From time to time—ideally weekly—I will highlight an especially bad argument I saw made by the press or political class. Recipients need not collect their award in person, but rather take a sabbatical from public life in general.
All my posts this week have been dedicated to The Donald and his ascent to high office. I’ve hardly mentioned Steve Bannon because, well, the rest of the internet is covering him quite thoroughly. And well they should! The former editor in chief of Brietbart represents everything going wrong on the right and will soon by the chief strategist for the White House. He is the architect of the “Alt-Right” movement, having seen that it would be profitable to run articles from both neo-Nazis an the KKK on his website and presided over the unholy matrimony of many white supremacist groups into one cesspool. For some reason, there is doubt as to whether or not that counts as being a white supremacist yourself. Or as Reince Priebus said:
The guy I know is a guy sitting in an office all day yesterday talking about hiring, talking about people,” Priebus said on the Today Show. “Here’s a guy who is Harvard Business School, he was a ten-year naval officer, London School of Economics, I believe. He is a guy who is very, very smart, very temperate.
This is, depending on your tastes, some parts false dichotomy and some parts non-sequitor. (Informal fallacies are, well, informal, after all.) You can go to Harvard and be a white supremacist—a cynical part of me thinks it might be an asset in the business world. You can be in our military and be a white supremacist, though the US Armed Forces have done a reasonable job tamping down on that for a long time. The London School of Economics does not throw you out for being a White Supremacist. Indeed, all three of these institutions used to keep black people out.
This is a dreadful argument. Not because it is wrong—though, yes, he is a white supremacist—but because it does not hold up. If you said that Obama was not a white supremacist because he too went to Harvard, your argument would be invalid. These things have nothing to do with one’s beliefs about white people.
So come on down, Mr. Priebus, and collect your award!