The Balloon Juice Fallacy (Update and Bump)

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Here’s lefty blogger Roger Ailes, in a post that went up Sunday morning:

Libertarian Fonzie and his toadys [sic] haven’t weighed in on the DADT repeal either. Maybe they don’t think federal regulation of sexual orientation implicates liberty cocerns, at least when the regulations don’t interfere their patron’s anal sex film empire. Or maybe they’re still at Joe Manchin’s Christmas party.

For those of you unfamiliar with lefty blog code, “Libertarian Fonzie” is Reason.tv editor Nick Gillespie. “His toadys” I guess refers to the rest of us at Reason.

So there are a number of ways that you could ferret out where Reason and its writers stand on gay equality issues. You could, for example, do what Ailes did here, which is to set an arbitrary deadline in your head by which Reason must respond to a gay issue in the news and, if we fail to meet said arbitrary deadline, you conclude that we just don’t care very much about gay people. Or at least not as much as we do about whatever frivolous issue you think we spend too much time covering. (In this case, Ailes throws in the bonus ad hominem attack that we only cover obscenity laws because one of our donors, John Stagliano, was recently prosecuted under them.) Ailes’ deadline was apparently 7:30 am on the Sunday after a Saturday vote in the Senate.

But here’s another way you could find out where Reason stands on gay issues:  You could take 15 fucking seconds to use Reason’s search engine, where you’d find the thousands of words we’ve published in our magazine and on our website advocating the repeal of DADT. You’d also find the dozens of articles we’ve published advocating gay marriage, regular ridicule of homophobes, and support for gay adoption.

But then you wouldn’t get to make Fonzie jokes.

(BTW: This arbitrary deadline/”notice the silence from x” method of argumentation will henceforth be known as the Balloon Juice fallacy.)

MORE: Check out this response from John Cole at Balloon Juice. He runs off a list of Reason articles that allegedly commit the same fallacy I accuse him and Ailes of making, and adds, “Too funny.”

Hilarious. Except not one of the articles actually commits that fallacy. It looks like someone just did a search for the word “silence” on the Reason website. Which means Cole is either stupid, or he didn’t actually bother to read the articles before posting them to his main page. Here are the articles:

  • In this one, Jacob Sullum criticizes Elena Kagan for refusing to answer any questions about natural rights during her confirmation hearings. Sullum’s column is about how the confirmation process robs the public from getting a sense of a Supreme Court nominee’s judicial philosophy before before deciding whether she should be confirmed.
  • In this one, Matt Welch criticizes neoliberal Democrats for not opposing Obama’s profligate spending policies. John apparently doesn’t understand the difference between criticizing a website for not responding to a given issue within 24 hours and criticizing politicians for not standing up for their principles when their own party is in power.
  • In this one, Steve Chapman criticizes anti-gay marriage Republicans (yes, in all of this, John’s is using an example of a Reason article defending gay marriage to prove his point) who say gay marriage will lead to all sorts of other moral decay. Chapman actually called gay marriage critics up and asked them to go on the record with specific predictions of what moral outrages would come next. None of them would answer him. Again, this isn’t remotely similar to my complaint about Cole and Ailes. I mean, not even on the same planet.
  • In this one, Michael Moynihan responds to this exact variety of ad hominem attack. In this case, a New York Press editor criticized Reason for not addressing Naomi Klein’s horrible book about Milton Friedman, and tried to draw broad conclusions what our silence means. Moynihan chides him for it. At the end of the article, Moynihan turns the tables, and asks what we can infer about the New York Press silence about a libertarian book, but only to point out how stupid this sort of argument can be. Cole then uses this as an example . . . Reason making that sort of argument. Again, this either illustrates that Cole isn’t particularly bright, didn’t read the link before posting (which only bolsters my contention that he regularly makes sweeping accusations against Reason without bothering to check first to see if there’s any evidence for them), or he did read the link, knows doesn’t prove anything remotely like what he claims, yet posted it anyway thinking no one would call him on it. Which would make him a dishonest hack.
  • Finally, this article mentions Hugo Chavez’s silence after an opposition coalition won a majority of seats in the Venezuelan parliament. Again, not remotely similar to the way Cole draws grand conclusions about Reason’s “silence” on a given issue.

That’s zero for five, John. Too funny.

I’ve said this before:  I don’t expect everyone or even most people to agree with Reason. I do expect adults to make adult arguments. And to actually do some checking to make sure we’ve actually done whatever it is you’re attacking us for doing.


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85 Responses to “The Balloon Juice Fallacy (Update and Bump)”

  1. #1 |  Gideon Darrow | 

    @ #49 random guy:

    Agreed.

  2. #2 |  Mike | 

    Not to belabor the point (4jkb4ia seems right to me), but I’m curious whether Reason folks hold themselves to the same standard they have for others: “I don’t expect everyone or even most people to agree with Reason. I do expect adults to make adult arguments. And to actually do some checking to make sure we’ve actually done whatever it is you’re attacking us for doing.” So, while I do not attribute your silence on the issue of Fonzie being mathematically challenged to mean you agree with him, I am somewhat concerned that you expect liberals to make adult arguments, but not your colleagues. Too funny.

  3. #3 |  Mike | 

    Incidentally, I “came from” Balloon Juice, but think John’s examples were not the equivalent of what Balko was complaining about.

  4. #4 |  Buddy Hinton | 

    I’m the libertarian Buddy Hinton.

  5. #5 |  Mattocracy | 

    #33 | Dal |

    “Balloon Juice has responded with a post pointing to a number of “Balloon Juice fallacies” committed by Reason itself”

    Looks like someone made a comment without actually doing any research…

    “I would think that, of all people, the gang here would’ve figured out by now that this conservative/liberal division is largely an artifice of the political class and its media minions”

    Get the fuck over yourself. You obviously don’t come here very often if you think that about the commenters here.

    “I find it frustrating that libertarians so often have a huge blind spot to the abuses and threats to personal liberty frequently committed by business (presumably because being rabidly and irrationally pro-capitalism in all forms is part of the “conservative” dogma)..”

    You have no idea what libertarian economics are. Conservatives aren’t capitalists. They’re corporatists. There is a huge difference and the fact that you don’t see that or know the difference shows your own irrational beliefs and ignorance about libertarianism.

  6. #6 |  Psion | 

    I call dibs on “libertarian Mork”! Na-noo, na-noo!

    Which is about as insightful a post as I make, sometimes.

  7. #7 |  Highway | 

    Mattocracy:

    People never *ever* make the connection that when abuses by corporations and businesses have happened, they’ve done so with at least their friends in government looking the other way, if not actively involved in helping the business commit those abuses. Whether it’s extremely favorable laws pushed through by the pocket legislators of those companies, assistance from the police in committing those abuses (or not coming to the assistance of the people being abused by hired thugs), or blessing discriminatory practices, they’re usually not a case of those corporations actively opposing the government, like those folks who have some fantasy image of government think it is. It’s business and government working hand in hand to screw the rights out of powerless folks.

  8. #8 |  t1 | 

    What started this little internet pissing contest?

    Was it Balloon Juice noting that Reason editor Ed Gillespie (or whatever his name is) can’t add?

  9. #9 |  Brandon | 

    Why do the BJ commenters keep sticking to the “Gillespie can’t add” crap? Read his actual posts, not the garbage that Chait keeps repeating. Gillespie is right about the math. That much is inarguable.

  10. #10 |  Episiarch | 

    I’m impressed at the level of density of the Balloon Juice commenters. Combined, you guys are probably dangerously close to having an event horizon. But unfortunately, stupid can still escape at this point.

  11. #11 |  t1 | 

    Brandon – Did you watch that Reason TV video?

    You see if you have big ol piece of pork and you want to cut it into 10 slices and then cut progressively 3.6% off of each slice, you got to first cut 3.6% off of __all___ of the slices. Then you cut 3.6% off of the the remaining 9 slices. And so on.

    I guess Gillespie tried to make it really, really simple because he knows that most of his viewers don’t process complexity very well. (That’s inarguable, as some might say.)

  12. #12 |  Dal | 

    Mattocracy:

    “Looks like someone made a comment without actually doing any research…”

    TY for the abusive and condescending response to what I consider to be fairly reserved comment. First, I merely pointed out that BJ had posted a response to Balkos post. Did I assume there was some validity without thoroughly researching these specific examples? Guilty. Some of us have jobs and shit to do. But I have read enough of Hit and Run to know that they do plenty of the “where is the lefty objection to such and such” that is the core of this “BJF”. Regardless, it hardly diminishes my point that there are far more important issues than this petty blogosphere mudslinging – that the diversion of these manufactured partisan disputes contributes to the public impotence to affect any real change in the system.

    “Get the fuck over yourself. You obviously don’t come here very often if you think that about the commenters here.”

    Actually I read The Agitator daily, but rarely comment…and responses like yours are precisely why. And your kneejerk defensiveness kind of defeats your intent, which I infer to be that the Agitator commenters already see though the partisan theater…and yet here you are jumping my shit for a perceived insult to your sacred cow (but note that I said “this gang of all people” which is intended to be compliment..that I have higher expectations from the Agitator readers..).

    “You have no idea what libertarian economics are. Conservatives aren’t capitalists. They’re corporatists. There is a huge difference and the fact that you don’t see that or know the difference shows your own irrational beliefs and ignorance about libertarianism.”

    I’ll admit to being less than fully versed on the intricacies and variations of libertarian philosophy…which is why I read blogs like The Agitator and H&R…to get a measure of the current living state of the ideology. What I’ve observed is alot of self-identification with conservatives, alot of sophomoric belittling of anything perceived to be liberal, and alot of kneejerk defense of almighty capitalism. There’s much more I could say on that subject…but having a life and all, I haven’t the time for that at this moment…

  13. #13 |  David in Balt | 

    Wow, those guys from BJ are really, really childish.

  14. #14 |  Jonas Salk | 

    I posted a very brief comment which pointed out exactly what Radley did on John Cole’s post. My comment is still awaiting moderation, despite another comment already approved below it.

    Obviously, Cole doesn’t like to be proven to be an idiot.

  15. #15 |  Coyote | 

    lol @ “self-identification with conservatives.”

  16. #16 |  Episiarch | 

    What I’ve observed is a lot of self-identification with conservatives

    Then “You obviously don’t come here very often if you think that about the commenters here” needs to be repeated to you, again.

  17. #17 |  bjRules | 

    Gillespe can’t do math ://

  18. #18 |  David in Balt | 

    @ Jonas Stalk,

    Fascism is the natural outgrowth of leftist ideology. Is it really any surprise that they knee-jerk to censorship and shouting down their opponents? Make no mistake, if they were not so cowardly, they would resort to violence as well.

  19. #19 |  James J.B. | 

    Just so we are clear… “Libertarian Fonzie” is also the title of my next reason fan fic

  20. #20 |  Thyrezene | 

    In a discussion between two people, where one takes the argument seriously and the other only speaks snark, the latter will always win. Y SO SRS?

  21. #21 |  Paula | 

    I read both blogs daily. I am not interested in this kind of back and forth: who has the bigger dick.

    Please stop this back and forth and get back to the reasons why I read your blog: the thoughtful and witty posts!

  22. #22 |  Jon Gray | 

    @dal

    You twice make reference to your life/job interfering with your ability to devote time to posting here. However, you currently own the two longest posts. Odd.

    Aside from

  23. #23 |  Jon Gray | 

    Aside from the snark, you bring up a valid points despite yourself. Were you to pay attention to the comments here you’d see brevity and not having a stick up your ass is valued.

  24. #24 |  Kevin Carson | 

    Sounds about like the level of argument among the “reality based community” at Daily Kos. There’s a unit of measure — I call it the Markosecond — between the time someone first mentions libertarians and the first person drags out the phrase “pot-smoking Republicans” like it was some brilliantly original bon mot they’d just thought up.

  25. #25 |  BoogaFrito | 

    Which means Cole is either stupid, or he didn’t actually bother to read the articles before posting them to his main page.

    Those aren’t mutually exclusive, you know…

  26. #26 |  mdb | 

    Why bother?

  27. #27 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Holy cow. This blogger war has all the makings of a Jets/Sharks musical except the BJ guys don’t know, like magnets, how logic works.

    Again, as a lazy man who isn’t very smart I missed my calling in journalism.

  28. #28 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    #62 Dal

    but having a life and all, I haven’t the time for that at this moment…

    Dude posting on Internet defends himself by claiming to have a life. Will possibly follow up with “I have a sex partner” comment if all goes well.

    As Gray and Carson point out, pretty damn tired shit. If posts like that aren’t a “tell”, I don’t know what is.

    And, when did you have to be a libertarian to read/post on Agitator?

  29. #29 |  Bill Beyer | 

    “Libertarian Fonzie”… Thank you so much! That was the best belly laugh of the day, and heck- it’s good to see the too often humorless leftists come up with something kinda cute. And lets face it, Nicks ‘sartorial choices’ have been lampooned before. Personally, I love seeing someone not culturally wedded to the uniform- suit, tie, …corporate cutouts. As a ‘child of the 60s’, I find I don’t really care about the uniform as much as the message, and Nick’s usually right on. But if you can’t counter the message, it appears you need only mock the messenger.

  30. #30 |  albatross | 

    There’s a common phenomenon in net.argument here that is worth pointing out. You start out as a speaker who believes group or person X is evil, stupid, worthless, etc., with readers who mostly agree. Now, laziness, confirmation bias, and the availability heuristic have their way with your brain.

    Suddenly, even the flimsiest bits of evidence for the evilness of group X seem rock-solid. And you write arguments along these lines, and most of your readers/commenters never even notice, because their pre-existing assumptions about the world make it very easy for them to accept your weak arguments and flimsy evidence.

    In the worst cases, this becomes crap like the “Where’s the ACLU” nonsense–they don’t even bother searching, assuming that they’d have heard about it if the ACLU were involved in defending some white Christian kid. More often, it involves flimsy evidence like “well, I’ve never seen prominent member Y of group X talk about this issue, he must not support the side of it I oppose.” Or something ambiguous that turns, in the mind of the partisan, into rock-solid proof that group X are all racists, anti-American, or whatever.

    This is one danger of the kind of ideological self-selection that the net encourages. If you’re not reading a substantial amount of stuff from perspectives you don’t agree with, and at least an occasional piece that really p-sses you off, you’re making yourself dumber.

  31. #31 |  Afternoon Links: December 21, 2010 | OpenMarket.org | 

    […] Radley Balko has a back-and-forth with Balloon Juice’s John Cole on Reason, DADT, and “the Balloon Juice […]

  32. #32 |  Balloon Douche | 

    John once linked to a list of Google search results to prove an assertion that people on the “professional left”, or “manic progressives”, or whatever his term for people on his left currently is, were calling Ezra Klein some unfair epithet. As it turned out, the whole first page of results showed nothing of the sort; in fact, one of the links was in praise of Klein. So yeah, thoroughness (or basic literacy) is not Cole’s strong suit.

  33. #33 |  Flight 741 | 

    Can I be the libertarian Charlie Day? I’d also settle for being the libertarian Frank Reynolds.

  34. #34 |  The Balloon Juice Fallacy | The Agitator | 

    […] Cole commits the Balloon Juice fallacy once again. Jason Kuznicki responds […]

  35. #35 |  The Balloon Juice Fallacy | Mohawk Political | 

    […] Cole commits the Balloon Juice fallacy once again. Jason Kuznicki responds […]