Concern ≠ phobia

I’ve never liked the many-splendored labels being put into common use in political discussion these days that end in the term, “-phobia.” Homophobia. Xenophobia (for the illegal “immigration” debate.) Islamophobia. The reason I don’t like them is that they are all pretty much manifestations of a logical/argumentational fallacy called ad hominem. In an ad hominem attack, it is the person making the argument that is attacked rather than the argument itself. In most of the cases I’ve ever seen where these labels are flung about, it is the use of the label that is, itself, the ad hominem attack.

“Phobia” is a word rooted in the Greek word “phobos” and means “fear” or “morbid fear.” In common language, it refers to an irrational fear. While I have an issue with someone considering my dislike of a particular thing a “fear” it’s the “irrational” part that’s the real problem. Look up the definition of “ophidiophobia” – a fear of snakes. Is it irrational for someone coming in contact with a 10-foot long, venom-spitting king cobra to fear that snake? Of course not. It’s irrational not to. In fact, the link I provided to Wikipedia says something about just this thing: “Care must also be taken to differentiate people who do not like snakes or fear them for their venom  or the inherent danger involved. An ophidiophobic would not only fear them when in live contact but also dreads to think about them or even see them on TV or in pictures.

Roger Simon of Pajamas Media addresses the concept in an article on August 27 wherein he challenges the use of the term “Islamophobia.”

With very minor exceptions, I have seen little irrational fear of Islam in our society. What I have seen is a lot of serious and justifiable dislike of the religion for its ideology — notably its heinous treatment of women and homosexuals and its opposition to the separation of church and state, all codified by its all-encompassing Sharia law that seeks to legislate all facets of existence while instituting a global caliphate.

Nevertheless, soi-disant liberals and progressives or whatever they want to call themselves accuse those who dislike Islam for those reasons of irrational fear. That’s like having an irrational fear of totalitarianism.

Indeed. The “-phobia” terms all provide a double-hit: they cast any true concern the target has as irrational on its face and they provide the user with cover to completely dismiss any further conversation, question, or debate. You can’t logically argue with an irrational viewpoint. If the person in question – someone who thinks the building of a mosque near the site of the best-known attack by forces loudly identifying as Islamic against America is a bad idea – is just being irrational, then there’s no point in even addressing his concerns, right? I mean, what a waste of time! It is ad hominem at its finest.

The fact that the majority of these terms have originated with the Left and are utilized largely by so-called “progressives” is just a symptom of a larger problem: they’ve lost the public debate on a variety of issues lately and are looking for any face-saving mechanism they can find.

Well, that’s their problem. I refuse to accept the terms they’ve taken to tossing around. It is they, through their continued usage of ad hominen fallacies in the place of reasoned argument, that have proven themselves irrational.