Sunday, August 25, 2019

Motte and Bailey: The Left's Castle - Taylor Day

by Taylor Day

Increasingly, motte and bailey arguments are taking over leftist media...even though they are logically fallacious.

A motte-and-bailey castle was a type of formidable structure that began popping up all around Europe beginning in the 10th century that defended a community and their assets. Easy- and cheap-to-build wood or stone keeps were placed on top of mottes (raised earth mounds) overlooking a bailey, or the courtyard area that was valuable and therefore needed the defense. If the bailey was under attack from an outside force, the community would occupy the motte, which gave them the advantage of a stronghold above the enemy.

The phrase also relates to a prevalent logic fallacy. The motte and bailey doctrine was coined in 2014 by Nicholas Shackel; it refers to individuals who attempt to cheat intellectually in order to defend their positions on policy. The idea is that their arguments rely on an easy-to-defend idea (the motte) to disguise some other argument that relates only on a superficial level — but is controversial (the bailey). When the individual's bailey is challenged, he retreats to the motte.

We see this appear a lot in political ideologies, perhaps most obviously with modern feminism. The motte is the easy to defend stance that "feminism is just about gender equality." It defends the feminist bailey, or more contentious arguments like "all men actively oppress women through the patriarchy." When these statements are challenged, feminists will retreat to the motte and swear the movement is really about equality and not hating men.

Increasingly, these motte and bailey arguments are taking over leftist media. The New York Times even went so far as to launch the "1619 Project," in which its motte is a claim that it is nothing more than a historical look at racism in America. While the new venture originally claimed to focus on the first West African slaves who arrived in America in 1619, there is really a controversial bailey here: everything in America today is racist somehow. What's most disturbing is that the 1619 Project has expanded to envelop all news that will now come from the New York Times. In a joint effort with the Pulitzer Center, the Times is working on the 1619 Project Curriculum to be taught in public schools. Hundreds of thousands of extra copies of its debut project's printing propaganda were given away to government institutions like schools, libraries, and museums.

On Thursday, Bernie Sanders unrolled his update to the Green New Deal with a modest $16 -rillion dollar price tag. When Republicans expressed sticker shock, Sanders sent out this tweet: "Republicans who oppose our #GreenNewDeal should explain why they don't support creating 20 million jobs and averting climate catastrophe, yet will give billions in corporate welfare to fossil fuel companies."

The motte here is the widely accepted concept of combatting climate change. However, Sanders uses it to defend extremely provocative baileys claiming that Republicans seek to destroy the Earth and that's really why they're uncomfortable giving the government control over energy resources, infrastructure, and even health care. When that anti-capitalist idea is challenged, Sanders retreats back to the motte — that he only wants to save the planet!

Even more ridiculous is the case of "Jessica" Yaniv, a man calling himself a woman who launched a human rights complaint claiming that beauty estheticians who refused to wax "her testicles" were discriminating against a protected class of people. When confronted with the utter ridiculousness of the case, Yaniv retreats to the defense of "trans persons deserve equal rights" as a way to defend the government forcing female workers to touch male genitalia.

In the early Middle Ages, if an army wanted to capture a motte and bailey fortress, there were three main strategies. One: They could attack the motte, but that would cause mass casualties on their side. Today, we see conservatives who choose to take on wild liberal baileys have their livelihoods destroyed when the Left cries that the motte is being attacked instead. Some of the largest names on the right are being demonetized from social media platforms on unfounded claims of sexism, bigotry, or white nationalism, leading to a real loss of income. On a larger scale, voicing dissent against liberal doctrines has led to ordinary people losing their jobs or families, like this Google employee who was fired for suggesting that biology plays a role in women being less suited to high-stress careers.

The second military strategy attackers could use is to lay siege to the fortress in an attempt to starve out the bailey. In modern times, this could translate to not letting an opponent retreat to the commonsense argument and instead forcing him to expand on his more radical beliefs. There was a neat example of this recently between Robby Starbuck and Rep. Ilhan Omar. Starbuck asked her if she supported the Palestinian Authority's recent ban on LGBT activities. Omar deflected by claiming that the real problem is Israel's treatment of Palestinians, adding that his question was "deplorable." However, Palestine's own treatment of gay individuals isn't related to Israel; it was just a bait-and-switch argument — a motte and bailey.

The third is the ancient strategy of infiltration, like the story from the Iliad of the Trojan horse. This involves pretending to yield to the opponent as an attempt to destroy them from the inside. This is a strategy often used by the Left with Republicans in name only like Ana Navarro and Mitt Romney. While claiming to be conservative, they gain a base in order to ease them into policies they wouldn't naturally embrace.

Recognizing this argument fallacy is in itself a defense against it. However, the right really needs to strategize on exposing and separating the most harmful policies liberals promote from behind the easily agreeable ones. Donald Trump does this fairly well by shining a spotlight on the Left's most extremist ideas.

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Taylor Day


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