31 October 2010

The Billy Goat Gruff Diversion

Sometimes when I'm waxing lyrical on some point that gets my goat (see what I did there?), I am told to pipe down and divert my ire towards some more pressing concern. So, if I'm criticising (say) creationists, someone might say, "There are millions of people starving - why are you complaining about moronic anti-scientists and not doing something about THAT? Surely that is a bigger problem?" And then if we go off and start trying to tackle that, we're accused of not caring enough about AIDS or abused children etc.

A goat yesterday.
The issue is not that these are not all difficult and important problems - what is really happening is that the Billy Goat Gruff strategy is being employed against you, in order to get you to stop criticising whatever you are criticising. It is not because the person really cares about this other issue - it is simply to try to divert the argument to somewhere they are more comfortable. It is a rather dishonest and devious debating strategy (and we've all used it - let's try not to, eh?)

So the next time some eejit comes trip-trapping over my bridge, forget about asking me to wait for the next one - I'll eat this one and the next one too.


  1. You could also call it the "Gruffalo" strategy...

    hang on...do you think "The Gruffalo" has been nicked from the "Billy Goat's Gruff"?

    why are we discussing these fallacies when we should be correcting the injustice of Children's writers nicking ideas from fairy tales, and making a fortune out of it - that's what I'd like to know?

  2. Ah - that is a different diversion, but a very good one nonetheless. That's like "I'm having tea with a Plantinga".

    "A Plantinga? What's a Plantinga?"

    "His brain is big, his words are long, but all his arguments are circular and wrong."

    "Where are you meeting him?"

    "Here by these pants, and his favourite topic of discussion is warranted belief where warrant boils down to any old brain fart that happens to agree with his prejudices..."

  3. That's a book you HAVE to write!!!!

  4. Ah, so much dark material, so little time!

  5. I think the rhyme scheme breaks down in the second stanza...I could be wrong, though, I'm not very artistic.