Letter to the Editor

Letter has logical fallacy

Arroyo GrandeDecember 15, 2013 

Joseph Codispoti (“Start at Home,” Thursday) has objected to Ingrid Fagan’s earlier letter urging people to sign an Amnesty International petition against despotic nations where people are imprisoned or killed for expressing their political opinions.

Mr. Codispoti says that Ms. Fagan is like someone who has been “brainwashed and indoctrinated” into thinking that America is perfect, something that her letter never says. He then cites America’s historically flawed civil rights record — slavery, lynching, McCarthyism — as if this somehow disqualifies Ms. Fagan from pointing out civil rights abuses by foreign governments. He seems to think that unless your country is perfect, you have no standing to criticize others.

This rhetoric exemplifies the logical fallacy of criticizing a claim in terms of its origins instead of explaining what’s supposedly wrong with the claim itself. The undoubted fact that America is imperfect is beside the point: The point is that foreign governments are wrong to imprison people for speaking their minds, and nothing Mr. Codispoti has said disqualifies Americans from speaking out against it.

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