On Saturday there was the sound of gunshots at Westgate Mall in Kenya. The authorities are investigating Islamist militants for killing at least 72 people and destroying part of the mall. However, today we will not be talking about the actions of the militants, we will be talking about the actions of an 18-year old South African male. Zachary Yach and others were in a restaurant eating in the mall while the attack took place. Yach noticed some little debris hitting a woman. Next thing thing know, a huge explosion occurs and sweeps them off their feet. Things were whirling around and hitting their faces and then the sound pierced their eardrums. Because of this they dropped to the ground, curled up and stayed like that for a good half hour. After lying low, and seeing some terrorists come out, Yach said to his mom, “It’s a scary thought but just play dead.” And they did. This is how he and five others survived the attack.
Let’s put this into argument form now:
Islamist militants were at Westgate mall;
Westgate mall was attacked while Zachary Yach was in it;
Therefore; the Islamist militants were attacking Zachary Yach.
Let’s break down this form now. Logically it would seem the conclusion might potentially follow the premises. Does it follow a formula form though? Well if you put this into substitution instance and we let x represent Islamist militants; let y represent Westgate mall; and let z represent Zachary Yach.
X are at Y;
Y was attacked with Z in it;
Therefore, X was attacking Z.
To break this down further we can do this:
X are Y
Y was Z
X was Z.
Form wise, this is correct. The variables logically lead to and from each other. Content wise though is it as correct?
First, dealing with the first premise, it seems to be factually correct and air tight. According to The Guardian, “US, British and Israeli agencies are helping Kenya investigate an attack by Islamist militants…” This event also took place four days after the Kenyan president declared to end a four-day occupation by Islamist militants. As well, eye witnessed identified Islamist militants.
Next, moving onto the second premise, we can conclude that this is true as well. Westgate mall was attacked with militants storming the mall with guns and grenades. As well, Zachary Yach was confirmed to be there with his family after a doctor’s appointment. He even has texts that he was sharing with his dad when this was all going on.
Finally, is the conclusion true? Were the Islamist militants attacking Zachary Yach? In a sense, yes, but not personally (at least we don’t think). They were attacking the entire Nairobi mall in general. However the way the conclusion is stated, it may seem that Zachary Yach was a sole target which might or might not be the case. So we can conclude that the conclusion is false. And since the conclusion is false, this argument is not sound since not all statements are factually correct.
The logic of this argument might stem from the fact that both premises are indeed true and the fact that Zachary Yach made a public statement about what happened. Someone could take this as a “I survived a personal attack on myself” kind of story. I’m sure that’s not Yach was doing when he was interviewed, however if someone was cynical enough they could believe. Or maybe this logic stems from a Yach himself. Who knows, even though he knows it was a general attack, he might be traumatized so much that it does feel like a personal attack. He’s definitely not wanting it to be a pitying statement, he just wants others to know how he felt/feels.
This kind of logic affects our society in the sense where we think people are looking for attention in saying it was a personal attack, when in reality to them it felt like it, even though they know it wasn’t. Culturally, I’m sure this incident will bring those five survivors together, and the families of deceased ones together. They will create a community where they all understand how the other feels. Politically and economically, the Kenyan government now has to spend time and money investigating this incident and finding ways to compensate and make sure that this doesn’t happen again.
Source 1 is in link above.