I was recently reading an article in one of my favorite magazines about the evils of *** and why *** parents should not ***. In general, I agree with this conclusion, and because of that, my husband had some difficulty understanding why the article made me so angry.
While I agreed with the basic conclusion of the article, the author's method of arriving at this conclusion was filled with logical fallacies, assumptions, and blanket statements, not to mention inadequate research. Presenting a reasonable conclusion via unreasonable logic is a little like going to the grocery store by driving backwards down the highway. Perhaps no one objects to your destination, but no one will ride with or follow you, either.
There seems to be an assumption that if one is writing about ***, the writing does not matter. Some think the truth of *** is self-evident. Others seem unable to distinguish between a conclusion and its supporting arguments.
First, insufficient or illogical reasoning insults readers. Failing to do adequate research implies that an author does not respect his audience enough to expect them to recognize the failure. Poor research and logic smack of charlatanism, as if the author thinks his audience is too stupid, too uneducated to recognize his failure or to be worth greater effort.
The greater problem with such writing lies in the case of an author who has rightly evaluated his audience. Perhaps they are indeed either too naive or too uneducated to recognize the author's audacity. Then they in their ignorance repeat his fallacies and assumptions, believing fully that they are spouting great wisdom and insight, relying on the fact of the author's publication for support. These unsuspecting people are then blindsided by ill-will when they find their own, less-receptive audiences much cooler toward them than they were to the weak author who began the whole mess.
The article I read actually ended with a plea to readers to go out and share this information in whatever public or private venues they could find. Through bad writing, then, an entire group can develop a bad reputation for itself, as its leaders fail to communicate ideas well and its members follow the bad example. It is like an entire caravan driving the wrong way down the highway. Some members will be so convinced of the leadership of the author that they will honk angry horns and shake outraged fists at other drivers who dare to drive in opposition. Chaos follows the group wherever it goes.
The gravest result of bad writing happens when the sweeping generalizations and faulty logic are met by those who do not embrace the conclusion—those who get hit head-on by one of these backwards drivers. The group's reputation suffers harm because they are doing real damage to those around them, not because of their beliefs, conclusions, or destination, but because of their method of delivery.
Writing, like any other sport, has rules. Sure, it's tempting to bend them, to sneak in a jab when the opponent isn't looking or to quote one's friends regarding the mission statement of an opposing group, but that would be cheating. Following the rules is what makes a sport interesting, and without them, all we would have is an embarrassing brawl.