Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Argumentum ad Misericordiam and Misdirected Nausea
04/14/2010 - Tur8infanRead this account:
Now his [Mr. Roe's] eleven year old son is receiving messages on his facebook page with links to critical articles about his "deceptive daddy" on Muslim attack sites, the very sites [Smith], [Jones], and [Doe] have milked dry in an apparent attempt to smear [Mr. Roe and his brother]. I remain nauseous in my soul over this.Is the author suggesting that Mr. Roe and his brother are being falsely accused by Smith, Jones, and Doe? The paragraph does not state that the accusations are false. Instead, it tries to evoke emotional sympathy for the poor Roe family, who is under "attack" and "apparent attempt[ed] ... smear" by bullies who try to "milk dry" suspicious web sites even to the point of harassing a young child and "nause[ating]" the "soul" of the author of the paragraph. The paragraph could have been more neutrally written as follows:
Now his [Mr. Roe's] son has received links to articles criticizing his father's dishonesty. The links point to the same sites that [Smith], [Jones], and [Doe] have relied upon in criticizing [Mr. Roe and his brother].Notice how the paragraph written in a neutral way no longer demonizes the critics and no longer evokes the same kind of emotional reaction toward the Roe family. One still may feel sorry for the son having to deal with the result of his father's dishonesty, but the emotional appeals as an argumentum ad misericordiam against the criticism are gone. Also gone from the neutral paragraph are the suggestions that the critics are lying or attacking.
The neutral paragraph would fit well within an article criticizing the father for bringing this sort of problem on his own family by being dishonest. The emotionally charged paragraph fits in an article shooting the messengers who point out the dishonesty. The neutral paragraph reports the sad effects that sin has, whereas the emotionally charged paragraph lashes out against those who call a sinner to repentance.
What's saddest is that the emotionally charged paragraph isn't hypothetical (link to actual paragraph). The author of the real paragraph is Mr. Lumpkins, whose nausea should be directed against the sin of dishonesty not against those who call sinners to repentance.
UPDATE: a kind reader brought to my attention that Facebook has a policy that one must be 13 years old to have a Facebook page. So, that bit about the 11 year old suggests that someone is not being completely honest, though it is tough to pinpoint a culprit.