In the 2000s and early 2010s, many American politicians argued against the legalization of gay marriage by erroneously claiming that it would lead to horrible things — such as the societal acceptance of bestiality and pedophilia.
Dr. Ben Carson, for example, made many assertions — each one crazier than the last — about what he thought the effects of legalizing gay marriage would be. He declared it was a Marxist conspiracy to impose a “new world order.” He said the nation would delve into “utter chaos.” He even alleged there would be “mass killings.”
For those of you unfamiliar with him, Dr. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who has sought a second career in politics. He ran in the 2016 presidential election.
Dr. Carson is an alumnus of Yale University. After completing his undergrad studies, he attended the Medical School of the University of Michigan, where he earned his M.D. in 1977. His most monumental feat came in 1987 as the head of a surgical team that separated conjoined twins.
Dr. Carson’s academic credentials and medical knowledge show he’s a highly intelligent individual. Yet, somehow, when it came to the issue of gay marriage, his logical thinking capabilities completely shut down. Dr. Carson had no valid arguments for his position, and he resorted to invoking slippery slope nonsense.
There was no evidence that any of his prophesies would come true. In fact, all the information we had absolutely contradicted his statements. More than a dozen nations legalized gay marriage before the United States, and each one of them were perfectly fine.
It’s distressing to think that even a brilliant man like Dr. Carson could make such clownish claims. It shows that even the smartest among us can resort to the most illogical of reasoning. It also proves that anybody, no matter how intelligent, is susceptible to being fooled by nonsensical rhetoric.
Sadly, the slippery slope fallacy gets frequently invoked in political discourse. Whether the debate is over economics, social issues or foreign policy, you can always count on the slippery slope rearing its ugly head. This isn’t anything new.
However, there’s an iteration of it that has popped up in recent years that I’m highly concerned about. It takes all the worst things about the general slippery slope fallacy and tacks on Godwin’s Law and horrendous slander, and was intentionally designed as a supernova to induce a moral panic.
It usually follows this line of reasoning: “Listening to [controversial political commentator/commentators] will start you down a path that will eventually lead to you embracing racist ideology — a gateway to Nazism, white supremacy and the alt-right.”
One of the most hideous examples of this is whenever somebody claims that you’ll become a Nazi by listening to Ben Shapiro.
Shapiro is a conservative commentator who rose to prominence during the last decade. He’s a divisive figure, and many people don’t like him.
But even if you’re someone who despises Shapiro, you have to admit that his show won’t turn you into a Nazi. He is, in fact, the antithesis of a Nazi.
Ben Shapiro is an orthodox Jew who openly displays his faith by wearing a yarmulke on his head every day. He’s very proud of his Jewish heritage, and he frequently speaks out against antisemitism. He actively encourages his audience to reject Nazism, white supremacy and racism.
There are many legitimate things about Shapiro’s beliefs that can be criticized, but saying he’s a Nazi, or claiming that he spreads white supremacist dogma, is ridiculous. It’s outright slander, and anybody who lies like this should be ashamed of themselves.
It would be one thing if these false accusations were relegated to fringe media outlets and blogs that nobody ever read, but this propaganda has been spouted in mainstream publications.
A 2019 Rolling Stone article had the headline, “Study Shows How the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ is a Gateway to the Far Right.” It was an atrocious piece of dribble: First, there are many Jewish individuals and people of color who are members of the Intellectual Dark Web (such as Ben Shapiro, Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali). Furthermore, the IDW is a group that includes liberal, conservative and centrist thinkers. Upon formation, one of the primary goals of the IDW was to bring together a wide range of media personalities and public intellectuals to show that even people who are on opposite ends of the political spectrum can be friendly with each other and have civil discourse. There’s nothing racist or “far-right” about the IDW.
It’s imperative that you don’t get fooled by this sophistry. The people who are spewing these falsehoods are attempting to score cheap political points and fearmonger the public to their team. They’re not trying to have intellectual conversations and debates, but are instead tricking people into believing that their side has the moral high ground.
Unfortunately, this is a tactic that’s very effective and is being used with more and more frequency. We have to fight against the individuals who are perpetuating this nonsense, and stop this deception.
Eric Goldin is a Santa Clarita resident.