The Wraith of Kahn

August 1, 2016

I didn’t hear the speech, but I read the transcript.  Mr Kahn stood before the Democratic Convention and declared himself parent to a combat casualty.  He gained the nation’s sympathy.  But then he pulled from that emotion to one of anger, making unfounded accusations about the other Party’s candidate.  And when the accusations were rebutted, the media followed lock-step into the same fallacy of considering an attack on the truthlessness of the thin speech as an attack on the speaker. The fallacies of Mr Kahn made him out to be a wraith, a shadow of a man who appears to be one thing, but isn’t.

Here is what he said, and the rules of logic being invoked:

Tonight, we are honored to stand here as the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, and as patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to our country. Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy — that with hard work and the goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings. We were blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.  (appeal to authority)

Our son, Humayun, had dreams of being a military lawyer. But he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save his fellow soldiers. Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son “the best of America.”  (appeal to pity)

If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America. (lie #1 – fallacy of composition)
Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. (hasty generalisation, in that Mr Trump only warns against the actions of some Muslims)
He disrespects other minorities, (hasty generalisation)
… women, (hasty generalisation)
… judges (hasty generalisation – it was an attack on one judge who was clearly at fault)
…even his own party leadership. (appeal to authority)
He vows to build walls and ban us from this country. (straw man)

Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words “liberty” and “equal protection of law.” (fallacy of composition)

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths,genders, and ethnicities. (fallacy of composition)
You have sacrificed nothing and no one. (fallacist’s fallacy)
We can’t solve our problems by building walls and sowing division. (“good fences make good neighbors”)
We are Stronger Together.  (circular argument)
And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our next President. (appeal to consequences)

Here’s the cheat sheet from

  • The fallacist’s fallacy involves rejecting an idea as false simply
    because the argument offered for it is fallacious. Having examined the
    case for a particular point of view, and found it wanting, it can be
    tempting to conclude that the point of view is false.
  • An appeal to consequences is an attempt to motivate belief with an
    appeal either to the good consequences of believing or the bad
    consequences of disbelieving.
  • A circular argument fails as a proof because it will only be judged to
    be sound by those who already accept its conclusion. Anyone who
    rejects the argument’s conclusion should also reject at least one of
    its premises (the one that is the same as its conclusion), and so
    should reject the argument as a whole. Anyone who accepts all of the
    argument’s premises already accepts the argument’s conclusion, so
    can’t be said to have been persuaded by the argument. In neither case,
    then, will the argument be successful.
  • An appeal to pity attempts to persuade using emotion—specifically,
    sympathy—rather than evidence. Playing on the pity that someone feels
    for an individual or group can certainly affect what that person
    thinks about the group; this is a highly effective, and so quite
    common, fallacy. This type of argument is fallacious because our
    emotional responses are not always a good guide to truth; emotions can
    cloud, rather than clarify, issues. We should base our beliefs upon
    reason, rather than on emotion, if we want our beliefs to be true.
  • The genetic fallacy is committed when an idea is either accepted or
    rejected because of its source, rather than its merit.
  • The fallacy of composition is the fallacy of inferring from the fact
    that every part of a whole has a given property that the whole also
    has that property. (he says one judge is unfair, therefore he believes
    all judges are unfair)
  • An appeal to authority is an argument from the fact that a person
    judged to be an authority affirms a proposition to the claim that the
    proposition is true. Appeals to authority are always deductively
    fallacious; even a legitimate authority speaking on his area of
    expertise may affirm a falsehood, so no testimony of any authority is
    guaranteed to be true.
  • The fallacy of division is committed by inferences from the fact that
    a whole has a property to the conclusion that a part of the whole also
    has that property. Like the fallacy of composition, this is only a
    fallacy for some properties; for others, it is a legitimate form of
  • The hasty generalisation draws a general rule from a single, perhaps
    atypical, case.  (Example:  (1) My Christian / atheist neighbour is a
    real grouch. Therefore:  (2) Christians / atheists are grouches. This
    argument takes an individual case of a Christian or atheist, and draws
    a general rule from it, assuming that all Christians or atheists are
    like the neighbour.)