Not content with their relentless and overwhelmingly negative coverage of anything or anybody even remotely connected with the Trump administration, certain media outlets now resort to silly, speculative theories to further undermine the presidency. Case in point: On July 14, the Associated Press wrote a story that appeared under the headline “Russian hack of Clinton’s campaign followed Trump speech” – a textbook example of sloppy thinking that writers are cautioned to avoid.

Some readers of this news story will jump to the conclusion that because the Russians attempted to hack Hillary Clinton’s campaign on July 27, 2016, following Donald Trump’s call the same day to “find the 30,000 (Clinton) emails that are missing,” that Trump caused – or conspired with – the Russians to hack Clinton’s email. And that’s exactly the message this story was meant to convey to gullible readers. (Actually, the hacking attempt had begun four months earlier.)

This type of illogical reasoning is called the post hoc fallacy; in its longer Latin form “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” (“after this, therefore, because of this”). It is a common problem of oversimplification, which assumes that a cause-and-effect relationship exists between two facts simply because one follows the other in time.

Example: I warned Judy not to marry George because he’s a heavy drinker, but she ignored my advice and now she’s an alcoholic. (George may have influenced Judy, but he didn’t cause her to become an alcoholic.)

Coincidence is not causation.

If you believe that a given effect is inexorably caused by a preceding event, ponder this: On June 27, 2016, Bill Clinton met privately at a Phoenix, Arizona, airport with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch (who, with then-FBI Director James Comey, was in charge of the Hillary Clinton email investigation).

On July 5, 2016, the FBI director announced that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted.

Walter J. Eno


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