Part of the Problem

In political arguments (especially in a democracy) there is a tendency to value quantity over quality. We are all have good reason to be afraid of alienating potential supporters, and as a result sometimes we are slow to reject even the most evil of allies – let alone to quibble against well-intentioned but invalid arguments. However, that is where I come in.

Nick Malik’s answer to the Quora question: If the participation of Hunter Biden in the Burisma board of directors could be a case of corruption, why is it not investigated in a regular US court? is a case in point.

Malik skips the opportunity to use the lack of prosecution as evidence for the claim that whatever investigation was done found nothing illicit, and chooses instead to “prove” the absence of corruption among the Bidens by arguing that it would be impossible for Hunter to offer anything to the Ukrainians because he was just a private citizen with no elected office – an argument which is, of course, clearly wrong (and which, if accepted, would also “prove” the innocence of Trump in the face of our current awful “witch hunt”).

It may seem necessary to some to respond to a false claim by “proving” that it is impossible rather than merely false, but by basing one’s defense on an excessively strong claim one becomes vulnerable to any arguments against the stronger claim; and furthermore, by relying on an indefensible position one also creates doubt as to the existence of a more robust but less remote defense.

Some of today’s anti racists, climate defenders, and so on strike me as like knights defending an impregnable castle who decide to defend it by running to an outer wooden stockade. But when the stockade is breached there is noone back at the castle.

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