The question beggars

Most people these days who are all ideology and no practical sense (the majority of Americans paying attention to politics or world affairs) fit into this category. Whatever their passionate pet issues, in most cases those issues’ edifices rest upon unproven (perhaps unprovable) foundations.

They are the question beggars.

‘To beg the question’ is a phrase whose meaning many people mistake for ‘to suggest/imply/demand/ask the question.’ That’s incorrect, and someone cares enough about this to have created an educational webpage on the topic. What it really means, borrowed from that website and quoted with gratitude:

“Begging the question” is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself. When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place.

So. We see a lot of this tendency to assume something is self-evident, when in fact it isn’t. If pundits repeat this something often enough, they hammer it into the popular mental canon of fact. The audience will come to assume that a given statement is the proven, fundamental fact, rather than a simple unsupported assertion. Another term for this is ‘propaganda.’ Joseph Goebbels produced it very effectively for the Third Reich. Nowadays it is about all we get, and it is about all most of us want. The question beggars, and those who propel them, have discovered two golden truths:

Very few people have time, skills or inclination to check all the facts behind every statement. David Irving got by for years on this, trying to paint Hitler and Nazi Germany in a less awful light than do the facts. He finally ended up in a lawsuit in which the court sicked a couple of real historians on his source material. Neither it nor his interpretation of it held up. And yet, believe it or not, Irving still has some surprisingly articulate partisans.

Very few people seem to believe that someone who sounds authoritative would engage in gross distortion. It amazes me, because I hear and read of so many people who claim not to believe most of what they hear and read. In the next moment, they will be citing it as gospel. And when you ask them what underlies their belief, they have nothing. “It is because it is.”

One finds question beggars in multiple ideological neighborhoods. When the question beggars hit the streets, it’s common to give their ideas cover in something that is socially unbearable to assail. Religion and patriotism are among the more common, but the bolder will venture forth into editing (typically distorting) history.


I drafted this around Thanksgiving 2013. It has sat in my drafts folder for over two years.

I think this bond has just reached maturity.


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