Playing the man

2 minute read

I wrote this article back in February 2019 after reading an opinion piece fairly stuffed with logical fallacies. I sent it to The Age but heard nothing back. And now I’ve found it, I thought it worth publishing. Let’s see if you agree?

If you play the man during an argument, you’re making things personal rather than arguing the facts.

A case in point is the weekend article Anxiety plus ignorance: Why Millennials are embracing socialism by Tom Switzer, executive director of the Centre for Independent Studies and presenter of Between the Lines on ABC’s Radio National.

There’s a few errors of reasoning in the article which I’ll unpack, but overall, they include personal attacks (the title alone covers this point), the Slippery Slope (if X happens then Y will inevitably also occur), and overall the article relies on Kettle Logic (where inconsistent arguments are used to defend your position).

A CIS survey is used as proof that Millennials are ignorant, specifically that they don’t know Ronald Reagan called eastern bloc countries “the evil empire” and were largely ignorant of Communist dictators like Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong.

What’s not mentioned is that the survey sampled 1003 people. This might look big until compared to the Roy Morgan research article Millennials: a giant generational hoax, which estimates Australian millennials in 2016 numbered around 4,900,000 people.

To put it another way, the CIS survey is equivalent to using a single person out of 4900 to prove Millennials are ignorant. This is hardly representative of an entire generation of Australian people.

But worse still, the article fails to mention how knowledge of the worst Communist dictators in history is supposed to counter ideas of Socialism? The implication appears to be that Communism is an inevitable result of Socialism. Yet later in the article, Swedish Socialism is referenced. Sweden is a democracy, not a Communist dictatorship. So the slippery slope argument is proved to be flawed in the very same article. The one does not determine the other.

The points about the financial crisis are similarly problematic. It wasn’t just Millennials who were worried about their financial prospects. It was a worldwide phenomenon that caused widespread pain for young and old alike. If the article is to be believed, everyone affected should be leaning toward Socialism.

But then to imply it’s merely high house prices driving Millennials toward Socialism stretches credulity. Are we seriously to believe that Millennials want Socialism because they want a new house?

We can argue back and forth as to whether Socialism is a panacea for Capitalism, or will result in Communist dictatorship. However, the way to do this is to make arguments clear and reasoned, not to attack 4,900,000 Australians.