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The Curious Case of the “Red Barren” January 12, 2012

Posted by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus in Uncategorized.
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In the course of the comments buildup on my article, I had a guy who goes by the name of “Red Barren” on Facebook drop by.  Superficially, Mr. “Barren” (a corruption of “Red Baron, i.e. German WWI ace pilot Mannfred von Richthofen – Mr “Barren” even uses his picture for his profile) appears to be supportive of efforts to defend HH from the baseless accusations made against it.  He made a number of seemingly supportive comments on the article, also scattering a few throughout the rest of the recent activity on my own Facebook page, as well as subscribing to me for future updates.  Of course, being the…thorough…individual that I am, I investigated him online, and pretty quickly deduced that he’s a spoof. 

Apparently, Mr. “Barren” devotes the bulk of his activities, both on Facebook and elsewhere, to pretending to defend an organisation called New Tribes Missions, a mission board which I think I had vaguely heard of before, but knew nothing about.   Apparently, some past staffers with New Tribes Missions (NTM) have been accused of abuse (including sexual) by several former missionary children, abuse which reportedly took place in a number of the board’s overseas schools for the children of missionaries. 

Now, why do I say that Red Barren is pretending to support NTM?  Well, I’ve been around the internet enough to be able to recognise the sort of “fake supporter whose purpose is to discredit” gag before.  In other words, you’ll have somebody who puts across that they support some political position, group, or whatnot, but does such a poor job, or otherwise is so over the top stupid, etc., that they’re supposed to end up actually undermining the position, group, etc. by making it look stupid and ridiculous. 

Looking through Red Barren’s posts hither and yon, the thing that immediately leaps out at a person is his EXTREMELY poor spelling and grammar.  Now, one of the many things I do “on the side” is editing and proofreading for contract customers.  I’ve seen a lot of poor spelling and grammar in my day.  Mr. Barren’s (the name itself actually follows this trope) spelling and grammar, while bad, do not, however, follow the typical ways in which people with poor spelling and grammar usually exhibit these.  In other words, while he’s trying to act like a supporter of NTM and present as if supporters are dunderheads, he isn’t doing it in a natural or heuristic way.  His spelling and grammatical errors are not those that people who really do have trouble in these areas actually tend to make.  They seem like somebody is faking it.

Couple this with the fact that many of his spelling errors just so happen to systematically end up being “accidental” cuss words, this guy is either the world’s most unlucky misspeller, or else he’s purposely faking it.  Guess which I think is more likely.

As such, I reasoned that Mr. Barren is a spoofer, whose purpose is to go around and try to make those who defend NTM from the accusations it is facing look like idiots by the presumed association with him.  Apparently, he got wind of my article defending Hephzibah House, and figured he’d come over and try to do the same thing in this case, as well.

Of course, this effort is based on a logical error – one that I call “Guilt by Extension.”

Guilt by extension is somewhat related to “guilt by association,” which people are more familiar with.  In “guilt by association,” the following general syllogism can be built:

  • A is guilty of X.
  • B is associated with A in some way.
  • Therefore, B is also guilt of X.

The error stems from a misapprehension of the fact that just because A is guilty of X, this in no way speaks to whether B is guilty as well, merely because there is some, oftentimes non-related, association between the two entities.

“Guilt by extension” is similar to this.  It is the error that says that because two categorically related entities are in similar situations (in this case, facing accusations), then if the resolution of the situation for one turns out a certain way, then the resolution for the other must be the same.  To build the syllogism using the case at hand:

  • New Tribes Mission and Hephzibah House are both Christian organisations.
  • They have both been accused of some type(s) of abuse.
  • New Tribes Mission is guilty of the abuse for which it was accused (please note – I am only saying this for the purpose of building the syllogical example).
  • Therefore, Hephzibah House must be guilty of the abuse for which it is accused, as well.

The logical flaw comes from the fact that the guilt or innocence of Hephzibah House is completely non-contingent upon the guilt or innocence of New Tribes Mission.  There is no logical reason to think that what happens with one has any bearing whatsoever on what happens with the other.

Now, I have no idea if the abuse which NTM staffers have been accused of happened or not.  Up until a few days, I hadn’t even seen the accusations, and most of what I have seen comes from hostile sources.  I have no way of knowing if there is any exculpatory evidence that would work in the NTM staffers’ favour, or if the accusers have brought forth evidence to support their claims.  As such, I won’t even make a statement one way or the other.

However, Red Barren obviously seems to think they are guilty, which is why he’s been trying to spoof them.  He apparently also seems to think that Hephzibah House is too, by trying to crossover his spoofing act from discussions about NTM to HH.  Hence, his argument, as well as any support given him by people “in the know” who think his act is funny and try to encourage him to advance his implicit “argument” by using it, are also falling to this logical error.

Not surprising.  One thing that is pretty consistent with regard to the accusers of HH and their supporters is that they use a lot of logical errors in their arguments.  These will, from time to time as opportunity arises, be touched on here on this blog.

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Comments»

1. A Perfect Example of What I’m Talking About « Hephzibah House Defended - April 9, 2012

[…] by extension” logical fallacy that the Haters commonly use, which I documented previously here.  He tries to make what happens with Hephzibah House contingent to what happened with the Roloff […]


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