The Argument Ex Contradictio

Molotov Mitchell is the far-right video commentator who tells lies about Uganda’s Kill-the-Gays Bill:

A deliberate disinfo campaign has convinced tons of people that Ugandans want nothing short of gay genocide.  I decided to look deeper.  This isn’t my opinion, this isn’t Rick Warren’s opinion, this isn’t even MSNBC’s monolithic gay opinion.  This is what’s in the bill.  Uganda’s anti-gay bill formally extends the death penalty to homosexuals who commit pre-existing capital crimes.  They are as follows:

#1 — Pedophilia or sexual abuse of the handicapped.

#2 — Knowing that you are HIV+ yet continuing to spread it to others, and

#3 –  Using positions of authority to coerce others into performing sexual acts.

That is it.  That’s as far as the “genocide” goes.

“A deliberate disinfo campaign”?  Really?  Here’s a quick reality-based recap:

  • The bill applies the death sentence to anyone with multiple convictions of having gay sex.
  • It also sentences to death people convicted multiple times of not ratting out their gay friends (even if they themselves are straight).

I had a Facebook conversation on Mitchell’s wall yesterday pointing out his mistakes and posting a link to my Uganda video.  He answered:

Sorry Rob, but you’ve got shady info. There are multiple versions of the bill, even one that has no death penalty at all. The version I was discussing was the same one Pastor Ssempa was (and is?) supporting. The Left Wing is touting early versions and even fake versions of the bill, but they’re wrong. No bill calling for the execution of straight people will be presented or passed.

I told him what a relief that was.  I asked for a link to his version.  Can you guess the first words of his reply?

I don’t have a link, sorry. The version I was referring to was the one Ssempa was championing. He explained it to me over the phone. As you probably know, the bill has a lot of pressure to change various aspects and according to our friends on the ground, that is how different versions have been discussed among parliament members.

I based my video on discussions and emails with Ugandan rep’s.

He explained it to you over the phone?

I wrote:

Wait — you haven’t even read the bill?  Then there’s no way you should have said in your video,  “This isn’t my opinion, this isn’t Rick Warren’s opinion, this isn’t even MSNBC’s monolithic gay opinion.  This is what’s in the bill.” You can’t say something like that unless you’ve actually read the bill yourself.  Your video is very misleading.  You’re just repeating some politician’s spin without confirming it yourself.

At that point he defriended me (I can’t blame him for that) so I can’t read his wall.  But Facebook sent me an email notification that he’d posted this:

No Rob, I read the bill and communicated what was in another version, which is what Parliament will actually be voting on. I have contacts that MSM sometimes doesn’t, and this is one of those instances.

Wait and see what the final version, the version they will actually vote on, says. You will see that I’m right.

Click to view our exchange.

Can we sort this out?

  • Apparently he read the original bill, so he knew all about the death penalty provisions.
  • Nevertheless, he claims there’s been “a deliberate disinfo campaign” about the bill.
  • This campaign led the sponsors to change the bill, even though there was nothing to change, because it was all disinformation to begin with.  So…they…changed it to take out stuff that wasn’t there?  What?
  • Mitchell’s comments on the bill were based on some new secret version that he can’t share because he hasn’t read it, but he’s had some really nice telephone conversations with someone (who’s not a member of the Uganda parliament).
  • When he told his viewers, “This isn’t my opinion…This is what’s in the bill,” he failed to tell them he wasn’t talking about the real bill that’s been introduced, but some altered future hypothetical version.  Which he hasn’t seen.
  • Presenting factual information about the official version of the bill is “a deliberate disinfo campaign.”

I’m going give this kind of messy thinking a name, because I run across it so much:  the argument ex contradictio, or “argument from contradictions.”  It happens when you defend a statement by uttering another statement that contradicts the one you’re trying to defend:

  • I can tell you exactly what’s in the bill…even though there are multiple, conflicting versions of the bill.
  • A deliberate disinformation campaign has led us to take out the material that our opponents falsely said was there.

The argument ex contradictio is hard to refute precisely because it’s such a mess.  Your listeners have a to juggle conflicting statements, experience confusion, and then rise above the confusion to recognize that confusion is exactly what your opponent is trying to sow.

I wrote the other day how the truth about marriage equality helps us and hurts the other side.  We’ve got a similar case here:  our opponents are counting on confusion, while we strive for clarity.  Guess which one’s easier to achieve.

A deliberate disinformation campaign has led us to take out the material that our opponents falsely said was there.
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