Opinion: Opinion piece riddled with bigotry and fallacy, says Potsdam resident
Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 11:15 am

In response to letter to the editor “Foreign Exchange Students Misguided Over Protest” which ran in the May 11-17 issue of North Country This Week: Overt bigotry aside, Joe Gray ironically calls for the stifling of free speech (“sit down and shut up”) of students and others who expressed concern regarding elected official Rita Curran’s irresponsible xenophobic social media gaffe, while he simultaneously demands, with the immature use of profanity, the tolerance of other (his) viewpoints.

My first suggestion to Mr. Gray is to refrain from the nauseating use of hyperbole (which becomes a form of Ad Hominem – a fallacy of replacing logical argumentation with attack-language unrelated to the truth of the matter) by identifying people as “liberal elitists at universities” as a condescending put-down. Nearly 70 percent of high school graduates head to college now, and some 7.6 million Americans aged 25 years old and are enrolled in college this year. Perhaps gaining a higher education back in the 1970s rendered one part of the “elitist” label, but today, it’s nearly all of us, thus hardly elite at all.

The rest of Gray’s rant goes downhill quickly from there with numerous fallacies that degrade any possible sound argumentation. First, he suggests that people who come from other Muslim-dominant countries in turmoil cannot hold opinions in this country regarding expressed xenophobia, committing the logical fallacy by lumping foreigners and/or all practicing Muslims together, and the genetic fallacy (a two-in-one Fallacy in one paragraph!). The latter fallacy is like telling me I can’t talk about poverty in the U.S. because my grandparents were off the boat from Ireland trying to escape the potato famine.

Next, he suggests that people who march and protest should “find something better to do with their time,” not surprisingly resorting to suggesting protesters “get a job”, a fallback modified Argumentum ad opulum fallacy, or what I call the “Archie Bunker” – a fallacy issued typically by white, conservative men my age, based on appeal to ridicule and reeking of intellectual laziness.

There are two more fallacies in Gray’s concluding paragraph. First, he appeals to sarcasm suggesting snarkily protesters “embrace freedom and democracy.” Fallacy aside, on the merits of his point, we agree. And to that end, my tremendous thanks to our founders for recognizing that the freedom of speech to criticize government (and that includes elected officials) is not only an inherent right, but is essential to the concept of Demos upon which our country was founded – governance for the people by the people.

He finally wraps up his rhetorical D+ opinion piece by admonishing those who were critical of Curran to “Fight and condemn cultural intolerance in places like Senegal and Afghanistan” – committing the fallacy of relative privation, or dismissing an argument or complaint due to the perceived existence of more important problems in the world, regardless of whether those problems bear relevance to the initial argument.

Sadly, our ability to debate and discuss policies and issues has been denigrated, and Gray’s opinion is a clear example of that. About the only comments in his submission that weren’t fallacy were his signature and the date, and the tone was completely lacking in civility and fosters hatred of groups of people. But Gray will be happy to know that he doesn’t have to re-join the college educated he disdains to learn how to argue better. A list of fallacies and advice on how to avoid them is just a Google away.

Courtney Johnson-Woods

Potsdam