Last Week’s Issue included a story from Florida — indeed one that most readers would “expect” to be based in Florida. Well, one reader responded with an age-old charge: it was (oh no!) political! He actually meant partisan — but it was neither. Let’s start with the story:
Florida Woman, Meet the Florida Bureaucracy
For years, residents of Delray Beach, Fla., complained to the city about their discolored, foul-smelling tap water. Some claimed it made them ill. In 2017, the city hired a new water inspector with decades of experience; Christine Ferrigan “identified faults in the municipal system that were allowing reclaimed sewer water to cross-contaminate the city’s drinking water supply,” says a report by federal investigators. Rather than reward her with congratulations, a promotion, and a pay raise (this is Florida, remember), “Our investigation showed that the city harassed and ultimately fired” her, “marching” her out of the office in front of co-workers in 2022. As a result of the federal investigation, the city has been ordered to pay a $1 million fine, and pay Ferrigan $818,500 in compensation for the retaliation. The city admits it spent 12 years covering up the problem rather than implement simple fixes that would have solved it. (RC/Miami Herald) …Probably for much less than $1.8 million.
See the hack partisan slander? No? Well, with that context, consider this response from LONG-time reader “DavidW” in, yes, Florida, who has “Gotta Comment”:
I bite my tongue with your infrequent bias — the few times any comes thru it leans left. If the quote below was part of an article that you quoted, and/or you did not insert it, then forget my email. I’m assuming it was your insertion.
In 1508 the first article about Delray Beach, I quote: “Rather than reward her with congratulations, a promotion, and a pay raise (this is Florida, remember),” which is a debating trick called a “snuck premise”. I know you probably don’t like DeSantis, after all, he’s messing up the teacher’s power there (a good thing) and bringing sanity to the state. But I do expect you to “report the news” without op-eds.
You probably don’t know that while FL is red, Palm Beach County, where Delray Beach is, is heavily blue (remember the hanging chads of the Gore/Bush debacle). In 2020, the county went 56% Dem to 43% Repub. So Repubs had no control over this.
So my comment would be that you should have said “this is a Democrat controlled area, remember.” Just like Flint Michigan and their lead polluted water that ran for years and they did NOTHING about it even when they knew it was poisoning citizens — it has also been under Democrat control for decades.
So to hear that Delray (and/or Palm Beach) prosecuted the truth teller is just par for the course, because it made Dems LOOK BAD, and Dems are vicious when they react. One day you’ll learn that democrats don’t give a damn about anything but using group ID to keep power and even end up screwing the people who vote for them (as in this and the Flint example).
Just avoid the perverted use and false framing of true facts which is prevalent in how the left presents things with a goal of misleading, and I’ve got no complaints. (Glad to list a few if you want).
Stick to your knitting. You do a great job of running the site. It pains me when you step outside your mission. People don’t read True for insights on politics, they read it to see how silly people can be in real life — and to escape politics once in a while.
Do you see where DavidW went wrong? I mean, how could anyone who pays attention not see where he went wrong?! Readers and I even frequently discuss about how Florida is the “weirdest” state of them all, by far. Even recently, where I mentioned how that goes way, way back — probably even before DavidW’s time as a reader, which goes back at least 13 years (likely longer, with a different address).
In fact, Florida is featured in so many of True’s stories, readers comment on the rare occasions that there isn’t a story from Florida. So truly, it’s rather evident to any mid-term reader, let alone a long-time one, that Florida is quite a bit off kilter, as those many, many stories demonstrate — “this is Florida, remember?”
Does that have anything to do with politics? Not that I can see: when True started in 1994, the state’s governor was a Democrat (Chiles). He died in office and was replaced by another Democrat (MacKay). Since MacKay finished that term, the governors have all been Republicans (Jeb Bush, elected 1999 and Florida’s first two-term Republican governor; Crist, Scott, and current incumbent DeSantis).
That said, I doubt that who is seated in the governor’s chair has much to do with a state’s “weirdness,” let alone their political party: the state has been “weird” for many, many years. Plus, there are an awful lot of stupid people (and smart people) in each of those parties; being part of either party isn’t “weird” in itself.
Yet: Bias Clearly Shown!
So where did DavidW go wrong? He saw bias, but didn’t realize where it lay: in his own mind.
As I told him in response, there was nothing whatever in that story reflecting politics. Sure enough, no other readers responded with criticism (or praise) of that side comment as being political. While True (as I’ve been forced to point out repeatedly in the past 30 years) isn’t partisan, it doesn’t shy away from politics: I’ll point out stupidity in either side, going way back. Even Democrats serving in Florida. Or Democratic strongholds so well known, even I’m aware of their leanings.
My avoidance of political partisanship isn’t because I favor the Democrats or the Republicans, since both of them are hugely to blame for our political woes, for both similar and different reasons. And obviously both of their representatives do stupid things — likely including in the story above, but who knows the party of any of the participants? I don’t: that wasn’t reported in my sources, so it never entered my mind. Even DavidW admits I “probably don’t know” the county leans a little to the left, and he was right about that. And even if I knew, could I know the bureaucrats involved in the story are which part of the “56% Dem” or the “43% Repub”? Nope, so I can be “biased” about the politics behind their actions …how?
So this story presentation is not only not partisan, it’s not political. At all.
Of course, it’s clear DavidW doesn’t know their party affiliations either, so his criticism falls rather flat. Maybe he should “Stick to his knitting,” whatever the hell point that’s supposed to make. One day maybe he’ll learn that Republicans also don’t give a damn about anything but using group I.D. to keep power and even end up screwing the people who vote for them.
As for True’s “op-ed” tendencies, all readers should well know within a few weeks of reading that all of This is True is op-ed commentary. Every … freaking … story. These days most of the commentary is mine (as compared with the past when all of it was; see the section headed “And Last…” at that link), but the contributors get to express themselves too. And guess what? I don’t agree with everything they say, yet I let them say what they think as long as I don’t find it misleading or grossly missing the point (which is rare).
DavidW had the opportunity to “escape politics” …until he himself dragged politics into it, and incorrectly at that. That’s indeed part of what’s wrong in politics today: it’s so confrontational, “us vs them” without the understanding that “us” and “them” are citizens of the same country, and other countries that we don’t agree with relish that we are at war with each other — and work hard to foster that anger, typically using lies. It’s stupid, and DavidW fell right into that trap while apparently attempting to decry it.
That’s reacting rather than thinking, and I urge you, and DavidW, to avoid that trap by slowing down, putting thought to situations (especially if you find yourself reacting), and ask questions instead of confronting …even it’s even worth asking a question, which in this case it wasn’t.
Of course, again and again and again, those on the left claim along the lines that my infrequent bias — the few times any “comes thru” — leans right …and vice versa Such as here to go way back, or here to go moderately back, or here for a more recent one, aptly in a post titled “Political Hypocrites”.
Again, as that last-linked page concludes, “Of course the point (as always!) is that True doesn’t target politicians (or cops, or military members, or Uber drivers, or…). The stories are about the actions of anyone who does things stupid enough to get into the news — including politicians regardless of party. That’s what ‘nonpartisan’ means: True doesn’t take sides.” And that’s still true, full stop.
And this story wasn’t about politicians per se, but nameless, faceless, partyless, and very stupid bureaucrats. In other words, a very common example of a This is True story.
P.S.: Extra points to readers who point out (in the Comments) DavidW’s logical fallacy. The “best” gets a True Check, even if it’s posted by DavidW.
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14 Comments on “Not Political, Not Partisan”
I would put forth that DavidW is possibly committing two logical fallacies, both of which seem to come out of his own inherent bias.
He’s basically using “Inductive Reasoning” to come up with his own “Hasty Generalization“. You could argue that “Inductive Reasoning” might not be appropriate here because the “evidence” he puts forth is rather sparse which results in even greater leaps of logic to come to his conclusion. (While there is overlap between the two fallacies, the way I understand it is inductive reasoning generally involves drawing a conclusion from a considerable body of evidence, even if the evidence doesn’t support the conclusion drawn, whereas “hasty generalization” doesn’t rely on much support at all. One or two pieces of evidence is generally enough for the person making the argument.)
Anyway, he uses essentially two pieces of evidence to conclude that the people behind this are Democrats. The first is that the area in question has a 13-point advantage toward Democrats, and the second is that Flint water problems were the fault of Democrats who ran Flint.
Neither of these points necessarily support the idea that the bad actors in question are Democrats. First of all, despite the 13 point difference, 43% is hardly a powerless minority. The Republicans certainly have enough power to bollocks things up if they want to. Also, while the major parties might often seem monolithic, the idea that what happens in Flint has a direct correlation to Delray Beach is an impressive leap of logic indeed.
Furthermore, while the county might lean blue, he provides no evidence that Delray Beach does. There are plenty of pockets of opposite party concentration in counties all over the nation. And since SCOTUS decided that gerrymandering is constitutional, that situation is unlikely to change.
Additionally, DavidW is woefully uninformed on Flint, especially if he’s going to blame it all on the Democrats that run Flint. The decision to change the water over was made by an emergency manager appointed by Republican governor Rick Snyder. You can argue that the powers-that-be in Flint exacerbated the problems, but the initial problem came about because of a Republican administration.
I’ve added Wikipedia links, and will on the first reference in subsequent comments. -rc
Wow, just wow. You must be severely butt hurt by my comment to escalate like this. You used 995 words in a word-salad (counting AFTER and not including the quoting of your article and my response) to ramble. Queen Gertrude’s comment in Hamlet comes to mind, where “protest” in Shakespeare’s day meant: “The [person] tried too hard to convince the audience, thus losing their credibility.” All because you inserted a cute and partisan throwaway line in an article and are manning the ramparts because you got called out and burned 995 words in doing so. I find that anything that cannot be answered/supported in a few clear sentences means one is grasping at straws. As demonstrated here.
Then you lead off with an ad hominem as your open: “Do you see where DavidW went wrong? I mean, how could anyone who pays attention not see where he went wrong?!” (the first sentence is OK as it is a question looking for an answer, the second one is not). A real cri de coeur: “guys, help me out here, don’t you see what a stupido DavidW is?” (Stop me if I’m going too fast for you — See: ad hominem works both ways). Then continuing to salt your response with further ad hominems “it’s clear DavidW doesn’t know their party affiliations either,” I quickly discount, or even dismiss, any argument that tries to win by discrediting the person and not their point.
Most people quit while they are ahead. Instead of keeping a discussion between us, you escalated it to your readership. No complaint from me about that, but this likely dinged your credibility among anyone who respects what you do, as it would be seen as a puerile argument coming from a supposed intelligent guy. This is one you should have put in your ‘drafts’ folder and waited a couple of days before publishing.
I had little hope you’d get it, but I tried! (You STILL insist it’s partisan despite being whacked by a clue-by-four? Wow, just wow.) After well over a dozen years reading TRUE, you’ve seen me dissect a number of obliviotic reader arguments, and probably laughed at most of them. And in no case, including this one, have I been angry or upset: it’s simply more content for the readers who love seeing the sputtering of wanna-be intellectuals. -rc
I suspect the logical fallacy that DavidW is making, to which you are referring is (I forget the official/Latinate term for it) is Assuming the Thing You Are Trying to Prove.
You’re thinking of petitio principii (“assuming the conclusion” or “begging the question“), which goes back to Aristotle. -rc
Marie, then what about Randy’s opening comment in his question posted here?
“Do you see where DavidW went wrong? I mean, how could anyone who pays attention not see where he went wrong?!”
As I pointed out in my response (below Grant’s above), the first sentence is fine. But the second one is “begging the question.” It points the respondent in a direction of the ‘correct’ answer. Called leading the witness in court.
I vote that you should win the True Check for clarifying.
I like that you made that vote. Marie, please feel free to claim the True Check. I’ll point out that the link explains, in part, that “A question-begging inference is valid, in the sense that the conclusion is as true as the premise, but it is not a valid argument.” -rc
I feel like DavidW’s fallacy is a strawman because he’s arguing a point that was never made at all. I also want to say that there’s false equivalency in there because he’s equating something with another thing that’s not at all related (or relevant).
After reading the story again, and then DavidW’s letter, I concluded he is an idiot.
Then I read your commentary and was reminded of the many times you have had similar charges levied against you: I am also a more-than-a-dozen-year-reader. That most of those WERE responses to actual political stories (I do remember they have been from both the left and the right) didn’t even make their complaints valid. That DW’s reaction ISN’T to an actual political story just makes it eye-rolling — and I’m a Republican (though getting more and more reluctant to say that as the years go by).
But then I got to his response here. He accuses you of a cri de coeur in the whining voice of a gémir du trou du cul.
After all this time he doesn’t get that your responses to clueless reader letters is part of what we pay to read? You didn’t call him an “obviliot” but I will!
As many have said in the past regarding your responses to such letters, I love watching the clueless, advancing on you with what they figure are extra-sharp rapiers, while you sit at your computer working, fighting off their advances with your bare hands while not even looking up from your screen. The image is delicious, and I wish you’d do these sorts of pages more often!
DW started his first letter with “I bite my tongue…”. He should have bit it harder. Much, much harder.
My French is poor at best, so my laugh was delayed by getting your rejoinder translated. 😉 -rc
An additional point to make now that DavidW has again responded is that he doesn’t understand ad hominem.
While it’s true that it encompasses a personal attack, that’s only part of what the term ad hominem when applied to rhetoric means. Personal attacks and insults can be appropriately used in rhetoric. For example, they can emphasize a point or put your opponent off guard.
Ad hominem takes it one step further, however. Ad hominem is a fallacy that takes a personal attack and uses it as justification for why a statement is wrong. It’s attacking the person to directly undermine their position without any logical connection from the attack to the position.
Saying someone shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel of a car because they have multiple convictions for reckless driving is not ad hominem.
Saying someone shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel of a car because they are a compulsive gambler would be ad hominem.
Saying someone’s an obliviot is not ad hominem; it’s just an insult.
And sometimes a simple observation. -rc
Florida Man Defends Florida Bureaucracy, Ends Up Perpetuating Stereotype Of Florida Man.
Took the words right out of my mouth……….
This Floridian agrees with you. I think some people were left out in the sun too long and their brains were baked.
Well, let me (DavidW) wade back into this. I can agree to use ‘partisan’ and not ‘political’ as Randy said.
Thanks to all the comments but EVERYONE of you missed my point by focusing on the information I supplied about the democratic strength in PBC as if that was my argument. What those who said it got wrong is that I wasn’t saying that Democrats were necessarily ‘bad actors’ here — it was to point out that IF partisanship is to be alleged, then you can’t blame conservatives or DeSantis, because the people in control were dems and thus had a bigger hand in this matter.
That’s all. Surely the blindness bias some of you just accused me of just happened here by falling into that logical error.
Beyond that, here was my original point that a ‘tossed out there comment’ such as he used “this is Florida, remember” has no meaning without context, not even for humor. Not even if referring to the obliviot head count as they are pretty evenly disbursed across the country. Please tell me what that meant if it ISN’T partisan. And if you haven’t noticed there is a big DeSantis issue going on with strong feelings on both sides. Which means that if it had been inserted in a article about Idaho, or Rhode Island, I would have merely scratched my head and wondered about Randy’s health.
I will give Randy one kudo. He printed the full wording of both sides of our original debate, without edits, taking the few arrows I tossed his way. So that makes him a stand up guy.
I appreciate that you’ve been “stand up” and came back to try to clarify. That’s admirable. Yes, I posted your comments completely without edit, excepting removing a bunch of random extra spaces here and there.
The thing is, you’re the only one who doesn’t get the origin of the comment; no one else said a thing, even when given this opportunity. You claim to still not know, even though I explained it clearly. So I’ll submit that you need to read it all again, including the comments from other readers who have been around for varying amounts of time (about as long as you, shorter, and longer), and absorb it with an open mind. You clearly aren’t stupid, but that you jump to partisan conclusions does show quite a heavy load of bias. This very likely affects you frequently. Cheers! -rc
I have had the great pleasure of personally knowing Arcie since 1987, and also experienced the good fortune of sleeping in is house for 2 nights in 2022. I am fairly certain that he does not knit, so when the “obliviot” from Florida laid that as a “warning,” he was WAY off base. (Yes — I do know what rhetorical statements are) Bless David W’s heart! (that is a Southern thing — look it up)
My wife and I had great smiles at the words that Jeremy shared. Fighting off swords with bare hands. Wonderful imagery!
Heh! Yeah, I chuckled when I read that too. -rc
DavidW says, “People don’t read True for insights on politics, they read it to see how silly people can be in real life…” I would argue that seeing how silly people can be in real life provides tremendous insight into politics. After all, isn’t politics composed of people?
I find that too many people have based their lives on being one political side or the other (but mostly one of them) and they assume everything is political.
Dog peed on your lawn? That dog’s a Democrat.
“You don’t like me because I’m a Republican.”
“No, I don’t like you because you just pushed your way to the front of the line, past children.”