Matt Walsh: The Living Embodiment of Logical Fallacies (That Have Run the Conservative Movement Off the Rails)

The world of conservative infotainment is rife with nonsense. Their titles are full of pathetic click-bait that has more in common with weight-loss scams and get rich quick schemes than with serious political commentary. They eschew the measured analysis with expert opinions on policy choices, scientific consensus, historical precedent, or legality that you might find in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal in favor of the hackneyed, wild-eyed nonsense of talk-radio. And no one better exemplifies this than popular conservative blogger Matt Walsh.

Walsh’s latest piece is the childishly titled “Clinton is Above the Law, So the Law is Dead.” This is a pretty typical post for him. Write a petty title, open with a pithy scenario, scribble out a few paragraphs explaining how this latest liberal conspiracy and outrage has “killed” or otherwise damned our nation and it’s fine traditions, and then lament how pathetic and stupid Americans must be for letting this happen. When will the sheeple wake up and see the truth, like Matt and his followers, do?!

Of course, all of this is bullshit. In fact, nearly everything that Walsh writes is.

Matt Walsh has few original ideas and even fewer logical thoughts. He spews words all over the internet but rarely do those words convey a coherent argument. Look at his tacky first article for the Blaze, There is no such thing as marriage equality. He refuses to engage with the actual debate (the legal institution of marriage) and instead substitutes his own argument– that marriage only exists for the purpose of procreation. Gays cannot “naturally” procreate, therefore gay marriage isn’t real. And if it is not real we cannot make laws for or against it. This iron-clad logic is the hallmark of a Matt Walsh post.

What about those pesky straights who don’t have kids? We’ll they are either defective (isn’t that a charming and empathetic view on the totally normal process of having difficulty conceiving and carrying a child to term!) or they are failures. That is right, choosing not to have kids makes you a monster in his eyes. Married couples that lack the temperament, disposition, desire, stability, or economic means to raise happy, healthy children should definitely be shamed for not doing so. Or at least not be allowed to marry– right, Matt?

If Matt Walsh had gone to college he might have taken a philosophy course or an English rhetoric course. In either course, he may have learned about making logical arguments and the need to avoid logical fallacies. His logic proof for the there is no gay marriage argument is:

  1. Marriage exists only for the act of procreation
  2. Gays cannot procreate
  3. Therefore, gay marriage cannot exist

Like nearly all Matt Walsh posts, this is a fallacious argument. His first premise is based on a misrepresentation of the subject, marriage. Marriage is, by definition, a union between two people. In the context of this Supreme Court decision that he is writing about, marriage clearly refers to the legal institution. The issue at hand was whether or not marriage could be restricted, by law, to only individuals of opposite sexes. Walsh misrepresents this because his proof cannot survive under those terms. This is a textbook strawman fallacy. This sort of third-rate debate trick wouldn’t survive against a middle of the road high school debate team, yet it runs rampant through the conservative infotainment complex.

This should surprise no one. The right has led an anti-intellectual charge for the better part of half a century. The pride themselves on their savviness and their early adaptation of first cable news and later the internet to subvert the power of the “mainstream media” (while decrying the falling standards and infatuation with edgy material and “reality TV” that their media strategy is based on). Of course, they would elevate a controversial thinker and “truth-teller” like Walsh to prominence, not in spite of his total lack of qualifications to speak authoritatively on the subjects of theology, culture, history, law, and politics that he writes about, but because of it. His truthiness and logical fallacies are much more appealing to that market than well reasoned, logically sound information.

Matt Walsh is quite proud of the fact that he didn’t go to college. Congratulations on being able to make a good living without higher education, Matt. It is no small accomplishment. But here are some reasons you actually needed to go (and should consider finding some remediation for if you want to continue being a public intellectual in a non-fraudulent way):

One: Aforementioned logical fallacies. You almost exclusively write in them. Which makes every one of those arguments invalid.

Two: Creative writing courses don’t teach you to be creative. They provide you with frameworks for crafting interesting, complex stories. They help you learn to harness innate creativity. Your writing is pretty awful. It is repetitive, needlessly mean, and appeals only to people who already agreed with your premise before they started reading your work. Just because it is selling well (now) doesn’t make it good (see the appeal to popularity fallacy).

“People go to college. It’s what people do. Why do they go? Because they need to. Why do they need to? Because it’s what people do. Why? Because they need to. And so on.”

Three: People do not go to college just “because they need to.” You go to college so you can learn more deeply about how the world works. Highly qualified experts (as judged by their peers) lead you through a well-developed curriculum that represents the consensus of the field and the areas of new research emerging. Whatever amount of “stifling” this does to a student’s learning (which I have serious doubts about as a student who NEVER cared about his grades or what a professor wanted him to learn, but instead concentrated on taking as much knowledge away from a course as I could I never found myself stifled by the wants or demands of my institutions) is more than made up for in making sure students are given a solid foundation of knowledge and skills to go out and continue learning with. Students learn to engage with ideas from sources and disciplines far across the curriculum and leave the university with deeper knowledge of their specific discipline and wider general knowledge. This makes them more informed voters, more critical and independent thinkers, and arms them with the tools to adapt to an ever-changing, information-based economy and society.

Four: You personally need more of this kind of education. You honestly seem ignorant of historical context, the meanings of basic phrases (like feminism, marriage, or racism), and the complexities of life in general. Perhaps you are as voracious a reader and learner as you claim, but it does not come across in your writing. Indeed, you seem to ignore every foundational work in the disciplines you mangle (you certainly do in history).

Your vision of the world never moved beyond where it began. That isn’t because you had some special insight as to the true nature of the world, it is simply because you have not bothered to learn more about it. This highlights another aspect of formal education you missed– having your interpretation of important texts and ideas challenged by other students (and faculty). This isn’t about becoming a better debater (though it would help that too). These moments are often where meaningful change and development takes place. Where you hear an idea you’ve never considered. Where you find out that not everything is a universal truth and that the world is full of nuance. Where you learn to see things from a perspective that is not your own. Instead, you carry on like an adolescent who thinks that their unchallenged worldview is the one and only truth.

As a public figure who writes and speaks on issues of great importance to our society you should constantly be in pursuit of more information– especially on subjects you don’t understand or agree with. With that information comes knowledge, grace, and empathy. That is a moral and ethical responsibility any public intellectual should take seriously– doubly so for one who bases their identity on their belief in Christ. You very clearly do not take this approach.

Let’s return to Walsh’s most recent hissy fit over Hillary Clinton’s email scandal not being prosecuted by the Federal government.

Law is dead because what Matt Walsh, the completely unqualified legal expert, thought should happen did not come to pass. He misrepresents what FBI director James Comey said, claiming that Comey pointed out various laws Clinton broke. Here is what Comey actually said:

To warrant a criminal charge, Mr. Comey said, there had to be evidence that Mrs. Clinton intentionally sent or received classified information — something that the F.B.I. did not find. “Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” he said at a news conference.

Comey also said there was no evidence that Clinton withheld or destroyed evidence. He did note that if she had been a lower ranking official she would have likely been reprimanded (perhaps having her security clearance revoked or downgraded) and that her actions were, in his opinion, careless. Furthermore, Comey noted, Clinton should have known that an unsecured server was an inappropriate place for some of the conversations she was having, even if the documents were not originally marked as classified. This is the official record of the investigation.

Walsh trots out two more logical fallacies to “prove” how unjust this decision was (he also sloppily uses ad hominem attacks on Hillary Clinton throughout, often mixing them in with his other fallacies). First, he uses his trusty strawman to show how this was basically the same (actually worse, in Walsh’s opinion) than what David Petraeus did. This is a misrepresentation of the law. Petraeus very intentionally kept information in a way that he knew to be improper and showed classified information to someone not cleared to see it. Clinton, according to the FBI after a year-long investigation, did not. Then he uses the weak analogy fallacy to equate Clinton’s ignorance of sensitive information regulations to his ignorance of posted speed limits. There is ambiguity in this information law– the one that Walsh and Ben Shapiro are harping on were written in 1924– and it to this non-lawyer it seems questionable whether the Secretary of State having information in an unsecured server meets the standard of the law:

(1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or
(2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer

The FBI didn’t think so. And they are not alone.

This is quite a bit different than you claiming the obscuring of a speed limit sign prevented you from discerning the difference between 55 and 30. The sign was either significantly obscured, or not. The speeding was not in doubt. Since we know no other facts about your speeding case it is hard to discern how useful the analogy is from that perspective. But it is clear that the law regarding the proper transmission and storage of documents in the digital age is woefully inadequate and therefore contested.

Which leads Walsh to the conservative logical fallacy de jure: a delightful mix of “where there’s smoke there’s fire!” (the hasty conclusion fallacy) and “this happened, therefore, this is the result” (the post hoc fallacy). Since Walsh did not get the conclusion he wanted and believed was warranted (despite having no training in this sort of law or evidence of misconduct by the FBI), he concludes that there is a vast conspiracy protecting Hillary Clinton from punishment. His evidence:

Last week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton had an “impromptu” meeting at the Phoenix airport. They spoke secretly for about a half hour. Later they said the clandestine conversation between the head of the Justice Department and the husband of a woman currently under federal investigation was about golf and grandkids.

No way that two acquaintances would make small talk about their hobbies and grandkids, right? Very strange!

 

A couple of days later, the Clinton camp announced that it will likely keep Lynch on as attorney general if Clinton wins the presidency.

Again, how odd that the party that currently holds the executive branch would pledge to keep most of their incumbent appointed personnel in the event that they win the next election.

 

On Saturday, Clinton was interviewed by the FBI about her emails.

This is fishy because…

On Tuesday morning, while Clinton was on Air Force One with Obama on the way to a campaign event in North Carolina, the FBI director announced that Clinton should not be indicted.

Right. I’m sure Obama would not have gotten a heads up from the FBI had it been going the other way. No, it has to be proof of something…

Mere hours later, Obama and Clinton did their first campaign stop together.

Which you would expect, given he endorsed her and she is running for the office of President of the United States.

Nothing about this information sheds nefarious light on the decision. It does not show malfeasance. It does not indicate some grand conspiracy. It simply lists a handful of known public facts in chronological order and asks you to draw the conclusion that the only way these events could have occurred is if “the fix was in.” There is no identified causal relationship here, other than the ad hominem “the Clintons are involved, therefore it is corrupt.” Loretta Lynch can talk to Bill Clinton without a conspiracy being afoot. Clinton keeping the Attorney General if she is elected is not odd or a sign of corruption. Clinton being interviewed and then three days later campaigning with President Obama is not evidence of anything other than the ramping up of the general election campaign.

From this Walsh tells you there can be no explanation but the “fact” that there is no justice for the protected classes (has there ever been?). Here he brings out the slippery slope fallacy to explain how if justice does not exist for Hillary Clinton (because of the grand conspiracy), then justice cannot exist for anyone. And for that, the elites should pay…

According to the proudly Catholic Walsh, the “Hillary Clintons of the world should not even be nominated by a free people who value their liberty.” Instead,

They should be scorned and cast aside. If the government will not punish them for their crimes, we should punish them with political losses, shame, and ridicule. Hillary Clinton should spend her remaining days on Earth hiding in her house with the blinds drawn, disgraced, bankrupted, and forgotten. For the sake of our children and even for her own sake, for the sake of her eternal soul, she should be made to feel the wrath of the people.

Makes one ache for the days of George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism, doesn’t it? Nothing says “I live my life according to the teachings of Jesus Christ” like unforgiving hate, contempt, and a thirst for humiliating punishment. Walsh thinks we should take everything from people like Hillary Clinton who he deems to be corrupt. No matter what the legal system or government says. No matter if he lacks the judgement or information to make the decision. No matter if others interpret the information differently than he does. Only Matt Walsh’s opinion (and those that agree with his) need be listened to.

Finally, Walsh signs off with his dream. One day, if we simply persecute the establishment hard enough and long enough, (because they are mostly, if not all corrupt, you know by virtue of being in the establishment– check off another ad hominem if you had more spaces for it on your Matt Walsh logical fallacy bingo card) we will finally have a government of decent people. Alas, this won’t happen, Walsh warns us, because the American people are a bunch of apathetic idiots. Because no passionate and intelligent person could come to another conclusion (No True Scotsman fallacy for the win!).

This is what passes for a public intellectual on the right. A self-made moron who engages in little more than logical fallacies, hateful rhetoric, conspiracy theories that lack any credible evidence, and bombastic self-promotion. Sound like anyone else you know?

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