Aggregating reductive falllacies

We've seen how certain reductive fallacies become collapsed into very compact statements or images, giving as possible examples, "Grant was apolitical," "Grant didn't bother about what the enemy was doing," and "Grant had a fine working relationship with Lincoln." We've noticed that arrays of these fallacies can then be held in specially designed containers, like "Lincoln finds a general."

We now want to give a name to this kind of container: the master narrative.

Rhetoritician Andrew Cline uses this concept to explain what happens in political coverage:

The news media cover the news in terms of "stories" that must have a beginning, middle, and end--in other words, a plot with antagonists and protagonists. Much of what happens in our world, however, is ambiguous. The news media apply a narrative structure to ambiguous events suggesting that these events are easily understood and have clear cause-and-effect relationships.

Think of pop history while you let that sink in.

Good storytelling requires drama, and so this bias often leads journalists to add, or seek out, drama for the sake of drama. Controversy creates drama.

And drama requires good guys and bad guys.

... narrative bias leads many journalists to create, and then hang on to, master narratives--set story lines with set characters who act in set ways. Once a master narrative has been set, it is very difficult to get journalists to see that their narrative is simply one way, and not necessarily the correct or best way, of viewing people and events.

Substitute "pop historian" for "journalist" and the statement applies as well. This is also helpful.

No matter the source, a master narrative is generally constructed this way:

* A pattern of behavior is noticed.
* The behavior is characterized, i.e. given a name.
* The character is portrayed as part of a plot, i.e. a set course of actions, consistent with the character, beginning with a central tension and leading to a climax and denouement.
* The [actor's] words and actions are analyzed by comparing them to the character and the plot.

Thus the narrative defines the [actor].

In the excerpt above, I replaced the word "candidate" with "actor." The dynamic is the same. And "Lincoln finds a general" is a master narrative.

Fully developed master narratives address every aspect of the ACW; these are policed by the marketplace, by the prize committees, by authors, and by societies like the AHA.

I said yesterday that in new studies disclosing new discoveries, some authors come to grief attempting to integrate their anomalous material into the master narratives of their fields. Now that we have a name for the fallacy container, we'll get into specific examples of this.