Skip to content

Another post from the Antibogan site that breaks down some of the common misconceptions used to justify hatred of refugees and Muslims in Australia.

you said it...

Interest-free home loans for asylum seekers? Muslims responsible for majority of rape? Higher Centrelink payments for refugees? Wow! How come the mainstream media aren’t jumping on all of these stories?

Sandra Rogic aka Sandy Mitchell isn’t known for her intelligence. But when she posted these porkies on a public Facebook page the other day, we thought it only appropriate that we respond with some facts.

Myth:

Screen Shot 2013-01-20 at 10.26.24 PM

Fact:

Health Care:

The Australian Medical Association affirms that those who are seeking, or who have been granted, asylum within Australia have the right to receive appropriate medical care without discrimination, regardless of citizenship, visa status, or ability to pay. Like all seeking health care, asylum seekers and refugees in Australia should be treated with compassion, respect, and dignity.

The AMA makes the following observations and recommendations in relation to the health care of asylum seekers and refugees:

Health and Welfare of Asylum Seekers…

View original post 1,409 more words

Fear-mongering in Advertising

I recently flew to Queensland with JetStar airline, and the inflight magazine contained this add.

20130115-155001.jpg

This add contains two examples of Begging the Question that are clearly intended to elicit a fear response in the reader.

The first is the sub-heading claim that you can ‘Use your mobile phone to the fullest WITHOUT THE RADIATION’

This statement clearly assumes the premise that a) Mobile phones give off radiation, and b) that this device will protect you from the radiation. A) is a fail uncontroversial premise, as it is widely known that mobile phones transmit using microwave radiation, however B) is a claim that would need some significant evidence to support. The word ‘without’ implies a complete negation of the radiation, which is unlikely to be achieved by a simply adding a distance of a couple of feet between user and device.

The second example of ‘begging the question’ is the second dot point in the white box which states that you can use your phone ‘without frying your brain’.

This is, of course, begging the question that you are frying your brain through ‘normal use’ of a mobile phone to begin with. While the radiation from mobile phones is rated as a “possible carcinogen”, there is yet any conclusive evidence of cancer, or “brain frying” happening as a result of using mobile phones. Clearly this statement is intended to generate another fear response with hyperbolic language.

Note that while the ad does not explicitly state that mobile phone radiation ‘fries your brain’, the sequencing and use of these phrases heavily implies the conclusion, and this ad appears to be encouraging the reader to draw the false conclusion that mobile phones are hurting their brains, and that this phone accessory can protect them.

It’s the old advertising strategy of creating a problem, then selling the solution. Only I wonder if major mobile phone manufacturers are really happy with other companies publicly implying that their products for customers brains?

That’s an iPhone in the add! Are they implying that iPhones give me brain cancer?!. I wonder if Apple have anything to say about this…

The second

In any argument, a couple of key requirements are that terms are defined and that and proposition or premise must be supported by evidence and a reasoned explanation.
Sadly, I think most of the people showcased on this blog have never learned the basic needs of argument. Or decency. Or, possibly anything beyond a 9th grade education.

you said it...

Taken from the ‘Support Tony Abbott’ page on Facebook, here’s a quick look at the more common criticisms of our female Prime Minister. To be fair, we’ve taken comments from both females and males on the page. Julia Gillard (and feminists in general) cop insults such as fat, ugly, left at the alter (sic), misandrists, feminists (is that an insult?), lesbians (is THAT an insult?), bullies, hypocrites, thugs, obese, grumpy, stupid, McTurds, barge-arse, retard, red-headed cum bucket, face planking cow, evil, big butt, cunt, skank, gutter trash, piece of shit, bush pig, thunder thighs, lard arse, amoral slut. (The red highlighted words are female/appearance related).

Enjoy the read, and share it around if you so desire. If not to expose the hatred and unabashed sexism that exists within these people, but perhaps to highlight the irony that such internally and externally ugly people could be so hypocritical.

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 8.52.57 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 8.53.07 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 8.55.55 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 8.55.19 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 8.55.30 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 8.56.13 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 8.56.27 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.04.43 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.13.25 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.11.31 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.11.40 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.07.34 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.07.10 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.06.39 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.04.29 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.04.02 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.14.03 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.14.58 PM

View original post

One of the reasons that the illogical rantings of paranoid fear-mongers are given any credence in today’s society is because many news outlets place those opinions in equal standing with logical and scientifically valid information.

Recently ABC’s Mediawatch ran a piece about false balance issues and Meryl Dorey’s Australian Vaccination Network. It not only highlights the issue of false balance in reporting, but the show did the right thing and labelled anti-vaccination claims, particularly those of Merryl Dorey and the AVN, and ‘pure, unadulterated bologna’.

Here’s the clip: http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3601416.htm

Bravo, ABC.

The exception that proves the rule

The phrase ‘the exception that proves the rule’ refers to the idea that, when an exemption to a rule must be identified, then that proves the existence of the rule in the first place.

It is used slightly incorrectly in common parlance, and I can’t express it’s correct use and more clearly that the Wikipedia page which states that:

The original meaning of this idiom is that the presence of an exception applying to a specific case establishes that a general rule exists. For example, a sign that says “parking prohibited on Sundays” (the exception) “proves” that parking is allowed on the other six days of the week (the rule).

This use of exemptions to identify general rules provides an interesting perspective on political decision making, and in Australian politics this was highlighted quite nicely in the 2012-13 federal budget.

The budget included a change to health care rebates that would review all alternative therapies and fund only those that were shown to be clinically effective . This identification of clinical trials and scientific research as the basis of a budget decision cause some concern against alternative therapy practitioners and supporters.

However, the need for the reliance on scientific research and clinical trials to guide budget and policy in this specific case highlights the existence of the general rule that these things do not play a prominent role in policy making!

In an increasingly scientific world, where there are significant and growing bodies of research to support human behaviours in a almost every aspect of our lives, it is an interesting speculation on just how much that research affects government decisions on policy. And in cases where the research does not influence policy, it raises the question of what does!

Consider some of the following areas of government policy and their relationship (or lack thereof) to research in public debate.

Climate Change
Coal Seam Gas Mining
Education
Agriculture, Fishing and Livestock management
Incarceration and rehabilitation of criminals
Taxation and social growth/development
Equality and Equity in business/employment

‘Spot the research reference’ is an interesting game to play when watching politics. But it is a very, very slow one and currently the scores are very low.

Chemtrails: Another ‘Evidence Optional’ Conspiracy Theory.

This post arose out of a conversation on facebook in which someone I know was claiming that plane contrails near his home were actually chemtrails, streams of chemicals being sprayed into the atmosphere by passing planes. This is a conspiracy theory that has been growing for a while now. It revolves around the belief that there is a covert plan to use airborne chemicals to achieve one of a number of effects (weather control, for example) but that they are doing so at the cost of the health and wellbeing of the general population.

I cried shenanigans on the claims being made, and asked for proof. The video below was provided as evidence of the possibility of chemtrails. Now, ignoring the obvious problems – it’s an American video discussing very specific American history and circumstances that in no way ever touches on Australia – the video is another great example of manpiulations of logic that are intended to confuse and disorient the viewer in the hope that they will buy into the overriding argument that plane contrails are actually chemtrails, and that they are part of a large covert operation whose goals and outcomes are uncertain, but cannot be trusted.

While I engage in an analysis of the video, I only did the first ten minutes because, well, it’s all bad, and repetitively so. There’s harldy a single logically consistent statement in the whole thing, and interviews are cut and edited together to create sequence that encourage false conclusions by the audience at almost every turn.

Before I do go into the video, however, I also want to address the concept of the chemtrails conspiracy.

For this conspiracy to be true, for us to believe that the majority of planes flying overhead are spraying chemical agents into the atmosphere, of which the majority of planes are commercial craft, that means we have to believe in a conspiracy that organises efforts among multiple international airlines to see to the maintenance and refilling of these spraying devices on planes, as well as the transportation and storage of unknown tonnes of chemicals for spraying that then need to be loaded onto planes by ground crew working between dozens of planes at an airport. And all of this has to happen without one person knowing about it, or for all those who do know about it to be committed to the secret. That’s dozens, if not hundred, of workers, and hundreds of airports around the world, being coordinated by… one particular government? A secret cabal representing all world governments?

There are a lot of pretty big claims that have to be believed for such a conspiracy to even seem feasible. Or perhaps those people arguing for the conspiracy theory just haven’t given it that much thought.

Anyway, on with the video, which can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEfJO0-cTis&feature=youtu.be

The video begins with a montage of shots of sky and clouds with some contrails. A an edited together voice over accompanies this, and at the start of the voice over there is a title graphic that says “INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED GEOENGINEERS AT A RECENT CONFERENCE”. There is no title to the conference, nor a date. The use of the term ‘recent’ suggests one of the following: that either a) the filmmakers did not understand the concept that this film might be watched for a period of time after the date of its release, and thus ‘recent’ is not an adequate term, b) they do not know enough about the standard practice of academic referencing that requires specific titles and dates so that original sources can be identified and accessed for verification, or c) they are being deliberately vague for their own purposes.

The snippets that make up the voice over are, first and foremost, taken out of context and clearly edited together to create the illusion of continuous meaning, while clearly using very short sound-bites out of context. For example, the first extract is of a male speaker that accompanies the graphic title, saying “So lets say we were doing geoengineering because we wanted to make the weather a little bit better.” A second extract is then cut in that comes from a different male voice, identifiable by it’s much deeper tone, different accent and less nasal quality that the first voice, and it says “There’ll be monsoon failures during that period. There’ll be huge hurricanes. The global studies indicate there will be some impact on precipitation patterns.” These two extracts are clearly taken out of context and edited together to try and convince the audience that the discussion of adverse weather effects is linked to the practise of geo-engineering.

This editing continued, with at least two more distinctly different male voices talking about disruptions to food for up to 2 billion people, and other disastrous consequences. All extracts are provided without any greater context than the vague title graphic.

So in the opening minute of the film we have what appears to be a very deliberate use (I say deliberate because I’ve never known anyone to edit together a film ‘by accident’) of a common logical fallacies that in this case is being constructed for the audience. The fallacy in question is the Argument from Authority, the idea that if a person of authority says something, then what they say must be true because of their position. In this case, we have a very low standard of proof even of the authority of the speakers, especially as their quotes are taken out of context. The unthinking viewer is likely expected to just believe the graphic title that these voices are people of such high renown at a vaguely identified conference.

The montage resolves with a shot of one of the speakers at a podium, who is identified by a graphic as ‘Kevin Caldeira, geoengineer’. His final statement as the montage dissolves into the shot of him at the podium is that (paraphrased) ‘Aerosols can be used to affect precipitation and run-off, but it’s likely to cause some damage in some places.’

We then get the title graphic for the film “Why in the world are they spreaying? An investigation into one of the many agendas associated with Chemtrail/Geoengineering programs (weather control)”. The graphic overlays an image of the earth as seen from space with a yin-yang symbol, and images of tornado’s and other weather effects, with animated lightning over the top. The Yin-Yang symbol is an interesting choice, but no context is given.

Following the title graphic, we have a continuation of the edited montage approach to filmmaking, with a series of videos being sequenced together with very little context to the content of each clip, but all relating to each other in a way that would be very easy to build up a non-sequitur conclusion, or a conclusion that does not logically follow form the evidence presented.

Here’s a quick summary taste of what follows:

Cut to shot of young girls (5-6 years old?) Saying how they want to grow up in a world full of nature because they love nature.

Cut to shot of man with title graphic identifying him as ‘Dane Wigington: Solar Expert / Climate Researcher’ who says that he thinks geo-engineering programs are the biggest threat to anything that ‘lives and breathes’ on the planet, short of ‘nuclear catastrophe’.

Cut to a shot of another man who is not identified by any title graphic, who defines geo-engineering as the artificial modification of the atmosphere, and states that scientists are proposing spraying tones of ‘toxic aluminium’ and other substances into the atmosphere for the purpose of cooling the planet.

Cut away to a shot of another man standing at a podium while two people at a table beside the podium are looking off to their right, presumably at some visual aide to the speaker’s presentation. A title graphic identifies the speaker as ‘David Keith: geoengineer’. He states that one strategy is to increase the earth’s reflectivity, making the earth ‘whiter’ so that more light is reflected away from the earth thus imposing an overall cooling tendency on the planet.

Cut away to another shot of Ken Caldeira with title graphic again, as he says that most climate models show that reflecting away more light will address climate issues in most places most of the time ‘but it will cause damage in some places’.

An edited transition back to David Keith, though this time without the title graphic, as he explains that aluminium has been considered as an atmospheric spray, and that there is research in to the damaging effects of aluminium on the environment going back to the 70’s.

Cut back to the previously unidentified man who is now identified by title graphic as Michael J. Murphy: filmmaker, who is, in fact, the writer, producer and director of this current video. In this clip, Murphy delivers the summary conclusion of the strong of out-of-context clips that he has just presented us. He says:

“Since we released “what in the world are they spraying,” hundreds of people from around the world have began (sic) taking rain tests. What they’re finding is what many are calling the chemtrail geoengineering footprint of aluminum (sic), barium, and strontium.”

It then cuts away to a graphic of the earth and the next sequence.

This statement by Murphy engages in multiple logical fallacies that are intended (consciously or unconsciously) to confuse the argument.

First of all, he does not reference any verifiable scientific analysis or study of rain samples. This means that any findings of ‘hundreds of people’ are not actually evidence of any findings. This is a variation of the Argument form Authority, except the authority is placed not in a single person, but in the numbers of people (supposedly) making similar claims. Murphy does not, however, provide names or references where these hundreds of people or their rain tests can be found. Murphy also engages in a fallacy which appears to blend the non-sequitur with the fallacy of ‘begging the question’. He states that people are starting to call their findings the ‘chemtrail geonengineering footprint’, however he has not yet presented any solid evidence to suggest such a title is deserved, with the effect of connecting the word ‘chemtrail’ to the concept of aluminium being in the atmosphere, with the apparent expectation that the audience will make a false logical connection to the previous clips that suggested that spraying aluminium in the atmosphere might be a viable practise.

This takes us to 3:44 into the film. The six minutes that follow are an astounding sequence of edited clips that, to my mind, comprise an example of the ‘gish-gallop’, a con–man technique in which you throw lots of facts and figures and emotional statements at the listener with the aim of confusing them and overwhelming them with information to the point that they can’t keep track of all the inconsistencies and just buy into the appearance of validated argument.

I will provide a summary of key points from this sequence, as well as identifying some of the key logical fallacies put forward by Murphy and Wigington.

The graphic of the earth zooms in on ‘lake shasta’ and a voice over by someone later identified as Francis Mangels: USDA Biologist. He is also the first person in the video whose work history and academic qualifications are identified, as having spent 35 years in USDA Soil Conservation Service, and as having an MS degree Zoology, BS degree in Forestry. He says ‘Whenever you see the jet chemtrails go over, you’re gonna get aluminum (sic), barium and strontium coming down on you’.

Here we have another example of begging the question: he uses the term chemtrails without offering any proof that there are chemtrails.

Cut to Wigington, who delivers the following statements.

“Why would we not believe that its happening when what we see in the sky matches exactly the express goal of numerous geonengineering patents, about 160 or more? Why would we not believe this is happening when every element showing up in the rain tests are the primary elements named in those geoengineering patents? Why would we not believe this is happening when we have escalating levels in very short time frames, as much – as short as five years, we see rain levels of aluminum(sic), for example, escalating as much as 50,000%. California air quality studies do not show these metals migrating from China, and its of recent origin so, you know, this bombardment of heavy metals that’s raining down on us is coming from somewhere. Why would we not believe geonengineering is occurring when the weather patterns are so altered here in exactly the manner stated by geonengineers and reports on the consequences for geonengineering, which are diminished rainfall, which are increase ozone destruction. We have a massive ozone hole in the Northern hemisphere now.”

This sequence of statements contains a significant number of common logical fallacies. Perhaps the most prominent is the confusion of association with causation, which is the belief that just because two things happen together or in a short span of time, then there must be a cause and effect relationship between them. It is this logical fallacy that has to do with a lot of superstitious belief or magical thinking. Someone who sneezes on the day of a large earthquake elsewhere in the world might come to believe that their sneezes cause earthquakes. In similar fashion, Wigington poses the question “Why would we not believe geonengineering is happening when…” in relation to a number of phenomenon. Well, in the realm of science, you would not believe it because it hasn’t been proven, not has the null-hypothesis been examined and proven/disproven. If we were to take Wigington at his word that certain effects exist (ozone hold, metals in the rain, descriptions of ‘geonengineering patents, etc) then here he is assuming a causal relationship based on the similarities between what he observes and things he claims to have read in patent documents. Scientific proof of cause and effect requires a much greater standard of evidence than a perceived link, and Wigington is relaying on at least one obvious logical fallacy to try and confuse the audience into buying into the argument.

Then we cut back to Mangels, who tells us that metals should be in the soils, but not in the rain, and he makes a statement about an unidentified authority telling him his rain samples were contaminated. On screen is then shown a document with the letter head of the ‘national testing laboratories’, but with all of the client’s details blacked out. A result sowing zero aluminium is highlights, while Mangels says that if the samples had been contaminated, then there should be aluminium in the rain along with the barium and strontium. A graphic on screen says that more rain test results are available at a particular website.

Cut to a woman identified as ‘Barb Peterson: Small Farmer/Rancher, Researcher, Radio Host, Farmwars.info’, who is again describing the metals that are associated with geonengineering. And then makes the statement that ‘this is devastating for plants/ The trees are dying’. To support her claim, she makes the statement that she went for a ride around ‘the back’ of her property and saw ‘total devestation’.

Cut to a shot of Murphy and Wigington together in a green field, standing over a plant that is brown and appears to be dried out and dead. Wiginton states that it ‘looks like it has been hit with some kind of chemical’ and then says’ and there’s another one there, there and back over there’ as he points to various places off camera. It is worth noting at this point that while the plant they are standing over does appear to be dried out ad dead, the grass around the plant is green, and there are no other visible brown plants of the same type visible on screen, nor are they shown in any cut away shots. He then states that 70-80 foot trees are also dead (no accompanying shots), an that the USDA refuses to investigate it.

Cut back to Mangels who talks about increased soil pH in the area and says that ‘since the contrailing got heavy, (he) watched the pH here… go from 5.6 to 20 times more alkaline.’

Cut back to Wiginton in his original frame (i.e. before he was standing over the plant) who also states that the soil in the area has changed significantly in 5-6 years becoming much more alkaline, and that he has ‘personally tested the soil along with USDA scientists’ who just ‘scratch their heads’ as to why the changes are occurring. He also states that there have been extensive studies of the soil. No studies, or scientists, are referenced in any way.

Cut back to Mangels who lists off metals and metal oxides and then repeats the figure that the soils have become 20 times more alkaline.

Then cut back to Wigington who makes the most profoundly illogical statements of the video so far.

He says “There are simply too many dots here that connect. Our skies are almost never blue anymore. That is a named consequence of geonengineering.”

First of all, he starts by making a statement that suggests the assumptive nature of his line of argument. He does not draw together hard, referenced, verifiable evidence to form a conclusion, instead invoking the image of ‘connected dots’ as an encouragement to see connections between the clips that have been shown so far. He then states that the skies are almost never blue any more, while standing in frame with a clear and cloudless blue sky! What does he mean by skies almost never being blue? No specific descriptors are provided, and again he is making assumptive connections between observations without any evidence.

These clips continue for some time, with out-of-context figures, graphics of letters and shots of plane contrails in the sky all accompanying more voice overs and shots of Mangels and Wigington, all adding to the ‘gish-gallop’ of information that is, ultimately, unsubstantiated within the context of the film, and therefore not quantifiable as evidence for the argument being put forward.

Then, at 9:13 we return to Wigington who makes a series of statements that… well… I’ll describe then comment.

He says “Why is asthma, ADD, Alzheimer’s, autism, all elements related in many studies to aluminum(sic) or particulate inhalation – why are these el – why are the ailments going off the charts with no apparent explanation? Why has respiratory mortality in the continental United States gone form 8th on the list to 3rd in six years? And no one seems to ask any questions. Why everybody, uh, every other person has asthma now, why every other commercial on TV is an allergy medication, and again, when David Keith, the world’s most recognised geoengineer, was asked on the record, had there been any studies done as to the consequences of dumping 20 million tons of aluminum(sic) into the atmosphere, his answer was patently, “No”.

For those interested in honing their skills in identifying logical fallacies, the above passage should be in a text book.

First of all, Begging the Question, the fallacy of making a statement or asking a question in which a contested premise is assumed to be true. With only one exception, every clause of every sentence represents an example of this fallacy. There are so many assumed premises in this passage, some of which are patently ridiculous. First of all that all of these ailments are ‘going off the charts with no apparent explanation?’ – first of all, what constitutes going ‘off the charts’ and where are the figures of diagnosis rates that support such a concept? Secondly, what justifies the statement that there is ‘no apparent explanation?’. I’m not even a scientist and I can provide one explanation very easily, and that is because many of these conditions have only been identified and become diagnoseable conditions in the past few decades.  Hans Asperger first wrote about the syndrome in 1944, and it wasn’t recognised as a syndrome of its own until 1981. So if you look at figures of aspergers diagnosis, you’re going to see that they rise significantly from 1981 onwards. The point here is that Wigington makes statements without evidence, and in such a broad and general way that they are easily countered by simple logical arguments.

He is also notably engaging the Argument from Ignorance. Basically, he is making the argument that because he (and the average person) doesn’t understand the cause or nature of the things he is describing, therefore they must be associated with, if not caused by, geonengineering. The troubling thing about the use of the Argumenr from Ignorance is that the person using it is either genuinely ignorant, and lacks the understanding (or capacity to understand) that the limits of their knowledge do not define the limits of reality OR they are well aware, and are being knowingly disingenuous and manipulative.

This is as far as I could go with the analysis of the video, largely due to the fact that further analysis would end up as a repetitive explanation of how similar fallacies are used in different ways. The video does not offer any greater standard of logical argument or evidence, and continues to draw on fallacious arguments, particularly the argument from authority (one of my favourites being when a former TV weatherman comments on Russian geonengineering in the 1970s affecting the United States). Ultimately it offers no proof (that I could find) that the contrails of aeroplanes are actually chemtrails of aerosol sprays being used to modify weather patterns, which is a crucial step in the conspiracy theory being put forward, and the one person in the video who actually talks about weather modification using radio antennae, actually says that particles in the atmosphere are not needed to make it work.

In short, while it offers some interesting examples of American government and military investigation into weather manipulation, the video offers no proof of chemtrails, and goes a long way around to imply the existence of chemtrails so that the lack of evidence is not immediately evident.

If there’s a particular part of this video you think deserves closer attention, then please post a timestamp in the comments and I’ll have a look at it, but having exposed myself to the majority of this conspiracy theory mash up, I’m pretty confident that logic, evidence and rigorous investigation are nowhere to be found.

Repost: #LSLD, Just Add Logic; Won’t Hold Water – part 2

Final repost, and it’s part 2 of the break down of government announcements about their Local Schools, Local Decisions policy.

In this next instalment of this series, in which I subject public announcements on education reforms in NSW to an analysis of logical argument to see what, if anything, they are actually saying, I will be going back in time a little to April 22, when Director-General of the Department and Education and Communities released a video statement addressing some of the issues with the Local Schools, Local Decisions policy.

The video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DrIxTVGTWU&feature=relmfu

As before, I offer no counter argument or comment on the policy, and intend only to identify how well the logical argument of this announcement stands up to scrutiny.

Here we go:

After a greeting, Ms. Bruniges opens with:

;

“I want to take this opportunity to tell you why local schools, local decisions is important for making our great public education system in NSW even greater.”

This is a great opening as it outlines a clear thesis for this message – this is the primary point that this video is attempting to prove. It means that from this announcement we should reasonably expect a clear explanation of how this policy will result in improvements in our public education system. There is one potential pitfall here, however, in that the words ‘great’ and ‘greater’, while colloquially used to mean ‘very good’ and to indicate an improvement on a scale of either effectiveness or efficiency, ‘great and ‘greater’ could also just mean ‘large’ and ‘larger’.

;

“These are important changes and I know you’ll have a lot of questions.”

This statement is made without any qualifiers. Will she be addressing our questions? Offering an opportunity to ask those questions? Or is she just acknowledging that the audience might have questions? It is not made clear. It also does not directly follow form the thesis, but given that we are still in the introductory passage of the announcement, it does not definitely qualify as a Non-Sequitur, as it may be a sub-thesis that this announcement will address.

;

“I want to address some claims that are being made about the educational reforms that are simply untrue.”

This next sentence, which does not address the audience’s questions, nor does it begin to develop the argument of making great schools greater, feels somewhat like a divergence from the thesis. It is, however, engaging in the logical fallacy of Begging the Question – making a statement or asking a question that is based on the assumed truth of another unproven premise or statement. In this sentence she begs the question that claims being made about the policy are untrue, she does not offer to explain why or how they are untrue, which would be a requirement of formal, logical argument.

“I want to be very clear from the outset, that Local Schools, Local Decisions (LSLD) is an education reform built on putting students at the centre of what we do. It is not about cutting the amount we spend in schools.”

Again, this does not follow directly from the previous statement. It does, however engage in another example of Begging the Question in the implication that the current model is not ‘student centred’. This is, in effect, making the argument that the current model of school management has something other than ‘students’ at the ‘centre’. For a comment about an education system, this might seem like quite an extraordinary claim and therefore, to paraphrase Carl Sagan’s famous quote, will require some extraordinary evidence.

;

“The education minister has stated that the education budget is not going to be reduced. When you look at the education budget after taking away the commonwealth government stimulus packages, the amount spent on education by the NSW government has continued to increase steadily. Let me restate this point. The NSW govt. has made it clear that their investment in education will not decrease.”

This section was accompanied by a series of bar graphs that represented annual spending on NSW public education from 2008 to 2012, indicating a consistent increase, with figures inside the bars on the graph indicating a spending increase of 1.6 Billion.

The first sentence of the paragraph, however, begins with the logical fallacy of Argument from Authority, depending on the authority of the position of the minister as a substitute for any actual proof or guarantee of truth in that statement. While the minister may well have made that commitment, such a statement does not replace the need for proof to support the claim. Anyone who remembers Prime Minister John Howard’s promise not to introduce a GST, or PM Julia Gillard’s promise not to introduce a carbon tax will appreciate why a politicians promise does not actually mean anything.

This statement about finances, and the bar graph, presents itself as being one of two possible logical fallacies. Either an example of the non-sequitur, in which there is a logical link implied where none exists, or it could be an example of a previously unseen logical fallacy, which is that of the Genetic Fallacy. This fallacy suggests that the origins and history of something will automatically shape its current and future state. Whether Non-Sequitur or Genetic Fallacy, this argument that suggests that because budgets’ have increased that they will continue to increase is incorrect as it offers no argument for the safeguarding of that growth and is not, therefore, a reliable logical argument.

The final statement, while seemingly an emphatic statement against decreased budgets, makes a distinct change in the use of language. The previous sentences used the word ‘budget’ whereas this sentence uses the word ‘investment’. The different potential meaning of these words could be unintentional, or they could be deliberate. Lacking further explanation in the video, the difference can only be highlighted at this point.

;

“There’ve also been lot of claims made about what local schools, local decisions will mean for your employment status. I want to set the record straight. LSLD will not affect teacher tenure.”

This is a rather direct statement, but offers no actual evidence or detailed explanation to support the point. Ms. Bruniges does not state that current tenure will remain, nor does she offer an alternative. Without evidence, however, this is another example of Argument from Authority, in which Ms. Bruniges is drawing on her own authority in place of any evidence to prove the statement.

;

“Furthermore, the state transfer system, including incentive and nominated transfers will continue.”

This statement again has issues of specificity of language, however the general intention seems to be to say that current arrangements for state transfers will remain in place. However, once again there is no evidence or explanation offered, and this statement continues from the previous Argument from Authority, placing it within the bounds of that logical fallacy.

What follows is a series of singular statements that are made without explanation or evidence, and which have issues of specificity of language. Without evidence, such as specific details about the wording of new policies, or explicit explanation as to the how and why of each statement, they effectively remain unproven statements and have no reliable meaning. As all of these statements follow in a similar fashion from the earlier argument form authority, I assume that they are intended to be taken as true because Ms. Bruniges is saying them. Unfortunately this still does not replace the need for actual evidence.

I’ve added a few comments on the specific issues with each statement:

;

“Principals will not be required to fire teachers. If a teacher is to be dismissed, that decision will be made by a senior officer of the department.”

How is that similar or different to current arrangements? Either way it needs to be explained.

;

“Principals will continue to assess and manage the performance of their staff, as they always have.”

Same question/statement as above.

;

“LSLD will in no way affect the permanent employment status of staff.”

Nice statement to hear, but still no explanation.

;

“Suggestions of widespread casualization of the teaching staff are unfounded, irresponsible, and untrue.”

The use of the words Unfounded, Irresponsible and Untrue require explanation and evidence. If specific claims have been made, can you prove that they have no reliable evidence? What makes them irresponsible? How can you prove them to be untrue?

“Of course, from time to time, there will be a need for schools to hire a temporary teacher to meet the specific needs of a particular cohort of students, or to assist with a particular initiative.”

How is that similar or different to current arrangements? Either way it needs to be explained.

;

“I reject any suggestion that we should not allow schools the flexibility to organise a temporary position at their school if it is designed to meet an immediate need or manage a particular situation such as a decline in resources due to falling enrolments.”

Another example of begging the question that depends on the audience believing that someone has actually made the suggestion that schools should not be allowed to hire temporary staff for targeted position. Ms. Bruniges needs to identify who has made that suggestion, and in what forum. Most news-watchers would be familiar with phrases such as “In a press release on (date), (person) stated that…”. Such a reference would constitute evidence. Without such a reference, this statement engages in logical fallacy and offers no reliable information.

;

“We have already organised to meet with the teacher’s federation to discuss these matters.”

Yes? And? So? What?

Again, no explanation to give this statement meaning. All it could prove is that an offer of a meeting/discussion has been made.

;

“But let me be very clear. The one size fits all approach to school staffing where we ignore the unique needs of some students and some school communities must, and will end.”

Begging the question: Are schools currently built on a one-size-fits-all model? Do schools ignore the needs of some students? These are extraordinary claims that require extraordinary evidence, and within this statement there is no evidence at all.

Also, the opening statement of Ms. Bruniges message described schools as ‘great’. Does our ‘great’ system ignore some students’ needs? This seems self-contradictory, unless the intended meaning of the word ‘great’ was actually just ‘large’.

;

“I know there’s a lot more work to be done to implement local schools, local decision reforms. I know they matter to you.”

Statements of personal opinion. No evidence really necessary as she is not arguing that they are true. We can leave these alone.

“Which is why I’ve created a joint consultative group to help provide advice through this process. I have invited the three principals groups, as well as the aboriginal educational consultative group, the NSWTF, the institute of senior educational administrators, the public service association, and the federation of P&C of NSW to joint that group.”

This is a description of action, and as such fairly innocuous as she is not trying to argue that any contentious point is proven by this description.

;

“Some important changes are already under way. From today the procurement processes used by principals have changed to help schools get a better deal. Principals will be free to make more local decisions or purchases of items up to 5000 dollars, allowing you to support local businesses and suppliers where you can get best value for money.”

I want to take a moment to pause and reflect on the paragraph above. It states a premise, that schools can get a better deal. Then it explains it by outlining that schools will now be able to deal with local contractors. This is, so far, the closest to a logically supported premise that we have seen so far in this announcement. I wanted to draw special attention to it as hopefully seeing this example of an argument with explanation will make the lack of supporting explanation of other points even clearer.

I must also point out, however, that this statement does engage a number of examples of Begging the Question in the assumptions that schools CAN get better ‘deals’ or ‘value for money’ locally. There do not appear to be any guarantees or offers of support in place for anyone who cannot negotiate such a better deal themselves.

;

“We want you to be able to get the job done quickly and without having to fill in a lot of forms.”

Begging the question: are current processes unnecessarily slow and paper-work heavy? More explanation needed.

;

“LSLD is about recognising that the school is the centre of our work.”

Begging the question: Does this mean that prior to LSLD the school was not recognised as the centre of ‘our’ work?

;

“It is where the learning happens. It’s where relationships are formed between teachers, students and their parents and communities. Importantly, it’s where our students develop their love of learning.”

These statements are fairly innocuous. Moving on:

;

“LSLD gives people working in our schools further flexibility and freedom to make decisions so that students get what they need, when they need it.”

I assume that this statement is re-enforcing the previous statements about dealing with local contractors. If it has greater meaning, particularly with the use of the words ‘flexibility’ and freedom’, then that meaning is not explained.

;

“It enhances your capacities as principals and as teachers to be responsible professionals that you are.”

How? By buying stationary from a local retailer? Explanation needed.

;

“It strengthens your authority to exercise your professional judgement, and I believe that this reform will build momentum to strengthen our core business of teaching and learning.”

How? How will the ability to get a local painter to cover graffiti make the professional judgement of a teacher ‘stronger’? The meaning of this statement is either much broader than the specific details of this message so far, or it is a non-sequitur.

“I hope that we can all work together as educators and people who support public education to make sure that we use this opportunity wisely and that we get the details right so that at the end of the process we will have built a schooling system that better supports teachers and principals as they strive to give each student the best possible education.”

Personal statement – fairly harmless.

;

So in a five minute video, there is one logically explained statement about being free to seek goods and services at a local level, but one that still engages in the logical fallacy of begging the question.

Furthermore, the original statement that this video would “tell (you) why local schools, local decisions is important for making our great public education system in NSW even greater” does not seem to have been addressed, meaning that the argument within this video did not achieve its stated purpose.

For this announcement to hold together logically it would have required a clear and detailed explanation of how elements of the LSLD policy would lead to increased ‘greatness’ of the school system. This would have, of course, required a more clear definition of what it means for a school system to be ‘great’ in the first place, and what ‘greater’ would look like. Given that the few statements that referred to specific changes were made without evidence or explanation, they do not actually stand as evidence in support of the original premise.

So after a five minute video, the question of how LSLD will actually make our schools ‘greater’ remains unanswered.

In my next post, I will deconstruct one of the videos from the New South Wales Teacher’s Federation on the subject of LSLD – however, unlike the videos from the Department (so far), NSWTF videos tend to run for over 10 minutes and involve more than a single speaker, so it will require more careful analysis and take longer to write.