The Fallacy of Context Omission

Black bloc

[Black bloc in Heiligendamm, 2007, source]

A Croatian protester, , has arrived in Hamburg to protest the G20 summit and doesn't like the security precautions:

Arriving in Hamburg this week feels like entering a dystopian nightmare. As the city prepares to host the G20 summit this Friday and Saturday, many roads are blocked and high-security zones have been established. More than 20,000 police, many heavily armed, are patrolling the streets, backed up by drones and the latest surveillance technology. Helicopters are permanently “parked” in the clouds, so the sound of their rotors becomes a sort of background music you soon stop noticing. Perpetual police and ambulance sirens, emergency lights and water cannons accompany the orchestra of power.

This is an example of a type of argument I find especially irritating. As everyone who even briefly follows the news knows, there is a reason for these security precautions. And not just because there are a lot of powerful people at summits.

The reason is that, in 2007, the G8 held a summit in Heiligendamm, Germany. Germany is a favorite target for demonstrators, because it's easily reachable from all over Europe and has liberal laws on freedom of protest. Thousands of protesters, including at least 2,000 violent black-bloc militants, descended on that city. The result was burning cars and barricades, violent clashes, thousands of injuries on both sides (g) and millions in property damage. (Reliable estimates are hard to come by, because the Wikipedia entries on the 2007 G8 protests seem to be lively battlegrounds of editing and counter-editing.)

In other words, the G8 summit in Germany in 2007 turned into a violent catastrophe during which only random chance prevented loss of life. To prevent a recurrence, German security officials have instituted tight security for all later summit meetings, resulting in a much lower level of violence and destruction.

However, Horvat never mentions this context. He wants us to obediently shudder in horror at terrifying, Orwellian security precautions, without mentioning why they were taken. He apparently wants us to pretend the black bloc doesn't exist, and/or that the authorities shouldn't respond to their violence.

This is what I call the Fallacy of Context Omission. It doesn't seem to quite fit in with any existing recognized fallacy, but perhaps I missed something. The structure is simple: You decry a controversial state of affairs, and invite the reader to become morally outraged about it, without mentioning the context that led to the state of affairs and provides a rationale for its existence.

Examples:

Situation: Overpopulation of deer is causing serious problems, so authorities issue more deer permits.

Invitation to moral outrage: "The authorities have authorized a massacre of innocent deer because they despise animals!"

Situation: Cops put up more radar checkpoints because traffic accidents have risen significantly.

Invitation to moral outrage: "The cops are taking away our freedoms because they need more cash from fines!"

Situation: Heroin deaths and public drug use have increased, so the city creates methadone clinics and safe rooms.

Invitation to moral outrage: "The city authorities are subsidizing drug use!"

You get the picture. This fallacy shows a contempt for the reader's intelligence and understanding, since it presupposes (or demands) the reader's ignorance of obviously relevant facts.

The irony is that Horvat is a philosopher, so you would ordinarily assume he would be more attuned than most people to the need to avoid fallacies. But alas, he's the kind of philosopher who is more likely to "interrogate" logic than to use it.

7 thoughts on “The Fallacy of Context Omission

  1. Confected outrage. Disingenuous radicals. These morons have about as much justification for their violence as the mods and rockers who descended on Brighton or the soccer louts who consider sport as a venue for mindless tribal fighting.

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  2. A while ago, you’ve mentioned that the conflict of our times is one between globalists and “the little man”. Where would you position yourself in this context regarding anti-G20 protesters? After all, they’re the little men here, whereas the elites are clearly the economists and politicians, right?

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  3. @ doctor benway:

    I don’t think many of the protesters represent the “little man” at all. Violent thugs might be a much more appropriate description. The little man has to suffer most of the consequences of their antics in the form of destroyed cars and shops.

    Unfortunately their criminal energy is triviliazed, often by persons like the philosopher Andrew described in the post. Notice how often these violent criminals are referred to as mere “activists” in the German media.

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  4. There are thousands protesters out there, and probably many of them only earn a bit more than the minimum wage. The violent scumbags are mostly from a footie ultra background who crawl out of the woodwork whenever there’s potential for a riot, but they only represent a small part of the demonstrations. Remember Seattle 1999 or Genoa 2001? Things didn’t change much since then. If all the counter-G20 protesters were as violent as those few nihilists, do you really think that so many BILD or TV reporters would be reporting directly from the frontline?

    It’s interesting to see those magazines/blogs who’ve spent the past months railing against “globalism” (e.g. Die Achse des Guten, PI-News or Tichy’s Einblick) now siding with the evil elites, though.

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  5. @ doctor benway:

    1. As a citizen, I want the police to take hard measures against such people. Unfortunately, even many of the peaceful demonstraters automatically side with these thugs against the police, out of a very simple-minded worldview which views almost all state institutions with disproportionate rejection.

    2. You have a romanticized view of those protesters in my opinion. I would bet that many of them don’t have a job at all or study some social science with the goal of extending their time at the university as long as possible. That’s not to say that studying sociology is bad, just a finding that a certain type might be over-represented among those protesters.

    3. I disagree with your comments about those blogs. Tichy and Achse are “railing against globalism”? The term is hardly used on those sites. If you search for “Globalismus” at Tichys Einblick, you get only 3 results since 2015 (only 5 at Achse).

    https://www.tichyseinblick.de/?s=globalismus

    Even if you disagree with their editorial stance, the general standart at Achse or Tichy is higher than at PI-News, where the comment section is sometimes downward ugly (and globalism might be used more often). “Globalism” itself is, at least in my experience, a term which is often used by the Alt-right. Which makes it contaminated, since the Alt-right is also a playground for antisemitic conspiracy theories. Tichy and especially Achse are definitely NOT part of the Alt-right. The main problem here might be that you see every person/blog to the right of Merkel as “basically the same”, when they’re not.

    And I don’t necessarily think Tichy and the others are siding with the evil elites. I think they’re siding with law and order and against the all-to common downplaying of the actions of violent leftist extremists.

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