There is a ballot initiative in my native state of Michigan which would make all affirmative action programs (based on race or ethnicity) illegal under Michigan law (similar initiatives were passed in California and Washington state). Touchy subject, race. George Will tells us this morning that some opponents of the measure do not want “to argue the merits”:

>some opponents of MCRI have adopted four tactics, none of which involves arguing the merits of racial preferences and all of which attempt — in the name of “civil rights,” of course — to prevent Michiganders from being allowed to vote on MCRI. The tactics have included:

And he goes on to list four separate charges, which, if true (and let’s assume they are), demonstrate the hypocrisy (at least) of some opponents of the Michigan ballot measure. But demonstrating the hyprocisy of some of an initiative’s detractors does not demonstrate the forthrightness of some or any of its supporters. Nor does it mean they’re right. Lots of voters–even lots of serious political writers–do not want to argue the merits of their case; they’d rather argue about whether the opponent was wounded in Vietnam, or whether he’s an effete snob who would never shop at Wal Mart. The merits of the case–whatever they are (and if they are)–still wait around to be argued.

And now to that argument:

>Because the plain language of MCRI is appealing, some opponents argue that MCRI would have terrible “unintended consequences.” It might, they say, eliminate single-sex public schools (Michigan has none; eight of 3,748 schools have a few voluntary single-sex classes) and breast-cancer screening or might stop a Department of Natural Resources program aimed at helping Michigan women become hunters (the initiative concerns only hiring, contracting and public schools).

>Given the caliber of opposition arguments. . .

These are the best arguments Will could find? If so, it looks as if Will doesn’t want to argue the merits either. And least not seriously. He wants to (1) malign all of the supporters with the hyporcritical actions of some of them and (2) find the weakest arguments against the initiative he supports and make fun of them in order to lend support to the view that the supporters of the initiative

>are provoking remnants of the civil rights movement, which now is just a defender of a racial spoils system, to demonstrate its decadence, even thuggishness.

And everyone knows that’s a straw man.

2 thoughts on “Prejudiced”

  1. Will is the definition of a douchebag. Day in, day out, his face permanently stuck in a sneer that can only come from such blind self-assurance and oily rhetorical tricks, Will mocks and defames any opponents that might disrupt his archaic political vision. The problem is, Captain Straw Man doesn’t appear to have a clear political vision to begin with other than as contrarian to anything and anyone “liberal” or “progressive”. Way to go Will. You sure told the civil rights movement. Those bastards and their damn expanded sense of justice.

    Color-blind government? What about true demographic representation? Will seems to be confusing ideal equality with actual equality. The more actual equality we see occurring as a result of moves like “Affirmative Action,” the more economic mobility will be seen among the underrepresented, thereby allowing the poor minorities to actively participate in government and politics that, let’s face it, requires substantial capital to even set foot on the playing field. That is an argument FOR affirmative action that has nothing to do with female hunting clubs. It may not be persuasive to some, but it is, IMO, at the very least an argument that ought to be addressed if one wishes to still deny the merits of affirmative action.

    Anyway, nice post, but Will gave you an underhanded pitch on this one. You should use this article as a text-book case of Straw Man in your crit. thinking class.

  2. I think you’re right about this being a textbook case of straw man. The one thing about these sorts of straw man arguments is that they appeal to someone. I suspect they appeal to those who are inclined to believe them. They may be of a similar ideological vision or they might just be uninformed about the issue. The Daily Howler has, I think, an appropriate terms for such BS: “pleasing tales.” I gather his point is that whenever the facts or the opponents so wonderfully match their worst caricature, you spin a tale that pleases your preconceptions. He’s got a good way of pointing out liberal types who do this. But so rarely are they op-ed types and infrequently does he directly address arguments. Nonetheless, as you point out correctly, there is a case for affirmative action. There is a case *against* affirmative action. Neither is advanced by such shallow opining.

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