Crikey! Where fallacies live

Australia has two “new media” organisations of note; Quillette and Crikey.

They could hardly be more different. The stated aim of Quillette is to publish “heterodox” ideas and be “where free speech lives“. A grand and quite brave claim for a website hosted in Australia, a country where the right to not be offended has been invented and given higher priority than the right to speak.

Crikey is a left of centre website with a focus on Australian politics.

Australian politics is not a hugely interesting subject, being mainly a real life case study of the Dunning-Kruger effect and venal opportunism in an extremely small fish pond. It’s like Lord of the Flies re-imagined with middle-aged characters and less violence.

Hence I tend to read more articles published by Quillette than Crikey.

This one by Guy Rundle has done nothing to change that.

He’s written about the Israel Folau saga….. because what the world really needs right now is yet more partisan speculation on that case, right?

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his article is the style of rhetoric he employs for the argument he is trying to make.

Thinking about the subject matter, one could probably write in a choice of styles that might look something like the following list (or a combination of it):

  • Factual; straight reporting of who said what, known relevant legal precedent and process, likely next steps and timelines.
  • Reactions; reporting how a range of stakeholders claim to feel and have responded to the case.
  • Measured opinion; based on the case, here’s my personal view of the morality of each stakeholder and my prediction for the future.
  • Sketch; poking fun at those involved in a way designed to amuse the reader.

The first two are what we’d hope objective news media would produce, the latter two are classed as “OpEd” and are, by definition, subjective. Here’s the rub though, if you claim to be a serious professional, even a subjective opinion requires the underpinning discipline of accuracy.

I’ve read and re-read Rundle’s article several times. It takes a while to understand what’s being presented to the reader on the page. What follows is an attempt at deciphering The Rundle Code (tm) :

First paragraph;

How is the right’s push on religious freedom going? Terribly! It’s really great to watch — a bright spot in an otherwise bleak political landscape. There’s no way it can end well for them, and whatever happens will in someway benefit the left. As an added bonus, they are actively damaging previous successes they had in securing the autonomy of religious institutions in hiring practices. I’m loving every installment of this.

Ok. Ignore the two spelling mistakes… He’s correctly framing the case as a culture war battleground and he’s chosen his team.

Second paragraph;

Let’s do a quick recap. During the same-sex marriage plebiscite, one of the right’s more desperate tactics was to allege that a “yes” vote would be an assault on religious freedom in this country, for reasons they couldn’t explain. Discrimination on the basis of sexuality was already outlawed — same-sex marriage simply added one more area in which they couldn’t be discriminated against.

People did explain. You rejected their explanations. Here’s mine at the time, for example, and a subsequent follow up confirming my concerns were correct.

Third paragraph…. where Rundle claims to be able to read the minds of two other people;

The “religious freedom” scare came from a section of the conservative right identified with both elite Catholics like Paul Kelly — who see religion as a glue to bind society together whatever their real attachment to belief in God — and Protestant politico-cultural hysterics like Andrew Bolt, who believe the pagan endtimes are upon us. 

Quite what the definition of a politico-cultural hysteric is remains a mystery Rundle doesn’t help solve. I think it means he disagrees with something the person said.

 Fourth paragraph;

This gang has rode out before, in the great 18C debacle — remember 18C? — and had their arses handed to them by Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party, petrified of the reaction from Big Multiculturalism. They lost on 18C, and they had a lot better material to work with. The best they could come up with on religious expression was Israel Folau.

Nice use of the vernacular there. What a Big Multiculturalism is goes unexplained.

Do we detect a hint of sarcasm in the line, “the best they could come up with”? What’s the inference? That Folau isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer? Ah, the bigotry of low expectations.

Are all Pacific Islanders stupid, Mr. Rundle, or just this one? To quote Ali G, “is it ‘cos he is black?

Fifth paragraph;

Personally I don’t think sports people should have to trade away their citizenship freedoms to do what they’re good at. But Folau appears to have flouted a contract he knowingly signed and it’s a far-from-ideal rallying point. Luckily for the right, the cultural left has come to their rescue, turning Folau’s childish just-so story pronouncements of “burning in hell” into potent political statements, by constructing them as potent hate speech.

Ignore the missing comma. Right then, which clause in Folau’s contract are you referring to? Oh, you haven’t seen the contract? Ah….

And we’ve decided stupid, brown Folau is childish now? Keep digging, son.

Paragraphs six, seven, eight and nine attempt to delve into the nature of rights. It’s safe to say these are not going to be challenging the USA Federalist Papers for intellectual robustness any time soon.

Rights that Rundle rejects are labelled content-based junk rights. It’s interesting that Rundle puts forward a strawman argument that there is a movement to legislate a right to Religious Freedom. I’m not aware of this, unless he’s referring to the removal of existing restrictions.

Paragraph ten, wherein Rundle goes full ad hominin on two people he doesn’t agree with;

In The Australian, Katrina Grace Kelly — her name at time of writing — noted that Folau’s claims were unlikely to succeed given the lean towards employers in such laws, but that if they did, they’d reset employment law entirely. The Institute of Public Affairs’ John Roskam is running a little dog ‘n’ pony show around the right (word is still out on whether Roskam is pony or dog), and Freedom Boy Tim Wilson made a cute little comment on the push by getting sworn in on a copy of Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom

That first dig is a reference to the fact that Ms. Kelly recently changed her name from the one she was given when she was adopted. The inference Rundle is offering is this won’t be her final name change. I’m not sure how that is in any way relevant to the Folau case, so will have to conclude he’s just being mean because he’s a misogynist (see what I did there?).

As for the line about Roskam being a dog or a pony, that tells us more about Rundle’s character than Roskam’s.

The final two paragraphs go on to predict Folau will lose and the right will whine.

Bill’s Opinion

I spotted the following fallacies used by Rundle, see if you can find any more; ad hominin, strawman, slippery slope, tu quoque, cherry picking.

However, this article is extremely informative, actually because of its form not it’s argument. Rundle has acknowledged this is the battleground for the culture war and, through an astounding inability to argue his side’s case without reverting to use of fallacies, has demonstrated his concerns about the weakness of his team’s position.

Better still, professional journalist Guy Rundle had to revert to the bigotry of low expectations, racism and misogyny to make his arguments.

How fun!

14 Replies to “Crikey! Where fallacies live”

  1. Its a dogs breakfast, not something I would read, but did once. Also contained generalization fallacy and causal/ambiguity fallacy and then there is the good old fashioned and much used assertion fallacy, I asserted it therefore it is true.

    The assertion fallacy is quite common among most writers.

    Eg to assert that Crikey is a new media outlet.

    Or say a writer could jump to a conclusion that someone else is racist or a misogynists by merely asserting that they are and further build on these assertions to summarize their view on this person.

    On the best you got, I don’t think the inference was that Falou is a dumb as fuck Islander boy, that is being manipulated by whities with a bigger agenda than this little lesser Polynesian kid could even spell. I think he is implying that the right have picked the wrong fight and the wrong fighter here, for this particular stance. I might be saying this due to my confirmation bias, because that is what I think that they have done here as well.

    Surprised that he mentioned Katrina Grace Kelly as she is a lone voice from the Australian that doesn’t see this is a religious freedom question, she is the only one from the Australian that has framed the judges question rightly, in my view, when she said that if it went before the courts the judge:

    “will need to decide if Faloau was sacked for being a Christian or whether he was sacked for another reason.”

    1. In my defence, I would offer the use of inverted commas around “new media” and the equivalent of a wink when I called him a misogynist.

          1. That got me thinking, but it has to be a non-sequitur as you never used, “You’re welcome!” elsewhere.

          2. Found another fallacy, in the referenced article, not your writings this time, in between the riveting State of Origin play, this one being a false arbitration.

            “Andrew Bolt, who believe the pagan endtimes are upon us.”

            The end times are a Christian belief as described in the Book of Revelation and the Apocalypse, they have nothing to do with the poor old pagans.

            The Jewish and Muslim faith also have their version of the end times.

          3. Yep, I spotted that one. I was more impressed with his mind reading about what Bolt thinks though.

  2. I’m impressed you got through an entire Guy Rundle article without gathering a posse and going hunting marxist varmints. And yes I have been drinking on a Wednesday.

    I binned my Crikey subscription a few years ago. It was clear at the time that I needed to.

    I did miss for some period Guy’s very predictable story evolution. If I recall, they usually progressed as follows.

    – insert ageing, but still acerbic, ironic, casually familiar and oh so cool correspondent into latest leftist/marxist flashpoint. Say, Syntagma Square, or similar.
    – Include suitably enigmatic partner references – typically gender non-specific, but incautiously (bordering on dangerous) titillating activities, with subtle inferences of radical substance abuse in time gone by. It would not be cool now, just then.
    – reminisce about radical times gone by, meaning of democracy, with appropriate ancient Greek references (regardless of location), and how current radicals are extending and indeed enhancing the tradition established by Marx, Lenin, etc (Stalin, Che?) with a deep backstory of at least another 50,000 words that would have been a final thesis if not for the continual requirement of a capitalist society requiring constant nourishment in the form of Labour by said correspondent. If only Socialism was properly implemented, then the outpouring of words encouraging socialist ideals would be barely interrupted….oh hang on, how would that work? Do otherwise useless retards get compensated in a society where each is valued to their contribution on a hierarchy of needs similar to Maslows?
    – ensure dear reader knows that wordy author is travelling to current exotic/troubled location on the smell of a vegan’s jockstrap (lentil oil?), aided by the charity of a vast global network of like-minded radicals whose meaning in life is writing enormous articles deploring greedy capitalists’ exploitation and suppression of suppressed proles. Whlist smoking Gitanes and drinking Grey Goose, ironically.
    – criticising, or failing to acknowledge that exploited proles appear to enjoy, or not even not notice, their exploitation even when pointed out in 10,000 word articles by fat western wankers.

    More later. Perhaps.

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