“You can’t be all things to all people,” the saying goes. It doesn’t stop me from trying. The “If-By-Whiskey” fallacy, which could equally be named the “Carter Liotta fallacy,” is a fallacy of logic and rhetoric named for Mississippi senator Noah Sweat’s speech in 1952 about his opinion of whiskey. I encourage you to read the entire text, sometime, because it’s hysterical oratory. Abridged, he says:
My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy… You have asked me how I feel about whiskey.
If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew that destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man into the bottomless pit of degradation and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.
But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.
“If-By-Whiskey” arguments stand in contrast to black-and-white thinking, and attempt to win popular support by taking all sides of an argument using emotionally charged language.
Certainly there are two very good sides – and many more – to the whiskey argument. Both have valid points. So, “If-By-Whiskey” does not mean that there’s only one right answer – only that you can’t argue both points at the same time and still be considered arguing.
He who argues everything, argues nothing.