Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Logical Fallacy of Meryl Streep



The girls and I just got done watching Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia over the holiday season and thoroughly enjoyed it. We also saw the The Devil Wears Prada last year and even one of Stree's older works in the Holocaust. We enjoy her movies very much - which made it all the more disheartening to hear about her speech over the weekend at the Golden Globes Awards.

Frankly, I'm just getting a little sick of hearing the political views of my favorite celebrities  - which is not that they don't have the right to say these things, but it's very irritating that they seem to think that I should care or indeed HAVE TO CARE about how they view the world.

But the truth is, I don't. I don't have to care about their political views to enjoy their work and constantly trying to get me to is wearing thin.

This semester I am finally teaching a subject that I have been passionate about for some time - Logic. I'm usingThe Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning as a text, but also a lot of information from The Great Courses. Our very first week we learned about something called the Halo Effect -

 The halo effect is a type of cognitive bias in which our overall impression of a person influences how we feel and think about his or her character. Essentially, your overall impression of a person ("He is nice!") impacts your evaluations of that person's specific traits ("He is also smart!").

Whenever a celebrity tries to influence our thinking they are banking on the allure of their own halo effect, and Ms. Streep is no different.

But that wasn't her primary logical fallacy. She gave quite a litany of actors and actresses who were foreign born and now work in Hollywood to provide "art" for the rest of us, and she threatened the masses with the elimination of art as entertainment if all of these "foreigners" were taken away.

She, in essence, stood there and built her own strawman fallacy and then threatened us to knock it down. The reality is, no one is threatening to deport LEGALLY working actors and actresses. Legal immigration isn't an issue for anyone except for Meryl Streep and anyone who wasn't paying attention hard enough to understand that legal immigration isn't under attack by anyone.

She also built two other strawmen - that somehow Hollywood and the Press were unfairly maligned and apparently powerless to do anything about it, clearly ignoring the fact that she was using the bully pulpit to shape a fallacy to her liking and that the equally mighty press would, could, and did back her up in the days following her speech.

Ms. Stree'ps contention that Hollywood and the press are so maligned and impotent to fight back was especially funny given that this was all done at televised event!

Luckily this was all very timely for me as we were covering the strawman fallacy in in class today and her speech was a wonderful example to share with my students.



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