In today’s world, we have choices. We can choose which Supermarket we can shop, we can choose which car we drive, we can choose which restaurant we take our family to eat. We choose our careers, we choose our mates, and we choose our elected officials. We can choose right or wrong. We choose our faith. It could even be said that our individual moral codes are actually a complex system of the choices that we have made throughout the courses of our lives. Here in America, we are accustomed to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of our choices. We have choices because we have freedom.
However, we also have ‘false choices’.
“The logical fallacy of false choice is a correlative based fallacy in which options are presented as being exclusive when they may not be. It’s often used to obscure the likelihood of one option or to reframe an argument on the user’s terms.”(1)
Simply put, false choices are based on misinformed or misrepresented facts. This is usually because they are the products of narrow-minded worldviews, which have been closed off from outside or opposing opinions. They can also be called ‘biased’, ‘partisan’, and/or ‘divisive’.
False choices fool us. They disarm us by causing us to believe that we are solving problems, even if the choices presented yield the same result or no result.
This is why I believe ‘false choices’ are a root cause for the mass confusion present in our world.
Dallin H. Oaks (Apostle of the Lord in the LDS church) gave a powerful address concerning false choice and deception in October of 2004. He stated:
“From your position on the road of life, you . . . have many miles to go and many choices to make as you seek to return to our Heavenly Father. Along the road there are many signs that beckon. Satan is the author of some of these invitations. He seeks to confuse and deceive us, to get us on a low road that leads away from our eternal destination.”(2)
Most of us can agree that this is true. We wrestle with deception at various levels on a daily basis. One of the best ways this concept is represented is through an analysis of our tradition of choosing politicians. After all, haven’t we all heard the statement, “Choosing the lesser of two evils”?
Every year, we are bombarded with phone calls, door-to-door pamphleteers, national news coverage of political races, and various forms of solicitation for donations. We watch, hear about, and read politically charged articles that are meant to sway public opinion in one direction or the other, or to support this candidate or the other candidate. Our social networks are flooded with personal insights, political language, and aggressive graphics opposing other people’s views. We endure painful political debates where candidates trounce on and demean all that we believe to be noble and true.
We ask ourselves: which is the best way? What is the best choice to make? Of the various political candidates vying for my vote, who embarrasses me the least?
A lot of us realize that when we must choose between different policies or politicians that the choices made available to us do not represent our thoughts as much as we would like.
So should we choose between two evils? I’d say no. With logic, when that statement is taken through to its ultimate outcomes, we see that the act of choosing between the lesser of two evils can only lead to more evil. And this is exactly what happens.
This is the reality: when we choose between false choices, we are literally choosing which evils we will tolerate in our societal systems.
What does this mean for those of us that actually have to live in society? Nothing good.
(2) Dallin H Oaks talk (“Be Not Deceived”, Ensign, November 2004, 43)
See Also: “False Choices: The Most Effective Form of Propaganda Known To Man”; “False Choices” by Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn
This original article was published on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 to The Moral Liberal.