Throughout the history of political rhetoric it has been a common practice to not merely settle with claiming that one’s opponents are mistaken. These miscreants must also be cast as hating all that is good. This tradition continues with the claim that Obama hates (or more moderately, dislikes) America.
The claim that the President hates (or dislikes) America is a strong charge and, as such, requires equally strong evidence. Of course, what folks regard as suitable evidence varies based on their political views. For example, those who are vehemently opposed to Obama will tend to infer that he hates America because he does not act in accord with their political views. After all, they might ‘reason’, anyone who thinks differently from those who truly love America must truly hate her. While this line of pseudo-reasoning has considerable emotional appeal, the fact that someone disagrees with those who profess to love America hardly counts as evidence for a hatred (or even a dislike) of America.
I suspect that the reasoning used by some folks involves the classic fallacy of straw man. In this logical error, someone ignores an opponent’s actual position and presents in its place a distorted, exaggerated, or misrepresented version of that position. This is a fallacy because attacking a distorted version of a position does nothing to criticize the actual position.
Interestingly, this fallacy often involves reliance on what is referred to as an unknown fact. Typically, this involves claiming to know the “real reason” behind a view when such knowledge is actually lacking. For example, someone might commit the fallacy using such an unknown ‘fact’: “The Republicans oppose national health care because they value money more than people and want to ensure that their friends in the big insurance companies keep making fat profits. Even if this means letting people die. So, it is safe to say that their opposition is mistaken.”
In the case of Obama, people often refer to the unknown ‘fact’ that he hates (or at least dislikes )America and this is why he plans on having death panels, on forcing Americans into socialism and so on. Of course, he intends to do none of these things-these are but straw men and hyperbole.
The error people make could also be cast as the assumption of wicked intent. That is, the logical error of inferring that because a person disagrees with you it follows that she must harbor a wicked intent. For example, suppose that Jane supports same sex marriage and is arguing about this with Sally, who is against it. Imagine that Jane says “Well, you are against same sex marriage because you hate gays. You are a classic case of homophobia!” While this might be true of Sally, it might not. After all, a person could oppose same sex marriage on other grounds-such as religion or even a general opposition to marriage itself. Likewise, when people infer that Obama must dislike America because he says things they disagree with, they might be making this error. Of course, if they have evidence that he does hate America and make the inference based on this evidence, then they are not making this error.
Of course, a factor that makes determining whether Obama hates America or not is defining what this would mean. If someone asks me if I like Peanut Butter cups, I can say “yes”, for this is a simple matter. But, if someone asks me if I like candy, I’ll need to qualify my answer because there are some candies I like and some I do not. Now, if someone asks me if I like America, I would ask them to be more specific. Am I being asked if I like all the laws? The traditions? The people? The land? The political views? The Republican agenda? In these cases, my answer would be that I like some and dislike some. For example, I rather like my friends but I dislike the Americans who are rapists and murderers. Now, if someone simply refused to be specific and said “Damn you philosophers! Do you love America? You know, the America that Glenn Beck cries about!” I’d still have to say that I like some of it and dislike some of it. I’m sure Beck actually feels the same way. After all, Obama is part of America and Beck doesn’t seem to fond of him.
Being a logical person, I am open to evidence that Obama dislikes America. Just begin by defining “America” and then show that Obama does not like that.