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The Juan Williams Logic Test Edition

UPDATE: some of my dear satirically-challenged readers did not quite pick up on the ironic tone of this post, so I have made a few changes. Others seemed to be missing the point that I am mocking fallacious logical arguments, so let me just clarify that I am mocking fallacious logical arguments.

UPDATE 2: some of you have helpfully explained that Juan Williams was just talking about feelings. OK. Just wondering whether we should deny equal rights to an ethnic group based on feelings?

Multiple choice test!

1. Juan Williams’ emotions seemed to say: “most terrorists are Muslim, therefore I deduce that most Muslims are terrorists.” This is: (a) an elementary logical error, (b) a valid reason not to take a flight with people wearing “Muslim garb,” (c) implies if Juan is afraid of the risks of a terrorist attack, he should never have braved the dangerous drive to the airport.

2. Some nut somewhere is a fan of the economist Friedrich Hayek. Therefore it follows that : (a) since I like Hayek, I am a nut, (b) you can logically prove that Hayek  is a talk show host (c) Hayek’s ideas make possible a free society in which nuts say nutty things, but you can ignore them.

3.  The Nazis liked Wagner. James Levine recently conducted  Wagner’s Das Rheingold at the Met. Therefore (a) James Levine is a Nazi, (b) Wagner is a Nazi, (c) the overture to Lohengrin is one of the most beautiful pieces of music of all time.

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  1. Uncle Kenny wrote:

    And with that big bold lie (the Williams “quote” above) you, sir, get removed from my Google Reader, never to be viewed again. Too bad, you occasionally have an interesting perspective.

    Posted October 24, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink
  2. Mark Rutherford wrote:

    This post is not worthy of you – and the subject of Williams, NPR, Fox, etc etc is not edifying or capable of having anything interesting said about it. But for the record, you make feeble fun of Williams for something he did not say. He said he had an irrational fear of people in Muslim garb when he was flying – he admitted that his feeling was irrational but speculated that this feeling was not uncommon among others. I know others who feel this way, all of them left-of-center and not particularly sympathetic to Israel. Not Williams, not my friends, have made any such deduction. When Jesse Jackson said 20 years ago that he felt relieved to discover that a person encountered in a dark alley than a young black male, he was not suggesting that all or most or very many black young males were potential muggers, and no one thought he was doing so. Why the impulse to do so with Williams? I really don’t know, and the question is the only interesting one that arises from this whole boring affair.

    Posted October 24, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  3. Word_Bandit wrote:

    Really don’t know what Juan said, only that a lot of people are blathering about it.

    The Washington “Rebel” shills T and A? Sounds pretty much like the status quo to me. Talk about “big bold lies.” So no surprise, sir, that you close down the conversation.

    Carry on.

    Posted October 24, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink
  4. Paul wrote:

    First, attributing that quote to Williams is completely disengenuous and misleading. That is not something he said at all.

    Second, the meaning of what he said was completely valid. That people DO have a reaction to muslims on airplanes now and that we SHOULD talk about it.

    Posted October 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink
  5. Sam wrote:

    Sigh. This was a most discouraging post to one of my favorite blogs.

    Posted October 24, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink
  6. rjs wrote:

    your essential mistake is logic…illogical tho it may be, fear always overcomes it…

    Posted October 24, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
  7. Lars wrote:

    Just for the sake of adding diversity of opinion here, I think the point is sound and, ultimately, gave safe harbor to people who feel afraid of people in “Muslim garb” — which I imagine also includes bow-ties, lest we exclude the nation of Islam.

    Some things are so stupid, you should use your better judgment and not say them out loud, even if there are plenty of other willfully ignorant people who feel the same thing. Should you be fired for them? Only if it violates your contract.

    Posted October 24, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Permalink
  8. Jonathan Padwe wrote:

    William Easterly logic test edition:

    1. Not all muslims are terrorists.
    2. Adolph Hitler liked Wagner
    Therefore 3. The ideas of Hayek are useful.

    Actually, the problems with Hayek’s ideas are not that “some nuts” like them. The problem with Hayek’s ideas are Hayek’s ideas themselves.

    Posted October 24, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink
  9. Your logic is correct but you misunderstand the context of Williams’ statement. He wasn’t talking about how he reasons but how he feels. Feelings are frequently not rational. The issue isn’t what feelings we have but what we chose to do with them.

    It is unfortunate that you mock Williams for being honest about his gut-reaction. We could have a lot more productive conversations with his type of honesty instead fearing the PC police.

    Posted October 24, 2010 at 11:44 pm | Permalink
  10. Greg Ransom wrote:

    “Nutjob” fans of Hayek include a dozen or two Nobel Prize winners in economics, Winston Churchill, Karl Popper, Peter Bauer, Robert Nozick, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Edelman, Thomas Sowell, Joachim Fuster, many of the leaders of the “Velvet Revolution” in Eastern Europe, Larry Summers, Julian Simon, Peter Drucker, Armen Alchian, Peter Berger, Richard Epstein, several U.S. Supreme Court Justices, etc.

    Lots of nutjobs in the world.

    Posted October 25, 2010 at 1:23 am | Permalink
  11. NadePaulKuciGravMcKi wrote:

    How much Neocon Mileage can FOX get out of Uncle Juan?

    Posted October 25, 2010 at 2:33 am | Permalink
  12. William Easterly wrote:

    Greg, did the point come through at all that I was arguing in favor of Hayek, and AGAINST those who try to discredit him?

    Posted October 25, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink
  13. William Easterly wrote:

    Sam, the other commenters explain why they don’t like this post. could you please explain your own unhappiness also?
    thanks, Bill

    Posted October 25, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink
  14. Word_Bandit wrote:

    I got your point about Hayek the first time.

    Had to google him.

    And the fact the Churchill, Larry Summers, Reagan, Sowell, and Nozick somehow liked him, or whatever it was they did with his ideas really just kinda added a little fertilizer to the field of bias growing after reading the Wiki entry.

    Apparently, those of us in our ignorance less enamored of ubiquitous promises of the free markets are the ones who actually understand what is being written …… just a thought.

    Posted October 25, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  15. Sam wrote:

    I just saw it as a cheap shot on Juan Williams. I thought the logic of the original post was obvious to the point that the post appeared to be nothing more than a vehicle for said dig. I like your blog because it incorporates the tension and conflict in people and systems and saw the opposite here.

    Posted October 25, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink
  16. Greg Ransom wrote:

    Yes, I got the Hayek point — and it’s a point worth making.

    The technique of the left has always been to discredit arguments by using character assassination and guilt by association to marginalize the most significant originators of these “forbidden” arguments.

    I think this may be why the Williams stuff distracts — the same technique was used against Williams — and his actual point got lost in the leftist character assassination (his leftist boss marginalized Williams as a crazy man with a psychological illness — and lied about what Williams was saying.)

    Posted October 25, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Permalink
  17. Greg Ransom wrote:

    The leftist technique of using a group identify version of the genetic fallacy goes way back — Adorno came up with the most popular modern version:

    Note well that the President uses it, as do most leftists.

    Krugman constantly attacks an “argument” by attacking the character and motives of those who advance the argument based on their political associations — and usually Krugman never engages a legitimate version of the actual argument, if he even bothers to pretend to address the argument, what he usually does is set up a fraudulent strawmen, easily knocked down.

    Posted October 25, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Permalink
  18. ewaffle wrote:

    “some of my dear satirically-challenged readers did not quite pick up on the ironic tone of this post”

    Satire is not as easy to write as it might seem.

    Posted October 25, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Permalink
  19. William Easterly wrote:

    Sam, thanks for explaining your unhappiness about the post, this kind of feedback is very useful for me.

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 8:35 am | Permalink
  20. Word_Bandit wrote:

    Re: the techniques of the left

    “We are ever the ideological victims” is the new chant of the right, and “we can trace the roots of our collective victimization, ad naseum, as we have the lens to find it.”

    Funny, Buckley was never a victim.

    The victim card has emerged as the ideological tool of the right in the past two decades, a rather new m.o. for political perspectives that have been with us always, will always be with us, and used to represent the educated elite.

    Even though history is swallowed in this self-serving victimization narrative.

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  21. Word_Bandit wrote:

    I am trying to imagine William F. Buckley, (among others of the stellar conservatives, who I have enjoyed over the years, if disagreed strongly with their positions) sitting around saying …..

    “you liberals don’t play nice, you never have, you never will, and I am gonna pull out Adorno to prove it.”

    A discourse readily available in today’s political climate, Adorno and National Review (whose editorial board could barely tolerate their founder at chief near the end, because they’ve become so ideologically rabid) notwithstanding.

    Note, my original comments referred to my self-aware bias (an individual remarking on her own predilections), far different than the wholesale ideological victimization that could be extrapolated from a couple of sentences on Bill Easterly’s blog.

    Thanks for your response. Be well.

    (And long live Hillary Putnam.)

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 10:55 am | Permalink
  22. Greg Ransom wrote:

    Word_Bandit = troll

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  23. mill wrote:

    Shoot, I’m surprised you all actually read the post…I disregarded everything when I saw the “development porn” sad-looking Muslim boy. Do I have to qualify this statement as semi-satire and a poke aidwatchers (not sad-looking Muslim boys)?

    Posted October 27, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Permalink
  24. Socratic Times wrote:

    To people really get paid to babble like this? My advice to you dear William is to “say what you mean and mean what you say….”, that might help.

    Posted October 29, 2010 at 4:29 am | Permalink

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    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

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