I like to have my cherished notions confirmed as much as any other man. That’s why I‘m grateful to Oliver Kamm of The Times.
This pundit never tires of vindicating my life-long judgement that lefties aren’t just misguided but stupid. The distinction between the two is relevant here.
A misguided but clever man will be able to erect a solid intellectual structure in support of his opinions, and it’ll take a particularly discerning eye to detect any logical faults.
On the other hand, someone who’s not only misguided but also stupid will commit every rhetorical fallacy known to man, and he wouldn’t even be aware that what he says makes no sense.
Kamm falls into the second category, which is why I often invoke his name when questioning the intellectual competence of lefties as a group. What Ollie writes about doesn’t really matter – he can utter equally refreshing inanities on any subject.
A few days ago, for example, he delivered himself of various linguistic insights that can all be reduced to one: anything people say is correct simply because people say it. Why, he has even written a book attacking usage pedantry.
Of the two cognates, ‘pedantry’ and ‘pederasty’, the former strikes me as more acceptable than the latter, but I’m sure old Ollie feels differently.
In common with all left-wingers, he’ll wax positively libertarian when defending anything that has a destructive potential for our civilisation. Destruction is the underlying aim, and a seemingly laisser-faire leftie will in the next breath turn dictatorial when that suits his purpose better (for example, when banning country sports).
Hence, wearing his libertarian mask, Ollie welcomes every lexical or grammatical perversion because he senses viscerally that such permissiveness promotes cultural and social egalitarianism, thereby adding another twig to the pyre of our civilisation. QED.
His today’s article extolling the virtues of sex-selective abortion is another example of exactly the same destructive pursuit.
Ollie espied with his eagle eye that most people who are against sex-selective abortion oppose abortion in general. This is perfectly logical, for both issues hinge on whether a foetus is part of a woman’s body or a separate person.
If it’s the former, then an abortion is no different from an appendectomy: a woman is within her right to correct either condition. She may choose to abort because she doesn’t want to have her style cramped, because she doesn’t know who the father is or because the foetus in her womb is female and her husband wants a boy – logically speaking, it makes no difference.
If, however, a foetus is regarded as a human being from the moment of conception (the only logically defensible moment, for anything else, including the current legal limit of 24 weeks, is totally arbitrary), then a woman has no sovereign rights over its fate.
A debate between pro-abortionists like Ollie and anti-abortionists like, well, me must revolve around this solely valid distinction. The victory in such a debate ought to go to whomever makes the better case.
Any debate is an exercise in rhetoric and logic, and both are intellectual disciplines with their own rigid rules. Stepping outside such rules leads to committing rhetorical fallacies, and intelligent people tend to avoid those.
Ollie, on the other hand, has never known a rhetorical fallacy he couldn’t love. His particular favourites are argumentum ad populum (appeal to the people: the proposition is true because folk believe it) and petitio principii (begging the question: using what is the conclusion of the argument as a premise).
These fallacies are intelligent people’s taboos, but Ollie’s workhorses. In this case he harnesses them to carry his arguments in favour of abortion in general and the sex-selective variety in particular.
Argumentum ad populum: “A YouGov poll in 2013 found only 7 per cent support for a ban on abortion. A substantial majority either supported the law as it stands… or favoured relaxing it.”
On hearing such a statement, an intelligent man would shrug and say “So what?”. That most people think something doesn’t make it right. But for Ollie vox populi is vox dei, or would be if he believed in God.
Petitio principii: Ollie then attacks Fiona Bruce, MP, for tabling an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill to outlaw sex-selective abortions. “The amendment attempts to undermine by stealth one of the most important social advances of the past half-century” (meaning abortion on demand).
Here Kamm uses his premise (that abortion is a social advance because it strikes a blow for women’s rights) as his conclusion. Yet it takes proof to turn the former into the latter.
I happen to disagree with both the premise and the conclusion. Moreover I’m prepared to put forth a cogent argument that legalising abortion on demand negates one of the founding principles of our civilisation, that of the sanctity of human life.
The sheer logical impossibility of pinpointing the beginning of human life to any moment other than conception means that abortion violates what has always been held to be inviolable.
That seems perfectly logical to me. Yet I am prepared to entertain counterarguments – provided they are intellectually sound, which Ollie’s musings aren’t.
He then brings the two fallacies together in one sentence, with argumentum ad hominem thrown in for good measure: “Having lost the argument and knowing they are out of step with social mores and public opinion, the zealots are attempting to get their way by procedural manoeuvre and obfuscation.”
Had Ollie lived in Germany around 1943, he doubtless would have favoured the Holocaust – after all, ‘social mores and public opinion’ welcomed it. It’s only a few ‘zealots’, most of them conservative Christians, who opposed mass murder.
The upshot of it all is that Ollie is incapable of making a sound argument in favour of abortion in his words. Yet he does better when making it in his person.
Had Mrs Kamm detected in an early stage of pregnancy, circa 1962, that her future son Ollie was afflicted with the terrible genetic disorder of strident stupidity, she would have had a strong argument in favour of termination.
Well, perhaps not a strong argument, but certainly a better one than her son has grown up to enunciate.