Reagan, Thomas, Snopes and Quotes… Oh, My!

We have been having a little dust-up on the comment thread here about a quote that Reagan used in his speech about socialized medicine that we also posted here.

It is a quote that is widely attributed to Norman Thomas. Thomas was a 6 time candidate for president as a member of the Socialist Party and the quote is this:

The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of ‘liberalism’ they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.

The problem is that the provenance of this quote is unclear. Several sources have stated that it was offered up in an interview in 1948 but there is no conclusive proof that Thomas ever said it, so our frienemy, Imam Greg (aka melfamy), went to to find out that they rate it “probably false”, leading to a discussion of Snopes’ left-wing bias and purported funding by George Soros.

Base on multiple sources, I can find no evidence of funding by Soros. Snopes is an independently funded site, one far better and more accurate than the politicized PolitiFact or that are Soros and liberal funded – but at the end of the day, Snopes is only a husband and wife team that occasionally gets things wrong and I think they got this one wrong – not because their facts are incorrect, but due to their rating of “probably false”.

As far as I can tell, they are accurate in stating that this Norman Thomas quote has not been conclusively verified – but to issue a “probably false” when there is no evidence either way is a common logical fallacy called the “burden of proof” – when something that hasn’t been proven true is claimed to be false simply beause it hasn’t been proven. This is why I’ve said many times that absence of evidence is not affirmative proof.

The bone that I have to pick with Snopes is in the way they categorized the quote, not whether their research is correct or incorrect. A rating of “unable to verify” would be more appropriate than “probably false”.

“Probably false” means in this case seems to mean only that there is no written independent confirmation, not that it is false, nor that it is fake. Again, the absence of evidence is not proof. Snopes calling it “probably false” is no different than me saying it was “probably true”, we each have equal evidence for our positions – but what I would have is Norman Thomas’ history as a communist and quotes like this that are verified:

The difference between Democrats and Republicans is: Democrats have accepted some ideas of Socialism cheerfully, while Republicans have accepted them reluctantly.

Joe accurately chimed in by saying:

To claim that this is an inaccurate quote is to argue against the sum of the whole body of publications coming from the Communist Party during this period of our history. I don’t question this quote because it is 100% in keeping with the sentiments expressed in those few documents still available to us (the majority of which have been expunged — even from the Library of Congress). This is like holding to the myth that McCarthy was on a witch hunt in the face of the overwhelming evidence now available that supports nearly every accusation he ever made.

This is not a Dan Rather “fake but accurate” situation because there is ample historical evidence to support Thomas’ socialist aspirations, most in his own public statements, writings and campaign speeches. He used to joke:

I always get more applause than votes.

To be clear, for anyone to attribute this quote to Thomas without caveat is incorrect. It is perfectly acceptable to state something to the effect, “as this quote, attributed to Norman Thomas, states…” and this caveat gets the writer clear of having to fight these ridiculous nit-picking arguments that simply because a writer used an “officially” unverified quote, even though it is one that has been generally accepted to be accurate and in the public domain for over 60 years, he is a liar and therefore nothing he says can be true – which is exactly what Imam Greg is doing. His position:

Snopes has this listed as ‘probably false’, a fake quote spread by none other than Ronald Wilson Reagan.

So use the quote that can be verified, dumb-ass!

You freaking idiots lose elections and arguments because you rely on bad info.

Why do you people persist in spreading lies?

Wow. Now if good old melfamy could just muster that anger in a direction that mattered rather than over a PowerPoint slide and a 60 year old quote of dubious origin. The fact is that America in the 50′s and 60′s was staunch anti-communist after being fed “progressivism” for the prior 60 or so years. The tie between communism, progressivism and American contemporary liberalism is well documented. There is a reason that the terms liberal and conservative mean just the opposite in America as they do in Europe and the UK, the reason is that true liberalism is exactly 180 degrees in opposition to American liberalism.

Citing accurately is important; seeking provenance is always a premium but to say that a quote is a lie without proof is just as much poor form as it is to quote it without proof. The problem the left has with the adoption of this quote as real is that it supports the actions of the liberals in America. It doesn’t matter that it is in accordance with the march of “progressivism” and that ties can be made back to actual words of Norman Thomas that express exactly the same sentiment…in other words, even though I can acknowledge that it was not a proper usage of the words, it is easy to believe that he said it based on history and Thomas’ own words and beliefs.

Since Joe wrote an excellent piece on the application of logic, I thought it is important that we start to recognize some of the common rhetorical tools and logical fallacies that are commonly used in our increasingly irrational and illogical political debates.

This one, used by the Imam, is called argument by generalization – essentially taking a specific incident – or small a small group of incidents (that may also contain unrelated incidents) – and then stating that they explain everything.

It is a common tool used every day by those on the left to pillory those on the right – if you are arguing from the left – going from the specific to general is perfectly fine. Two current examples are the Sandy Hook tragedy and the Kermit Gosnell abortion atrocity in Philadelphia. It goes something like this: a gun was used at Sandy Hook to kill kids, all guns can be used to kill kids, therefore all guns are used to kill kids and all guns must be banned no matter what. They see this as a valid argument – but take the Gosnell case and use the very same argument: Kermit Gosnell killed live babies during abortions, abortions are therefore used to kill kids, therefore all abortions are used to kill kids and all abortions must be banned no matter what. Guess what? They do not see that as a valid argument.

If the first argument is valid, the second must also be valid. Here’s another one:

The murder of 26 kids and adults at Sandy Hook by a single mentally ill person is a national emergency and therefore cause for the national restriction of an enumerated constitutional right without a discussion of mental illness – but the killing of hundreds of babies by an abortionist is a “local crime story” and not cause for the restriction of a “right” that is not an enumerated constitutional right and worthy of no debate over the evil of abortion. 32,000 people killed by guns a year (including suicides – and if I may point out, assisted suicide is a liberal cause) rises to a national crisis but 1.2 million babies aborted by thousands of government licensed abortionists every year does not.

In logic, a thing either is or is not. It can’t be both at the same time.

My wife DVRs the Fox News program, The Five, and I catch it every now and again. I’ve seen the very liberal Bob Beckel do exactly this. Every time one of the other panelists states that “the left” says or does something, Beckel demands to know specifically who said it and proceeds to state that it is not “everybody on the left” it is only an isolated person or group responsible. He made exactly that argument about Kermit Gosnell to try to make the argument about the misconduct of a single, local doctor rather than about the overall abortion culture that created him. He did this a day after generalizing “gun control” and gun bans to all gun owners, including those who have never committed a crime.

To defeat logical fallacies, the first step is to recognize them and the rhetorical gymnastics that result.

22 thoughts on “Reagan, Thomas, Snopes and Quotes… Oh, My!

  1. I think the use of ‘Imam’ was particularly cleaver Utah. Especially given the targeted response Melfamy gave Sally wishing a horse could sodomize her. 🙂

    But in all seriousness, very well stated (as usual). You have way more stamina to write these posts than I do, and the patience to do so, thus I find myself in a covetous state this Monday morning. Well done.

    • Thanks, augs. Stuff like this starts out as an annoying itch and over a day or so, eventually festers and bursts onto a page. Sort of like a STD, I guess.

      • Utah …..The funding by ads today…AT&T and “How to loose your Bellyfat” etc…. is something new.

        The Ads were much more Political in the Lead-up to the election ….. in Fact and Obama election and Democrat Candidates and the ubiquitous Al Frankin polls…….Very easy for some to come to the conclusion that Snopes ‘Funding” came from Soros funded organizations thus was backed by Soros. In fact if one’s funding IS primarily from one source type ….. I would also ( and DO ) doubt their political independence.

        BTW …. some of the Counter Soros claims were vociferously attacked by the NYT … an entirely unbiased source as we know.

    • FC: I’m not pimping them and my comments only apply to this situation.

      I think that they get away with the BHO thing by choosing carefully what they want to “debunk”.

      Again, I take issue with the ways that they categorize the “facts” but I still see them as far more reliable than the lapdogs at Politifact and FactCheck. Hell, Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post is more honest than those two.

    • A point lost in this topic is Greg’s desire to have a horse sodomize Sally simply because she typed “F-You, Zalo”. Really? Greg would wish Sally to be raped by a horse simply for typing the words “F-You, Zalo”?

      Is this the face of modern liberalism? Maybe Utah and Joe have a point about Greg. His offering does sound like something an Islamic extremist would say.

      Kells, what was this you said about Greg being a nice gentleman? Personally, I could never lower myself to that level with a woman. Some decorum must remain, even if one wasn’t given the morality to do so as a youth.

      • There are a select few that he appears to have developed a distaste for, yours truly included.

        I have to wonder if he does what he does sometimes just to get a reaction. Sometimes he is confrontational for little or no reason.

        I’ll have to own up to my piece of that shit sandwich because I did rip him another anal orifice here – From Pedantic and Tiresome to Full-on Moronic in Record Speed – due to the slurs he used against me and his mindless defense of Islam. Not coincidentally, that is what earned him the nickname of Imam Greg from me.

        • I remember that sorted affair. However, it was fun to roll back and read through it again. Particularly interesting was the wife’s attacks on commenters who spoke out against Greg. I believe she said; “its personal”.

          I cannot help wonder if it is personal in this case too. Would she be as willing to correct her husband in this case?

          As far as a distaste … I guess I am in great company then.

          “I have to wonder if he does what he does sometimes just to get a reaction. Sometimes he is confrontational for little or no reason.” — I have often wondered the same, however I think I am down to simply thinking he’s lost his f***ing mind.

          And yes sir, we’ve all be flippant, choleric, and downright brutal to each other here at times. However, I have yet to see anything as low as the statement I captured on screen. Greg used to talk about ‘political wrassling’, but this is downright repugnant.

    • @kells

      Not sure that is the best example, my love.

      But there is a good kind of crazy and a bad kind of crazy, you are the former.

      • M. and Augger; I’m very fond of both G. and Sally. I think sometimes we just talk smack on the computer (I have.) I know both of these individuals have good hearts. And now I’m off to become a blond! Speaking of which, who do you boys like?

        • I try not to judge the quality of a person solely based on an internet relationship – that whole Russian mistress thing really didn’t work out (you really can’t trust the pictures they send you) but when I get pushed, I push back (except in the case of the Russian mafia).

          Scarlett Johanssen makes a pretty good blonde – but truth be told, I fancy gingers a bit.

          • You shall be happy to know that I am a strawberry blonde (we’re great with chocolate.) After re-reading comments from last year (above,) I’m feeling a bit devilish (this would be FL’s fault, of course.)

            You needn’t worry about the Russian Mafia; Mitch Rapp and Jack Reacher are my lovers. We exchange favours, you see, so you’re covered (it would be in chocolate, but never before 5:00.)

            Scarlett??!! Did you have to pick the biggest lib actor around? Your wish is my command….

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