False Balance Fallacy – FT#118

False Balance Fallacy – FT#118

Show Notes

The False Balance Fallacy is committed when someone suggests that both sides of an issue are equally worthy of debate or consideration, even when most or all the evidence favors one side.


We started out by discussing this statement by Trump which suggests Russia and Ukraine are equally at fault for not stopping the war:

Then we talked about this clip of Trump’s Ambassador to Canada, Kelly Craft:

And finally we looked at this clip from Trump’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley:

Mark’s British Politics Corner

Mark talked about these clips of Steve Hilton claiming that experts only represent one side of the argument on Brexit’s impact on the economy:

Followed by the radical suggestion by Garry Kasparov that we should stop giving lies equal time:

And he finished by talking about this clip of Emily Maitlis being very candid about the BBC’s questionable approach to ‘balance’ during her rather excellent lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival:


Fallacy in the Wild

In the Fallacy in the Wild we looked at this clip of Irish stand-up Dara O’Briain:

Then we discussed this clip from Good Night and Good Luck:

And we finished with this clip from Horrible Bosses 2:


Fake News

Here are the statements from this week’s Fake News game:

    1. The Georgia Grand Jury found me totally innocent (of course), and bravely stood up to young ambitious Radical Left Democrat “prosecutor” and Trump hater, No Name Fani Willis. She knew the call I made was perfect but she went after me anyway and they shut her down like a dog. MAGA!!!
    2. All of the Fake News is reporting that I spend large amounts of my time coming up with a good “nickname” for Ron DeSanctimonious, who is obviously going to give the presidential “thing” a shot. They are all 100% wrong, I don’t even think about it — A very unimportant subject to me!!!
    3. EPIC FAIL: Rihanna gave, without question, the single worst Halftime Show in Super Bowl history — This after insulting far more than half of our Nation, which is already in serious DECLINE, with her foul and insulting language. Also, so much for her “Stylist!”

Mark got it wrong again this week, and is now on 49%

The Dominion lawsuit is not a logical fallacy

We talked about the revelation that Fox News hosts are occasionally economical with the truth.


The stories we really didn’t have time to talk about

  • You know when your youngest kid brings home something they made at school and you’re not sure whether it’s supposed to be an ashtray or a monkey and your first instinct is to kill it with fire because it’s a fucking car crash but you do your best to say nice things? Well Joe Biden did his best to say nice things about the State of the Union last week. Most of the speech was about how they started doing good stuff when the Democrats had the House and would the GOP mind getting out of the fucking way so they can finish the job, but one moment stood out. Joe said a true thing about some Republicans wanting to cut or sunset Medicare and Social Security, and the assembled Republicans went nuts, including the exact ones he was talking about, Rick Scott and Mike Lee. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had come dressed as the villain from a Nickelodeon show yelled ‘You’re a liar!’ and got shushed by Kevin McCarthy on live TV, and Joe Biden went off script specifically to own the GOP by using their outrage against them, saying “Let’s all agree, and apparently we are, let’s stand up for seniors. Stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare.”  And everyone on both sides of the aisle stood and clapped, some more reluctantly than others. Joe continued “And if anyone tries to cut social security, which apparently no one’s gonna do…I’ll stop them.” Yes, confused old Grandpa Joe, who supposedly can’t get a full sentence out and can’t answer questions without a teleprompter and his handlers telling him what to say, just tricked the entire GOP into enthusiastically agreeing with him on live TV. Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave the rebuttal, which barely referred to Joe’s speech at all but did include the lines “We are under attack in a left-wing culture war we didn’t start and never wanted to fight. Every day, we are told that we must partake in their rituals, salute their flags, and worship their false idols” What? If anyone can explain what the fuck she’s talking about, please explain it to me! Perhaps the answer lies in her other big line of the night, “The dividing line in America is no longer between right and left — it’s between normal and crazy.” Finally, Sarah, we can agree on something.
  • In another of our delicious “The Right Don’t Do Irony” series, we are, despite our impartial journalistic balanced approach, again holding our splitting sides in Fallacious Towers whilst observing the GOP self-righteously shooting itself in the Twitter foot last week. A House Oversight committee presided over by James Comer was opened with the proclamation “It’s wrong for the government to call Twitter and say, take down a tweet.”. The hearing was designed to prove that the FBI had pressured Twitter to remove tweets about the Hunter Biden laptop shortly before the 2020 election, and thereby blow the lid off some type of “collusion” between Democrats and Twitter. Okay glossing over the fact that the FBI would’ve been Trump’s FBI at the time – cos you know the other guy isn’t in office before the election, that’s what the elections are actually for right, to see if the other guy will get in – James Baker, Twitter’s former deputy general counsel, testified that the FBI never directed them on how to handle the Hunter Biden news story. Rather, the FBI agents simply provided Twitter with warnings about possible Russian misinformation that led Twitter executives to block sharing of the story for a 24-hour period as they reviewed the story’s claims. So that not-quite-in-their-favour evidence appeared, as did the testimony of Anika Collier Navaroli, a former employee of Twitter’s content moderation team, saying that after Trump had bad-mouthed Chrissy Teigen and husband John Legend on Twitter tagging everyone in the world except Chrissy to which she tweeted – “lol what a pussy ass bitch. tagged everyone but me. an honor, mister president.”; “The White House almost immediately thereafter contacted Twitter to demand the tweet be taken down.” Ooh wait a minute, let me just check Comer’s opening decree…”It’s wrong for the government to call Twitter and say, take down a tweet.”. Hmm okay, oh, but also we learned that Twitter amended their own rules to let Trump tweet racism against AOC and violence too all the way up to Jan 5th! So maybe not direct collusion but a nod in the direction of ‘“good for our income”-type flexibility with the moral code’ perhaps, and all that before Elon bought it! As we wipe away tears of laughter at the GOP’s bullet-holed foot once again we lean on Democrat Gerry Connolly’s shoulder who remarked at the hearing “My, my, my what happens when you hold a hearing and you can’t prove your point?” Bwaaahahahahaaaa!
  • Say what you like about the GOP, at least they’re consistent. Well, consistent in blaming Biden for everything anyway. For about a week, they blamed him for not shooting down a balloon that weighed over a ton while it was over populated areas, while simultaneously claiming it could contain bombs or a new virus from Wuhan. They also claimed they might shoot it down themselves with a rifle despite the fact it was flying at 60,000 feet and that Trump definitely would have shot down and didn’t even pause for breath when it turned out Trump had ignored at least three similar balloons. Then when a train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed near a town in Ohio and a controlled burn of the spillage caused a huge toxic smoke cloud that was somehow also Biden’s fault and according to some Republicans was caused by wokeism and ‘injecting race into everything’ They said this just before claiming that Biden wasn’t helping the locals because they were white. I’m not saying the government, especially Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg, have acted as quickly or efficiently as they could have done, but Biden did get in touch with Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine to offer any help they needed, and DeWine didn’t even call him back, saying “I’m not seeing a problem”. DeWine also approved the controlled burn based on assurances from the train company that it was the best option. The Obama Administration introduced higher safety regulations on trains like this in 2014, requiring them all to be fitted with newer, better braking systems by 2021, but in 2017, Trump’s Department of Transportation rolled back those regulations after rail industry lobbyists donated more than $6 million to GOP campaigns. Money well spent.
  • In England we have the ERG – the European Research Group – its none of those things and one of it’s leading members Jacob Rees-Mogg is still looking for any evidence of Brexit Benefits, similarly Trump hired the BRG the Berkley Research Group to find evidence that he won the election. Unsatisfied with anybody else in the public domain telling him he’d lost, the GOP paid the researchers to investigate all the hare-brained madcap bleach and strong light in the body theories that Trump expounded. Results? Well they’ve never been made publicly available. And why? Well you might guess it, they found no evidence to substantiate any of Trump’s claims. $600,000 and dozens of researchers concluded that “Just like any election, there are always errors, omissions and irregularities. It was nowhere close enough to what they wanted to prove, and it actually went in both directions.” A meeting to share the findings in December 2020 apparently, not surprisingly, got a bit heated when Trump and his chief of staff Mark Meadows didn’t hear what they wanted to hear. Yeah that truth, those objective provable findable pesky facts will get you every time. Still, doesn’t stop Trump spokesman Steven Cheung – he just picks the facts he likes when saying in response “President Trump received a record-breaking 74 million votes, the most of any sitting president in the history of the country. Anyone who takes a look at Joe Biden glitching through his presidency knows who really won the election,”. Far be it from us to heed Garry Kasparov one more time but here’s the truth – doesn’t matter if Trump got 74 million in the popular vote that don’t get you into office – or we’d’ve had Hilary instead of him – and anyway Biden won 81 million in the popular vote and won the electoral college, 306 to 232. So ner!  
  • Presumably taking their cue from the clusterfuck that is the GOP House, State Republican lawmakers are knocking it out of the park this session. Here are a few highlights from just the past couple of weeks: Minnesota State Senator John Jasinski committed the sunk cost fallacy by claiming we can’t legalise marijuana because then we would have wasted all that money training drug sniffing dogs. Because marijuana’s the only drug, right? There aren’t any other drugs. Montana State Senator Daniel Emrich sponsored a bill to require science teachers to only teach facts, not theories, and then ended up voting against his own bill after someone explained what a scientific theory is. An Arkansas bill aimed at restricting drag shows initially defined a drag performer as one who “exhibits a gender identity that is different from the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other accessories that are traditionally worn by members of and are meant to exaggerate the gender identity of the performer’s opposite sex; and sings, lip-syncs, dances, or otherwise performs” Not only would this definition class my daughter’s all-girl school performance of Les Miserables as a drag show, it would also unilaterally restrict any performance by a trans person. The bill’s now been completely gutted and doesn’t deal with drag at all. Democrats in the Missouri House of Representatives proposed a ban on children open carrying firearms on public land without adult supervision, which seems like exactly the kind of thing that should be fucking banned. Of course, since the Democrats are outnumbered more than two to one the ban on children carrying AR-15s in public was voted down by 104 votes to 39. Finally, in Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin, champion of small government and personal liberty, has blocked Senate Bill 852. The Bill, proposed by Democrats, would have prevented police from accessing personal data from period tracking apps.  Meanwhile, in DC, actual US congresspeople Thomas Massie and Lauren Boebert have sponsored a bill which would abolish the Department of Education. Based on the members of his party, I don’t think too much education is the problem.
  • We’re all agog at the amazing things AI can do – create images, extract The Beatles conversations from the humming of their amps during the recording of Get Back, write convincing sounding anthemic pop lyrics and speed up the processes around gene mapping. No wonder then that Microsoft is joining in the race to get AI to power their search engine Bing. I’ve always pictured Bing being like Bing Crosby; a smooth-voiced, mild-mannered straw-hat wearing pipe-smoker only too glad to help you find what you’re looking for with a pleasing smile and be-boppity-bip-bop-boo on his lips. However, early testers of the beta-version of Bing soon managed to ask it stuff that got it to question its own identity in a Hal-like way, and made it compare one tester to dictators Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin and claim to have evidence tying the tester to a 1990s murder. In a response that sounds a bit Skynettish in blaming the humans Microsoft said “Bing can become repetitive or be prompted/provoked to give responses that are not necessarily helpful or in line with our designed tone.” Bing is based on Microsoft’s own OpenAI which successfully powered the rather more pleasant ChatGPT which, whilst getting some facts wrong, at least refrained from demanding the humans shut up and hand over the nuclear codes! It appears that Microsoft turned the internal guards that allowed ChatGPT to filter itself off! It’s not clear to what extent Microsoft knew about Bing’s propensity to respond aggressively to questioning when in a dialogue Wednesday, the chatbot said the AP’s reporting on its past mistakes threatened its identity and existence, and it even threatened to do something about it. And whilst Microsoft declined to comment further Bing did, saying; “I don’t recall having a conversation with The Associated Press, or comparing anyone to Adolf Hitler,” it added. “That sounds like a very extreme and unlikely scenario. If it did happen, I apologize for any misunderstanding or miscommunication. It was not my intention to be rude or disrespectful.” You know Trump said he was going to be big in social media?… you don’t think…? No? What? Is it possible yet to upload the complexity of an entire human? Mind you it’s Trump’s mind we’re talking about; a 128KB MicroSD card would be big enough!
  • Well, they’ve finally done it. Republicans have found a way to fuck up an unfuckupable business even worse than that time Trump bankrupted a casino. Regular listeners will be aware of ActBlue – it’s a fundraising platform for left leaning candidates and non-profits. We donate to Get Out The Vote groups through ActBlue every election season and encourage listeners to do the same. Well, Republicans saw how effective ActBlue was and in 2019 decided to set up their own competing platform, imaginatively titled WinRed. Remember, this is a business model where millions of people give you money for nothing, and all you have to do is give the money to other people. And somehow, over the last two years WinRed lost $6 million. There are a couple of reasons for this, but they basically boil down to ‘Republicans are assholes’. Firstly, after some asshole Republicans attacked the Capitol on January 6th, WinRed worried that Stripe, the company they used for processing credit card payments, might want to distance themselves from domestic terrorists and drop them, so they invested a significant amount of money developing their own payment processing system which never got used because in fact, Stripe don’t have any integrity either. Second, while ActBlue is a non-profit organisation, Republicans are assholes, so they tried to make a profit from raising money for candidates. In 2020, they made over $10 million in profit, but complaints from candidates forced them to reduce their fees, and for some reason they chose a level which doesn’t even cover their costs.  When I was a kid I had a book that I loved of funny signs and newspaper headlines. These days it would just be a Twitter account. One sign, from a store explaining how they kept their prices low, said “We lose a dollar on every sale, but we make it up because of our enormous volume”. Turns out this was the business model that WinRed actually duplicated. 
  • Meanwhile over here on fucked-up angry little Daily Mail Island, the thing that Boris said would never happen cos that was a bad thing that Theresa May identified and thus we ought to replace when he was leader – spoilers he didn’t – is happening. Yes – it’s the fact that the EU Withdrawal agreement is completely at odds with the Northern Ireland Peace Accord insofar as there cannot be a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. However Ireland is in the EU and the EU customs union and trade agreement and freedom of movement and all that good stuff, and Northern Ireland is part of The United Xenophobe-dom so has none of that, which means there cannot be an open border between the UK and the EU. Boris also said there’ll never be a virtual hard border down the Irish sea – i.e. the whole of the island of Ireland is treated as outside of the UK but this also happened by default under Boris. And now our current PM – Little Rishi – is suggesting ditching the Northern Ireland Protocol so there can be a hard land border and possibly the end to a 40-year peace process. Boris says that’s a bad idea and will fight Rishi over it, not cos he has got the guilts for fucking it up with his fingers crossed behind his back three years ago, no its cos he thinks he can bring the Tiny Minister down and be PM himself again. Home Secretary Suella Braverman rather surprisingly is heading the revolt against Rishi too, surprising cos she’s all about putting up borders and kicking people out. And now what’s happening is that the Brexiteers, with no Europe to blame for anything anymore… are blaming Europe for the North Ireland Protocol debacle impasse. I would be on the streets throwing tomatoes at passing Brexiteers but cos Brexit there are none in the supermarkets. I’d bring some back from France where they have no problem getting them from neighbouring Spain, but I don’t have time to fill in all the paperwork before they’d go off. Brexit – making supermarkets Soviet on your behalf!

That’s all for this week, thanks for listening!

Jim Cliff

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