Category Archives: Argument from Double Standards

Scare quoque

Mallard Fillmore's recent take on the President's rhetorical strategies:

This is an argument about arguments — namely, that scare tactics are bad, but it's worse to be a hypocrite about using them.  So the score tally goes:  Republicans -1 for using scare tactics, Obama +1 for chastising them for using the tactic.  Obama -1 for using scare tactics, and -1 for being a hypocrite about using them.  (And +1 for Fillmore for pointing out the scare tactic, and +1 for pointing out the hypocrisy.)

Now, a question.  Surely arguing that policy X will have bad consequences (or not following policy X will have the bad consequences) appeals to people's fears, but (a) so long as those things are bad and worth fearing, and (b) X is a crucial element in either avoiding or bringing about those consequences, aren't arguments from fear also good arguments from prudence?  The scare tactic is not composed of simply pointing out that something bad will happen if we don't do something — it's comprised in shutting down discussion about what is the best way to avoid the bad consequences.  Take for example the insurance salesman who says something like: people your age often can get sick and die with no warning — that's why you need St. Bartholomew Insurance to take care of your family if that happens.  The fact of the sudden death may mean that you should get insurance, but it certainly doesn't mean that you should get St. Bartholomew Ins.  We don't get why the Republicans or Obama are using scare tactics here, but it is a real question for us when we're being scared to accept a conclusion that doesn't follow.

Slut walk? I’ll watch!

Chrisopher Orlet begins his column at the American Spectator, "Feminist Foolery," with an interesting observation about the slut walk phenomenon.

In the interest of clarity, a SlutWalk — the latest gambit in the increasingly raunchy women's movement — is when college gals dress up like tramps in order to protest something no one believes anyway (at least no one who isn't a complete Neanderthal), i.e., that suggestively dressed women deserve to be sexually harassed.

So far, Orlet is on the map in terms of reasonable positions to take: i) sex-awareness movements needn't be so explicit, and ii) the revealing clothing message is old news.  That's not to say I think he's right, but these aren't ridiculous views, and it does seem to show he's been paying attention (and perhaps, that he's learned a lesson).  Oh, and then he follows it up with:

Not surprisingly, SlutWalks are quite popular on college campuses. Especially with frat boys who get to ogle scantily clad young women sashaying round the quadrangle.

Yeah, maybe he doesn't really understand, and all those reasonable views were held on accident.  Not surprising, really, given that he recently argued that he could be more civil in argument, if that might make it more likely that he could get lucky.  Yeah, the justification for an argumentative norm is that it is conducive of coitus (though I think it was a joke). And here's the evidence that he doesn't get the point about sexual harrasment and rape. He thinks there's a double standard being used everywhere else in the slutwalkers' lives:

[D]espite what the SlutWalkers preach, we are judged by what we wear (and how we talk, and how we behave, even how we chew gum) and no number of skanky protests is going to change that.  Just try showing up for a job interview dressed like Amy Winehouse or Courtney Love and see how far that gets you. I'm willing to bet my last dollar that these same SlutWalkers, when they interview job seekers or size up potential dates, judge people by what they wear.

Fine, but, you know, there's a difference between judging people by what they wear and groping and raping them on the basis of that.  In the interest of clarity, it seems we must state again that it was that last thing that the protests were about.

Funny fallacy fallacy

From Slate:

This is not even a straw man; it's some loose straw the writer is throwing in the air while yelling "Look at that man!"

Funny line, but it may be that it's not a straw man, because it's just not a straw man. Benjamin explained in the NYT that he is boycotting hetero-sexual weddings on the grounds that it is unreasonable for him to "financially and emotionally invest in a ritual that excludes [him] in all but five states."

The response to this, he says, is that his friends take him to task for foisting his political agenda on others. he seems to see their argument as:

P1. Your refusal to come to my wedding is foisting your political agenda on us.

P2. You should not foist your political agenda on us.

C. Therefore, you should not refuse to come to my wedding.

His response is that P1 is false. It is not just a political agenda, since his desire to be able to marry is a personal issue not a political one. He then accuses heterosexual supporters of gay-marriage of having a double-standard.

They’re proof of a double standard: Even well-meaning heterosexuals often describe their own nuptials in deeply personal terms, above and beyond politics, but tend to dismiss same-sex marriage as a political cause, and gay people’s desire to marry as political maneuvering.

Scocca asks "Who are these many straight people Benjamin claims to be describing?" The answer isn't hard to find in Benjamin's column:

Though Zach falls into that slim majority, he scolds me for being “peevish.” He says he resents me for blowing off his special day, for putting political beliefs ahead of our friendship and for punishing him for others’ deeds.

Their joy in their marriage is personal, and they take personal affront at Benjamin's refusal to take joy in their marriage. But, they think the objection to taking joy in an institution that forbids recognition of his own relationships is merely a political issue, and he replies that it is just as much a personal issue to be invited to celebrate an institution that he is excluded from.

Is this a straw man? Doesn't seem like it to me. But, neither is it a handful of straw thrown in the air. If someone accuses you of politicizing their wedding, it seems reasonable to deny that the issue is political rather than personal.

Is it a good argument? I'm not sure about that. I don't see that one guy is "proof of double standard." And, that might be where Scocca feels uneasy: Benjamin seems to draw some broader claims from his disagreement with his friend, and it's not clear that the broader claims are connected in the same way that the claims are connected in the disagreement. And second, in order to be a double-standard the judgment has to be about the same sort of case, and it isn't obvious what the more general case is.