Stopped clock

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Le mot juste

Jargon, buzzwords, slogans

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The phrase "stopped clock" (also "broken clock" or a "sudden outbreak of common sense"[1]) comes from the proverb "even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day." Someone, even a crank, denialist, or a conspiracy theorist can be correct once in a while, often by chance alone. This may be because predictions just happen to come true but also it can be the one exception to the rule of crank magnetism i.e., a crank may find some crankery that is so crazy that they can't help but denounce it as crank quite vocally.

This analogy is one counterpoint to the fallacy fallacy, which is the mistake of assuming that any conclusion derived from fallacious reasoning must be false. To extend the analogy a bit further, a clock stopped at 3:48 will always conclude that the current time is 3:48. Thanks to its faulty premises, though, this conclusion happens to be correct only for a total of two minutes out of any given day, or roughly 0.14% of the time.

Contents

[edit] Source of the analogy

The term refers to an analogue clock with the standard twelve-hour dial face. "Flip digital" clocks (where the numbers are affixed to small plastic cards that "flip" into position when driven by an electric clock mechanism) can also be considered to be "right" twice a day. Such a clock set up for 24-hour time would still be right once a day. Clocks with LED or LCD displays that are stopped normally go blank, falsely implying that, for some bizarre reason, time no longer exists (hence the lack of time to keep track of) - or they flash repeatedly, implying that time has gone wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey again.

[edit] Some examples

  • Oliver Cromwell for letting Jews into England again.
  • Tony Abbott introducing a cap on healthcare costs as Health Minister and opposing Howard's anti-worker rights Work Choices bill; both before he became Prime Minister. He also has taken a stand against anti-Vaxxers.
  • Santa Anna opposed slavery; which is especially notable when it takes into effect that the Texas Revolution was fought to defend slavery.
  • Lady Nancy Astor was a British politician so far to the right she openly embraced every anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic conspiracy theory under the sun and she was sympathetic to fascism, but she was amazingly ahead of her time on women's rights and homosexuality (if only because her favorite son turned out to be gay).
  • Glenn Beck now agreeing with liberals about Iraq and defending a boy who got bullied for being a brony.
  • Petr Beckmann was a believer in crank ideas about physics and engineering. However, despite this, he held no tolerance for those who tried to square the circle, and wrote a whole book about the foolishness of the idea.
  • In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI approved the use of condoms in some circumstances.[2]
  • The Vatican's general support for Harry Potter and yoga.
  • The Porn industry generally backs LGBT rights, and on occasion, individual performers will write about safe sex.
  • Bismarck's early version of Universal Health Care for Germans.
  • The Black Panthers' support for jury reform.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte's emancipation of French Jews and his promotion of the metric system.
  • George W. Bush supported immigration reform and gave funding to AIDS research in Haiti.
  • Orson Scott Card's antipathy against to the Vietnam War.
  • Fidel Castro's opposition to apartheid, support for universal health care, and his anti-Americanism has somewhat softened in old age.
  • Hugo Chavez's anti-poverty programs, especially before 2002.
  • Dick Cheney's support for same-sex marriage, if only because his daughter is a lesbian.
  • China's ambitious plans for renewable energy and high speed rail networks. Granted, short of completely dismantling the fossil fuel industry, nothing they ever do will be adequate enough in reducing greenhouse emissions worldwide.
  • In 2013 the Church of England allowed gay men in civil partnerships to become bishops.[3]
  • Communist Party USA was an early advocate for civil rights for blacks.
  • The Confederacy's support for several Native American groups.
  • Conservapedia's article on the Westboro Baptist Church is highly critical, arguing that "true Christians" follow God's example and "love the sinner."
  • The Conservative Party of Canada's generally principled stand on apartheid.
  • Stephen Harper for passing gender identity laws
  • The Constitution Party opposing the War on Drugs and the Iraq War.
  • Creation Stewards back environmental reform.
  • Christian conservatives tend to set up charities, albeit they do often not donate to LGBT people.
  • The Comics Code Authority, in between its ridiculous rules that censored comic books into self-parody in the '50s and '60s, also forbade running ads for quack medicine and similar items. (Their rules that female characters must be drawn realistically, without exaggerated features, may or may not count depending on how one feels about how women are drawn in modern comics.)
  • Speaking of the Comics Code Authority, its instigator, Fredric Wertham, investigated the effects of school racial segregation on children. This research was used on Brown v. Board of Education, where he testified on behalf of the NAACP. He also opened his own practice on the New York neighbourhood of Harlem, providing mental health care for underprivileged African-Americans.
  • Prominent members of the conspiracy community, from Alex Jones and Mark Dice on the right to Peter Joseph and David Icke on the left, have been among the loudest voices in support of civil liberties and denouncing US foreign policy overreach.
  • The Directorate's abolition of slavery during the Terror phase of the French Revolution.
  • David Duke's support for Occupy Wall Street, albeit he predictably blamed it on the Jews.
  • East Germany had a relatively advanced healthcare system and trained many doctors.
  • Franco did not enter WWII on the Axis side; albeit he had volunteer regiments fight the Russians; albeit this was more as Franco had just won his own war and had little military capacity to aid Hitler with.
  • Malcolm Fraser, himself the Australian godfather of modern conservatism, began to revile the extremities taken by both Labor and especially the Liberals. He also hated the marriage of the Religious Right, opposed the strident anti-immigration policies for every government since John Howard, preferred Australia to detach itself from American militarism, opposed apartheid while as Prime Minister, disavowed the neoliberal economics of Thatcher and Reagan as Prime Minister, and largely ruled as a moderate to the disappointment of his supporters. He even left the Liberal Party after Tony Abbott was elected leader.
  • The Tokugawa Shogunate for allowing trade with the Dutch and presiding over many of Japan's greatest literary works.
  • Fox News has denounced the Daily Caller for its racism, and will apologize on occasion.
  • King George III for allowing Parliament to ban the slave trade, albeit he had little power and had gone mad by the time it happened.
  • Newt Gingrich strongly condemning American conservatives for failing to support Nelson Mandela during apartheid.[4]
  • Barry Goldwater, the anti-government ideologue and godfather of the modern conservative movement, loathed the Religious Right, supported LGBT rights towards the end of his life, was pro-choice, and firmly opposed the very concept of money in politics. Later in his life, he was so ashamed of his party and conservative movement that he practically decoupled himself the Republican Party.
  • Sean Hannity calling the Westboro Baptist Church "religious nut(s)" and encouraging the Catholic Church to tone down their opposition to birth control.
  • Hard-right blogger John Hawkins exposing several right-wing mail order scams.[5]
  • David Cameron for passing same sex marriage for 97% of British citizens, as the Unionists keep blocking it in Northern Ireland.
  • Adolf Hitler's promotion of anti-smoking research and strong support for animal rights.[6][7]
  • John Howard forcing through strong gun control in the face of his own wingnut base.
  • David Icke has been highly critical of the Religious Right in general, but especially the Tea Party.
  • Imperial Japan's harboring of Jewish Holocaust refugees during World War II.[8]
  • Wingnut pundit Laura Ingraham denouncing Louis Farrakhan's extreme homophobia.[9]
  • JAH III of AssataShakur.org opposes the Castro dictatorship of Cuba,[10] but only because the Castros are white.
  • In 1952, the Jehovah's Witnesses stopped teaching that vaccines are immoral.[11]
  • Alex Jones has criticised David Icke's belief that the world is run by blood-drinking shapeshifting alien lizards numerous times, despite being more than willing to believe all sorts of other conspiratorial bunkum. Jones has referred to Icke's theory as "the turd in the punch bowl" - I.e. In his view Icke makes plenty of good points and then ruins it all with the crap about space lizards.
  • Jim Jones's outspoken support for racial equality, pacifism, and a comprehensive social safety net.
  • Megyn Kelly has been critical of anti vaxxers, the sexism of her Fox News' colleagues, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney.
  • Vladimir Lenin's plan to move Russia's calendar in line with the rest of the world and legalizing homosexuality.
  • Mao for some feminist views and unifying China as a cohesive entity for the first time in decades.
  • Michael Medved vocally denouncing both Birtherism and the GOP for the fiscal cliff crisis.
  • Mississippi has a high vaccination rate and for producing many of America's best known singers and musicians.
  • MRAs often support free internet access and oppose censorship, albeit their motives are generally poor.
  • Benito Mussolini's opposition to racism and antisemitism for the first decade of his rule.[12]
  • Richard Nixon ending the Bretton Woods system, passing the EPA act, passing OSHA, removing lead from gas stations (and decreasing violent crimes as a result), and re-establishing relations with mainland China.
  • North Korea's unlikely alliance with the US against Somali Pirates.
  • Gary North mocking the concept of "Cultural Marxism" as being a boogeyman among the political right while even making a good case that it's not actually Marxist.
  • NRA's opposition to open carry and training people to actually hunt.
  • The Orange Order for being open to people of other races.
  • Bill O'Reilly giving a huge smackdown to Moon landing hoax proponents and pushers of 9-11 conspiracy theories.
  • Ian Paisley backed the peace process from 2006 onwards.
  • The reason Ron Paul intially attracts so many young people is because he wants to decriminalize drugs and has been consistant in criticizing gunboat diplomacy.
  • Despite not being able to name three government agencies, having a tendency to use schlafly statistics and earnestly comparing being gay to alcoholism, even Rick Perry believes weed should be decriminalized. He also had a moderate stance on immigration early on and briefly defended HPV vaccines.
  • PETA supports LGBT rights unlike many other extremist organizations.
  • Putin's policies on economic growth in Russia early in his reign, especially after the collapse of the Russian economy during the 1990's. He has also not appeared to be especially anti-Semitic and has also warned the U.S. on intervening in the Middle East.
  • Al Qaeda itself sees Daesh as too extreme, albeit only because either they are making Islamism look unattractive or because they don't want to share the Salafism sandbox with anyone else.
  • Grigori Rasputin's magical cure for hemophilia? He instructed the emperor and empress to discontinue all medical treatment being received by the Tsarevich. This included aspirin, a drug which definitely does not help hemophilia (it can cause minor stomach bleeding, and in cases of hemophilia, there's no such thing as "minor bleeding"). It's unlikely that Rasputin knew that asprin was worsening the condition, yet his advice probably prolonged Alexei's life.[13] Didn't do him much good in the long run.
  • Republicans have voted very often against war when a Democrat is in office, although this may also be an instance of garbage in garbage out, given that it's ultimately derived from political point-scoring.
  • Pat Robertson has been very critical of Ken Ham and Young Earth Creationism in general,[14] and believes marijuana should be legal; and he thinks religious freedom laws make no sense.
  • Mitt Romney, for passing Romneycare and allowing gay marriage as governor. He also was originally pro-choice.
  • Ronald Reagan was for LGBT rights, gun control, and abortion as Governor of California (albeit, in gun control, only to deal with the militant wing of the Black Panthers). He also established MediCal as governor, which helped the poor and impoverished with federal aid money and health benefits, formally apologized for the internment camps in World War II, raised taxes eleven times after initially cutting taxes, and improved immigration laws as President.
  • South Africa's plan under apartheid to save rhinos and, at least officially, banning the use of the word "kaffir[wp]", which was and is the South African equivalent of the American English word "nigger".
  • The Southern Baptist Convention for allowing pastors to be married, and for apologizing for slavery and segregation.
  • The Soviet Union fiercely opposed apartheid from the 1960s onward, had universal health care (resulting in a higher life expectancy than the United States), had a cheap and efficient space program, and produced many excellent anthropologists and historians.
  • Joseph Stalin's staunch opposition to colonialism and his support for feminism, primarily by letting Russian women serve in the army (though the latter was, admittedly, little more than war pragmatism and he put Eastern Europe under the Red Army's heel).
  • John Stossel debunking both New Age nuttery and "supernatural" claims.
  • Tito's neutrality and limited adoption of capitalism in Yugoslavia.
  • Margaret Thatcher voting to decriminalize homosexuality and acknowledging the threat of climate change in 1990; making her the first leader of a major country to do so.
  • Thunderf00t's early videos on creationism are generally well-crafted and accessible takedowns of right-wing woo tactics.
  • Omar Torrijos, dictator of Panama from 1968-1981, for signing the Panama Canal Treaty with Carter.
  • Rafael Trujillo let Jewish refugees into the Dominican Republic during the 1930's and set up a national park system that has kept the environment much more intact than that of its neighbor.
  • Marsha West is most well-known as the Jesus freak RenewAmerica columnist who denounced yoga as "mystical" and "evil." However West has also been quite vocal in her criticism of Christian Dominionism, seeing it as too extreme for even her.[15]
  • The Westboro Baptist Church has criticized the Ku Klux Klan for their racism, pointing out The Bible doesn't say it's a sin to be born a certain race. For their part, the KKK has denounced the WBC for being "hatemongers."
  • What was the issue that finally caused Geert Wilders to break away from the right-wing coalition that was in power in the Netherlands? He and his party refused to support austerity measures being put into place by the (usually) more reasonable moderate right party. Wilders also generally supports LGBT rights.
  • Malcolm X was rather virulently "eye for an eye," providing a perfect foil for MLK's pacifism, so he was quite inflammatory for much of his public life, but after visiting Mecca, he renounced the Nation of Islam for mainstream Sunni Islam, seemed to move more towards civil disobedience, and defended his arguments very well.
  • The Anti-vaccination movement, after over a decade of attributing every bad thing to vaccines, ended up being right about vaccines causing narcolepsy in Scandinavia and the Netherlands[16] (the antigens associated with virus in question, H1N1, appear to cause the narcolepsy),[17] mumps in Suriname (due to improper attenuation),[18] and polio outbreaks in Nigeria (because certain vaccines covered different strains than others).[19]
  • The Northern Irish Unionists accepted most British reforms passed by Atlee.

[edit] Objections to the analogy

Without a frame of reference, there is no way of knowing when a stopped clock is right... or not. So to determine the time that a stopped clock is correct you'd need another clock, and if you have another clock why bother with the stopped one? Plus, if you cannot tell when the stopped clock is right then it is worse than a clock displaying the wrong time which, so long as the timing mechanisms work, can at least inform you of the passage of time.

Also, the concept of the 'right time' is subject to quite a bit of uncertainty — not least because of relativity. A stopped clock with a second hand is right twice a day to an uncertainty of one second, but technically is it only right for one Planck time, a measurement so small as to be pointless. But this is why analogies are just that, analogies.

It also doesn't work with a digital clock. When those suckers stop, their display shuts down entirely. Or show 88:88.

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes


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