I make it a point to avoid political or religious pontification on this blog. It really isn’t why I started it. In the past when I’ve veered into that territory I’ve caused more problems than I care to consider, save for this post from our last Independence Day. That one went well. This one has to do with Arizona, and no, I’m not talking about Machete (which I still haven’t seen).
I’m going to talk about Jared Lee Loughner.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to say about the people shot and killed in Arizona. I didn’t know if I would have anything to say, or if I’d just post on something ultimately arbitrary while victims recover and the manhunt continues, then I checked BoingBoing. And I read. I thought. I tried to understand.
And, ultimately, I felt very sad.
Not because of the senseless deaths and maimings, nor because of the support this action has gotten from certain cells of irrational thought within our country. I felt sad because Jared is an intelligent young man without focus or proper training. He tries to present an argument, a point of view, in a logical progression of statements.
It would work better if his statements weren’t fallacies.
In the transcriptions of his YouTube entries, he produces a series of causal statements, aimed at promoting his point of view as a logical one. However, without evidence to support his statements, he must rely on the arguments themselves. He doesn’t show his work and simply presents one logical conundrum after another. A recent example:
If there’s no flag in the constitution then the flag in the film is unknown.
There’s no flag in the constitution.
Therefore, the flag in the film is unknown.
Burn every new and old flag that you see.
My initial reaction: … Wait, what?
My reaction after analysis is that I haven’t seen logic or philosophy this bad since I took a long, hard look at Baudrillard. What we have here is a deductive fallacy, which in a slightly more coherent form might look like this:
Premise: If Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania, then it is in Pennsylvania.
Fact: Philadelphia is in Pennsylvania.
Conclusion: Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania.
Since Harrisburg is actually the capital of Pennsylvania, it’s easy to see that the problem with the above argument is that it’s operating on a flawed premise. So too with Jared. His premise that the flag is unknown if it’s not in the Constitution is false. The flag is known because the cultural identity of the nation is associated with the flag, and that identity existed before the Constitution was drafted. Its meaning is implied rather than explicit – while the Constitution never states that the stars represent the states and the stripes the 13 original colonies, it’s common national knowledge. Therefore, the flag is not unknown, and the initial premise of the argument is flawed.
Did nobody point this out to Jared? Would he have listened if they did?
This is one of his more coherent arguments. Follow the BoingBoing link above to see more. But here is the conclusion I’ve drawn from looking over and considered these statements.
This young man argued with the void, got no tangible response, and assumed his conclusions to be true. I don’t think there’s anything in the evidence to support claims that he was influenced by anybody active in politics, only that he was proceeding from false assumptions that nobody ever corrected.
The thing that makes me sad is that this all could have been avoided if someone, in person, had called him on his bullshit.
There’s really no blame to be assigned. No hysteria that should follow this event. Yes, it’s tragic. Yes, I feel for the victims and their families. No, I don’t think anybody outside of Jared and the other ‘person of interest’ should be held responsible. The evidence I see is of a young man trying to find his own voice, his own destiny, without influence from religion or the government – anybody in the government.
So let’s leave Obama, Palin and all the rest of them out of this, shall we?
Assigning blame to and calling for justice upon those who had nothing to do with this tragic event is just as unconscionable as pulling the trigger yourself.