Friday, 13 July 2018

Slippery Slopes

In these days of ideological warfare, the slippery slope argument can be particularly treacherous.

Slippery slopes can easily be ridiculed as a logical fallacy. Just because I'll happily flip you a few bucks for a coffee does not mean I'll invest all my savings in your mad scheme.

To avoid the fallacy, you need more than just the mere assertion of a slippery slope: some combo of facts & reasoning that makes a plausible case for the existence of a slippery slope.

For example, I personally find it hard to believe that the bigoted cake-baker who sent the lesbian couple elsewhere is at the top of a slippery slope, so I'm with Rachel Stewart on this one. I just don't see this country accepting a roll-back of hard-won gay rights, or why a single bigoted Christian baker might trigger that landslide. If there's a coherent explanation of why this is a risk, then let's hear it. And if I turn out to be wrong, I promise to do my best to staunch the flow of bigotry, as I've been doing on this particular topic since the early 80s.

Similarly, I struggle with the idea that any limits on free speech put us on a slippery slope to authoritarian dictatorship. My evidence is that we don't live in such a dictatorship and yet my own efforts at promoting weird notions have often been suppressed: advocating for economic regulation during the mania of the 90s was not a career-advancing move, and don't get me started on agriculture.

I'm sure many other people have examples of progressive views that just can't get coverage and/or are actively suppressed. This feels like a restriction of our right to freeze peaches, and sometimes/often it really is exactly that. But I can still write blogs and inflict my views on others via twitter, so I feel like we in NZ are a long way short of Orwell's 1984.

But the world does seem to be on a slippery slope towards fascism. We have a sordid history to remind us of how this process works. It reminds us that fascism creeps, but has clear signposts. These days, in many parts of the world, it is out of its kennel and barking. This is pretty obviously a slippery slope to fight against. Not just for fear it might be us next, but because everyone it comes for is an innocent victim of a violent ideology.

So it is particularly galling that influential New Zealanders are misusing slippery slope arguments in such a despicable way to agitate in favour of two foreign fascists. Maybe they're just really thick, or perhaps what Nassim Taleb describes as IYIs (intellectual yet idiot). Maybe their judgement is clouded by tribal resentment of their team losing power. Or maybe they are actually fascists.

Whatever, their motivation, they definitely are hypocrites, so I feel totally justified in calling them whining hypocritical toadies.

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