The 111th Rationalization: “Tom’s Delusion”

Tom’s Delusion, or “Everyone agrees with me!” is unique in the annals of Ethics Alarms. The latest addition to the rationalizations list was inspired by banned commenter of short duration here, but I genuinely intend the title as a sincere honor: it really is a useful rationalization, and I would not have realized it had “Tom” made, as one of his last annoying comments before he quit in a huff, this assertion to support his claim that the January 6, 2020 riot at the Capitol was a seminal event in U.S. history, of the same magnitude, or close to it, as the terrorism of 9/11, as he attempted to counter the observations of Steve-O-in NJ (and others, including me) that this is a contrived Democratic talking point without basis in fact or logic:

“Well the majority of the country disagrees with you.”

And there it was!

1E. Tom’s Delusion, or “Everyone agrees with me!”

Tom’s Delusion is another point where the rationalization list intersects with logical fallacies. #1E is a particularly foolish version of the Appeal to Authority fallacy, which is bad enough when the user believes that the fact that someone of note has adopted his or her position is evidence of the dubious position’s validity.

Using the argument that a position, belief or action is correct or defensible using “everyone” as the authority appealed to is infinitely worse. First, it is based on a lie: “everybody” doesn’t agree on anything. Of course, in its common use, “everybody” is  shorthand for “most people” or in Tom’s case, “the majority,” which is why this rationalization is under #1, “Everybody Does It.” Even if it was literally true that “everybody” believes something, that is not proof, evidence or even a coherent argument. “Everybody” used to believe the world was flat. Most people are lazy, apathetic, poorly educated and ignorant: what the majority of such people may believe creates problems, but it is certainly is not evidence one can rationally to rely on.

Indeed, when the mob agrees with you, it’s a strong indication that you need to reexamine your beliefs.

***

The case of the January 6 riots is an especially bad one to entrust to the public’s beliefs, because the effort to mislead them and misrepresent the event for political gain has been relentless and ongoing. Just today was an amusing example:

Writing for the Guardian, Malcolm Turnbull decribed the event,

They assembled in their thousands. Trump wound them up with a typically inflammatory address, culminating in a call to march on the Capitol. The mob proceeded to besiege and break into the home of US democracy. They surged through the corridors, threatening to hang Pence and the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Several security guards were killed …

Well, there were about 300 involved in the riot, not “thousands.” “They” didn’t threaten to hang Pelosi or Pence, and no security guards were killed, though the New York Times, Joe Biden and others worked hard to make the public believe otherwise. This led to a clown show of corrections:

 The Guardian’s correction:

This article was amended on 20 October to remove the assertion that several security guards were killed at the White House attack on 6 January. Of the people who died of various causes on that day, one was a police officer and four were allegedly involved in the riots.

Wait…the White House?

No wonder so many people are confused.

19 thoughts on “The 111th Rationalization: “Tom’s Delusion”

  1. Most of the time, I would chalk up the “White House” comment to a brain fart. However, because people have completely overblown the event, I wouldn’t be surprised if this writer actually believes the attack was on the actual White House.

    • Unless this is someone else of the same name, this Malcolm Turnbull is a canny, right thinking Australian political figure, once in power in an ostensibly right wing coalition federal government, who seems frequently to do well by doing good (as the saying is). Any ignorance on his part is deliberate, and his target audience may well be in Europe or Australia rather than the U.S.A.

      • I think the former PM of Australia might be what Americans refer to as a RINO. Center Right in Australia is not what a typical center right American would align with. Perhaps an analog of a less polished Senator Manchin.

  2. Yep, I’ve hated that rationalization since I was a teenager working at McDonald’s

    Customer #1: You should automatically put ketchup in the bag. I’m sure all your other customers agree.
    Customer #2: You shouldn’t waste ketchup like that. Some people don’t like it.

    Two lectures. All I wanted to do was make people happy.

    • Well, when I go to McDonald’s I don’t want ketchup in my bag — their fries don’t need them. When I go to most other fast food places, I do want ketchup.

      So There! 🙂

  3. This rationalization is a standard Dem talking point of many uses these days. The most popular current one is “Everyone (i.e., all voters) is in favor of the reconciliation bill.” Clearly a falsehood.

  4. Amusing: Tom couldn’t resist trying to sneak back on here to comment. See, when you announce you are leaving never to return, you don’t get to return. It’s in the Comment rules, but Tom never paid attention to those anyway.

  5. An EA rationalization? Hey, it’s your site – call it that if you wish. This is nothing more than a classic argumentum ad populum, or an appeal to popularity. Which, as you know, is an informal logical fallacy.

    • Which is why I said this is one of the points where the rationalization list intersects with the fallacy list. Lots of the fallacies can be used as rationalizations. It’s a fallacy to say “this is true because everyone believes it.” It’s a rationalization to say,”It’s right for the government and the media to misrepresent this because most people believe what they are saying.”

  6. Yeah, that’s a good one for the list. It doesn’t matter how many people disagree; the truth is not a majority vote.

    That said, my years of arguing with humans, I’ve learned that you don’t have to argue with someone about semantics or impressions until they start leading to predictions that you think might take risks that you don’t think are worth yourself or others taking.

    For example, if someone wants to compare the 1/6/21 invasion of the capital by disgruntled citizens to the 9/11/01 terrorist attack by Muslim fundamentalist fanatics, I might ask them what that means to them and what we should do about it. Should we implement more privacy-violating security measures? Should we invasively occupy the land those people came from? Or should we instead make it clear that not all people with that background are extremists, and accuse anyone who voices suspicion of being conservophobic? So many implications…

    It’s just like judo; instead of opposing someone directly, using their own aggressive thoughts against them to throw them or tie them up is much easier if you practice the skill. It also has the benefit of deescalating conflict.

    • Weaponizing their own cognitive dissonance by forcing them to acknowledge it. Brilliant!

      Biggest boon is you have provided nothing to persuade them with. You’re only pointing out the conclusions they’ve already incorporated into their belief system but had never analyzed for consistency.

    • It also has the benefit of deescalating conflict.

      Not with me it doesn’t, if it sets off my manipulativeness detectors. As does any attempt to defuse a conflict in such a way as to get one’s way regardless.

      • That’s why my methods of defusing a conflict treat people as ends in themselves. I’m not interested in getting what I want if it’s through the process of causing everyone to ignore what someone else needs. That’s just going to lead to more unhappiness and conflict.

        The deconstruction approach I described there isn’t supposed to impose a “correct” answer on the other person. It’s supposed to encourage the other person to think through what they actually want and believe before they make a decision. That way we both understand their concerns and can work out a path forward that we can both be satisfied with.

        Does that make sense?

        • I would agree but for one thing: the object should never be agreement but rather the truth of the matter. Any exercise should allow for the possibility of not agreeing, for anything else can degenerate into the sort you (and I) reject.

  7. Actually, the FBI stated on August 20,2021 that there was “scant evidence” that the riot on January 6 was a preplanned organized event. Thus, it cannot be defined as an insurrection and the people charged with determining if it was do not agree with the mob to which Tom identifies.

  8. It hurts my heart when I consider Ashley Babbitt. The fact that BLM/Antifa and violent Lefty anarchists generally have been allowed to burn, loot, and maim, with virtual impunity, has me thinking Babbitt (reasonably) did not anticipate that simply breaking through would merit a kill shot at close range. Her death has been forgotten almost as fast as it occurred, only because she was melanin deficient and perceived as a Trump supporter. Tragic…

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