Uncommon Nonsense and the Common Sense Fallacy

Now that North Carolina’s state government has officially named the red herring as its state fish, it is worth noting that other logical fallacies are at play in the explanation of recent legislation aimed at discriminating the LGBT community.

Allow me to introduce to you the “common sense fallacy”.

A double first cousin of the bandwagon effect (ad populum for you nerds), the common sense fallacy is when someone tries to convince you of some “fact” through the use of baseless logic. Think of it as persuading someone of something by saying that everyone else thinks the same way. It’s very much like the bandwagon effect but you build your own wagon and hire the band to play a bad song you wrote yourself.

Consider these common uses of the common sense fallacy:

“Everyone knows it.”

“It goes without saying.”

“It makes total sense.”

“Even my little sister could understand that.”

“It’s just common sense.”

This rampant use of the common sense fallacy is especially evident in the defense of the new HB2 bill by those who helped push it through a special session of the General Assembly on March 23rd, 2016.

Gov. Pat McCrory calls HB2 a “common sense law.” Lt. Gov. Dan Forest calls HB2 a “common sense” solution. Rep. Paul Stam calls HB2 a “common sense bill.”

However, if the last three years in North Carolina have proven anything it is that many of our elected officials have confused common sense with special interest and political ideologies. What is being marketed by these politicians as common sense really is nothing more than uncommon nonsense.

If HB2 is a “common sense law” as Governor McCrory says, then how common is the support for the law from businesses and industries? Common sense would lead me to ask what companies have gone on the record to support HB2. If there is support from job creating industries as the governor claims, then wouldn’t it be common sense to tell others who they are? Those entities who are against HB2 have been very forthcoming. Even celebrities are voicing opinions against HB2. Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Buffet are probably writing songs about it, and if they do, I will play them on my bandwagon.

If HB2 is a “common sense law,” then why has the governor had such a hard time coming up with decent answers to common sense questions about his role in its becoming law? Why has he avoided explaining himself when he has had so many opportunities to do so like a real leader would? That’s not common sense; that’s avoidance.

If HB2 was a “common sense solution” as was stated by Lt. Gov. Forest, then what is the problem it is solving? Over 200 cities with similar ordinances to the one Charlotte enacted in the country have reported exactly no violations of sexual predation based on people pretending to be a gender they were not in a public bathroom. Did anyone have the common sense to ask these other towns with similar ordinances if any “problem” had ever arisen that needed a solution of the type that HB2 supposedly offers?

If HB2 was a “common sense bill” as Rep. Stam claims, then then why did it need to be drawn, revised, ratified, and signed into law with an uncommon special session with an even more uncommon time table? If it made so much common sense, then why all of the secrecy? If HB2 is a “common sense bill,” then why does it include the withdrawal of citizens’ rights to file a discrimination suit for job termination in a state court?

H.L. Mencken has been quoted as saying, “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.” How appropriate this quote is in this situation.

If you create a problem, you get to control its explanation and even craft a solution. There are enough logical fallacies to use to maybe convince a great many people. However, if the explanation and solution are so totally nonsensical then no logical fallacy can mask them.

HB2 is simply a mean piece of legislation. It goes without saying that even my 8-year old son understands that.

One solution to this ill example of lawmaking is to roll it up as toilet paper and flush it down a public restroom, preferably in Charlotte.

A better solution is to vote people like McCrory and Forest out of office.

And everyone knows that.