Special pleading

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Special Pleading is a logical fallacy or illogical argument which asserts that subjective understanding gained from either some direct experience or some group identity is superior to any other claim for truth based on logic and evidence. This fallacy is often deployed to avoid having to defend the indefensible or rescue a proposition being successfully challenged by logical argument.

Comtemporary or Recent Examples

  • Mark Etherington begins his 2005 memoir, Revolt on the Tigris: The Al-Sadr Uprising and the Governing of Iraq, on page 4 with the following assertion: "Operational experience, particularly the kind derived from conflict and war, is largely unknowable by those who have not encountered it. No amount of reading and conversation can be successfully distilled into a synthesis of the events described." In effect Etherington has written, "You have to take my word and accept my interpretation because I have been there and you haven't." There are several problems with this. First, the reader is asked to give the author a pass and not think critically about assertions made. Second, if all first hand accounts must be accepted without challenge then how is the reader to resolve their inevitable contradictions?
  • According to the Fiji Times a complaint was filed by the Pacific Centre for Public Integrity (PCPI) that Prime Minister Laisenia Qarasecommented on television that only a Fijian (non-Indian) prime minister could understand the concerns of the Fijian people. News Article in New Kerala. Why an Indo-Fijian would have trouble doing so wasn't explained. The reality is that humans need not share the same national, linguistic, religious, racial or other identities to understand one another's needs.
  • The U.S. Congressional election campaign message of the Fighting Dems that military or combat veterans are more capable of handling foreign policy because "they know the costs of war." Although military service is often the prelude to a political career in both authoritarian and liberal democratic political systems the idea that veterans are more capable is belied by historical experience. Historical examples demonstrating the contrary are numerous:
a. military and combat veteran U.S. President Harry S. Truman was less effective as a foreign policy maker after WWII than non-military veteran U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during WWII.
b. military and combat veterans (WWI) Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler led their fascist alliance into WWII and were defeated by non-military veterans U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Soviet General Secretary of the CPSU Joseph Stalin.
c. military veteran French Prime Minister/President Charles de Gaulle was no better able to defeat the Algerian Revolution than were the French civilian politicians he replaced.
d. military veteran and miltiary dictator South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu was no more able to defeat the communist insurgency in South Vietnam than was the non-military veteran and civilian dictator President Ngô Đình Diệm that he helped to overthrow.
e. military veteran U.S. President Richard Nixon continued waging and ultimately losing the Vietnam War begun by non-military veteran U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson.
f. military though not combat veteran U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who served in the toughest movie unit in Hollywood during WWII, withdrew U.S. Marines from Lebanon in defeat after an Islamist terrorist bombing but ordered the victorious invasion of Grenada.
g. military and combat veteran Ugandan President Idi Amin Dada (Mau Mau rebellion, winning side) was driven from power in a short war by non-miliary veteran Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere (a teacher).
h. military though not combat veteran U.S. President George W. Bush has won neither of the wars (Afghanistan, Iraq) he launched while non-military veteran U.S. President Bill Clinton succeede in winning both wars (Haiti, Kosovo) that he launched, and with little loss of life!


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