Tuesday, November 14, 2006
The blogosphere and the motive fallacy
The dfficulty with the motive fallacy is that it is so common that we have become desensitized, and it can be committed in subtle ways.
The rules for doing so must be specified in either some journalistic manual or according to what is known as research, for they all seem to do it the same way. Consider a recent U.K. publication published by one of their thinktanks that said: joining the Euro will cost three million jobs in the U.K.! then the name of the think tank: That's according to the Foggian Society. Then the slant: A right leaning think tank. Have you ever asked yourself why think tanks always only lean to the left or right?
Ruby on Rails isn't ready for the enterprise! But James McGovern works for a large enterprise. James McGovern is enterprisey! See how this nicely aligns with the above statement. Now it is time for a little analysis.
Why do journalists or even bloggers for that matter mention this right versus left business at all? A think tanks (or my own) allegiances would be relevant only if they invited us to accept their views simply on their say so. But they don't. Think Tanks and Thought Leaders can provide boat loads of white papers that are full of evidence and argument supporting their contention. To refute their view, you need to show what is wrong with the case they make.
Of course that would require reading tons of white papers and perhaps other works cited in support of the case, and even doing a little thinking on the topic. And who has the time or energy to think when it is a lot easier to simply respond with emotion? Not journalists and certainly not most bloggers, who both claim to have the right perspective on twenty or so topics every day. Better just to point out the direction in which the think tank leans and to refer to folks as being enterprisey. Those who can lean the same way can then agree with its finding, those who lean in some other direction can reject it.
So how to readers within the blogosphere know when other bloggers are operating off the motive fallacy? One way is to be on the lookout for the word just as in You're just saying that" or his new blog entry is just an attempt to gain traffic. Why has the just been included in such sentences?
Everyone knows that when I say something I am saying it. What does it add to say that I am just saying it? Well, it is supposed to show that what I am saying is not also true, or that the perspective on Ruby not being ready for the enterprise, besides being appealing to every non-Ruby developer, is not also a good position. The mere addition of the word just can, of course, acheive no such thing - it has no magical power of refutation. Nevertheless, people try it on all the time. Beware of bloggers who use motive fallacy as a tactic!
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