In academia, one of the most common criticisms in research and discussions is that correlation does not mean causation.
It refers to the logical fallacy for some who draw a cause-and-effect relationship between two events. The logical fallacy is captured in the Latin phrase cum hoc ergo propter hoc (‘with this, therefore because of this’). With the horrific attacks on Israel this week, some well-known commentators have been criticized for using the killing of hundreds by Hamas as a criticism of conservative figures or Republicans in general.
That includes the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin who appeared to blame the GOP for inviting the attack and Professor Laurence Tribe who suggested (and later retracted) that the war was actually a “wag-the-dog” operation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to distract from corruption allegations.
Rubin (who goes by the moniker “Jennifer Truthful, Not Neutral Rubin”) immediately attempted to use the attack as another attack on Republicans: “How about this: With US House in chaos and US military promotions on hold, Hamas struck. Republicans’ weakness invites terror.”
How about this: With US House in chaos and US military promotions on hold, Hamas struck. Republicans’ weakness invites terror.
— Jennifer Truthful, Not Neutral Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) October 7, 2023
Putting aside the effort to use this tragedy as a political cudgel domestically, Rubin ignores the fact that the motion to vacate the chair succeeded due to a unanimous Democratic vote and just eight dissenting Republicans. The Democrats wanted to vacate the chair even though McCarthy was being criticized by the dissenters for working with them and they will now likely receive a far more strident speaker.
Rubin has also called for expelling Republican members, who voted against certifying the 2020 election. She further declared that “we have to collectively, in essence, burn down the Republican Party. We have to level them because if there are survivors, if there are people who weather this storm, they will do it again.”
The Washington Post has repeatedly failed to take down or correct columns containing false claims by Rubin. Instead, it has run her calls to end impartiality and neutrality in journalism.
Now Rubin is suggesting that Hamas decided to launch this massive attack because there is an acting Speaker in the House until next week. It appears that Hamas was just waiting for the motion to vacate to pass.
Laurence Tribe immediately used the massacre to attack Netanyahu.
Citing the Washington Post, Tribe wrote “Is Netanyahu wagging the dog of war to take attention away from his own war on the independent judiciary? Can anyone put that past him?”
The response was fast and furious.
It was even too much for figures like Keith Olbermann who condemned Tribe stating, “Well this is a moronic and indefensible POV.”
What was striking is that the media finally called out Tribe, who has regularly posted bizarre legal theories and personal attacks against conservative figures, including attacking Bill Barr (erroneously) over his faith. On MSNBC and other outlets, Tribe regularly makes profane or personal attacks against those who hold opposing views of constitutional interpretation, including myself. These attacks include false assertions that had to be later corrected.
These controversies highlight the need to restore an element of maturity and civility to commentary. The “everything-goes” mentality has now taken hold of major media outlets, which regularly feature trash talking and sensational claims. If the target of these attacks is a conservative or Republican, there is a sense of license to remove the safeties in public engagements.
Once again, it is possible to restore a modicum of civility and accuracy in our public discourse. All it takes is for people of good faith to turn away from the rage and return reason in our commentary.