The few are not the same as the whole: a response to The Overly-Optimistic Brony’s response

The Overly-Optimistic Brony has posted a response to Digibrony and Bronycurious’s concerns about Season 4 that I touched on last time.

OOB raises some good points about Digi and BC’s fears, but then makes a serious error:

We ask for a lot of things to see in the show, and the staff hears our pleas and gives the ideas to us in their own way, and how do we react? Wildly.

Conclusion: The Brony Community does not know what it wants.

Plenty of people sing praises for the godsends of Scootaloo episodes, but then you have people like Byter who find the same episodes without anything of substance. Now, why does THIS happen? Simply put, bronies, directly or not, ask for things to appear in the show, and then are never fully satisfied when they get it.

But there’s no hypocrisy or inconsistency involved here — in fact, there’s nothing inappropriate or unexpected at all.  All this describes is simple disagreement.  Lots of people like the Scootaloo episodes.  Byter doesn’t.  We see this in every fandom, and indeed, in any decent-sized group of people.  To expect otherwise (as OOB seems to) would be absurd.  Of course there will be criticism and complaints no matter what — in an audience of tens/hundreds of thousands, nothing is going to be universally liked.


Well, okay — almost nothing.

My favorite description of this fallacy comes from Scott Adams — he calls it “the few are the same as the whole“:

EXAMPLE: Some Elbonians are animal rights activists. Some Elbonians wear fur coats. Therefore, Elbonians are hypocrites.

When put like this, the error is obvious.  But absent this kind of glaring statement, it’s a very easy mistake to make, and OOB continues to make it for the rest of the post:

Luna, Scootaloo episodes (more Luna in one and flightless Scoots in the other), humans in MLP, Twilicorn, batponies, Daring Do, Discord, Alicorn backstory, and Element of Harmony backstory are ALL things that have been asked for by the brony community, either through discussion or through the production of fan-created content. The writers may not be allowed to read fanfiction, but they do pay attention to us, see what we find interesting, and then cast their lot into the mix. The community’s actions speak of a desire to see these things become canon, and our reaction to seeing it speaks against it.

But by and large, these things haven’t been asked for by “the brony community”.  Certainly, various people in the community have asked for them, some far more frequently than others.  But attributing those attitudes to the entire community just doesn’t make sense, and it certainly doesn’t make sense to accuse someone who never asked for them of hypocrisy or inconsistency when they argue against them.  Take this idea to its logical conclusion; it would mean that any fan of the show who disagrees with another fan is being hypocritical and inconsistent (which would make for a really boring analysis community, just for a start).

It may sound like I’m trying to shit all over OOB — I’m not, and I apologize if I’m coming across that way.  But I do think it’s very important to point out just how fallacious this reasoning is — because it’s distressingly common.  OOB is far from the first person to commit this error; as an in-community example, we saw it all over the place during Derpygate — which, incidentally, OOB cites as another example of fandom hypocrisy:

The biggest, and most prime example of this is Derpy’s speaking role in The Last Roundup. I don’t have to touch much on this, as the evidence is quite clear. We had fun with a fan idea for a while, the staff gave it to us in full-on canon force, and we threw it back in their faces hard enough to cause a censorship fiasco. We got what we asked for, and we weren’t fully satisfied with it. So, we got a new take on it, and we were even less satisfied with the second take. It still happens today.

But this wasn’t really the case.  There were plenty of people that fully embraced Derpy’s appearance and speaking role.  They can’t and shouldn’t answer for the people who vocally disliked it, and those who disliked it shouldn’t be accused of hypocrisy if they didn’t ask for it (and many of them didn’t).  And I’m convinced that this idea that either side was somehow being hypocritical seriously added to the drama surrounding that whole debacle — people tried to shut the other side up out of a misguided sense that they were somehow responsible for what other fans said, when in fact each of them should only have to answer for their own views and actions.

And this certainly isn’t limited to the Brony fandom.  In fact, based upon my personal experience (so grain of salt) this is one of the most common fallacies in discourse today.  It’s merely annoying when it happens within a fandom — when it starts being applied to groups like political parties, religions, and nations, very bad shit can start.

So yeah, the few are not the same as the whole.  Let’s all try to remember that.  It would probably make these discussions a lot more constructive, and a lot more pleasant.

[EDIT 2014-01-04 05:47am UTC: Added categories/tags, replaced the image of Luna with a locally-hosted copy, and changed the post’s settings so that the front page of the blog now only displays the first few paragraphs, rather than the whole post.]

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