Applied FAC: Gerard Henderson schools Waleed Aly

Given recent posts on the FAC, I was interested to read these paragraphs in Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog of May 1:

[Waleed] Aly went on to blame the executions [by the Indonesian government of convicted Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran] on (i) the Treaty of Mutual Assistance in Criminla Maters and, wait for it (ii) “our War on Terror” along with (iii) Indonesia’s reaction to Australia’s tendency to “push them around”. Oh yes, he also mentioned Australia’s beef exports to Indonesia and “our bellicose approach to border protection” … Blame Tony Abbott. Blame Kevin Rudd. Blame Julia Gillard. Blame John Howard. Blame George W. Bush and Tony Blair and the Coalition of the Willing and the War on Terror … The only problem with Waleed Aly’s analysis is that Indonesia firing squads this year have shot down drug traffickers from (inter alia) Brazil, Nigeria, Malawi and Vietnam. Not one of those countries were deeply involved in (i) the War on Terror or (ii) the Indonesian-Australian relationship.

Henderson’s analysis reveals Aly to have fallen into the FAC: ‘We observe Q (the execution of the Australians), therefore the set of conditions P must be responsible for this outcome’. As Henderson rightly points out, Aly has neglected all of those executions of nationals from countries other than Australia, and for which none of the conditions listed by Aly apply, thus invalidating his argument.

Note also that Aly has just selected a grab-bag of ‘Fings I don’t like’ and used them to explain the executions, completely ignoring their main cause – the pair’s conviction by an Indonesian court for conspiracy to smuggle drugs, and the passing of the death sentence on them. There’s actually no reason to think that any of the ‘fings’ outlined by Aly could have in any way contributed to the pair’s executions.

Talk about seeing only what you want to see.

I’m glad I’ve found Aly. We’re about half-way through the year and I haven’t yet written a post about Slothful Induction, which leaves my list of candidates for this year’s Catherine Burn Award quite empty. However, Aly has the mother of all blind spots with regard to islamic terrorism, so, while it is an unpleasant task, I should be able to sift through his writings and find ample material for deciding a winner for the award.

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About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
This entry was posted in Formal fallacies in reasoning and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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