Edwin Vieira – The Poverty of Political DiscoursePage 3 of 11
Obviously, the SPLC’s approach suffers from the logical fallacy of “the undistributed middle”:namely, the false conclusion that, just because “A”, “B”, “C”, and so on share onecharacteristic of persons in group “X”, therefore they are all members of that group, eventhough that characteristic is not necessarily peculiar to that group. The vicious twist in thiscase is that the SPLC, without defining its terms, has created both the group “X” (“theantigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement”) and the supposed characteristics of that group through which it purports to interconnect “A”, “B”, “C”, and so.Now, self-evidently, just because “A” calls himself a “patriot”, and “B” calls himself a “patriot”,and the SPLC calls both “A” and “B” “patriots” does not mean that the three definitions of “patriot” are the same. Neither does it mean, if the definitions happen to be the same, thattherefore all of the beliefs or actions of “A” can necessarily be attributed to “B”, or that all of the beliefs or actions of “B” can necessarily be attributed to “A”, or that “A” necessarily approves of all the beliefs or actions of “B”, or that “B” necessarily approves of all the beliefsor actions of “A”—or, especially, that the SPLC has accurately included and described those beliefs and actions in its “profiles” of “A” and “B”. And, of course, if the definitions of “patriot”are different from one another, that the SPLC labels “A” and “B” as “patriots”
according to itsown definition
does not necessarily mean that either “A” or “B” accepts that label, so definedunilaterally by the SPLC, as applicable to himself.In short, the SPLC’s whole exercise of “profiling” various individuals, categorizing them as “atthe heart of the resurgent movement”, and lumping them together in a single list provesnothing more than that, for whatever reason, the SPLC (and whatever individuals and entitieslurk behind it in the shadows) do not approve of the people being “profiled”. Leaving any objective observer to ask, “So what?” The approval of the SPLC is not the standard of politicalreasonableness, let alone rectitude, in this country, particularly when the SPLC refuses todefine (and thereby be required to defend) the standards of “good” and “bad” which implicitly inform its actions.One need not be a cynic to conjecture that the SPLC would not have bothered to publish“Meet the ‘Patriots’” unless it intended by that means to attempt to “chill” and otherwisesuppress the free speech of the “36 individuals at the heart of the resurgent movement”—and,if it can get away with that, the speech of everyone else in this country with whom it decides totake issue. But, under our Constitution, “the fact that protected speech may be offensive tosome does not justify its suppression”.
Carey v. Population Services International
, 431 U.S.678, 701 (1977).
Accord, e.g., FCC v. Pacifica Foundation
, 438 U.S. 726, 745 (1978). TheSPLC rather grandiloquently uses “Law” as part of its name. In this particular, it would do better to substitute humility for hubris and hypocrisy and actually show some respect for andfollow “the supreme Law of the Land” in its operations.3. Not satisfied with arbitrarily lumping together the “36 individuals at the heart of theresurgent movement” as if they were somehow conscious collaborators in a centrally concerted combination, the SPLC then includes in “Meet the ‘Patriots’” a “timeline” of eventsfrom which the careless reader may illogically—or, perhaps more likely, is expected andimplicitly encouraged to—infer that some continuity of cause and effect, some relationship of moral or other responsibility, or at least some relevant connection exists between all of theevents in the “timeline” and all of the “36 individuals”. Self-evidently, though, this juxtaposition of events and individuals relies upon the commonplace fallacy
post hoc ergopropter hoc
(“after this therefore on account of this”).