- Pretend your opponent has actually said something they haven't that you know people will be likely to oppose - known as creating a strawman argument.
- Attack the person making the argument to distract people from what they've actually said - known as an ad-hominem.
Both were utilised to great effect yesterday by the Mail and the Sun in response to new proposals fror changes to sex education.
Perhaps surprisingly, it wasn't the Sun that went for the option of the personal attack. Instead, it went for pretending its opponent argued for something it actually didn't, with 'Condoms for kids call', which claims:
THE Government was today urged to offer free condoms to schoolchildren in order to prevent teen pregnancies.This, along with the use of the word 'kids' makes a link with pre-11 year olds and free condoms that doesn't actually exist in real life. The only places the actual leaflet mentions are bars, and since it's talking about teenage pregnancies, it's unlikely that it's referring to children younger than teenageers.
It called for all children to undergo a course of sex and relationship classes before the age of 11 - unless their parents opt out - in order to enable them to make "informed choices" regarding sex.
The language of the article paints the picture of adults approaching schooldchildren to give away condoms to them, but the leaflet only talks about making them freely available in places where young people might go.
Of course, most people will instinctively oppose approaching pre-11 year old schoolchildren and offering them condoms. Having them available in places where teenagers might go is a different kettle of fish. (And let's leave aside the role this paper plays in sexualising teenagers, with its competitions for young girls to take their tops off and its salivating anticipations for underage girls to reach 16 like it did with Charlotte Church and the girl from the harry Potter movies.)
The Mail, on the other hand, goes for the personal attack in ''Captain Underpants' MP who posed on gay dating site wants children as young as nine to be given sex advice'. The main thrust of the article is obvious from the headline. But that doesn't mean it tells the truth in the rest of the article.
It manages to mislead by ommission, with comments like:
Chris Bryant, who made the headlines in 2003 after appearing on a gay dating website in his underwear, also recommended distributing condoms in schools.Which leaves out the fact that the leaflet only reccommends that schools should consider having sexual health clinics where condoms are made available.
It also lies by, well, lying, by saying:
The MP for Rhondda also warned that many young girls get pregnant deliberately to secure a council flat.This is what the pamphlet actyally says about the subject, in the first entry of a section headed 'The Myths':
Many people believe that girls get pregnant so as to get a flat of their own from the Council. In fact 90% of teenage mums live in other people’s homes – normally their parents’.So it actually says the opposite, and calls what the paper is claiming a myth.
Littlejohn proves again that he lives in a fantasy world of his own creation in 'Hey, Gordon, leave them kids alone!', when he says:
Had I discovered that Bryant had been offering my children sex advice at the age of nine, I would have taken a baseball bat to him.In Littlejohn's world, Chris Bryant is actually responsible for actually writing the advice himself.
It's not as if he's not guilty of a little bit of misdirection himself, with:
I realise that puberty seems to encroach earlier with every generation, but I don't recall reading about any nine-year-old mothers - or fathers for that matter.Which seems to miss that the actual document he's talking about mainly mentions sex education for under 11s so that they're prepared for the changes that are about to hppen to them. Girls can have their first period before they're 11, and ought to know they're not, you know, dying. Maybe he doesn't know that because he hasn't read the actual report. You decide.
The moral of the story is that if the tabloids actually had a coherent argument against something, they'd use it. The reason you see these types of article, or the ones that exaggerate immigration or the effects of PC is because they don't have a coherent argument. So why do they go with these stories? More on that later.