Last week someone asked me whether I was ever going to put up my collected Laws (which are really more like axioms) as I periodically promise to do. The truth is I’ve tried unsuccessfully to put them down to pixels on more than one occasion. Whenever I set down to write them all out, however, I get to a place where I know I’m still missing a bunch and so I hold off till I remember the rest of them — and then the project slips my mind altogether for several months.
So I decided it would probably be wise to jot down a half dozen or so and then add to it over time as they come up in conversation here. I’m not sure what I should call them collectively, so for now I’m just using The Toderonemy as a placeholder. I briefly considered the Todah, and then Levititod, but ultimately decided The Toderonomy sounded funnier. Once it gets a bit more complete, I’ll figure out a better name.
Better yet, if you folks here have any Laws you’ve come up with over the years that you think should be included, let me know in the threads. Maybe we could put together a list of the damn things, and then have that ever-growing list somewhere on the site directory. In that case, maybe we call it the Book of Ordinary Laws?
My guess is that those of you who have been here long enough will have seen at least a few of the Laws below explained at least once in a post or comment of mine at one time or another. Those who are newer have likely seen me invoke one or more by name and wondered, “What the fish does that mean?” Well, wonder no more!
Here we go:
The William Shatner Fallacy
Just because you can find people on the internet that argue William Shatner is the greatest singer of all time does not mean that it is a commonly held belief.
The William Shatner Fallacy occurs when someone makes a ridiculous claim about what all/most of another group believes, and when challenged points to the fact that they can google someone on the internet that believes it.
In order to qualify for William Shatner Fallacy status, an erroneous belief must be one that requires an almost comical effort of obliviousness. Indeed, a William Shatner Fallacy is notable in that it could easily be disproven by asking any random person on the street. Examples I have encountered in real life are conservatives who truly believe that most liberals are in favor of mothers killing infants up to six months old whenever said mothers they get bored with said babies, and liberals who truly believe that most conservatives want to repeal women’s suffrage. When questioned, these people invariably point me to google a specific name of a person of that political stripe that does indeed argue just that; they believe this proves their position is accurate.
For those interested, the name this Law comes from a discussion I once had with a country-western fan who “proved” to me that fans of rock and pop music had no ear for music, because fans of rock and pop musical all believe that William Shatner is one of the most talented singers in history. When I explained that rock and pop fans really, really don’t believe this, he referred me to a guy on a blog who both liked rock and pop music and thought William Shatner was one of the most talented singers in history, and then declared the case closed.
The Augusta National Rule
The Augusta National Rule states:
People who are OK with discrimination as it occurs today believe they would have been opposed to identical discrimination against others in the past.
I first came up with the Augusta National Rule many years ago, back when the well-known golf course/country club famously did not allow blacks to become members. At that time, there were a lot of people that supported Augusta’s right to do this. However, whenever I asked a supporter of Augusta’s “right” to discriminate against blacks if they would have felt that way back when the club refused to admit Jews, the response was always, “Of course not! I was was/would have been on the front lines of fighting them on that clearly bigoted and hateful policy!”
And then years later after blacks were allowed to join but women weren’t, people would strongly defend Augusta’s no-woman policy, but swear up and down that they had always been against the hateful ‘No Blacks’ policy.
Now when I ask someone who is argues about their lack of “religious freedom” if Augusta should be allowed to bar entry for LGBTs, I get the identical answer I got ten years ago for women and twenty years ago for blacks. (And, I assume, would have gotten a century ago for Jews had I been alive to ask the question.) Likewise, those same people are deeply and sincerely offended that I would even ask about women, black, or Jews being barred, because of course they would never support such bigoted, backward, and hateful shenanigans.
(BTW: You can make your own version of the Augusta National rule, and it can be about any kind of restrictions on protected classes, such as “Was it OK for the citizens of King County to block the building of synagogues in1955?/Is it OK for Rutherford County citizens to block the building of mosques now?” But I prefer the Augusta National question, because for most of us the question of what membership privileges the rich and snooty should be allowed is less of an emotionally charged, baggage-carrying issue.)
The ‘Failing Conservatism’ Corollary
By now everyone knows the phrase, “Conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed.” I don’t know who first came up with this axiom, but it’s bloody brilliant. It’s also depressingly predictive of the response of most conservatives I’ve ever argued politics with in the past decade outside of this site.
The ‘Failing Conservatism’ Corollary, then, is the other side’s version of that axiom:
Liberals/Leftists will always admit to the failings and shortcomings of any liberal/leftist elected official, candidate, or policy — with the single exception of whatever liberal/leftist elected official, candidate, or policy is being discussed at the moment, given for all elected officials, candidates, policies, and moments.”
Originally stated, Tod’s Law read:
The more likely a LoOG/OT commenter or contributing writer is to send the editors an email demanding a commenter on this site be banned or a contributing writer be removed from the mast head, the more likely it is that we get emails fro other people demanding that that person be banned and/or removed from the masthead. This remains true in regards to the number of emails as well as the degree of passion/vitriol voiced in each email.
Tod’s Law is something I first noticed two years ago in my role as an editor here at this site. However, I have come to realize it has broader applications than just LoOG/OT.
After I penned Tod’s Law, it hit me that at every place I have ever worked there was a similar dynamic that occurred with those people most likely to complain about coworkers. Similarly, in politics the candidate in a primary that’s most likely to become indignant about personal attacks/unethical tactics from other candidates is almost always the one that gets the most complaints lodged against them from everyone else on this same fronts.
The Tom Cruise Rule
The Tom Cruise Rule, which is really about the disparity between the celebrity-level political candidates we think we support and the celebrity-level political candidates we actually support, is this :
If you have a movie about anything and you put Tom Cruise in it, will instantly and almost magically become a movie that’s about an arrogant and successful upstart who stumbles, rights himself, and Learns Something Valuable while growing as a person. It will always be this way, because if the movie can’t be that Tom Cruise won’t show up to take the part.
Similarly, running for high-profile, always-on-TV political offices today takes a certain kind of person, regardless of political party or platform. If being in the spotlight and living for being told you are So Very Important isn’t your bag, you’re just not going to be that electable guy. Being successful at national, celebrity-level campaigning and politicking today requires being the kind of personality that is a more than a little vain and self-centered.
This is why the “Washington culture” we all disingenuously claim to hate never changes. Even those elected official we elected to Shake Things Up find they really, really like it the way it is when they get there. Because if they weren’t the kind off people that lived to be part of that kind of culture, they never would have run and we never would have elected them. It’s also why you should never be surprised (and indeed, should probably just assume) that the Boy Scout family man you were sure loved his wife and kids the way you love yours invariably turns out to be boinking someone on the side.
The Errol Flynn Fallacy
The Errol Flynn Fallacy occurs when people allow themselves to be fooled by political figures into believing things on a very tiny and arbitrary scale are actually on a ridiculously large and Important scale.
The most obvious example over the past decade has been where parties disagreed on whether there should be a 36% marginal tax rate or a 37% marginal tax rate. The difference between the two was portrayed by half the country as the difference between Liberty or Tyranny. It was betrayed by the other as the difference between an Equitable Society and an Oligarchy. In reality, obviously, it was neither. Indeed, the actual numbers 36 and 37 were rarely mentioned at all by pols or pundits, who wanted to make the divide between the two sides seem larger and more potentially catastrophic than was actually the case.
For those too young to know, the Errol Flynn Fallacy is named for the Hollywood actor and sex symbol known for playing swashbuckling roles such as Robin Hood, Captain Blood, and Gentleman Jim in the 1930s and 40s. He was famously handsome and charming, but he was also fairly short.
Since movie producers believed a short actor would not be properly be idolized by men or lusted after by women to pull in the desired ticket sales, they went to somewhat ridiculous lengths to make him appear taller than than he was on screen. In the movie Robin Hood, for example, Olivia de Havilland was made to wear wide flowing dresses that were too short for her, so that it looked like she was standing up straight when she was in fact crouching underneath the dress whenever she was in a scene with Flynn. In other movies, you will often only see him in crowds from the waist up, because he would be standing on a box.
[Image: Screenshot from Scholastic Rock’s I’m Just A Bill, via YouTube.]