John Lewis may be a “Civil Rights Icon”, but that shouldn’t make him immune to criticism. The Three Cheers fallacy occurs when people are too enamoured of a person’s reputation to critically think about exactly what they’re saying. “Never be a fan,” Christopher Hitchens said – because when people start worshipping, they stop thinking.
Forty years ago, John McCain was a war hero. Since then he’s mostly been an asshole – Mark Steyn.
During the third presidential debate, when Donald Trump hedged on whether he’d concede the election gracefully, Hillary pounced: “That is not the way our democracy works”.
Hillary had a point. Short of solid evidence of malfeasance, it’s up to the loser to smile through gritted teeth, shake hands and walk away. Although Clinton seems to have conveniently forgotten the “Sore-Loserman” Democrats of 2000 when she said, “We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them”.
In light of Clinton’s admonition, the post-election tears, tantrums and table-flipping of the Democrats, their supporters, and their camp-followers and court eunuchs in Hollywood and the media is astonishingly hypocritical.
And the award for the most epic demonstration of tanty-throwing must surely go to serial dummy-spitter, Georgia Congressman John Lewis.
Indeed, Lewis’ hissy-fits are surely so predictable – he boycotted George W. Bush’s 2001 inauguration as well, a fact that slipped his mind, because I guess when your career is one long parade of protests, sit-ins and walk-outs, they all become a bit of a blur: was that the Million Man March, or the Hundred-Thousand Elderly Activist Occupation? Who can tell after a while? – that surely no-one would even notice by now. Except that Lewis is a “civil rights icon”.
What this means is that, fifty years ago, Lewis stood alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and indeed bravely took part, bodily and politically, in one of the iconic moments of American history.
Fifty years ago.
And since? Well, Lewis has been in Congress for thirty years, a pretty sweet gig. Whether he’s been as effective a representative for his district as he has been a protest-monger is up for debate.
Certainly Trump doesn’t think so. In response to Lewis’ boycott announcement, Trump tweeted that he “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!”
Classic Trump stuff – and not without an element of truth, maybe. As this demographic data indicates, Georgia certainly has problems. Some economic positives – growth, for instance – are outweighed by negatives in education, health and crime. Given Lewis’ predilection for ostentatious protest, Trump’s jibe about “talk, talk, talk” seems particularly pointed.
But you just can’t say that about a “civil rights icon”, judging by the collective fit of pearl-clutching outrage. Even Marco Rubio chimed in, wittering about “everything that John Lewis means to our country”.
But – so what?
So John Lewis is a “civil rights icon” – does that automatically make him right?
The argument that Lewis is apparently above criticism because of what he did fifty years ago – however admirable that was – is an example of what I call the “Three Cheers” fallacy – the inverse of the Argumentum ad Hominem fallacy, one of the best known (and most misunderstood) logical fallacies in popular usage. Ad hominem occurs when personal attack is substituted for arguing the relevant point.
The Three Cheers fallacy works the other way: it says, well, gosh, this person is such a great guy, their character is so unimpeachable, how dare you question them?
Anyone peddling this fallacy never need bother defending even the most risible argument. They only have to sing “For he’s a jolly good fellow!”, and no-one will ever notice how terrible their argument really is.
Which is exactly what Lewis is getting away with. His argument – that Trump is an “illegitimate president”, that Trump is “like George Wallace” – is so obviously ridiculous that it shouldn’t stand a moment’s serious scrutiny.
But Lewis can safely bank on never having to withstand serious scrutiny. He knows perfectly well that all he has to do is bang on, Grandpa Simpson-like, about what he did in nineteen-dickity-five, and everyone will be too busy singing “For he’s a jolly good fellow!” to notice that nowadays he’s mostly just full of it.