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The wrongness because of explained rightness argument

It’s a little thing, but I always enjoy it when someone argues back, against what someone else has said, by replying: You’re wrong, because the reason why you’re right is …:

FACT CHECK: President Trump praised the record number of women in Congress, but that’s almost entirely because of Democrats, not Trump’s party.

Once you notice this, you notice it all the time.

“No Brian, you’re wrong, that doesn’t happen, because the reason that it keeps happening is because …”

17 comments to The wrongness because of explained rightness argument

  • Paul Marks

    President Trump praised the record number of women in work – and that 56% of the new jobs had gone to women.

    The growth of jobs is due to the deregulation and tax cuts – which the Democrats OPPOSED.

  • Fraser Orr

    I’m not sure I entirely agree with your thoughts on this. Any argument comes with a load of baggage and an acceptance of the argument is to tacitly accept the baggage. It is a bit like a “have you stopped beating your wife?” something that seems to demand a yes/no answer but the baggage means that a more nuanced response is deserved. For example, someone might say “All the big banks that the government bailed out are now profitable.” That is probably true, but to say “yes that is true” is to say “yes that is true and evidently bailing them out was a good thing.” There is baggage, and to simply accept the fact tacitly accepts the baggage. So you have to offer an answer with caveats and facts that broaden the context.

    Trump saying “there are more women in congress” has an implication that “we all helped make that happen”. It seems perfectly legitimate to challenge that baggage. Me? I’d challenge the assumption that “more women in congress is necessarily a good thing”. Not because I am in any way opposed to women taking up government office (any more than I am opposed to men doing so), simply it is not obvious to me why their genitals or chromosomes make a blessed bit of difference.

    To give a more extreme example: it is a fact that under Hitler’s government the rate of deadly cancer among the Jewish population drastically decreased. Now that is a fact beyond dispute. But to simply say “yes that is true” ignores the horrific baggage attached to that statement, namely that the reason why is that they were all massacred in alternative ways before they got old enough to contract cancers. To say “yes that is true” is an extremely misleading and disingenuous response.

  • bobby b

    “To say “yes that is true” is an extremely misleading and disingenuous response.”

    For NPR to call that a “Fact Check” is also extremely misleading and disingenuous. It’s political argument.

  • Fraser Orr

    But Bobby, just fact checking and choosing what to fact check is a political argument in a sense too. For example:

    Fraser says: “The Bible says there is no God”.

    Fact Check, “Correct! The Bible does say that!”

    If we stop there with that fact check we are deeply mislead:

    Psalm 14:1 – “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God…”

    So just by selecting what to fact check about me has an agenda in itself. The idea that a “fact check” is some context free determination of universal truth flies in the face of reality. Not that you are making that claim, just developing the point.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Fraser, I’ll see your FactCheck, and raise you one Prime Minister! More or less:

    Bernard: There is a rumor that £ 10,000,000 in gold is hidden in a vault under 10 Downing Street.

    Hacker: Is that true?

    Bernard: Oh yes.

    Hacker: So there really is all that gold hidden there?

    Bernard: I don’t know. Is there?

    Hacker: You just said there is! I asked you if that’s true and you said yes!

    Bernard: I said yes, it’s true that there’s a rumor.


    . . .

    Which is what was so frustrating about the Dems’ cross-examination of Kavanaugh. (Well, one of the things.) They kept insisting on yes-or-no answers — “It’s a simple question!” “Yes, it’s true that I’ve stopped beating my wife” or “No, it’s not true that I’ve stopped beating my wife.”

    We read this all the time in courtroom dramas, too. It always makes me want to gnash my teeth. I long for a witness who won’t sit still for it:

    Attorney: Madam, was it raining when you left the house?

    Witness: Well — You see –”

    Attorney: Just answer the question. A simple Yes or No. Was it raining?

    Witness turns to the Judge. ‘Your Honor,” she says, “that is not a simple yes-or-no question. If I say simply, “Yes,” I’ll be lying. And if I say, simply, “No” — I’ll be lying.’

    Exercise for the reader: Imagine reasons why the witness cannot answer Yes or No. (The most obvious one is that she is Bernard in drag, and her objection is that while it was raining at that time in Suffolk, it was dry as a bone in Norwich. But there are others less far-fetched, depending on the more complete scenario, or context, of course.)


    So in point of fact, the Witness, upon hearing FactCheck’s “Correct! The Bible does say that,” turns to the Judge and says, ‘Your Honor. No, the Bible does not “say” that. The words as stated are contained in the Bible, but the context indicates that the Bible includes them only in order to refute their facial meaning. The inclusion of some passage in a text, or in a speech or in conversation or in testimony or in a drama, does not mean that the composition (or its author) attests to the truth of the passage.’

    Attorney: So, does the Bible say that ….

    Witness: Not exactly. The meaning —

    Attorney: It’s a simple yes-or-no question!

    Witness (turning to Judge): Your Honor —

    . . .

    Once again, I’ve flogged the hobby-horse to death. But reading or listening for meaning requires that the context be kept in mind; and that the reader keep in mind also his own assumptions about meaning, or probable meaning, and the fact that he is, of necessity, making assumptions.

    This by the way is one reason why the TV interviewers and their “guests” so often end up talking past each other. (And all too often, yelling over each other as well. I hate that and always turn it off. If I want to hear people’s ill-natured screeching at each other I’ll watch Carol Burnett reruns. 👿 )

  • Stonyground

    Interestingly the Bible does say that there is no afterlife and that part doesn’t rely on part of a sentence being taken out of context. Eccles Chapter Nine if I remember correctly.

  • Julie near Chicago


    Just to clarify, my little lesson in reading- or hearing-for-meaning was inspired by your shortish comment above, but I know that you said pretty much the same thing in your first comment, on February 6, 2019 at 4:49 pm. 🙂

    Really, I just used the Bible comment as an excuse to sound off on an issue that’s had me riled up since I was a kid. *Snarl*

  • Runcie Balspune

    FACT CHECK: President Trump praised the record number of women in Congress. Even though this was almost entirely to the political party he opposed, he showed true bipartisanship and graciousness by acknowledging his opponents great achievements, in concert with the message of solidarity he had expressed in the rest of his speech.

    I love this narrative thing, it’s so great it works both ways.

  • Runcie Baspune

    Eccles Chapter Nine if I remember correctly.

    Now you got me thinking what the Goon afterlife is like.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Julie I appreciated your pontification. As you know I consider Yes Minister the holy writ for explaining all government actions. And just to show you what I geek I am about it — it was actually £1,000,000 not £10,000,000 and it was South African diamonds, not gold. However your recollection of the scene is pretty accurate, it is in Party Games, the transition one from Yes Minister to Yes Prime Minister. (BTW, one thing I think is interesting is the monetary numbers they give. Like anyone in the government would care about a million bucks. Another episode is about Jim’s horrifying discovery of a waste of £40,000,000 of government money, as if anyone in government would care about wasting that tiny amount… A billion here, a billion there and soon you are talking real money as the saying goes.)

  • Paul Marks

    On the narrow political point.

    There were many female Republican candidates for both Senate and the House.

    The idea that only the Democrats put up female candidates is false.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Fraser, 😀


    And I sit corrected. ;>)

  • bobby b

    I’ll stand on my assertion that none of this is truly “fact checking”, but is instead partisan politicking that shouldn’t be within the realm of “journalism”.

    Another example that fits Mr. Micklethwait’s point:

    “For this, take Politico’s insinuation that Donald Trump was lying to the public about abuse of women at the border. During the State of the Union, Trump claimed “one in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north.” This contention is only “partly true,” according to Politico, because a “2017 report by Doctors Without Borders” found that only 31 percent of female migrants and 17 percent of male migrants said they had been actually abused while traveling through Mexico.”

    (This from the recent Federalist article “The State Of American ‘Fact-Checking’ Is Completely Useless” by David Harsanyi. Trump said “one-third.” Politico argues that, no, it’s not 33.33%, it’s really only 31%. What crap.)

    To argue that this is merely the state to which “fact checking” has descended misses the point, I think. This is partisan argument, and the fact that this is what our supposedly unbiased press gives us speaks to the degradation of that industry. I would expect such tendentious crap from a declared opponent of the checkee, not from our supposed gatekeepers and “reporters.”

  • Fraser Orr

    bobby b
    I would expect such tendentious crap from a declared opponent of the checkee, not from our supposed gatekeepers and “reporters.”

    Your objection is that the fact checkers are not “declared” opponents, because clearly they are de-facto opponents. But I supposed the honesty of a person saying I oppose him and I say his facts are wrong is infinitely more decent than the cloying “democracy dies in darkness” deceivers who claim objectivity while plainly manifesting the grossest of biases.

    I like snopes. They definitely have an agenda, but at least when they fact check they don’t offer you something as jejune as “3 Pinocchios”, they actually give a fairly detailed explanation of the justification for their finding.

  • Umbriel

    I’m inclined to think that the whole issue of the “accuracy” of Trump’s comment on the number of women in Congress is something of a red herring, as I think his purpose wasn’t to take credit, but as a set up for calling out the Democrats on the issue of late-term abortion.

  • Bobby:

    That 31% is also higher than the utterly bogus percentage of women they claim are sexually harassed on college campuses. Yet the lower number is cause for national crisis, while the higher number can be ignored because the wrong people are doing the highlighting.

    Principals, not principles.

  • Paul Marks

    The journalists and the “Fact Checkers” support the left – the Democrats. I have no objection to that – IF it is done openly.

    In the 19th century it was standard for newspapers and journals and so on to proudly and openly state what political party they supported – this should be standard practice with the media RIGHT NOW.

    The pretence that there is such a thing as “unbiased scientific journalism” was always a lie (if anyone disputes that please tell me which television stations and newspapers exposed the sexual affairs, drug abuse and TERMINAL ILLNESS of Jack Kennedy in the 1960 – they knew and they COVERED IT ALL UP). The “Schools of Journalism” were set up for the express purpose of pushing Progressive Social Reform – one can not press Progressive Social Reform (or any political ideology) and at-the-same-time honestly claim to be unbiased and objective.

    I repeat – if the newspapers such as the New York Times and the television stations (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN,…) openly stated that they supported the Democratic Party (in their “news pages” just as much as in their “editorials”) I would have no objection to their activities.

    On the other side – Fox News and the Wall Street Journal should fire the Democrats on their news staff (and there are quite a lot of them) and openly and proudly state their support for the conservative side of the argument.