The Reductionism Logical Fallacy

Posted on 25th January 2004 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior

The “THEM” Argument

Are you where you wanted to be when you were a child? Have your dreams fallen to the wayside and now your stuck in a job that doesn’t satisfy you? You want to do something else, but you’re inundated with responsibilities like taking care of your children, your spouse, your career? Your bills have gotten you down? Your debt has gotten you working like a slave? Do you ever feel down on yourself?

Don’t worry! IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT! It’s their fault!!! Didn’t you know?

“They” are the reason you are dissatisfied with your life, because “they” oppress you with their high taxes, wealthy tax cuts, cultural elitism, corporate cronyism, social welfare, corporate welfare, intolerance, otherness, liberalism, conservatism, cooties and whatnot.
They HATE America! They HATE the American people! They HATE Democracy, Mom, Dad, and apple pie! They hate our happiness and want to take it from us. Why aren’t you outraged? Can’t you see America is burning down around you all because of “them”???

Okay, time out. Take a deep breath and read on….

Ever wonder why someone would embrace an ideology that, by these definitions, wants to destroy America? Is it because they are evil? The nation is split 50/50 along liberal and conservative lines. That means “the enemy” is all around you. Does your next door neighbor hate America? Do they secretly want to enslave us all?

Maybe it has something to do with that obnoxious demagogue on the television, radio, in the paper, or on the big-screen. You know the one I’m talking about, that guy who’s always telling you about “them.”

These political entertainers want you to think this way in order to capture your undivided attention, because if you turn away, even for a second, “they” might get you. America is fine, there are no secret police at your door and no terrorists hiding behind every tree, grow up and look around you. Sensationalism has given Americans a distorted view of the state of our country.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Look around you, go for a walk, are things really that bad? Start thinking about your local community. If the world’s really going to hell in a hand basket, like all those talking heads say it is, then situations in the Middle East won’t mean squat to you. Food, shelter, maintaining the roads, keeping the peace would become your sole concern. Your local community, that thing those commentators care nothing about, will become your world.

“Them” is a form of Reductionism–a tactic used to reduce opponents to absurd caricatures of their real selves. It is easily the worst of all rhetorical abuses, because it strips opponents of their humanity. When our opponents become less than human, we can rationalize any abuse as “justice.”


Reducing Others Reduces Oneself

Reductionism hinders our own ideological development as well. Defining ourselves according to what we are against imposes artificial restrictions on the scope of our beliefs.

When we define ourselves as opponents of any generalized group, like liberals or conservatives, we put ourselves in the awkward position of never being able to agree with them. We become automatons, working endlessly to rationalize each one of our enemy’s arguments away. We allow our opponents to define the debate.

A second detrimental effect on emotional development is the transference of personal responsibility. People lacking the insight to see how political and economic philosophies have affected them fall back on easy scapegoating. There’s a point when we have to realize that we can either spend the rest of our lives blaming “them” or we can accept personal responsibility and work to improve ourselves.

Worse than these, is the failure to make propositions. The victim becomes so consumed with what they are against, that they never become for anything. It’s easy to criticize and vilify.

What’s hard is proposing solutions, putting ideas out for Peer Review.


A Mathmatical Proof

One last thought, just to put refute this form of rhetoric completely and indisputably:

“Liberals/Conservatives Hate America,” can be stated “All A in B”.

In order to disprove this overgeneralization of them, all we need to do is find one A not B.

Is this nit-picking? I leave that to you. You must evaluate and decide what level of inaccuracy you are willing to tolerate in a debate that ultimately affects the lives of every single human being on the planet. In America, we tolerate a lot.

Wouldn’t you feel more secure with an accurate representation of the facts?

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