A Tea Party favorite, Michelle Bachmann would seem to need lessons in both history and logic.
While in New Hampshire, Bachman said “It’s your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world, you are the state of Lexington and Concord, you started the battle for liberty right here in your backyard.” Of course, as those darn intellectuals will point out, Lexington and Concord are in Massachusetts. She has made other interesting mistakes as well.
Now, it can be said that it is easy enough to make an error about history. This is true. However, one would expect that a Tea Party patriot would at least know where the revolutionary war started. Hopefully she knows where the original tea party took place. In any case, Bachman should probably do some remedial work when it comes to American history. After all, knowing the facts of the country’s past would seem to be rather important for those who wish to lead it into the future. It also seems rather important for someone who claims to be following the founding fathers to get things right about that time.
Bachmann also seems a bit weak in the area of logic. She was recently speaking before Bob Vander Plaats’ Christian conservative group The Family Leader and said the following against the legality of same sex marriage:
“In 5,000 years of recorded human history … neither in the east or in the west … has any society ever defined marriage as anything other than between men and women. Not one in 5,000 years of recorded human history. That’s an astounding fact and it isn’t until the last 12 years or so that we have seen for the first time in recorded human history marriage defined as anything other than between men and between women.”
This is, of course, a paradigm case of an appeal to tradition and also an appeal to common practice
Appeal to tradition is a fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that something is better or correct simply because it is older, traditional, or “always has been done.” This sort of “reasoning” has the following form:
- X is old or traditional
- Therefore X is correct or better.
This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because the age of something does not automatically make it correct or better than something newer. As an example, treating women as inferior to men has a long tradition behind it. If we accept her line of reasoning as correct, then women should not have received the right to vote. After all, women had been traditionally denied the right to vote for centuries and changing a tradition would, on her view, be wrong. Women were also traditionally denied the right to hold office. As such, her line of reasoning would entail that this should not have been allowed-so presumably she will resign from office and stop running out of respect for those traditions. Interestingly, she has praised the elimination of slavery, although that had been (and still is) a matter of well established tradition. Bachmann does seem to be rather inconsistent in her view of the justifying power of tradition.
Appeal to common practice is a fallacy with the following structure:
- X is a common action.
- Therefore X is correct/moral/justified/reasonable, etc.
The basic idea behind the fallacy is that the fact that most people do X is used as “evidence” to support the action or practice. It is a fallacy because the mere fact that most people do something does not make it correct, moral, justified, or reasonable. There are many practices that are common that are clearly not correct or good. For example, it is common practice to treat women as inferior to men: it occurs all around the world. However, I doubt Ms. Bachmann would regard being mistreated as a correct simply because it is commonly done.
I’m tempted to help Ms. Bachmann out by gifting her a copy of my book on fallacies. Someone who has written a text on early American history should also send her a copy. After all, someone who does not know how to reason and lacks basic knowledge of American history probably should not be in office. After all, how will such a person reason? How will they draw from the lessons of history or understand America’s founding principles?