Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Concerning the Appeal to Location

I guess it's a minor variant of the "appeal to authority" fallacy, with the person making it implicitly claiming to be that authority.

The example I have in mind goes something like this (paraphrases cobbled together from multiple such comments over the years):

"I bet you've never been within a hundred miles of the Mexican border. If you had been, you would know, as I do (because I live in e.g. Laredo, Texas), that your opinions on borders and immigration are completely wrong. You haven't seen what I've seen, etc."

Now, I could respond that I've spent plenty of time not just within a hundred miles of the Mexican border, but occasionally right on that border and even across it. And that at the moment I've spent more than eight years living inside the 100-mile "Constitution-free zone" where the American police state just pretends the Bill of Rights doesn't exist where immigration is concerned.

But all of that would be irrelevant. While location can be a good thing in terms of making it easier to collect information, it's not a substitute for information. It's fallacious to assume that having spent time in a particular location makes one's claims incontestable simply because one has spent time in that particular location.

My assumption is that most of the people appealing to location vis a vis borders and immigration also have strong opinions on many things happening elsewhere.

I don't tell them "I bet you've never been to Washington, DC, and I have, so you should probably STFU about Congress and the president."

I don't tell them "I bet you've never crossed the mine fields separating Saudi Arabia from Kuwait, got first degree burns from getting too close to a burning oil well, and rummaged through Iraqi bunkers full of feces and gore and booby traps while hunting documents, and I have, so you clearly can't have an informed opinion on Desert Storm."

Either they can support their arguments with fact and logic, or they can't. And whether they're in Brownsville, Boston, or Boca Raton when they try to do so is largely irrelevant.

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