In a post titled, “Christian Apologists Dishonestly Discuss Peter Boghossian’s Method,” John Loftus has published a video criticizing two talks Tim McGrew and I have given on Peter Boghossian-style “Street Epistemology.” His attacks return upon himself.
Inference and Rebuttal: Misdirection In Action
The video’s first clips imply that Tim and I believe “Fragenblitzen” is something like a universal Street Epistemologist (SE) tactic: “Street Epistemologists ask rapid questions to confuse.” We didn’t say that. It counters that supposed belief with two clips totaling 78 seconds.
Loftus should know better. Anthony Magnabosco made the video; Loftus is responsible to the extent that he’s publicizing it. They’re both engaging in a tactic of misdirection here by cherry-picking one fragment out of our conversations, making us look bad by groundlessly that we believe every SE encounter includes Fragenblitzen.
Where’s the dishonesty there?
Then Magnabosco tries to rebut it by presenting a couple SE encounters that don’t include Fragenblitzen. Where’s the critical thinking there? Two instances of no-Fragenblitzen do not demonstrate never-Fragenblitzen. Any logical thinker knows that.
The video with its (very helpfully labeled) “respectful pause” shows the SE in a positive emotional light, however. It’s personally compelling. It’s also entirely irrelevant to the question we raised concerning the possible use of Fragenblitzen by SEs.
View it again and see what I mean. What are your feelings toward the SEs? Positive, I’m sure. There’s some effective feelings-based persuasion going on here.
Does the video demonstrate, though, that we made the error they claim we made? No. Does it prove that SEs never use Fragenblitzen? No. In other words, has it proved us wrong or foolish in anything we’ve said? No.
But it has effectively shown us to seem less respectful than SEs, and to have completely misunderstood them. I’ll grant that fact, but I’ll also point out how heavily edited this video is. Your view is directed toward what the editor wants you to see.
If you took the time to see the entire talks from which these clips were taken, you’d hear me describing the way magicians fool others through directing their attention away from one thing and onto another. My son has been a professional magician. Some of his tricks are completely obvious from a distance, where the viewer can easily take in the whole scene. But the person he’s doing the trick on is close in, where Jonathan can easily direct his attention away from what’s really going on. He’s totally fooled.
Magicians call this misdirection. Video editors can accomplish the same thing by presenting short clips, and letting viewers assume they’re accurate representations of the whole.
Discerning viewers know better. Loftus should know better. Probably he does. Magicians know what they’re doing, when they’re fooling people through misdirection. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same were true of Loftus. (And Magnabosco.)
Misdirection In Action
This becomes especially relevant at about 5:50 in the video, where we hear Tim McGrew saying, “It’s not a strategy of critical thinking, it’s a strategy of clever misdirection.” The video’s response here is classic. There’s no presentation of the argument leading up to this statement. There’s no indication of what “It” refers to in this sentence.
Instead the video proceeds to turn the viewer away from our reasoning, and toward an out-of-context clip that shows the SE interacting “respectully” (as it once again helpfully informs us)—while providing no information whatever on how the SE actually conducted his discussion.
This is misdirection being used to show that there’s no misdirection being used!
Loftus and Magnabosco should both know better.
They probably do. And yet they accuse us of being dishonest.
There so much more I could say, but I’m not sure it’s worth the time. I’d rather you view one of the presentations this video drew from. Don’t draw conclusions out of context. Listen to the whole thing before you decide what we mean by what we say. (The video from New Orleans was formerly available for a nominal charge, at a web address I can’t find right now.)