I can’t recommend this book enough. Crimes Against Logic by Jamie Whyte seeks to ‘expose the bogus arguments of politicians, priests, journalists and other serial offenders.’ Mr. White lives in London, teaches philosophy at Cambridge, and is greatly disturbed by the shoddy reasoning that pervades everyday discourse. But, instead of muttering to himself, he’s decided to write an exposé that catalogues all of the ploys used by people who care less for truth than they do about convincing you they are right.
You would expect such a book to contain sober narrative, and it does. For example, consider Mr. Whyte’s analysis of our tendency (actually our journalists’ tendency) to rely on the opinions of victims in addressing certain social problems:
“No one wants to seem insensitive toward the victims of tragedies. When the mother of a child rape victim sobs at a press conference that the death penalty should be applied immediately to a man recently taken into custody, it takes a single-minded devotion to jurisprudence to tell her then and there about the many shortcomings of her suggested course of action. No one, however, should afford her words the weight of expert opinion simply on account of her anguish. Nevertheless, this happens all the time.”
In addition to a sober, straightforward tone, the book is also highly ascerbic. In one chapter of the book, the author addresses the ways that people silence those who are making arguments that they disagree with. The sub-chapters in this chapter (which is titled ‘Shut Up’) are as follows: ‘Shut Up—You’re Not Allowed to Speak’, ‘Shut Up—You’re Boring’, and my favorite: ‘Shut Up—You Sound Like Hitler’. Here’s a passage from that sub-chapter:
“Mass murder is something of a lottery. Lenin hasn’t done so badly. I recently had a drink in the popular Lenin Bar in Auckland, New Zealand, decorated with red stars and black and white images of the great Communist. Very fetching. Hitler bars, on the other hand, seem to be in short supply. Lenin is doing all right in the world of ideas. Communism isn’t what it was amoung intellectuals, but you cannot yet dismiss a political or economic view simply pointing out that it was held by Lenin. Hitler, on the other hand, is like a reverse Einstein. If you can associate someone’s opinion with Hitler, or the Nazi’s more generally, then goodbye to that idea.”
Overall, the book is tightly written and easy to digest. We need a catalyst to change the way we discuss important social issues, and this book could help. I suspect some of the people who need to peruse it most will scan my description and summarily conclude the book is flawed because it praises Hitler.
Those sorts of people are highly informed and knowledgeable. If you don’t believe me, just ask them.