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The phrase "stopped clock" (also "broken clock" or a "sudden outbreak of common sense") 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.
 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.
 Some examples
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Didn't do him much good in the long run.
- Margaret Thatcher voting to decriminalize homosexuality and acknowledging the threat of climate change.
- Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a homophobic "religious freedom" bill (but only after pressure from business groups).
- 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.
- Newt Gingrich strongly condemning American conservatives for failing to support Nelson Mandela during apartheid.
- The Constitution Party opposing the War on Drugs and the Iraq War.
- Todd Friel claiming that the New Apostolic Reformation was faking miracles by putting glitter and feathers into the ventilation system.
- Glenn Beck now agreeing with liberals about Iraq and defending a boy who got bullied for being a brony.
- 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.
- Sean Hannity calling the Westboro Baptist Church "religious nut(s)" and encouraging the Catholic Church to tone down their opposition to birth control.
- Wingnut pundit Laura Ingraham denouncing Louis Farrakhan's extreme homophobia.
- JAH III of AssataShakur.org opposes the Castro dictatorship of Cuba, but only because the Castros are white.
- Michael Medved vocally denouncing both Birtherism and the GOP for the fiscal cliff crisis.
- 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.
- Pat Robertson has been very critical of Ken Ham and Young Earth Creationism in general, and believes marijuana should be legal.
- John Stossel debunking both New Age nuttery and "supernatural" claims.
- 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.
- 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 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 underpreviledged African-Americans.
- 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."
- Conservapedia's article on the Westboro Baptist Church is highly critical, arguing that "true Christians" follow God's example and "love the sinner."
- Bill O'Reilly giving a huge smackdown to Moon landing hoax proponents and pushers of 9-11 conspiracy theories.
- 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.
- In 1952, the Jehovah's Witnesses stopped teaching that vaccines are immoral.
- In 1966, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the list of books banned by the Roman Catholic Church, was formally abolished.
- In 2013 the Church of England allowed gay men in civil partnerships to become bishops.
- Following the death of Osama bin Laden, an Iranian government spokesperson said this meant that "(The) US and their allies have no more excuse to deploy forces in the Middle East under (the) pretext of fighting terrorism."
- Al Qaeda itself sees Daesh as too extreme, albeit only because they are making Islamism look unattractive.
- Adolf Hitler's promotion of anti-smoking research and strong support for animal rights.
- Joseph Stalin's staunch opposition to colonialism and his support for feminism (though the latter was, admittedly, little more than war pragmatism.)
- Also, the Soviet Union fiercely opposed apartheid from the 1960s onward, had universal health care (resulting in a higher life expectancy than the United States), and produced many excellent anthropologists and historians.
- Benito Mussolini's opposition to racism and antisemitism for the first decade of his rule.
- Imperial Japan's harboring of Jewish Holocaust refugees during World War II.
- Jim Jones's outspoken support for racial equality, pacifism, and a comprehensive social safety net.
- Napoleon Bonaparte's emancipation of French Jews and his promotion of the metric system.
- David Icke has been highly critical of the Religious Right in general, but especially the Tea Party.
- Megyn Kelly has been critical of anti vaxxers.
- 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.
- Ian Paisley backed the peace process from 2006 onwards.
- East Germany had a relatively advanced healthcare system and trained many doctors.
- Ronald Reagan was for gun control as Governor(albeit if only to deal with the militant wing of the Black Panthers) of California and improved immigration laws as President.
- Mississippi has a high vaccination rate.
- Barry Goldwater for being pro-choice, not especially religious, and supporting gay rights at the end of his life
 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.
 See also
- ↑ Slashdot stories tagged with "suddenoutbreakofcommonsense"
- ↑ Focus: Aspirin - The secret history of a wonder drug, The Independent
- ↑ Gingrich vs. the Right on Apartheid: 'What Would You Have Done?', The Atlantic
- ↑ "Real Discernment Glory Clouds IHOP The Call Wretched Bill Johnson Bethel" ...yeah, we don't get the title either.
- ↑ Please note that Ingraham isn't exactly the image of humanity when it comes to homosexuals.
- ↑ Fundies Say the Darndest Things
- ↑ Pat Robertson begs Ken Ham to shut up, Salon
- ↑ "Dominionists are on the Move, and They Mean Business"
- ↑ religioustolerance.org - Jehovah's Witnesses' past opposition to vaccination
- ↑ Bible Light - Pope John Paul II Declares Evolution to be Fact! (fundamentalist site)
- ↑ Politics Daily - Pope OKs Condoms in Some Cases, Such as Prostitutes Avoiding HIV
- ↑ BBC News - Church of England drops gay bishop opposition
- ↑ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-tobacco_movement_in_Nazi_Germany#Hitler.27s_attitude_towards_smoking
- ↑ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_welfare_in_Nazi_Germany
- ↑ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benito_Mussolini#Mussolini_and_the_Holocaust
- ↑ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_settlement_in_the_Japanese_Empire