I binge-watched Adam Ruins Everything recently, so of course I have something to say about it. The article title says it all. Sort of.
I wasn’t gonna write about it, but all the comments I’ve seen on his videos hail him as a hero who’s shining the spotlight on the bullshit we’re fed by the system every day. The subjects he covers should be talked about, and the bullshit should be cleared away.
Here’s the problem: No matter how researched it claims to be, you can’t trust a straw man argument.
What’s a straw man?
From Dictionary.com: “ ”
From LogicallyFallacious: “Substituting a person’s actual position or argument with a distorted, exaggerated, or misrepresented version of the position of the argument.”
From Wikipedia: “The typical straw man argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent’s proposition through the covert replacement of it with a different proposition (i.e., “stand up a straw man”) and the subsequent refutation of that false argument (“knock down a straw man”) instead of the opponent’s proposition…This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery “battle” and the defeat of an “enemy” may be more valued than critical thinking or an understanding of both sides of the issue.”
Straw man arguments serve one purpose: pushing an agenda, which Adam clearly has. Every episode of Adam Ruins Everything is filled to bursting with straw man arguments, leaving us with a very one-sided view of every topic, which almost always leads back to “the corporations are out to get you”. I’m not saying they aren’t, and I’m not saying the topics he covers shouldn’t be covered. I think they should be covered by someone responsible: someone who favors critical thinking over sensationalizing information that’s frankly been available to the public for years.
He’s been called on this before multiple times, most notably the episode about why you shouldn’t bother with electric or hybrid cars. Google criticism of the show and it always seems to come up. And when he’s confronted with his one-sided research, his response is along the lines of, “We make mistakes, but the point of the show is to start a dialogue about these issues.”
Stop kidding yourself. If you wanted to start a dialogue, you wouldn’t be using straw man fallacies two dozen times per episode: you’d show both sides wherever available and leave it up to us to decide. You wouldn’t have posted your show on venues populated by consumers who don’t bother checking your sources. Read your youtube comments, man: they’re all taking your show at face value and assuming everything you say is accurate. The fact that you cite sources is good enough for them.
It’s not good enough for me or any other critical thinker. You have to be objective about everything if you’re going to do a show about dispelling misconceptions. The idea is good, but I’m not sure Adam’s heart is in the right place, whatever he says about “starting dialogue”. Responsible people don’t beat up on straw men for a buck. They don’t have to be called out for their one-sided research: they get it right the first time.
And they don’t treat their audience like a legion of morons. Even if they kind of are.