We’re starting our first weekly series here at Armstrong Delusion. It’s called Friday Fallacy: every week we will feature a logical fallacy, briefly describe it, and discuss the cult’s reliance on it in specific statements or doctrines.
This week’s fallacy is Argument by Slogan.
Argument by Slogan is a tactic popular with politicians, though it often is identified with a euphemism: “staying on message.” It is an attempt to use a repeated slogan in place of a valid argument, thereby making it seem as though an argument has been made. Slogans usually appeal to the emotions of the audience, which gives them a level of persuasion that is unmerited logically. For example, printing “He was right!” across a photo of Herbert Armstrong is persuasive to some but hardly an argument (and woefully inaccurate). It is a slogan, nothing more. Another slogan popularly used as an invalid argument by cultists is the phrase, “government problem.” Any criticism of the cult is met with this slogan, which is supposed to do the job of negating the criticism, and it may, but only for irrational reasons. In order to refute criticism logically one must address the criticism directly with a valid argument. A slogan is not an argument.
What is behind all the sloganeering in the cult? It has a lot to do with a little trick one PCG minister called “thought-stopping.” Hammering the slogan, “Prove all things,” for example, is one way to get the sheep to do just the opposite, as it turns out to be shorthand for, “accept these teachings.” It will not be lost on anyone who has been through the school of Armstrongism that once one has “proven” (accepted) the foundational tenets, one is then strongly discouraged from ever going back to re-examine them. This once “proved” always “proved” doctrine, if true, would require one to be infallible. And yet, when it comes to Armstrong’s teachings, one is apparently only capable of making a mistake if she proves them wrong! The message is, “You’re infallible if you think we’re right.” Convenient, isn’t it?
This perversion of reason (and many more like it) is made possible through what Robert Jay Lifton calls a “thought-terminating cliché” in his book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. As Lifton puts it, “The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.” The more slogans the sheep memorize the less they will rely on critical thinking to draw conclusions, and the easier they will be to mislead.
So, the next time you hear, “Oh ye of little faith,” or, “Come out of the world,” etc., just remember this little slogan: “A slogan is not an argument.” (And then come up with a valid response, rather than committing the fallacy, Argument by Slogan.)