Be very afraid

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Anyone who has ever sat semi-conscious through a semester of Philosophy 150 understands the fallacy of appealing to emotion.

In case your notes were too drool-stained to read, the appeal to emotion is when someone attempts to manipulate others’ emotions, rather than using valid logic, to win an argument.

But something more serious is happening in the Canadian government. Not only are politicians appealing to emotion to win arguments, but they are using it get laws and bills passed.

Canadians have historically seen this type of fear mongering in American politics and laughed from afar, but not anymore. If Canadians think that politicians aren’t continually appealing to their emotions rather than facts to get bills passed in Parliament, then we should have paid more attention to the news.

It’s been done before.

The government was able to pass Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, on the basis that it would put more bad people in prison. The government passed this emotionally-charged act despite a huge backlash to the bill based, in part, on hard factual evidence from multiple jurisdictions in the U.S. that proved beyond a doubt that mandatory sentencing does not lead to lower crime rates.

And it’s not entirely clear why such an emotional change to the criminal justice system was required. Multiple studies show that crime in Canada is decreasing, yet the government passed a bill in which it would make it easier to put more people in to the costly Canadian prison system.

And now the Conservative government is at it again.

Last month, when Public Safety Minister Vic Toews stood up in the House of Commons and introduced Bill C-30, he did so not by providing evidence, but by using emotionally -charged words that would get a reaction out of the Canadian public. He did not provide numbers, statistics, and studies that show why Canadians need police and other government agencies to have easier access online surveillance use. He did not use legitimate examples of how this bill would protect Canadians.

Toews stood up, stole a line right out of American history, saying, “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”

Déjà vu much? 

George Bush made a similar argument when addressing a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001,  just nine days after the Sept. 11th attacks.

Instead of providing real information about why Afghanistan or Iraq are actual threats and why the U.S. needed to start a war, he stood up and said, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

The sad truth is that the public continually keeps playing right into the hands of these politicians.

Although it is important to note that Toews has not yet been successful, if history repeats itself he is on the right track.

Gone are the days where fact-based evidence was used to get policies passed. Now all a politician has to do is use words like “criminal,” “terrorist,”, and “pornographers,” to get their bill passed.

The question that needs to be asked is not, “When are politicians going to stop using these fallacies,” but, “When is the public going to stop falling for it?”

Either the public needs stop allowing emotional appeals to work, or their government is going to continue to fail them.

Natasha Tersigni
News Editor

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