The paranoid style in American blogging

A critic commits the genetic fallacy if the critic attempts to discredit or support a claim or an argument because of its origin (genesis) when such an appeal to origins is irrelevant.

Whatever your reasons are for buying that DVD they've got to be ridiculous. You said yourself that you got the idea for buying it from last night's fortune cookie. Cookies can't think!

Fortune cookies are not reliable sources of information about what DVD to buy, but the reasons the person is willing to give are likely to be quite relevant and should be listened to. The speaker is committing the genetic fallacy by paying too much attention to the genesis of the idea rather than to the reasons offered for it. An ad hominem fallacy is one kind of genetic fallacy, but the genetic fallacy in our passage isn't an ad hominem.

If I learn that your plan for building the shopping center next to the Johnson estate originated with Johnson himself, who is likely to profit from the deal, then my pointing out to the planning commission the origin of the deal would be relevant in their assessing your plan. Because not all appeals to origins are irrelevant, it sometimes can be difficult to decide if the fallacy has been committed. For example, if Sigmund Freud shows that the genesis of a person's belief in God is their desire for a strong father figure, then does it follow that their belief in God is misplaced, or does this reasoning commit the genetic fallacy? |source|

The polls are wrong this year, very wrong. I have been saying this for months, and I have backed up my claim with both statistical and anecdotal support. The claims I have made have inspired some, caused others to laugh in derision, and brought others to test their assumptions and revisit the hard data. Along the way, there have been a lot of questions about how and why the polls could be wrong. The most common complaint, is that for all of the polls to be wrong, there would need to be some sort of conspiracy, or else an incredibly stupid decision made across the board. Well, I am not a big believer in conspiracies, but I do think that the polling groups have fallen into a groupthink condition. I wrote earlier about the fact that of the major polling groups handling national and state polls, all of them are based deep in pro-Liberal, anti-Conservative territories.

Here's that list of headquarters again, just to punch in that point again:

Poll Headquarters
ABC News 77 W 66th St, #13, New York City, New York
CBS News 524 W 57th St, New York City, New York
FOX News 1211 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, New York
Gallup 901 F St NW, Washington DC
Hotline 88 Pine St, 32nd floor, New York City, New York
IBD 12655 Beatrice St. Los Angeles, California
The Los Angeles Times 202 W 1st St, Los Angeles California
Marist Institute 3399 North Rd, Poughkeepsie, New Jersey York
Mason-Dixon 1250 Connecticut Ave #200, Washington DC
Newsweek 251 W 57th St, New York City, New York
The New York Times 1 City Hall, New York City, New York
Pew Research Center 1615 L St NW, #700, Washington DC
Quinnipiac 275 Mount Carmel Ave., Hamden Connecticut
Rasmussen 625 Cookman, #2, Asbury Park, New Jersey
Reuters 3 Times Square, New York City, New York
Survey USA 15 Bloomfield Ave., Verona New Jersey
TIPP 690 Kinderkamack Rd, Oradell, New Jersey
Washington Post 1150 15th St NW, Washington DC
Zogby 901 Broad St, Utica, New York

As I wrote then, it needs noting that all of the major polling organizations are based in locations where liberals are strongest and conservatives weakest, where 'democrat' and 'republican' take on meanings wildly different from the rest of the country. The people making the executive decisions at these polls, most likely including the wording and order of polling questions, whether to focus on urban or suburban areas, the weighting of political affiliation, and the definition of 'likely voter', are most likely in regular contact and association with the most liberal factions of politics. It does not mean that they have deliberately skewed their decisions to support Obama, but it is obvious that there is an apparent conflict of interest in their process modality. |Wizbang|


Let's lay out Wizbang's argument schematically:
1. The major polling organizations have their headquarters in the Washington and New York metropolitan areas.

2. Any organization based in those areas is likely to generate work product which is tainted by left leaning partisan bias.

3. Polling questions are work product, so polling questions generated by the major polling organizations will be tainted by left leaning partisan bias.

4. If a polling question is tainted by left leaning partisan bias, then this will be reflected in a left leaning partisan bias in the results of the polls.

5. Thus, the major polling organizations will produce polls with a left leaning partisan results.

Now, there's a lot wrong with this argument but let's keep our focus on the second premise. The key question is, does the premise pick out a fact about the origin of work products which is causally relevant to the content of those products? If we can show that, contra 2, there are organizations based in the New York or Washington metro areas which do not produce left leaning work product, this would tend to show that 2 is an instance of the genetic fallacy.

Here's a list of some organizations based in Washington DC:
  • Republican National Committee, 310 First Street, Washington, D. C. 20003
  • The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachussettes Ave NE, Washington, D. C. 20002
  • Daughters of the American Revolution, 1776 D. St. NW, Washington, D. C. 20006
  • National Association of Manufacturers, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20004
  • National Rifle Association, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H St NW Washington DC 20062
  • Americans for Tax Reform, 1920 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20036

Those of us who understand introductory logic will see that 2 has been shown to be fallacious. However, others may still wonder whether organizations based in New York City are capable of producing unbiased or, even, conservative work product. Maybe we could ask the folks over at The National Review about that. Their offices are at 215 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York 10016.

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