If-By-Whiskey Summary

Description: A response to a question that is contingent on the questioner’s opinions and makes use of words with strong connotations.  This fallacy appears to support both sides of an issue — a tactic common in politics.

Logical Form:

If you mean X, then (one-sided, loaded-language rant supporting side A).

If you mean Y, then (one-sided, loaded-language rant supporting side B).

Example #1: This example is actually the origin of the fallacy, which refers to a 1952 speech by Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr., a young lawmaker from the U.S. state of Mississippi, on the subject of whether Mississippi should continue to prohibit (which it did until 1966) or finally legalize alcoholic beverages.  I think it is hilarious, so I am including it here in its entirety.

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. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, 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 and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, 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, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; 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, and heartaches, and sorrows; 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, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; 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.

Explanation: This is an amazing insight into the human mind and the area of rhetoric.  We can see how when both sides of the issue are presented through the same use of emotionally charged words and phrases, the argument is really vacuous and presents very little factual information, nor does it even take a stance on the issue.

Example #2: Having evaluated literally thousands of positions on God by people all over the belief spectrum, I thought I would create my own, “If-by-God” version of the argument, showing how carefully placed rhetoric can blur the line between the most perfect being imaginable and the most horrible being imaginable.

The question is, if God does exist, should we love him and worship him?  My position is clear, and I am not embarrassed to let the world know exactly how I feel.  So here it goes.

If by God you mean the great dictator in the sky, the almighty smiter, the God who created us with imperfections then holds us responsible for the imperfections, the God who took away paradise and eternal life from us because the first man and woman committed a “wrong” against God before they were capable of knowing right from wrong, the God who commanded his chosen people to utterly destroy every man, woman, and child in dozens of cities, the God who hardened hearts, killed first-borns, demanded blood sacrifices, commanded man to brutally kill other humans for “crimes” such as “not honoring your parents”, the God who destroyed virtually all living creatures on the planet, the God who would demand that his own son be brutally murdered to pay a debt to him, the God who allows children to be born with birth defects, die young, and get cancer, the God who continues to destroy using floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, the God who ignores the prayers of billions of his faithful followers, the God who allows a majority of his creation to suffer through unimaginable torture for all eternity in the fiery pits of Hell, then he is certainly not deserving of our love and worship.

But, if when you say God you mean the defender, the protector, creator of heaven and earth, the father of us all, the being of pure love, kindness, and everything good in the world, the God who led the Israelites from slavery to freedom, the one who looks after us all, the God who heals the sick in his son’s name, the God who gave us his perfect laws for our benefit, the God who loved us so much, that he sacrificed his only son so that we can be saved, the God who allows us to spend a blissful eternity with him and our loved ones, then certainly he is deserving of our love and worship.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

Exception: If you are serving as a moderator and need to remain neutral, plus want to add a little “spice” in the debate, this might be a good technique.

Fun Fact: Reportedly, the example #1 speech took Sweat two and a half months to write.


Brookes, T. (1979). Guitar: an American life. Grove Press.