BlogLogic—Rumors of Sarah Palin’s Affiliation with the Alaska Independence Party

It’s been interesting to see how things have unfolded on the Mudflats blog, which purports to be “tiptoeing through the muck of Alaskan politics.”

The host goes by the handle “AKMuckraker.” Today she published a post titled “Palin – Republican Party Infiltrator? Damning Video.” With a title like that, you hardly need to read further to know what’s up:

There’s a video that incriminates Sarah Palin by showing her past ties to the Alaska Independence Party (AIP) and her secret plan to advance that party’s aims by infiltrating the Republican party.

That’s the muckraker’s thesis.

If you want to know what’s so damning about the video, or whether it’s damning at all, then you might want to read the post. The muckraker connects the dots that lead to her conclusion. And she’s remarkably confident of her conclusion.

The only problem is, her evidence doesn’t support her conclusion. Her argument is fallacious. If it’s not a specimen of conscious bias against Palin, it’s at least a case of wishful thinking gone awry.

The video features a small gathering of crazies scheming about how best to achieve the secessionist goals of the Alaska Independence Party. So we’re told. We have to take the muckraker’s word for it that this video is not a setup. We’ll give her the benefit of the doubt here. We’re also told that a key participant seen and heard on the video is Dexter Clark, vice chairman of the Independence party. Fine. We’ll go with that.

The muckraker then provides transcripts of bits of the video. Since these are the portions she uses to make her argument, let’s assume that they are the most damning evidence in support of the muckraker’s conclusion.

The first excerpt shows Dexter Clark estimating the number of American soldiers and dependents who “could be eligible to vote” for Alaska “Statehood.” Of course, Alaska has been a state since 1959. Ah, but it isn’t yet a “State,” as in “independent nation state.” The excerpt doesn’t disambiguate for us, but I take it that Clark is referring to the independent-nation-state kind of state, and he’s calculating the number of votes his party might be able to count on in a referendum on Statehood.

OK?

Well, maybe not. The ensuing paragraph, where the muckraker explains things for us, leaves us in greater suspense. How is “Statehood” really being used here? It isn’t easy to tell.

It might not matter. The basic idea seems to be that the Independence party was shafted by a rigged vote about Alaska Statehood, and the desired result of the AIP went down in smoke.

We come, then, to the next excert, what the muckraker calls “the good part.” Here Clark lauds the election of Sarah Palin to become Alaska’s governor, even though she did so as a Republican. Clark explains why this is good news for his Independence party. Palin had once been a member of the party. The only reason she switched parties and became a Republican was to “get along and go along” (Clark’s words).

At this point, vagueness corrupts the argument. What does Clark mean by “get along and go along”? Presumably, he’s suggesting that at the time of Sarah Palin’s move to the Republican party, she was still an Independence party member at heart and that her new role as a town mayor might work out better if she had the appearance of being a Republican. She couldn’t have been much of a Republican, suggests Dexter Clark, since she discovered that “she all kinds of problems with their ethics.” This is clearly the message that muckraker gleans from Clark’s musings.

The joy in seeing Sarah Palin become governor of Alaska is rooted in Dexter Clark’s perception that Palin remains sympathetic with the AIP cause. And this is based on two things, Palin’s prior membership in the AIP, and Clark’s perception that Palin isn’t a sincere Republican. Clark’s perception that Palin isn’t a sincere Republican is itself based, in part, on Palin’s past association with the AIP. Clark’s perception of Palin’s continued affinities for the AIP is reinforced by his perception of a clash between Sarah Palin and the Republican party over the ethics of the party.

The net effect is supposed to be that Alaskans now have an AIP governor, disguised as a Republican, who can be counted on to reintroduce the issue of Statehood and perhaps facilitate the achievement of the AIP’s primary objective. What makes the whole thing really rich is that, because governor Palin is such a popular figure in her state, many Alaskans would probably vote with the AIP and everything turn out hunky-dory for the AIP.

So strategists in the AIP propose to infiltrate the two mainstream parties, get these pseudo-members elected to municipal and state offices, and watch them use their positions—synchronizing their efforts, of course—to bring about independence for Alaska.

This seems to be the basic trajectory of Clark’s reasoning process.

And the muckraker is floored by this. The video excerpts are so unbelievably damning that the muckraker thinks her readers might want to sit down before they are presented with the evidence she presents.

What’s truly unbelievable is that the muckraker finds the argument so compelling. Indeed, to sort it out you might need to sit down for a spell.

Here’s the argument:

  1. Dexter Clark is the vice chairman of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP). [Fact]
  2. If Dexter Clark is the vice chairman of the AIP, then his proposed strategy for achieving independence has been adopted by the AIP and its members. [Assumption]
  3. Dexter Clark’s strategy for achieving independence has been adopted by the AIP and its members. [MP, 1 and 2]
  4. Dexter Clark’s strategy for achieving independence is for members of the AIP to switch to one of the two main parties, get elected to government positions, and use their new authority to sponsor independence for Alaska.
  5. Members of the AIP agree to switch to one of the two main parties, get elected to government positions, and use their new authority to sponsor independence for Alaska. [Conjunction of 3 and 4]
  6. No member of the AIP ever leaves the AIP except in pursuit of Dexter Clark’s strategy for achieving independence. [Assumption]
  7. If a person who was once a member of the AIP and is now officially a member of the Republican party, then that person has left the AIP and inflitrated the GOP in order to advocate for independence. [Direct implication of 6]
  8. Sarah Palin was once a member of the AIP and is now officially a member of the Republican party. [Assumption or fact, as the case may be; that depends on the truth value of the first conjunct; we can safely believe that the second conjunct is true]
  9. Sarah Palin has left the AIP and inflitrated the GOP in order to advocate for independence. [MP, 7 and 8]
  10. If Sarah Palin has infiltrated the GOP in order to advocate for independence, then Sarah Palin is not a genuine Republican. [Direct implication of 7]
  11. Sarah Palin is not a genuine Republican. [MA, 9 and 10]
  12. If Sarah Palin is not a genuine Republican, then Sarah Palin is unfit to become Vice President of the United State. [Assumption]
  13. Sarah Palin is unfit to become Vice President of the United States. [MP, 11 and 12]
  14. If Sarah Palin is unfit to become Vice President of the United States, then we should not vote for John McCain in this year’s presidential election. [Assumption]
  15. We should not vote for John McCain in this year’s presidential election. [MP, 13 and 14]

Statements 10-15 do not appear in the muckraker’s post. They are gleaned from the tone and content of this and other posts at her blog, and my suspicion that she does not want John McCain to be the next President of the United States. In any case, we can dispense with them here.

The above argument can be simplified by extracting three of the numbered statements, 7-9. The resulting argument is as follows:

  1. If a person was once a member of the AIP and is now officially a member of the Republican party, then that person has left the AIP and inflitrated the GOP in order to advocate for the independence of Alaska. [Assumption]
  2. Sarah Palin was once a member of the AIP and is now officially a member of the Republican party. [Assumption or fact, as the case may be; that depends on the truth value of the first conjunct; we can safely believe that the second conjunct is true]
  3. Sarah Palin has left the AIP and inflitrated the GOP in order to advocate for the independence of Alaska. [MP, 1 and 2]

Notice three things about statement number 1.

First, it is an assumption that is never actually stated in the argument.

Second, it is crucial to the argument, since the muckraker never so much as hints that Sarah Palin was in the room when the video was shot, or even that Sarah Palin has unequivocally embraced Dexter Clark’s strategy for achieving Alaska’s independence.

Third, it isn’t true.

How’s that for a specimen of BlogLogic?

* * *

Why have I written this post?

One should not infer from what I’ve said here that I support the McCain/Palin ticket. That would require another instance of specious reasoning.

I have two reasons for writing this post.

First, Sarah Palin should be defended against arguments that violate the principles of sound reasoning. So should any other candidate. But Palin has been the target of incessant, vicious attack with arguments constructed on manufactured evidence. This seems to be the current number one priority of the muckraker. (Again, that’s what muckrakers do.)

Second, I can at least hope that exposing the barrenness of a BlogArgument—or Blogument, if you will—is a contribution to the common good, as a call to sound reasoning in the public square.

Advertisements

About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

8 Responses to BlogLogic—Rumors of Sarah Palin’s Affiliation with the Alaska Independence Party

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    Hello again, JP (you are keeping me busy!):

    Right. The public should have the facts—unvarnished, if possible. That is looking less and less possible in the current climate of media coverage and commentary.

    At this point, I’m not sure what the public “deserves.” But, in principle, yes, they should have the facts. Again, unvarnished, if possible.

    Like

  2. JP says:

    Indeed, if you go to Youtube and search for “Palin Alaskan independence” you will find video of her saying just this (often accompanied by commentary, but the video of Palin herself is the thing of interest). And far from some distant past, that address was given in March 2008.

    Frankly, I think the whole thing is a non-issue, other than to highlight the fact that Palin has repeatedly put her state first, even claiming that her acceptance of a VP nomination would be contingent on that providing some benefit for Alaska. Given that she is the current Governor of Alaska, that just seems to be telling her primary constituency what they want to hear, and hardly surprising in a professional politician.

    Still, the public deserves the facts, and the facts are that Todd Palin was a long-term AIP member until very recently, Palin still accepts the opportunity to provide video addresses to their conventions, and the AIP claim Palin as a kindred spirit. The voters can decide what to do with this information, and I suspect it swayed very few – certainly compared to the numbers who were swayed against Palin by her lack of substance and knowledge of issues.

    Like

  3. Doug Geivett says:

    JP,

    Thanks for taking the trouble to make explicit the argument you have in mind in your indictment of Sarah Palin on this issue of Alaskan independence.

    Suppose we refine the first two premises for greater accuracy, as follows:

    1) If Sarah Palin currently disapproves of Alaskan independence and Sarah Palin is not a liar, then Sarah Palin would never, at any time in the past, have said, with specific reference to Alaskan statehood, “Keep up the good work.”

    2) Sarah Palin did, at some time in the past, say, with specific reference to the promotion of Alaskan independence, “Keep up the good work.”

    Premises (1) and (2) call for a little support, wouldn’t you say?

    I actually have little knowledge of Governor Palin’s past history with the Alaskan independence movement. Political mendacity is abhorrent to me, whether “politically expedient” or not. Suppose that we have little choice but to weigh the comparative duplicity of candidates on our ballots. Where does that lead us on the alleged mendacity of Palin in comparison with your “hypothetical” regarding Obama?

    Like

  4. JP says:

    Yep Doug, you’ve proved that we can’t assume that Palin is sympathetic to the AIP, just because Dexter Clark says so. I guess we’d need something more solid, like Palin recording a video address to their 2008 annual conference, wishing them all the best with their objectives.

    Remember: video exists in which Palin, as Governor, says (to the AIP membership): “keep up the good work”.

    I could dress that up as a bunch of undergrad formal logic (I’ve taught it, too):

    1) If Palin disapproves of Alaskan independence and is not a liar, then she would not call promoting it “good work”. [By definition of “disapprove” and “liar”]

    2) Palin calls promoting Alaskan independence “good work” [Video exists]

    3) It is not true that (Palin disapproves of Alaskan independence and is not a liar) [From 1 & 2, modus tollens]

    4) Either Palin approves of Alaskan independence, or Palin is a liar, or both. [From 3]

    Go on, fault the logic.

    Clearly, she’s just doing her job as Governer, giving a meaningless welcome message to a conference. But if you want to get all literal and logical, then …

    And AKMuckraker’s question stands: What would Republicans say if Obama gave such a message to an Illinois society promoting Sharia Law? A society that suggested getting elected by faking Christianity was the way to go? Of course, if the Republicans had a history of honorable behaviour in such matters, then perhaps they wouldn’t keep getting dragged over the coals for double standards.

    Like

  5. drchill says:

    Hey Alex,
    I’ll try again. You both seem to think that an argument was presented by AKMuckraker to -prove- something.
    An inductive argument seeks merely to show it is probable, or likely, not to prove it is in fact true.

    The ‘damning evidence’ (NOT “Damning Proof”) is a video tape of an AIP official stating that -Sarah Palin was a member of AIP- and that this fact is supposed to be under wraps.
    Doug dismisses the AIP group as crazies.
    Thus demonstrating the use of an ad hom – right out of logical fallacies 101.
    Congratulations.

    I should stop right there, with Doug’s use of a logical fallacy to ignore the source of evidence, and thus ignore the main point.

    Alex, the straw man argument was, in this case, treating the article as if it was a deductive argument intended to prove a point, when in fact it was an article suggesting the likelihood that SP had much closer ties to the AIP than she had let on.

    I think the use of the question mark was used at the end of a real question. A blogger will often write thoughts as they occur. Like –
    Should I even bother with these guys?
    Its just a question I’m asking myself right now.

    Like

  6. Alex says:

    Doug and others,

    I thought the formalization of the muckraker’s reasoning evinced careful consideration and thought, an attempt to be dispassionate; this is a goal it seems all of your commentators have not appreciated.

    Drchill, you don’t seem to understand the distinction between formal and natural deduction. Formally numbering one’s thoughts (of another’s thoughts) and noting a formalized principle of natural deduction –‘Modus Ponens’– is only telling the audience which natural deductive principle connects one idea to the next. Any argument, inductive or deductive, must follow natural deduction, else it would be fallacious (even if the conclusion were true!).

    Also, I’d be curious to know what you think qualifies an argument as a straw man.

    Lastly, do you think that the use of a rhetorical question mark might have been intended?

    Like

  7. drchill says:

    Do either of you consider, quotes – statements, as evidence with weight?

    I’ve studied logic too, and the single most common mistake of logicians is to hold inductive inference to the standard of formal deduction.

    Yours is , simply put a straw man argument.

    Doug, you seem to happily infer that his numbered points are propositions in akmudracker’s formal deduction.

    The carefully placed question mark in the title of muckraker’s article, should provide you some evidence to ponder. Is the author making claims of fact and of solid proof, or leading the reader to consider a likely interpretation of available evidence?

    Hmmm I’ll let you ponder that, and the question mark after the paragraph above.

    —-

    Let me break it down for you.

    Consider missing cookies from the jar.
    Someone produces a photo of little Johnnie with cookie in hand in the jar.
    Mommy confronts Johnny with this “damning” evidence.
    Johnny have you been taking the cookies?

    Enter a logician that assumes
    1 Mommy is accusing Johnny
    2 The picture could be Johnny putting the cookie in the jar, it could be doctored, or planted evidence

    Offers an argument that Mommy is full of beans.

    Then I come in and defend mommy who is following the evidence, and using the correct punctuation. – ?

    Like

  8. lucidlunatic says:

    Interesting. I would even go so far as to just say that there is no actual evidence given that A. Sarah Palin was ever a member of the AIP or B. She left for the reasons given, if she was. I, frankly, find it somewhat absurd. Even if by some far fetched chance it is, I don’t see it as a strike against her. Alright, Alaskan independence, not what I consider a major issue, but if it deserves to be discussed, sure. Go ahead.

    The logic doesn’t need to be faulty when you can just remove the facts it’s based upon as false.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: