In his June 23, 2015 article titles “Leonard Pitts Jr.: A racist hate crime, pure and simple“, Pitts employs the use of the logical fallacy known as “Black-or-White Thinking”. Given the context of the article, the irony will not be missed by many, but the term “Black or White” refers to what is also known as a “False Dilemma Logical Fallacy”, as opposed to having anything to do with the color of skin.
Reduced to its simplest form, Leonard Pitts Jr’s word-crime, in this instance, is where he presented two alternatives or interpretations as the only possibilities. Although not expressly stated, it appears that Pitts is using intellectual dishonesty in a veiled attempt to goad his readers into concluding that Glenn Beck, and others who wondered about the true motive for the Charleston church murders, are either (A) stupid or (B) in denial. Another famous example of the use of a Black-or-White logical fallacy was when Pres. George W. Bush said “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists”; when in fact there are many alternative positions that third parties might have taken, such as simply wanting to mind their own business.
Black or White, also known as the False Dilemma, this insidious tactic has the appearance of forming a logical argument, but under closer scrutiny it becomes evident that there are more possibilities than the either/or choice that is presented. Binary, black-or-white thinking doesn’t allow for the many different variables, conditions, and contexts in which there would exist more than just the two possibilities put forth. It frames the argument misleadingly and obscures rational, honest debate. Ref: yourlogicalfallacyis.com
Other Logical Fallacies used by Journalist Leonard Pitts Jr. to Deceive Readers.
Pitts presumed that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.
Appeal to Emotion
Pitts attempted to manipulate an emotional response in place of a valid or compelling argument.
Pitts attacked his opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their arguments.
Because Pitts found something difficult to understand, or is unaware of how it works, he suggests it’s probably not true.
Pitts assumed that one part of something has to be applied to all, or other, parts of it; or that the whole must apply to its parts.
Pitts judged something as bad on the basis of where it comes from, or from whom it came. This fallacy avoids the argument by shifting focus onto something’s or someone’s origins. It’s similar to an ad hominem fallacy in that it leverages existing negative perceptions to make someone’s argument look bad, without actually presenting a case for why the argument itself lacks merit.
Begging the Question
Pitts presented a circular argument in which the conclusion was included in the premise. This logically incoherent argument often arises in situations where people have an assumption that is very ingrained, and therefore taken in their minds as a given.
i.e. The crime was racially motivated because the victims were black.
Pitts used personal experience or opinion instead of a sound argument or compelling evidence. It’s often much easier for people to believe someone’s testimony as opposed to understanding complex data and variation across a continuum. He is taking advantage of most readers likely inclination to believe that which is tangible to them, in this case, the word of someone they trust (himself as journalist), over more ‘abstract’ statistical realities or evidence.
Pitts misrepresented Glenn’s argument to make it easier to attack. Pitts wrote “And Glenn Beck’s professed confusion about the shooter’s motive?”, whereas, Glenn did not indicate he was confused, his message was more along the lines that until there is more information, he would not, rather, could not draw conclusions. A lesson Mr. Pitts must have missed in Journalism 101.
Michael Roberts is a journalist and licensed private investigator. He is passionate about the truth and exposing duplicity and bias in mainstream media.