I may have described a new fallacy, one that is the perfect marriage of psychology, philosophy and politix. But what should I call it? And is it really possible that a fallacy that makes daily headlines hasn’t already been named?
The story begins with what I have long called “phony philanthropy.” The star of the show is Bill Gates, but countless corporate tycoons and celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon. In fact, a teachers union whore (Trevor Neilson) who jumped ship for the late St. John Stanford’s train wreck before going to work for Bill Gates eventually started his own phony philanthropy business, advising celebrities who want to buy a little goodwill.
The basic formula is simple: An asshole “donates” money to some charity and is branded a nice guy.
It’s actually far older than Bill Gates; the Carnegies and Rockefellers represent another generation of phony philanthropists. But were they really phony?
Andrew Carnegie donated money that funded the construction of 2,509 libraries, which is far more than Bill Gates has done for education or even the IT industry. Still, Carnegie didn’t become a gazillionaire by being a nice guy.
Phony philanthropy can probably be seen as an offshoot of propaganda strategies designed to make people, organizations or ideas seem good. In fact, people and organizations have been extolling their goodness, even as they vilify their adversaries (a process called demonization), since time immemorial.
The opposite of demonize is canonize, or perhaps sanctify. When people or organizations promote their virtues in an effort to mask wrongdoing, it’s called whitewashing.
Before we continue, let’s look at this through a philosophical lens.
In the examples below, A represents a moral person, X an immoral person. B is a moral act, Z an immoral act. M represents a moral equation, while I represents an immoral equation. A question mark (?) represents uncertainty. For clarity, I hilited each value green (good), red (bad) and yellow (questionable).
But let’s keep it simple for now; I don’t want to get sidetracked by a strawman argument about the definition of morality or immorality. Most people would agree that murder is immoral, bad or evil.
- A > B = M
- A > Z = ?
- X > B = ?
- X > Z = I
1.If a moral person performs a moral act (e.g. giving food to a hungry person), we have a moral equation. 4. If a bad person (e.g. Obama) does something evil (e.g. orchestrating the invasion of Libya, which involved a lot of murder), we have an immoral equation.
But if one variable is moral, the other immoral, we have some confusion. If Obama donates $5,000 to an orphanage, does his act meet the definition of philanthropy? Even if we answer YES, does this act make Obama a moral or good person? Can it make up for all the suffering in Libya?
Suppose Obama’s donation is calculated to whitewash his image, with the media’s help. Most rational people would now consider his act compromised; even if it can be literally defined as philanthropy, Obama’s objective clearly has nothing to do with helping children.
On top of that, we have a conspiracy. And since it involves collusion between government and the media, it qualifies as a grand conspiracy—you know, the kind of conspiracy propagandists tell us aren’t possible.
Real life examples are typically more complex, because we may not know what’s going on behind the scenes. Is the actor a good or bad person? Was the invasion of Libya really bad, or was Obama just spreading democracy?
And do media headlines extolling an actor’s goodness represent collusion or simple journalism?
In fact, the word media is virtually synonymous with corruption among the politically astute. They don’t call’em media whores for nothing.
Getting back to phony philanthropy, let me give you a real-life example of the fourth example above, where a bad person does a bad thing, but the media promote the actor and act both as righteous.
The actor is global conman Bill Gates. The act consists of promoting genetically modified food (GMO), one of the most frightening dangers to both our health and the environment.
Bill Gates’ unyielding greed and countless crimes have been drowned out by an ongoing barrage of media lies. The media have further lied about GMO being endorsed by “a consensus of scientists.”
In summary, we have a double fallacy and conspiracy, all rolled into one. We might think of it as a phony philanthropy molecule that continues to snowball as more lies and fallacies are added to the mix. And the scope of phony philanthropy makes it an enormous socio-political issue.
But have I really discovered a new fallacy?
In fact, the fallacies I’ve been discussing can probably be classified as variations of the righteousness fallacy, which Bo Bennett (author of Logically Fallacious) defines like this: “Assuming that just because a person’s intentions are good, they have the truth or facts on their side.”
However, Dr. Bo is not a big believer in conspiracy and probably isn’t a big fan of the term I coined, “phony philanthropy.”
But whether I was even the first to coin that term is hard to say. Google now lists over 8,000 hits when you type in “philanthropy.”
Perhaps I’m not a lone voice in the wilderness after all.
Still, far to little research has been done on phony philanthropy, which I’ll be exploring in more detail in forthcoming books.
Now if I can just decide which book is most closely aligned with this topic—Conspiracy Science 101, Mind Control 101, Political Psychology and Philosophy or Bill Gates: Global Conman. It will certainly be discussed to some extent in all four.