Toward a total ban on analogy in political rhetoric

Someone found the straight line from torture to the census

by Aaron Wherry

From last week’s hearings of the industry committee, the former chief executive officer of the Saskatchewan regional health authority tries to draw a straight line from torture to the census.

“What you can guarantee by compulsion is a response: You put a gun to somebody’s head, they’re going to say something,” Mr. McFarlane told the House of Commons industry committee.

“It’s almost like the argument for water boarding: if you water board enough people, they will tell you something,” Mr. McFarlane said. “The question is are they telling you something that’s reliable? Are they telling you something that’s usable?”

Of course, since torture is abhorrent, law enforcement agencies in most civilized nations must acquire their answers through interrogation and investigation, aided by tools such as subpoenas and search warrants. So perhaps Statistics Canada could be assigned its own police force, with the same powers, charged with acquiring the demographic information it requires.

Or we could all agree here and now that analogies, when discussing contested political or social issues, are almost always misused and should therefore be almost always avoided.




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