A Philosopher's Blog

Ad Baculum, Racism & Sexism

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Science by Michael LaBossiere on May 9, 2014
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I was asked to write a post about the ad baculum in the context of sexism and racism. To start things off, an ad baculum is a common fallacy that, like most common fallacies, goes by a variety of names. This particular fallacy is also known as appeal to fear, appeal to force and scare tactics. The basic idea is quite straightforward and the fallacy has a simple form:

Premise: Y is presented (a claim that is intended to produce fear).

Conclusion:  Therefore claim X is true (a claim that is generally, but need not be, related to Y in some manner).


This line of “reasoning” is fallacious because creating fear in people (or threatening them) does not constitute evidence that a claim is true. This tactic can be rather effective as a persuasive device since fear can be an effective motivator for belief. But, there is a distinction between a logical reason to accept a claim as true and a motivating reason to believe that a claim is true.

Like all fallacies, ad baculums will serve any master, so they can be employed as a device in “support” of any claim. In the days when racism and sexism were rather more overt in America, ad baculums were commonly employed in the hopes of motivating people to accept (or at least not oppose) racism and sexism. Naturally, the less subtle means of direct threats and physical violence (up to and including murder) were deployed as well.

In the United States of 2014, overt racism and sexism are regarded as unacceptable and those who make racist or sexist claims sometimes find themselves the object of public disapproval. In some cases, making such claims can cost a person his job.

In some cases, it will be claimed that the claims were not actually racist or sexist. In other cases, the racism or sexism will not be denied, but an appeal will be made to freedom of expression and concerns will be raised that a person is being denied his rights when he is subject to a backlash for remarks that some might regard as racist or sexist.

Given that people are sometimes subject to negative consequences for making claims that are seen by some as racist or sexist, it is not unreasonable to consider that ad baculums are sometimes deployed to limit free expression. That is, that the threat of some sort of retaliation is used to persuade people to accept certain claims. Or, at the very least, used in an attempt to silence people.

It is rather important to be clear about an important distinction between an appeal to fear (using fear to get people to believe) and there being negative consequences for a person’s actions. For example, if someone says “you know, young professor, that we carefully consider a person’s view on race and sex before granting tenure…so I certainly hope that you are with us in your beliefs and actions”, then that is an appeal to fear: the young professor is supposed to agree with her colleagues and believe that claims are true because she has been threatened. But, if a young professor realizes that she will fired for yelling things like “go back to England, white devil honkey crackers male-pigs” at her white male students and elects not to do so, she is not a victim of an appeal to fear. To use another example, if I refrain from shouting obscenities at the Dean because I would rather not be fired, I am not a victim of ad baculum. As a final example, if I decide not to say horrible things about my friends because I know that they would reconsider their relationship to me, then I am not a victim of an ad baculum. As such, an ad baculum is not that a person faces potential negative consequences for saying things, it is that a person is supposed to accept a claim as true on the basis of “evidence” that is merely a threat or something intended to create fear. As such, the fact that making claims that could be taken as sexist or racist could result in negative consequences does not entail that anyone is a victim of ad baculum in this context.

What some people seem to be worried about is the possibility of a culture of coercion (typically regarded as leftist) that aims at making people conform to a specific view about sex and race. If there were such a culture or system of coercion that aimed at making people accept claims about race and gender using threats as “evidence”, then there would certainly be ad baculums being deployed.

I certainly will not deny that there are some people who do use ad baculums to try to persuade people to believe claims about sex and race. However, there is the reasonable question of how much this actually impacts discussions of race and gender. There is, of course, the notion that the left has powerful machinery in place to silence dissent and suppress discussions of race and sex that deviate from their agenda. There is also the notion that this view is a straw man of the reality of the situation.

One point of reasonable concern is considering the distinction between views that can be legitimately regarded as warranting negative consequences (that is, a person gets what she deserves for saying such things) and views that should be seen as legitimate points of view, free of negative consequences. For example, if I say that you are an inferior being who is worthy only of being my servant and unworthy of the rights of a true human, then I should certainly expect negative consequences and would certainly deserve some of them.

Since I buy into freedom of expression, I do hold that people should be free to express views that would be regarded as sexist and racist. However, like J.S. Mill, I also hold that people are subject to the consequences of their actions. So, a person is free to tell us one more thing he knows about the Negro, but he should not expect that doing so will be free of consequences.

There is also the way in which such views are considered. For example, if I were to put forth a hypothesis about gender role for scientific consideration and was willing to accept the evidence for or against my hypothesis, then this would be rather different than just insisting that women are only fit for making babies and sandwiches. Since I believe in freedom of inquiry, I accept that even hypotheses that might be regarded as racist or sexist should be given due consideration if they are properly presented and tested according to rigorous standards. For example, some claim that women are more empathetic and even more ethical than men. While that might seem like a sexist view, it is a legitimate point of inquiry and one that can be tested and thus confirmed or disconfirmed. Likewise, the claim that men are better suited for leadership might seem like a sexist view, it is also a legitimate point of inquiry and one that can presumably be investigated. As a final example, inquiring whether or not men are being pushed out of higher education is also a matter of legitimate inquiry—and one I have pursued.

If someone is merely spewing hate and nonsense, I am not very concerned if he gets himself into trouble. After all, actions have consequences. However, I am concerned about the possibility that scare tactics might be used to limit freedom of expression in the context of discussions about race and sex. The challenge here is sorting between cases of legitimate discussion/inquiry and mere racism or sexism.

As noted above, I have written about the possibility of sexism against men in current academics—but I have never been threatened and no attempt has been made to silence me. This might well be because my work never caught the right (or wrong) eyes or it might be because my claims are made as a matter of inquiry and rationally argued. Because of my commitment to these values, I am quite willing to consider examples of cases where sensible and ethical people have attempted to engage in rational and reasonable discussion or inquiry in regards to race or sex and have been subject to attempts to silence them. I am sure there are examples and welcome their inclusion in the comments section.


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16 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on May 9, 2014 at 8:15 am

    “ad baculums are sometimes deployed to limit free expression”

    How about “If you vocally support the Tea Party, you have a much higher chance of getting audited and harassed by the IRS.”

    Ad baculum or simple truth?

    • apollonian said, on May 9, 2014 at 11:31 am

      It’s gross, horrific, in-ur-face simple truth, indeed, manifestation of ZOG OVERT CRIMINALITY in-ur-very-face, now, at this pt.–which too few, least of all the Jews-media, are willing even to admit.

      • apollonian said, on May 9, 2014 at 11:38 am

        Of course, Jews-media is INTEGRAL part of ZOG imperialism and criminal machine–it’s why the 9/11 massacre and false-flag, done by ZOG and MOSSAD, was so neatly covered-up.

        Key and crux to ZOG is the US Federal Reserve Bank (the “Fed”–see Mises.org and RealityZone.com for expo) legalized COUNTERFEITING scam which provides that necessary funding–but which now is coming to an end, ZOG desperately trying to gin-up a war somewhere–like presently in the Ukraine, eh?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 9, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      It depends on how it is being used. If a person is issuing a warning rather than trying to get someone to accept a claim as true, then that would not be a fallacy. To give another example, if I say “don’t touch that toad-it looks harmless, but it secretes a toxin that could hurt you”, I am just warning you.

      If a person is trying to get someone to accept a claim as true by a threat, then that would be ad baculum. For example, “you should rethink your Tea Party ways my good fellow. For it would surely be a shame if the IRS were to audit you. Join Hilary and us in the progressive camp.” That would be fairly clearly aimed at coercing a person into accepting a view, hence the ad baculum.

      It could also be a factual claim, such as “if you mix sodium with water, then the sodium will burn.”

      So, it all depends on likely intent.

  2. magus71 said, on May 9, 2014 at 8:51 am

    It’s my opinion that the effect of ad baculum on society is similar to that of Stockholm Syndrome.

    • apollonian said, on May 9, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Yes indeed, magus, and specifically, in ur case, ur holding w. ZOG and Israel, eh? Ho ho ho ho

  3. magus71 said, on May 9, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Also, ad baculum is the father of almost all dogma.

    • apollonian said, on May 9, 2014 at 11:53 am

      Right u are, again, by golly–as I note, below, in case of Prof. Mike (also urs too), his fallacies regarding the virtue of racism following fm his initial fallacy regarding non-existent “good.” Pharisaism (fallacious “good-evil”) then is foundation/basis of present political-correctness, necessary party-line for ZOG imperialism.

  4. apollonian said, on May 9, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Prof. Mike: Integral Part Of ZOG Imperialism

    Mike: I submit ur entire expo here about so-called “ad baculum” is just whimsical, confused question-begging. Ur first four paragraphs, above, properly rather describe question-begging, this new “ad baculum” being mere variation or form of it.

    The way u describe the “fallacy,” it’s just a form of intimidation, and the proper question/issue then is whether the proposed “solution” or conclusion really addresses the problem brought-up by the premise.

    Let’s take an example in ur own case: racism–u, in ur habitual (and unfortunate) political-correctness, want to insist it’s wrong and u call it “hate”–which is plainly false. Racism is love and loyalty to one’s own folk–a great virtue and acknowledged to be so–which, furthermore, is plainly reflected in any dictionary, though expressed in negative form (namely “hatred” of those not of one’s race). So ur proposition to effect racism is wrong is mere question-begging which, amazingly, u fail to see, even one w. a Ph.d, no less.

    So u see how ur own version of “ad baculum” affects urself on the issue/subject of racism–u’re intimidated and affected by means of ur habitual political-correctness, a mild form of psychosis, I submit, which the powers use upon u to inflict, in turn, upon ur poor students–and u fall for all this as u’re persuaded it’s “good,” ho ho hoo ho.

    What a horrific complex it all then becomes, eh?–starting off w. the fallacious “good,” u’re then persuaded to be prejudiced upon and towards the significant virtue of racism which holds a nation together.

    Thus we see a PERFECT exemplary working of Spengler’s “Decline of the West,” whence in the hubris of phony/pretended moralism/Pharisaism a people and culture degenerates and commits cultural suicide (see Pat Buchanan’s “Suicide of a Superpower”), foreign, alien, and enemy races are then allowed to immigrate, as we see, and the nation is destroyed, now controlled by powers behind ZOG, the former nation used as enforcers to mass-murder other nations in the building of a horrific, murderous empire, as we see presently before our very eyes.

    And u’re integral part of ZOG imperialists and imperialism, Prof. Mike, unfortunately, even ironically, as we see ur own part is played in the foisting, promotion, and glorification of fallacious “good,” the “noble lie” of Plato and Leo Strauss, “good” the WORST enemy of precious (and originally native Christian) TRUTH. I hope u’re proud of urself–“magus” certainly is, as he depends upon u for inspiration, instruction, and encouragement, ho ho ho ho.

  5. ajmacdonaldjr said, on May 9, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    You’ve never been threatened, nor silenced, because you’re politically correct. Write something politically incorrect and see what happens.

    • apollonian said, on May 9, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      Mike is like a High-Priest of political-correctness (not to mention thought-control), after all, a veritable authority/expositor for the “ethics” underlying, capable of discussing all/any issues related thereto. Observe not even the formidable WTP can faze Mike for kissing-up to our lords and masters of Israel and Jews, Mike merely making the obligatory and usual disapproval of anti-semitism, ho ho ho

      • apollonian said, on May 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

        This politically-correct wisdom and sense, aside fm the “ethical” psycho-babble, is reason “magus” so much looks to and consults w. Prof. Mike, the meister-guru of such PC-wiseness, ho ho ho ho

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 9, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Well, I did get threats over a published article about teleological theories being scientific. From pro-science folks. That was a bit weird.

      Oddly, no one has ever got angry about my work on sexism against men in higher education.

  6. Mikey said, on May 10, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Reblogged this on If I Only Had A Brain… and commented:
    Fallacy of Fear

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