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The phrase "stopped clock" (also "broken clock" or "sudden outbreak of common sense") comes from the proverb "even a stopped clock is right twice a day", thus implying that even cranks, denialists, or conspiracy theorists that are literally wrong at every other time of the day can theoretically be correct once in a while especially in spite of their bad reasoning.
When is a moment a stopped clock?
Application of stopped clock moments should be careful. It is unreasonable to expect those that have differing or even badly-formed ideologies and frameworks to be wrong on every subject. Also, since people change minds all the time, moments of assholes that later take responsibility and apologize are not stopped-clock moments. Additionally, two unreasonable opinions that appear to cancel each other out and create a reasonable one are not a stopped clock moment - they are simply two unreasonable statements. One example of this would be a transphobe who claims that "transgender men" should not use the same bathroom as little girls but is clearly misgendering trans women while simultaneously denying them their rights has not had a stopped clock moment. The two negative views may appear to cancel each other out and create a positive one, but they do not. Finally, any moment where someone displays decency, but such decency originates from a bad framework, is not a stopped-clock moment. For instance, a racist can condemn animal cruelty but the thought is fueled by racism against the Chinese (which in some small provinces raise dogs for food).
The best application for a stopped clock moment would be to illustrate the fallacy fallacy, which is the mistake of assuming that any conclusion derived from fallacious reasoning must be false. A clock stopped at 3:48 will always conclude that the current time is 3:48. In spite of its faulty premises, though, this conclusion happens to be correct for two minutes a day, or 1/720 (roughly 0.14%) of the time.
A stopped clock isn't when you agree with someone you'd normally disagree with, but instead when someone who generally spouts harmful, hateful, or just nonsensical views says or does something that is unambigiously beneficial. Peta, a radical animal rights group, isn't a stopped clock because they are vegans (as that is an opinionated assumption) but donating artificial lamb cadavers to Egyptian medical schools to reduce the reliance on actual dead lambs is a stopped clock.
Grigori Rasputin's magical cure for hemophilia was instructing the emperor and empress to discontinue medical treatment, including receiving aspirin. It's unlikely that Rasputin knew that aspirin was worsening the condition, yet his advice probably prolonged the tsarevich's life.
Another broader example would be an unhinged conspiracy theorist accusing a government of an elaborate cover-up for ridiculous reasons such as alien interference, but later on, the government has been involved in a cover-up (but through more mundane methods such as bribery).
Here is a long list of examples from many people commonly cited to get things utterly wrong at times:
- The occasional non-extreme social justice positions of Diane Abbott, such as being pro-choice with no caveats to such.[note 1]
- Michele Bachmann dismissing the conspiracy of birtherism.
- Black Pigeon speaks is a staunch animal rights activist who has made videos of himself rescuing and taking care of pigeons.
- David Cameron doing things like legalising gay marriage, and keeping his parties loonies in check. His successors failed at the latter.
- Fidel Castro despite his many human rights violations, developed sophisticated healthcare policies and made education more accessible. Later in life, he also voiced regret for his government's persecution of homosexuals, taking personal responsibility and calling it a "great injustice".
- Notorious Sith Lord, Darth Cheney, heavily denouncing Donald Trump for proposing to ban Muslim entry to the USA.[note 2]
VentressLiz Cheney calling for Steve King's resignation after he said (in essence) 'white supremacy isn't so bad', and also voting to impeach Trump after he incited a riot at the US Capitol.[note 3].
- The Conservative Party of Canada electing Erin O'Toole as its leader in 2020, a conservative who staunchly supports LGBT rights and is an environmentalist.
- Steven Crowder opposes antisemitism, such as when he condemned the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, and has publicly mocked the alt-right.
- Ted Cruz being Pro-GMO.[note 4]
- Terry Goodkind, Randroid fantasy author, showed some respect for labor unions in spite of being rabidly anti-collectivist.
- Alex Jones, a far-right conspiracy theorist known for his outlandish views, accused Jeffrey Epstein of being a child sex trafficker back in 2008. A decade later, Epstein was revealed to have used an island to prostitute teenage girls. He has also explicitly rejected some of the Neo-Nazis in his audience.
- Tomi Lahren is pro-choice and voices heavy resentment for the alt-right and the KKK.
- Marine Le Pen kicking her father out of the National Rally. She somehow made the party capable of running seriously in an election too.
- Vladimir Lenin actually caring about minority rights, even giving women the right to vote.[note 6]
- Richard Nixon, for his many, many failing as POTUS, gave us the EPA, improved relations with China, and was first to argue for what would become the Affordable Care Act.
- Rand Paul fighting against the PATRIOT Act, going as far as to even filbuster its renewal later on.
- Vladimir Putin managing to save Russia's economy, despite his utter incompetence elsewhere.
- Ayn Rand of all people showed some grudging respect for construction workers and their labor Unions in her works. While not the protagonists of her stories, ordinary Blue Collar folk were some of the "good guy" minor characters, as long as they worshipped the protagonists of course. Long story short, when Rand was still in Russia, the Bolsheviks were made up of intellectuals who sneered at the working classes they supposedly represented. They viewed the various labor guilds as blocking decent-paying work from "the people", but the harsh reality is that construction work is skilled and dangerous work, and for any faults they may have had the guilds/unions made sure the job was done safely. The end result was a lot of inexperienced or otherwise incompetent people started working construction, leading to both delays and deaths.
- António de Oliveira Salazar refusing to entrench the Estado Novo in the usual fascist ideals of expansionism and personality cults.
- Ben Shapiro immediately resigning from Breitbart.com due to their poor handling of the assault on one of their own reporters, Michelle Fields. He has also publicly condemned the alt-right.
- Jared Taylor a prolific white supremacist, has spoken out against antisemitism and criticized David Duke for his statements.
- Justin Trudeau, despite his cronyism, wonkiness and perhaps corruption recently, is a staunch defender of equal rights, and has done truly amazing things such as tearing apart the partisanship in the Canadian Senate.
- Adrian Zenz for his work on the Uighur genocide.
- Inverse stopped clock
- Improbable things happen
- List of cognitive biases
- Texas sharpshooter fallacy
- Imperfect therefore untrustworthy
- This is said in light of certain things, such as her views on race, which can border on, or just be, flat-out racism, despite a pursuit of equality. Read her page for more.
- We found the heart!!
- She didn't vote in favor of Trump's first impeachment, however.
- Yes. We too thought Ted Cruz couldn't be capable of anything good.
- Ironic because his brother Christopher, who once was a pacifist, was one of its biggest cheerleaders.
- ...Let's just say that Stalin couldn't give less of a crap about that. Like most, they were soon off to the gulag