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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

False Equivalence

Updated: Oct 15, 2023


Lately, I’ve noticed use of a logical fallacy by politicians, members of the Mockingbird media, and others who spread misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation as it relates to the September 11 attacks (9/11). The fallacy is known as false equivalence and according to one source:


The false equivalence fallacy is one where the speaker or writer compares one thing to another to try to draw a logical conclusion, when in fact no such similarity exists meaning that no such conclusion can be drawn.


To better understand this fallacy, it may be worth knowing the logical form associated with false equivalence:


Thing X and thing Y both share characteristic 1.


Therefore, things X and Y are equal.


As an example:


Vice President Kamala Harrisstated, “Certain dates echo throughout history, including dates that instantly remind all who have lived through them, where they were and what they were doing when our democracy came under assault. Dates that occupy not only a place on our calendars, but a place in our collective memory. December 7th, 1941. September 11th, 2001. And January 6th, 2021 [January 6th].”


The reason that drawing comparison between 9/11 and January 6th is a false equivalence is because nearly 3,000 people died in direct association to the 9/11 event and only one person—unarmed Ashli Babbitt—died in direct association to January 6th. These events are dissimilar.


Now, in association with the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, one source reports that an Israeli spokesman has stated, “This is our 9/11.” Though the number is disputed, the initial Hamas attack reportedly killed more than 1,300 people.


President Joe Biden stated of those who actively participated in January 6th, “Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists.”


According to one 2022 source, “For the past year, words like sedition, treason, and insurrection have been used to describe what happened on Jan. 6, 2021. Yet, none of the hundreds of people charged in connection with that day have been charged with those specific crimes.”


Minor quibble aside, Biden has labeled the Hamas attack as “terrorism.” One can understand comparison of 9/11 and the Hamas terrorist attack. However, analogizing 9/11 and January 6th is merely false equivalence.


Correlating a protest, that erupted into enclaves of rioting, with terrorist attacks is asinine. Likewise, conflating January 6th rioters with terrorists is absurd.


As a psychotherapist, I assist people with identifying irrational beliefs and then disputing these unhelpful assumptions. Herein, I’ve given a brief demonstration as to how this is accomplished.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW



References:

9/11 Memorial & Museum. (n.d.). Commemoration. Retrieved from https://www.911memorial.org/connect/commemoration

Arnold, R. (2022, January 6). Explainer: Jan. 6 has been called an insurrection, so why has no one been charged with that crime? Click 2 Houston. Retrieved from https://www.click2houston.com/news/investigates/2022/01/07/jan-6-has-been-called-an-insurrection-so-why-has-no-one-been-charged-with-that-crime/

Associated Press. (2021, January 7). Biden slams pro-Trump mob as ‘domestic terrorists’ [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/NudMWGigyjE?si=6XxtJjhNLDMY_Vc0

BBC News. (2023, October 9). ‘This is our 9/11’ says Israel, as Israel-Gaza fighting continues - BBC News [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/3vJm4Dofo7g?si=2v-RaqZyr5uu44Tx

Garriss, K. (2022, January 5). A look back at those who died during & after the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot. WFTV. Retrieved from https://www.wftv.com/news/local/lives-lost-during-after-jan-6-riot-us-capitol/FPQNJC3N55GX3AM6NFRDTOBOOQ/

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Blog – Categories: Disputation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/blog/categories/disputation

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2022, November 8). Information overload. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/information-overload

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/irrational-beliefs

LiveNow from FOX. (2022, January 6). Harris compares January 6 Capitol riot to Pearl Harbor & 9/11 | LiveNOW from FOX [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/DXrWGJ96B14?si=afwf29gVRkSdStBE

Marie, O. (2021, April 10). False equivalence: Definition & helpful examples of false equivalence fallacy. 7ESL. Retrieved from https://7esl.com/false-equivalence/

Nakhoul, S. and Saul, J. (2023, October 10). How Hamas duped Israel as it planned devastating attack. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/how-israel-was-duped-hamas-planned-devastating-assault-2023-10-08/

Reals, T., Tanyos, F., Ruiz, J., Tabachnick, C., Dakss, B., Breen, K., and Lopez, E. (2023, October 13). Israel-Hamas war latest: Israel tells north Gaza residents to evacuate with ground invasion expected. CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/live-updates/israel-hamas-war-gaza-strip/

White House, The. (2023, October 10). Remarks by President Biden on the terrorist attacks in Israel. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/10/10/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-terrorist-attacks-in-israel-2/

Wikipedia. (n.d.). 2023 Israel-Hamas war. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2023_Israel%E2%80%93Hamas_war

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Ashli Babbitt. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_Ashli_Babbitt

Wikipedia. (n.d.). January 6 United States Capitol attack. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_6_United_States_Capitol_attack

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Joe Biden. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Biden

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Kamal Harris. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamala_Harris

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Operation Mockingbird. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mockingbird

Wikipedia. (n.d.). September 11 attacks. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9/11

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