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May 5, 2011

The tone and false equivalence


I love Jon Stewart's show, but his rally "Rally to restore sanity....." in 2010 was a shameful exercise in false equivalence.

False equivalence is the tactic that is used to suggest that two opposing sides have the same responsibility regardless of their respective actions, ostensibly to soothe rising tensions. To "calm things down". This has unfortunately become rather pervasive in society today. You see it in Little League, you see it in the news, workplace, politics, sports...

A coach in Little League, warns on Day 1 that kids misbehaving in the dug out will be running laps. Joey spits on Timmy, and the coach says "Knock it off!".

Joey spits again, and the coach repeats "Joey, KNOCK IT OFF OR YOU'LL BE DOING LAPS".

Joey, spits a third time, but this time Timmy shoves Joey away telling him "Stop it!".

Coach sends both of them to run laps, declaring "I TOLD YOU TO BEHAVE!"

Stewart's appeal to mild mannered people that they should act with reason was a travesty. It falsely equated their tone to be the same as that of the screaming bigots.

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