Argument to Moderation


Known sometimes as the middle ground, false equivalence or false compromise, this is the fallacy that in two competing arguments, the truth must lie somewhere in the middle. It is often accepted as a reasonable compromise position, and sometimes it is the best course of action, for instance: moderate exercise is better than no exercise, or excessive exercise, for most people. It is also a seemingly comfortable position to take; one which doesn't outright dismiss either extreme and instead seeks bring both parties to the middle and from there explore the correct path together.

However, assuming that the middle position is either correct or wrong is fallacious. The argument for the midway position must stand on its own merits and not just as a compromise - unless, of course, compromise is the only aim. In politics, when to compromise and when to dig-in are strategies to get what you want. It's a bargaining chip to achieve a longer-term goal and often compromising is a necessity to do that. But in areas of fact, retreating to the middle ground, or moderating your argument is a denial of reality and can have serious consequences if actions are taken based on those facts.

Media outlets (at least in UK broadcasting) try to take the middle ground in order to appear balanced and fair, however by doing so they may have to refute facts that actually lie on one side or the other. If one side in politics is promoting an active campaign of disinformation, then the truth does not lie in the middle ground between the factual information and the disinformation. If one side says: "Taking this action will cost the economy £2bn, and here's the evidence", and the other party simply says denies it without good evidence to the contrary, then the truth is not that it will cost £1bn. Facts are facts and it behoves our media outlets who provide information to the public not to fall into the trap of making the fallacy of moderation to appear impartial. When one politician says it's raining, and the other says it's sunny, a good journalist should look out the window and check, not report that it's a bit grey.