False dichotomy

My comment on the article George Blake and the meaning of treachery by David Aaronovitch in The Times, 30 December 2020.

Lech S Borkowski comment in The Times 31 December 2020
Lech S Borkowski, comment in The Times, 31 December 2020

The author based his article on a false dichotomy.

“Was the greatest crime of the Soviet spy, who died last week, betraying his country? Or believing in an inhuman creed?”

Conjuction ‘or’ in English is explained as allowing for only one of the presented possibilities. If so, it is different from the logical ‘or’, which makes sentence logically true if one, the other, or both parts of the sentence are true. This being a regular text, I presume we are supposed to read it in the sense of ‘either… or…’.


(a) This is the wrong conjuction. The proper one is ‘and’.
(b) Entirely spurious question, which tries to reframe the issue and is more worthy of a defense lawyer than a writer fully concious of the enormity of totalitarian genocides.

Blake served the genocidal Communist regime of the Soviet Union fully voluntarily, enthusiastically, with great dedication. That is his primary guilt. The rest is the consequence.

The Nazi at the Numerberg trials were not accused of ‘believing in an inhuman creed’. They were accused of specific crimes. The author knows perfectly well that people believe lots of different things, some sensible, some rotten, but that beliefs themselves are not exactly punishable. It is the deeds that matter.

So, this Times writer tries to act as Blake’s defense lawyer in a court of history. Sad.

Note also the absence of victims in his text. My family and I are some of those victims.