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The Nasty Nonsequitaurus

Reported by Marie Therese - July 4, 2004 -

COMMENTARY

"Nonsequitaurus" - One who makes liberal use of "non sequiturs" to make a point. A "non sequitur" (Latin for "it does not follow") is the process of reaching a false conclusion based on incomplete, unclear or deliberately misleading information.

On June 28, 2004, during an interview with Cass Sunstein on the subject of dissent in America, Bill O'Reilly quoted from Michael Moore's website (michaelmoore. com):


(From Moore's website, 9/15/01) "We, the United States of America, are culpable of committing so many acts of terror and bloodshed that we had better get a clue about the culture of violence in which we have been active participants."

O'REILLY: "Moore obviously feels the USA is a bad place and that was right after the attack [9/11]".


Non sequitur - Example 1 (simple):

Statement: Mary loves poppies and plants them in her garden.
False conclusion: Mary is a heroin addict.

The first statement did not contain enough information to draw the conclusion. Maybe Mary's poppies were California poppies. Maybe Mary works for the DEA and is doing research on drug addiction. Maybe Mary is a drug dealer, not a drug addict. Maybe the flowers are not really poppies. Maybe the person making the statement is lying. There are many conclusions that can be drawn from the same statement. The conclusion that Mary is a herion addict "did not follow" from the original statement.

Non sequitur - Example 2 (not so simple):

Statement: "We, the United States of America, are culpable of committing so many acts of terror and bloodshed that we had better get a clue about the culture of violence in which we have been active participants."

False conclusion: "Moore obviously feels the USA is a bad place and that was right after the attack [9/11]".

It would seem that Mr. O'Reilly equates criticism of one's country with dislike of one's country.

There is not enough information given in the original statement to reach this conclusion. In fact, there is no rational basis in the first statement to draw this conclusion at all.

One COULD correctly conclude that Mr. Moore thinks American society is too violent.

Or that in the past America has committed acts of terror and bloodshed. (Perhaps he was thinking of slavery, Japanese detention camps, syphillis experiments on African-Americans, Kent State, My Lai, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, agent orange, napalm, depleted uranium, daisy cutters, MOAB's, etc., etc.).

Whether or not you agree with these conclusions politically is not important. They are true conclusions made from Mr. Moore's words.

The conclusion that Mr. Moore's statement means he thinks America is "bad" cannot be substantiated and is, therefore, a false conclusion.

Now let's take O'Reilly's conclusion and treat it as a statement and see what we can draw from it:

"Moore obviously feels the USA is a bad place and that was right after the attack [9/11]

From this statement I could logically infer that Mr. O'Reilly feels that there are time limits on the Constitutional right of free speech and that exercising such rights within a few days of a national tragedy means the speaker is unpatriotic and hates his/her country.

The Constitution does not set time limits on our freedom of speech.

In the future Mr. O'Reilly needs to pay closer attention to how he draws his conclusions.

Otherwise he is at great risk of morphing into a very large and oh-so-nasty Nonsequitaurus!