Glen Welch is a theater and film critic for Houston, TX culture mag Red Publication, and he’s hit upon something so brilliant and necessary, its astonishing that it’s taken so long for someone to do it: he’s created a series of image macros featuring an NFL referee calling fouls on invalid argument tactics and sneaky rhetoric. I can see plenty of use for these in internet discourse, not least of all because of their admirable succinctness in explaining the various logical fallacies, and the humor in the frisson of philosophy and full-contact sports. And of course they’d serve as great shortcuts for legions of Facebookers weary of explaining to their politically outlying uncles for the millionth time what a slippery slope actually is and why they need to cut it the hell out already. Though Welch only just stared this project this past Friday, he’s already made over 50 of the things, and he takes requests.
The Fallacy Ref, it merits mentioning, is not Welch’s first time going viral. He’s the author of “Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG,” a project which began ten years ago today, and is still ongoing. Welch was gracious enough to chat with DM about the inspiration for the Ref project:
DM: Was there a specific online argument you were having or observing that you were responding to with the ref macros, or was there just more of a general sense of need for such a thing?
Welch: Believe it or not, it was an argument over the reasons why historians love FDR and economists hate him. The other person actually laughed at a claim about the New Deal creating a host of problems. I presented as an example of my claim a piece by Frederick Hayek, she dismissed him out of hand as a ‘discredited right wing hack’. That was when I got the mental image of a ref throwing a flag for a debate foul. So i created the “Appealing to the stone” ref as a joke.
DM: And they’re all the same ref, right? I didn’t peruse every single one yet, but it all looks like one dude. Do you know his name, and is he aware that he’s being macro’d?
Welch: Ed Hochuli, I have never met the man or talked to him. I hope he’s a good sport. I used him simply because he was the most famous NFL ref, so he would have the most pictures. Now he’s being called Ad Hoculi on forums though.
DM: Oh man, Ad Hoculi. That’s good!
Welch: The similarity was just a coincidence. But a funny one.
DM: These contain specialized knowledge. You’ve got some stuff in there that’s a few leagues beyond 101.
Welch: The Ref has been thoroughly checked by a legion of lawyers, professors and spellcheckers: according to my inbox, 63 people asking me to change, add or correct different entries.
Much, much more of this can be found on the Fallacy Ref Facebook page.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘An Illustrated Book Of Bad Arguments’: Dispatching the Dumb, One Funny Animal at a Time