Guilt by Association


Last weekend in an ancient Cornish pub, I was discussing guilt by association with a friend – one of the ducking stools characteristically favoured by the Left which has sadly come into fashion from the Centre to the Right in recent years (one hopes but temporarily, as the West finally wakes up to the circular firing squad of postmodern creep).

Put simply, an association fallacy is an informal inductive fallacy of the hasty-generalisation or red-herring type, and which asserts, by irrelevant association and often by appeal to emotion, that qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another. Westminsterised, it means “get seen with Eggy and, whether you want it or not, you’ll end up with egg on your face”.

If meant truly, ‘guilt by association’ would be the teller passing intelligence to a bank robber, or the Doctor slipping poison to a murderer, or the lecher sharing a private flight with Epstein and a bunch of underage masseuses to his private island. But the phrase has, like so many things, lost its association with Truth and is now mostly used in smear.

According to the (nowadays bargain) book of Leftist Puritanism, these days one would be wise, before sharing a stage, to do a Kroll background check on others who will be seen beside you. Dare not publish in your magazine the work of someone associated with that someone else. Be quick to delete all your social media pages if asked to take up some government role or risk guilt by association with that Raymond you knew merely as a prop forward, who happens to be a Covid denier, or your ex’s best friend Melinda who was caught up in a pegging scandal with some randy Lib Dem peer.

Like me, you could always reserve the expense of deep-dive Kroll checks for business acquaintances and daughters’ boyfriends and deal head-on with the consequences of any guilt by association should some half-arsed left-wing muppet, or treacherous rightie for that matter, throw around the fallacy in your direction.

For as soon as you put up your guard you infringe your liberty, do you not? You also deny your inbuilt radar a chance to let acquaintances pass or fail your integral smell test, honed on years of practice.

Anyway, some of the best people are smelly, are they not? Gorgonzola may well be blue and mouldy but it’s delicious, healthy and enhanced extraordinarily by a good fig mustard. Why throw out the Gorgonzola? Drake, Raleigh, Beaverbrook, Churchill, Philip, Musk – all called smelly by a myriad of covetous leftie pipsqueaks but look at these individuals’ resounding achievements, which can hardly be surpassed. 

And why did the topic of guilt by association come up in conversation?

Because some of the Packham trolls – you may have heard that a High Court ‘defamation’ case is happening on May 2nd next year courtesy of Chris Packham, and those involved from this magazine have been heavily trolled and stalked by some pitiable wingnuts – were trying to pin on me a fabricated case involving a fleet of non-existent bullet-proof cars.

These imaginary cars were involved in some multi-million-dollar scandal in deepest West Africa in 2016, involving (but not involving as it turned out, as the whole episode was a fiction dreamt up to smear a Presidential candidate in the Ghanaian election of 2016) a billionaire who I happened to once do some work for, and I am proud to call a friend. (I am told even Byline turned the story down – it must have failed to pass even their Cadwalladr hurdle for spurious bunkum).

Clearly these invertebrates have never set foot in West Africa and merely Googled the smear on the Presidential candidate, making a series of armchair assumptions in an effort to guilt me by association. (I know they have never been involved in any serious business and, judging by reports of their current status, they have not had sex for years, at least none of the unpaid kind).

As I laughed with my friend at these useless pinners – a case of “no link, no cars, no dollars” – he reminded me that I had once been at a dinner party with X whose penchant for a very curious type of erotic activity once made the papers and that most people on the Right, and many on the Left, had met this gentleman at least once, and in person.

This was true.

I had forgotten about X.  

Indeed, follow the Left’s logic along and there would be few Conservative MPs left if guilt by association were taken seriously as professional demotion tool. In one fell swoop he’d have taken down all the think tanks, most of the newspaper journalists, half the London clergy and a slew of VIPs. Just for one chap having a curious sexual predilection that harmed few if any and, when revealed, merely raised a few guffaws.

Which is the point of guilt by association, is it not?

To appeal to emotion, to catch a target unawares and abash them into some silly, spur-of-the-moment comment or decision.

It is surprising how often people are still caught out by the ruse, as if they cannot think objectively.

If they thought a bit before reacting then perhaps guilt by association – the Westminster kind – would be banished to the trash-heap of poundshop Machiavellianism; laid next to the careers of Tom Watson, Jon Lansman and Chris Williamson. Soon to be joined by he whose name shall not be spoken…

Dominic Wightman is Editor of Country Squire Magazine.