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Justin Trudeau And The Goldilocks Syndrome

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True, the prime minister's affection for going Goldilocks on Canadians isn't as severe as leaning into the microphone and saying "wrong." But it belittles the Canadian public all the same.

Just as importantly, American politics presently demonstrates how quickly the slippery transition goes from rhetorical tactics to embracing techniques of propaganda.

But let's back up a bit and explain something about our Mr. Trudeau and his Goldilocks syndrome.

Philosophers have identified over three hundred of these mischievous rhetorical habits.

When I used to teach critical thinking courses in university, we'd spend some time listing and discussing fallacies, otherwise known as irrational and illegitimate ways of arguing one's point.

While some philosophers have identified over three hundred of these mischievous rhetorical habits, we'd normally only cover the more popular, such as: ad hominem ("attacking the person"), non sequitur ("it does not follow"), and begging the question ("assuming what needs to be demonstrated").

Fallacies, I explained to students, all attempt to divert the argument away from sound reasoning to some unconnected and irrelevant side-issue. I was always sure to add that we should avoid their use, not exploit their power.

Why the warning?

justin trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves to the crowd at a Chinese New Year parade in Vancouver on Jan. 29 (Photo: Ben Nelms/Reuters)

Like some dark power newly obtained, learning about fallacies and their emotionally persuasive, but illegitimate force, can be quite a temptation when arguing with the uninformed.

And while it might not be noticed at first glance, proper arguing has a moral component to it: One shouldn't convince people with tricks of language.

This apparently wasn't a lesson learned by our prime minister during his university days. In fact, it's now quite obvious Mr. Trudeau thinks he's quite within his rights as prime minister to use fallacious reasoning to prop his decisions and policies in Parliament, and in front of the cameras.

His emerging favourite? The "Goldilocks fallacy."

Despite its rather benign name, it carries as much deceit as the other fallacies, especially because it's being done to obscure significant matters of national policies and legislation. It's an attempt to avoid real political debate and justification.

Make no mistake: It's an assault on democracy.

"Mr. Trudeau's rhetorical strategy isn't benign. It belies the notion that his policy decisions cannot be described to Canadians; that facts are not within the ability for us to grasp or argue through."

Just like the three bears' porridge, Mr. Trudeau's modus operandi goes like this: "Well, the NDP have one suggestion that's too cold. As for the Conservatives, theirs is too hot! Mercy me, what to do?! I guess we have no choice but to chose the one that's just right. Mine."

It shouldn't go unnoticed that Mr. Trudeau is clever enough to always add how much he respects everyone's right to their opinion. Nice in itself, but in the midst of a rhetorical ploy, it's not nice at all. It only adds insult to injury.

I first noticed this self-serving justification as he approved an environmentally and economically disastrous LNG agenda in B.C.: "Unfortunately the members opposite either think we're not going fast enough or we're going too fast."

So pleased with the rhetorical success of the Goldilocks fallacy, he tried it out again when he approved the tarsands pipelines: "One side of the House wants us to approve everything and ignore indigenous communities and environmental responsibilities . . . the other side of the House does not care about the jobs or the economic growth that comes with getting our resources to market."

three empty bowls
(Photo: Roxannemaritz/Getty)

This sort of tactic -- especially in the hands of a powerful politician -- usually gets worse before it gets better. So now, a rhetorical tactic has turned into a growing dependence on subterfuge, this time to justify breaking a promise made to Canadians about electoral reform.

Couched once more in the prefatory mention of "respect for all points of view," our prime minister proclaims, "But there is no consensus, there is no sense of how to do this. And, quite frankly, a divisive referendum, an augmentation of extremist voices in this House is not what is in the best interests of Canada."

Mr. Trudeau's rhetorical strategy isn't benign. It belies the notion that his policy decisions cannot be described to Canadians; that facts are not within the ability for us to grasp or argue through.

It is an affront to the high standard of accountability and transparency a prime minister should respect, not denigrate.

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