"The power of the analogy is that it can persuade people to transfer the feeling of certainty they have about one subject to another subject about which they may not have formed an opinion."
Some of you may have also seen an analogy that has been floating around social media for a few weeks. Set up in SAT analogy terms, it looks like this- ISIS:Islam::Westboro:Christianity. To be sure, this is a well-meaning analogy that is certainly meant to draw a distinction between extremists and moderates. But this analogy has some serious flaws that greatly diminish the danger ISIS poses as well as the suffering ISIS causes. It's a very weak analogy at best and a dangerous one at worst. Based on the Cohen quote, this analogy has the potential power to persuade people. Persuade them of what? Perhaps persuade them that ISIS isn't so bad. Or that Westboro is really dangerous. But that doesn't really make a lot of sense, does it? Hence, it's a bad analogy.
Westboro is a group I have spoken against many times. They wrongly represent Christianity. However, as far as I know, they have not murdered anyone. They've not crucified children, beheaded children, gang raped women and girls, buried people alive, committed mass murder, etc. They are a group of about 40 people who hold up poster-board signs that, though they are mean-spirited, are not bringing about the death of thousands. On the other hand, ISIS is a group of 50,000 and growing. They have been very clear in communicating their mission to kill and destroy. Do they wrongly represent moderate Islam? Sure. But that is where the analogy ends and because this situation is far more complex than a crumbs:splinters analogy, the ISIS:Westboro analogy is weak and dangerous.
To compare ISIS to Westboro greatly diminishes the very serious threat ISIS poses. I mean really, does anyone fear for their life in the presence of Westboro? Further, this analogy seriously diminishes the extraordinary pain and suffering that so many have experienced at the hands of ISIS. Though I don't discount the emotional pain suffered because of the actions of Westboro, I don't know as though mean epithets on poster-board can really be compared to the suffering of one who has endured unspeakable things because of ISIS.
I would argue that just because 2 things are similar in some respects doesn't mean they are similar in all, or even some other, respects. The logical problem with the ISIS:Westboro analogy is that it ignores analysis, and that is a problem. Perhaps this situation is one where the vastly overused Nazi analogy might actually work. It would look like this- Nazis:Average German citizen::ISIS:Average Muslim. But even that analogy has several problems. So, maybe we could all agree that no analogy should be attempted.