A few hours after making this post about the Argument From Intimidation, I found this story, A New Treatment For Narcotic Addiction by Lloyd I. Sederer MD, which was published the same day, on the Huffington Post, and served as a near perfect example of the fallacy in action.
The article was pushing for public acceptance of buprenorphine as a treatment for opioid dependence. My criticism, for now, is that they started with the same boilerplate Argument from Intimidation. Witness the opening paragraph:
Americans are Puritans when it comes to dealing with drug addiction. They get their spines all straight and spout righteous claims like “just say no” or “why coddle an addict?” How much more proof do we need before the rational presides over irrational? How long before those that promote punishment realize this is a disease that needs treatment? Before those with addictions get what we know can help?
What the author said is – if you don’t believe addiction is a medical disease requiring treatment, then you are a stiff, you ignore proof, and you’re a “puritan”. Bask in the brazen glory of this question:
How much more proof do we need before the rational presides over irrational?
You Sir, are being irrational, and I don’t know when we’ll preside over you, but I’m working on it.
The effect of Mr Sederer’s opening paragraph is that the reader gets the message that they should be ashamed if they question the disease theory, that ignorant fools like them are responsible for what happens to substance abusers, that in effect they have blood on their hands (or minds, as it were), and furthermore, that they should stop thinking and start accepting the authors conclusions. The so called “experts” in the addiction field have made the Argument from Intimidation such a normal part of their routine that they can’t help but to use it constantly – it’s as if they’re addicted to it!
Why start an article with an argument that isn’t even a real argument? If there is so much evidence, he could present some of it, rather than belittling those who don’t believe the hype. A good portion of the article was about one man’s experience with buprenorphine – it didn’t seem to need a disease argument up top, it could have stood on it’s own as a buprenorphine success story. Of course, that wouldn’t have been enough for the author, instead he went further and tried to cash in on on his initial Argument from Intimidation, and used the article to push for bupe as an all around treatment for addiction – when in fact it is not a treatment for the full phenomena of addiction, as the bupe patient noted, but rather an aid for physical dependence, a point which a reader who wasn’t shamed into obedience would probably realize. Glazing over such important distinctions as the difference between the wider problem of addiction and the narrower problem of physical dependence, in the name of creating awareness and acceptance of the disease theory of addiction will create neither such thing – ultimately it will only spread confusion. It seems though, that they rely on this confusion to fuel their propaganda.
That first paragraph, personally, caused me to be suspicious of the rest of the piece. I think that the reason every public discussion of addiction starts with this Argument From Intimidation is that the “experts” are incapable of presenting a sound standalone argument for the disease theory and all of it’s implications. Lacking this, they hope to make a million small steps to total disease theory acceptance through a shame campaign attached to every discussion of addiction. The funny part is, they may not even need to keep propagandizing. The NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) has already done a great job with 60 years of work. By their estimates, 80% of the american public believes the disease theory. Yet these “experts”, whose views are already overwhelmingly accepted, still feel the need to chastise everyone with the Argument from Intimidation, they keep proclaiming that only ignorant, heartless puritans would think you could choose to stop addiction – me thinks they protest too much. I think they’re at least partly trying to convince themselves.
One more note on that initial paragragph – he equates skepticism of the disease theory with support for drug prohibition and consequent punishments. Not all disease skeptics support criminalization – I, for one, don’t.
After finding this article I noticed that Huffington Post bloggers are obsessed with “bupe” – I’ll take on the issue in a future blog post.