Friday, 3 February 2012

On false equivalencies

A public service announcement, in absolutely no way inspired by the current debate over Komen’s funding of Planned Parenthood, follows:

If you are comparing your contemporary domestic political opponents (say, pro-choicers or pro-lifers) to the Viet Cong, the Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, or the Taliban, it seems to me that one of two conclusions obtain:

  1. You should be willing to support the same level of political violence against the contemporary domestic opponents as you would against the other actors. For example, a pro-lifer who believes that Planned Parenthood is morally equivalent to the Nazis who would support assassinating concentration camp guards should also be willing to support assassinating doctors who perform abortions; similarly, a pro-choicer who thinks someone who supports sonogram bills is the moral equivalent of the Taliban, who supports the targeted killing of Taliban fighters in AfPak, should also support killing politicians who support sonogram bills.
  2. Or, if you are unwilling to take your positions to their logical conclusion, you should tone down your rhetoric so that the apparent equivalency you have expressed is no longer seen by external observers as an equivalency. Or, if you are unable to do so, just be quiet.

This might, for example, also apply to anyone who argues that supporters of Voter ID laws are channeling the spirit of Lester Maddox, or anyone who says that people who support socializing the costs of medicine are latter day Che Guevaras.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

In which I attempt to apply rationality to the irrational

John Sides ponders psychological explanations for the alleged murderer/assassin of George Tiller’s behavior, noting recent research on the motivations of extremists:

Is there some salient new “threat” that would have heightened Roeder’s concern about Tiller? Lots of research suggests that threat is a crucial motivator of violence. ... However, I’m not sure what the threat is in the case of [alleged assassin] and Tiller. Some have suggested that Bill O’Reilly’s criticism of Tiller is to blame.

I’ll freely admit that if I owned a commercial television network I wouldn’t give Bill O’Reilly a platform to express his views (as, for that matter, I’d cancel any programming that featured latter-day Know Nothing nativist Lou Dobbs or someone who spends most of his program, as far as I can tell, whining about the guy who kicks his ass in the ratings in the same timeslot—namely, Keith Olbermann).* Sides goes on to explain this theory is lacking too, in any event.

There is a reasonably plausible threat hypothesis, however; for the first time in eight years, there is a Democratic, pro-choice president in the White House who just happens to have nominated a left-leaning, presumably (if we are to believe the White House’s spin machine) pro-choice candidate to a vacancy on the Supreme Court, which is where (for better or worse) our political system has decided abortion policy is to be decided. I’d imagine if you’re just a wee bit crazy to begin with that might activate the super-crazy neurons a bit, even if it’s just related to hearing people on the news yammer on about the nomination “reigniting” the abortion debate.

Then again, maybe his dog told him to do it.

* Clearly my network would go out of business for lacking viewership, but nobody ever believed I had much television programming acumen anyway.