But that isn't the real problem. The fallacy underlying the choice is the real problem - it's a complex question fallacy.
The Clinton vs. Trump question lures the unwitting voter into believing one or the other, not both, and no other must be chosen. The vivid example I like to use is this:
In one hand you're given a .45 caliber M1911, and in the other a 9mm Beretta FS92. Each gun is loaded with hollow-point rounds, chambered, safety off, ready to fire. You are told, peer-pressured, and actually believe you must shoot yourself in the foot with one or the other.
The truth is that you really don't have to pull the trigger at all. Don't vote. 99% of the peer pressure that says not voting is unpatriotic, un-American, un-Scriptural, un-Christian, and all the rest is simply wrong: abstention can be (and in 2016 will be) a fully viable and rational alternative (more on that shortly).
You can also shoot between the horns of the dilemma at the system (?) or individual (?) convincing you that you have only those choices. You have the right to vote by writing-in any name(s) you choose. Anyone telling you otherwise is violating that right. It only sends a message and it won't be heard, but as a matter of principle, it's a more rational and moral action. Here are two ways to consider doing this:
- Voice Your Rights - Write Your Voice, namely, write-in the name(s) of someone you personally know, respect, and trust, with your life (the American way of life is at stake, after all); or,
- The ANONYMOUS 'THumP' option, namely, "To rise for change, simply register to vote and at the polling booth on the day of elections, write in the word ANONYMOUS."
Other ways to find yourself impaled on the horns of a complex question fallacy: when anyone asks, "Are you a Democrat or Republican (liberal or conservative, socialist or communist, fascist or capitalist, Muslim or Christian, and so on, ad nauseum)? The lethal danger of this fallacy is its inherent divisiveness - it forces our own thinking against itself, and it conquers and rules us by dividing us against ourselves.
Allow yourself to thus be semiotically branded and labelled and rational discourse becomes impossible. Refusal to be branded and labelled produces the same outcome - and just as swiftly - proving that rational political discourse has become virtually impossible. The meanings of these signs have exactly one content, intent, and purpose - emotional bias buttressing prejudiced opposition without benefit of objective reason and critical thinking. The most univocal position one will experience is violent condemnation of the rational decision to abstain from voting when only evil (or horribly risky) options are presented.
Yet this is exactly the moral and spiritual principle taught and preached by the Apostle Paul in Romans 3. Accused of teaching that evil should be done that grace may increase, Paul refuted the charge by exposing its implicit absurdity: it ultimately leads to the conclusion that since all are guilty of sin, none are guilty of sin.
Marty Tate, Pastor of the Peaceful Valley Baptist Church in Rising Fawn, Georgia links Paul's teaching directly to the fallacious thinking of many evangelical Christians, who all too comfortably and often rationalize their voting actions as follows:
I want to borrow that phrase “let us do evil, that good may come” in application to the prevailing notion that one must vote for the “lesser of two evils.”
Christians probably use this flawed argument more than any other segment of the American electorate, because Christians must continually give up ideological ground when it comes to the support of Republican political candidates.
The argument goes something like this:
“Candidate R is not all that great. In fact, he is really weak on issues a, b, c, and d. However if we don’t vote for Candidate R, then Candidate D will win the election and we all know that Candidate D is really scary.”
When the possibility is raised of a 3rd party candidate, the argument switches to something like this:
“I really like what Candidate 3 stands for, but he has no chance of winning. If I vote for Candidate 3 I am wasting my vote. In fact, if I vote for Candidate 3 it will be the same as voting for Candidate D since it will siphon votes away from Candidate R. I know Candidate R is really not what the country needs, but Candidate D is really, really scary!”
This is a “let us do evil, that good may come” proposition.
That is, let us vote for an acknowledged, although supposedly lesser evil (“let us do evil”), so that the supposed greater evil won’t win (“that good may come”). This path has led America consistently to the left for at least the last 50 years! The “lesser” evil has become progressively more evil, so that we have arrived at what Pastor Chuck Baldwin refers to as “the evil of two lessers!”
Chuck Baldwin exposes this fallacious rationalization even more vividly in characterizing a "wasted vote" as "a vote for someone you know does not represent your own beliefs and principles ... for someone you know will not lead the country in the way it should go. A wasted vote is a vote for the 'lesser of two evils.'" He was commenting on the race between McCain and Obama in 2008, but that just shows how things haven't changed - or have only worsened - over the past eight years.
The worst of it, perhaps, is the extent to which the blinding semiotic fog of media manipulation and deception make it both virtually and practically impossible to form a rational grasp of the truth about the issues or the candidates, or how they stand on issues even apart from their values, character, etc. Truth falls hopelessly behind, irretrievably lost in the disinformation tsunami.
It is the circus of cacophonic sophistry and the theater of absurd irreality. We aren't even spectators enjoying the show ... we're the sawdust underfoot of the clown masquerade and the emperor's and empress's hubristic naked strut.