So I was reading about Stephen Hawking and his boycott of an academic function in Israel when I read a comment that went like this:

"If you’re going to boycott Israel, please remove the Intel chip that allows you to speak".

I was just wondering if there were any names for this kind of argument?

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    I think I found the answer. Its called "Tu quoque" or "appeal to hypocrisy". – Saidy May 11 '13 at 13:12
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    I call that a non sequitur. Yes, I know Intel has development offices in Israel. – prash May 11 '13 at 13:53
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    But Hawking effectively does. – Vector May 11 '13 at 17:33
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    I call it "silly". At some point a statement is so far removed from a valid argument that naming the flaws is not productive. – Rex Kerr May 12 '13 at 6:14
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    @evilsoup no..... if you don't know who Stephen hawking is, he can't speak by himself, he uses voice synthesis. So yes, he needs a chip to speak. – Keith Nicholas May 12 '13 at 21:33

can be hard to tell with this kind of argument, one is tempted to just say "stupid".

However, if you look at what is being implied..... it seems partly a strawman fallacy. The person has translated Stephen Hawkings position to a "Anti Israeli" argument and then attacked that. He attacks it using a child like response of "These are my/our toys and you are not allowed to play with them anymore!".

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I'm not sure of the technical idiom that describes this particular kind of rhetoric. For that is what it is. Rhetoric aims to persuade rather than probe an issue. There are a number of fallacies here:

He purports to speak on behalf of all those who created the microchip. This will have involved Jewish scientists as well as others. Their individual politics are not easily discoverable. Famous ones - somewhat easier. For example Einstein, whos discovery of the photo-electric effect helped usher in Quantum Theory and paved the the way for the invention of the transistor and microchip was not a Zionist and declined the presidency of the Israeli State when it was offered to him.

He uses metonymy to allow the microchip to stand in for the Internet. He claims that this allows us to speak. That is to communicate. This is a complex issue. Certainly there were large-scale public computer networks before the Internet. So it certainly wasn't the availability of the chip that allowed the internet to happen. One should examine also its sociology. The Internet first spread through academia first - its model there - the reciprocity of access appears to be modelled on the sociology of knowledge within academia. Recipocity and freedom of access.

He again uses metonymy to elide the difference between communication and speech. Certainly the internet allows communication but does it allow speech? For speech to be effective it must be based on the Understanding; and a quick trawl through the internet shows how little understanding there actually is. A miasma of misinformation, obscurity and the weird and whimsical. To cultivate the Understanding has been traditionally the preserve of schooling (ie schools and universities). For speech to be effective it must also have an audience. Does an atomised audience constitute an audience? Chomsky addresses this issue in his book The Manufacture of Consent.

The call for the boycott of Israel is focussed on their one specific part of their foreign policy - that is towards the Palestinians. The intellect of Israel is not in doubt. For again the writer of this piece of rhetoric uses metonymy to allow the microchip to stand in for the Israeli intellect.

There is an implicit argument here that it is the demonstrable Intellect of Man in the form of technology that is the marker of his humanity. This is certainly disputable. The Dongria Kondh of Indias Niyamgiris Hills have certainly not developed advanced technology but one cannot draw from that the conclusion that their intelligence is lacking nor that they lack humanity.

The call for a boycott relies then on what? Not on the general intelligence or humanity of the Israeli State and its people, but on its presumed lack of humanity and intelligence in its acts towards the Palestinian People.

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    in this case, the chip that allows him to speak is "voice synthesis" since he can't speak himself due to motor neuron disease. The question is more around the type of logical fallacy the person is using when saying not to use intel chips. – Keith Nicholas May 12 '13 at 21:40
  • Ok, perhaps I misinterpreted the 'you' in the question. You are saying that it isn't a general you, but specifically aimed at Stephen Hawking. Except the comment wasn't addressed directly to Stephen Hawking. However, I don't think this makes much difference to my answer. He asks if there is a 'name for this kind of argument'. Not specifically a logical fallacy. – Mozibur Ullah May 12 '13 at 21:51
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    no, but lets take another argument of the same form.... a woman protests inequality in the workplace" then someone says "well I hope you don't drive a car because a man invented that". – Keith Nicholas May 12 '13 at 22:18
  • and? Looking at the question carefully - It can be interpreted as either a general You OR specifically at Stephen Hawking. What is correct is a simple throwaway comment in a blog somewhere doesn't deserve an indepth analysis. Dismissing quickly as a strawman argument as you've said is about right. Or just ignoring it. – Mozibur Ullah May 12 '13 at 22:36

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