Presenting: The Reverse Hanlon’s Razor, “Nalnah’s Razor” [UPDATED]

Sometimes you have to presume malice.

In item #1 of the March 11 Warm-Up, I wrote about Steve Bannon’s intentionally-misread statement to French nationalists, saying in part,

 “…What Bannon was obviously saying —and I do mean obviously—is “Don’t let their reflex race-baiting and demonizing tactics discourage you or deter you. Calling sensible immigration laws “xenophobic” is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie. Recognize that their tactics mean you are winning the argument. Be proud, not intimidated.”

My friend, frequent critic and former Ethics Alarms blogger of the year Windypundit responded,

“It’s not a lie, it’s an opinion. An opinion that Bannon and his supporters and you are free to reject. But still an opinion.”

This gave me pause.

If it is an opinion, it is a really stupid opinion. If one wants to argue that immigration laws are xenophobic, racist or nativist, then fine: make the case. The case can’t be made, of course. Borderless nations are not nations. From the collapse of the Roman Empire, to the white European take-over of North America, to the cultural upheavals and violence facing Europe now, history’s lessons are not ambiguous. A nation that does not protect its sovereignty and manage its population and demographics is doomed. Not knowing this is ignorant. Not comprehending it is stupid. Publicly denying it for political gain is dishonest.

Hanlon’s Razor is typically quoted as, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Should the razor be applied to the Left’s increasingly shrill and repetitive catcalls that those wanting to enforce the laws against illegal immigration are doing so because they are xenophobic, racist, and nativist?

No, it shouldn’t, because those promoting the use of those terms are not stupid nor ignorant. They are cynical, and they are using the fallacy of the appeal to emotion while wielding the cognitive dissonance scale unethically. Set up the proponents of the rule of law as universal negatives like racists, xenophobes and nativists—bigots, in other words, and whatever they oppose rises on the scale, and whatever they embrace falls. The labeling, however, is false, and intentionally so. Immigration law, the rule of law, borders and sovereignty have nothing to do with racism, xenophobia, or nativism. They are all independent, well-established aspects of responsible governance. Absent more, accusing advocates of these basic tools of being motivated by bigotry is indefensible, and inexplicable absent stupidity, ignorance, or malice.

Now, individual advocates may have made statements or engaged in conduct that in fact will indicate that racism, xenophobia, or nativism are at least part of their motivations. Pat Buchanan, for example, has made it clear that he believes that the United States must take deliberate steps to remain a white, Christian, English-only culture. When Buchanan talks about enforcing the immigration laws, we know xenophobia is deeply embedded in his opinion. When the white nationalists, or the KKK advocate enforcing the immigration laws, there is tangible, concrete evidence to challenge their motives.

That is not what the open-border, “Think of the Children!”, “A nation of immigrants” advocates are doing, however, when they assert that the support for immigration laws by anyone is motivated by racism, xenophobia, and nativism. They are engaged in a tactic, not issuing an opinion. They are using demonizing, name-calling and ad hominem attacks to silence opposition….or they are stupid and ignorant.

There is overwhelming evidence that while the members of the public who the open-border activists are trying to recruit may be stupid and ignorant (as well as gullible, a frequent bi-product of stupidity and ignorance), the activists themselves are not. Their misrepresentation is deliberate. It is in pursuit of a political agenda, because there is no rational justification for it. It’s not a genuine opinion, because opinions are honest and sincere. It is a crafted opinion for political warfare: a weapon. A lie.

Thus I propose Nolnah’s Razor:

“Attribute to malice rather than stupidity the accusation by opponents of an objectively reasonable policy that support for such a policy derives from unethical motives.”*

My statement that “Calling sensible immigration laws xenophobic is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie” is correct.

_________________

*UPDATE: Credit to reader JutGory for the final wording.

42 Comments

Filed under Character, Government & Politics, History, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy

42 responses to “Presenting: The Reverse Hanlon’s Razor, “Nalnah’s Razor” [UPDATED]

  1. JutGory

    There has got to be a better formulation of Nolnah’s Razor. I don’t quite understand it (an understatement). But, considering it is a backwards Hanlon, maybe it is properly discombobulated.
    -Jut

    • JutGory

      Wait, I almost have it.
      -Jut

      • JutGory

        How is this: “Attribute to malice, rather than stupidity, the accusation by opponents of an objectively reasonable policy that support for such a policy must derive from unethical motives.”
        -Jut

        • “Attribute to malice, rather than stupidity, the accusation by opponents of an objectively reasonable policy that support for such a policy must derive from unethical motives.”

          I think I’ll scratch the first comma and “must” and use that:

          “Attribute to malice rather than stupidity the accusation by opponents of an objectively reasonable policy that support for such a policy derives from unethical motives.”

          • Chris

            So, what you’re saying is that assuming a policy is based on malice is in itself evidence of malice.

            Which means people who disagree with you are being malicious when they assume malice, but people who agree with you not being malicious when they assume malice.

            Yeah, this ethical principal needs a lot of work.

    • I tried many, and settled on that. If you can come up with one that is less convoluted, I will be grateful.

  2. Emily

    I would go more general with that statement. Something like: “Hesitate to attribute to stupidity that which accomplishes exactly the results that would benefit the perpetrator.”

  3. Dwayne N. Zechman

    And . . . really . . . this all boils down to properly identifying an ad-hominem attack when it’s being used by those who should know better.

    –Dwayne

  4. I guess this is fair. After all, it’s the same reasoning your opponents are using about you: Liberal immigration rules are an objectively reasonable policy, therefore you must have malicious reasons for opposing them.

    • No, because as I explained, “liberal immigration policies” that is, none, are ideological fantasy, aka nonsense. You may be the exception of an otherwise educated and intelligent individual who can’t process that, but also as I explained, all of world history points in you away from your romantic delusion.

      • Well, I think I’ll stick to my “romantic delusion” that people should be free to live and work wherever others are willing to offer them housing and jobs. Insane as that must sound to you, it still seems like the right thing to do.

        • Gamereg

          Ask the Native Americans how that worked out.

          • The Native American population was devastated by infectious diseases and then forced off their land by a series of wars lasting over 200 years. That’s a whole different kind of problem than families sneaking over the border to pick peaches and hang drywall. But by all means, if you do see illegal immigrants forming armed regiments to force us off our land, go right ahead and stop them.

        • Well, I think I’ll stick to my “romantic delusion” that people should be free to live and work wherever others are willing to offer them housing and jobs. Insane as that must sound to you, it still seems like the right thing to do.

          That is the problem: YOU are forcing me (through taxation) to ‘offer them housing and jobs’ while Americans are unemployed.

          Why are the Americans unemployed? Because the illegal aliens are working under the radar, for a pittance.

          Your little delusion is actually taking advantage of these poor people.

          • Yes, I’m pretty sure the nation as a whole is not willing to provide all of this to people who come here illegally. And single states are not allowed to announce that the nation’s position doesn’t apply to it, because it has stockpiled the beneficiaries of an organized defiance of the rule of law.

          • I’m not forcing YOU to ‘offer them housing and jobs.’ I’m saying that if someone other than you — one of those fellow Americans you’re so worried about — wants to rent them a place to live or hire them to work in a factory, then I don’t think that’s any of your business, or by extension, any of the government’s business.

            Why are the Americans unemployed? For the most part, they’re not: Unemployment is at 4.1%, which is very low. But to the extent that Americans are unemployed because of immigrants of any kind, it’s because their fellow Americans decided that’s how they want to spend their money. Why should anyone have the power to force them to hire someone else?

          • Chris

            That is the problem: YOU are forcing me (through taxation) to ‘offer them housing and jobs’ while Americans are unemployed.

            Why are the Americans unemployed? Because the illegal aliens are working under the radar, for a pittance.

            Your little delusion is actually taking advantage of these poor people.

            As Windy has correctly noted, we’re almost at full employment. At times when unemployment was high, the cause was definitely not illegal immigrants, who just leave the country when unemployment is high. Seriously, look at the stats: illegal immigration was lowest at the peak of the recession, and many were returning to their home countries. So your statement that Americans are unemployed “because the illegal aliens are working under the radar, for a pittance” is entirely made-up, and much more of a “delusion” than anything Windy has said.

            • Chris has proven himself a smug hypocritical party hack, not interested in actual discussion, debate, or fair treatment. He is unethical, as as such I will not dignify his responses any further. Do not feed the trolls.

        • “Well, I think I’ll stick to my “romantic delusion” that people should be free to live and work wherever others are willing to offer them housing and jobs.”

          Limitless immigration WILL pose a problem that cannot be rectified until it is too late. A completely un-hindered immigration “policy”…that is anyone who can come here and wants to should not be stopped. Nope. Because that invitation WILL be capitalized on by culture groups that will not re-acculturate fast enough. Then, Americans will suddenly see the great culture bequeathed to them by previous generations that slowly became American GONE and too late to fix the problem.

          I think immigration is great. Unlimited…? Cultural suicide.

        • Windypundit wrote, “Well, I think I’ll stick to my “romantic delusion” that people should be free to live and work wherever others are willing to offer them housing and jobs. Insane as that must sound to you, it still seems like the right thing to do.”

          Who’s arguing against that? These people that want available jobs can enter the country LEGALLY and accomplish the exact same thing. No excuses Windypundit; there is a legal path of entry into the United States and there are reasonable conditions set forth for legal entry into the United States. Follow the rules or get deported, period.

          A world without borders and an equal outcome for all is a faux utopia and yes Windypundit it’s a delusion perpetuated by people who cannot think logically about human nature.

          A sovereign nation without immigration policies that are enforced and an effective secure border in today’s screwed up world is absolutely insane. Anyone that supports an open border policy is just plain ignorant.

          Leave all your doors and windows wide open Windypundit, post yard posters that say all are welcome to enter your home anytime they want, let all who enter eat your food, sleep in your bed, shower in your bathroom, wear your cloths, screw your wife, all free of charge. It’s your responsibility to use your funds to provide anything and everything to anyone who enters your home, because you believe in a socially balanced outcome for all people. As you’ve previously rationalized; “it still seems like the right thing to do”.

    • JutGory

      Not really. I believe many of the liberal immigration policies spring from compassion, not malice. Liberals don’t want to send immigrants back to the shithole countries from which they came (and whose shit-holiness is their reason for coming here). But, as much as liberals may think the U.S. itself is a shithole country, they don’t want to deny others the chance to move here.

      So, their policies are not rational, but I attribute no malice to them. They are compassionate policies that are stupid.

      -Jut

      • Except for the part where they think illegal aliens will vote for them (and have, we are finding out) thus making them the only party in American politics.

        That IS malice.

  5. I tend to follow a variation of Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently sophisticated stupidity is indistinguishable from malice. The way I treat people, though, I don’t have to know which one applies, because I present them with questions that lead them to realize both that they’re wrong and that it’s in their best interests to acknowledge it.

  6. Statements “Calling sensible immigration laws “xenophobic….“etc. are expressions against immigration control. There is another often used pro-immigration statement that can also, I think, be attributed to malice as certainly, if not more so, than the anti-control types cited.

    The claim “Immigration is good for the country” is so obviously untrue as a blanket statement, that it has to be viewed as being deliberately disingenuous. It could be true with certain modifiers or changes, but as an absolute, it is absolutely absurd (and I’ve seen it stated repeatedly just as noted). Carried to its ultimate extension, one would have to accept the idea that having the entire rest of the world migrate to your nation would be the best thing ever. It would take a lethal dose of stupidity to believe that.

    • Welcome to the world without nuance, where things are either always completely good or always completely bad, necessary and sufficient are the same thing, and entertaining an idea is tantamount to accepting it.

      People who grow up without learning critical thinking often absorb the ideas of people around them or of figures they identify with, so they consider themselves obviously right despite their minds having all the image-resolving power of a snail’s eye.

      Yes, I have a deep-seated intolerance for this sort of reasoning.

  7. Chris

    Now, individual advocates may have made statements or engaged in conduct that in fact will indicate that racism, xenophobia, or nativism are at least part of their motivations.

    Yes…like Steve Bannon.

    My statement that “Calling sensible immigration laws xenophobic is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie” is correct.

    Well, the problem is we don’t agree on what is “sensible.” You said that Trump’s travel ban, which was supported by zero national security experts and was transparently based on hysteria and fearmongering, was “sensible.” But it was actually xenophobic and nativist. To lump such a policy in with “sensible immigration laws” makes it seem like you wouldn’t consider any immigration law xenophobic, even if the law’s crafters, as in the case of the travel ban, were openly xenophobic, and openly used xenophobia as a justification while crafting the law.

    So conversation is thus impossible; you’re accusing anyone who wants immigration restrictions lessened as “calling all immigration laws xenophobic,” while at the same time refusing to accept any evidence of xenophobia.

    • Someone let me know when Christ stops erecting straw men.

      The wisdom of temporary travel and migration bans in response to terror threats are not part of this discussion. Immigration law involves the process of legally migrating to the US, or remaining here following official approval. I’m not debating any immigration policy, simply asserting that laws that are duly passed have to be enforced, and advocating enforcing them—as in believing in due process and the rule of law, by definition cannot be racist or xenophobic, nor can wanting to have immigration laws.

      You (and Windy) are irrational on this topic.

      Oh—fear of terrorists is not the same thing as xenophobia.

      • Chris

        The wisdom of temporary travel and migration bans in response to terror threats are not part of this discussion. Immigration law involves the process of legally migrating to the US, or remaining here following official approval.

        …Which you must know was impeded by the travel ban. Are you actually claiming that wasn’t an immigration restriction? You can’t be.

        I’m not debating any immigration policy, simply asserting that laws that are duly passed have to be enforced, and advocating enforcing them—as in believing in due process and the rule of law, by definition cannot be racist or xenophobic, nor can wanting to have immigration laws.

        You (and Windy) are irrational on this topic.

        Where have Windy or I argued there should be no immigration laws? Where have either of us said those laws should not be enforced?

        Oh—fear of terrorists is not the same thing as xenophobia.

        It becomes xenophobia when it reaches irrational levels, Jack. This is true of all fears. For example, it is gun-phobic to to advocate for the repeal of the Second Amendment in response to the Parkland shooting, even though the shooting itself happened and was a horrendous tragedy. This response is irrational and can lead to bigotry when that fear is used to tar supporters of the Second Amendment. It isn’t gun-phobic to be afraid of someone pointing a loaded gun in your face.

        Similarly, it is xenophobic to advocate for restricting all people in seven countries from immigrating to the U.S., even though those countries have substantial terrorist activity. This response is irrational and can lead to bigotry when that fear is used to punish good members of those countries and their relatives here in the U.S. It isn’t xenophobic to be afraid of terrorists, but the response was xenophobic, and came accompanied with plenty of xenophobic rhetoric. Trump stereotyped and told, in your words, “Nazi lies” about Muslims in the lead-up to the ban. His people resorted to making up terrorist attacks that never happened in order to fuel support for the law. That is exactly like the fake stats on “numbers of school shootings” you rightly condemned a few weeks ago.

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