In case you didn’t know, the irrepressible Jon Stewart debated the incredibly tall Bill O’Reilly yesterday in “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium” (a play on the famous Rumble in the Jungle, for you non-boxers out there). It was a highly entertaining show, as both are quite passionate about their beliefs. And even though both officially won (each receiving a “championship belt”), I think the winner for those schooled in logical fallacies was pretty easily Stewart.
I’ve used videos of O’Reilly before in my Science vs. Pseudoscience course to help students learn to spot logical fallacies in thinking such as false analogies, use of emotive words to suppress judgement, hasty generalization, and others. I use O’Reilly as an example because he just provides so many fallacies in such short order when his guests are those he disagrees with, and there are tons of clips of him on YouTube (what did people do before YouTube? Carry around a case full of VHS tapes?). While Stewart did use some ad hominem attacks (such as when O’Reilly referenced Gerry and the Pacemakers) and often used humor to deflect some criticism rather than address it head on, I think his logical missteps were quite a bit smaller in number.
Admittedly, I didn’t watch the show with the express intent of critiquing the speakers on these grounds, so I could be wrong. I do think it would be an interesting exercise for a course dedicated to helping people learn how to separate the logical from the illogical (of course, the same could be said of many debates; I often use this one in class as well).
So, what do you think, dear readers? How many logical fallacies did you spot from either side? Was I biased because I find Stewart hilarious and think O’Reilly’s placards poorly designed?