Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Long Article, Part Two: Facts, Schmacts

Redirecting tactics have become more and more prevalent in the things I read and watch; I feel as though sometimes what passes for debate today is more of a simultaneous monologue war. We're all wearing blinders and earplugs, and trying to see who can talk the loudest, the fastest, the mostest...until the last person standing will be declared the victor. No one is bothering about facts today. It's all about the spin.

In a beautiful illustration of this, read Rush Limbaugh's transcript about how Christians are being "targeted" by President the last paragraph, you get this doozy (my emphasis):
"Is that right? The Lord's Resistance Army is being accused of really bad stuff? Child kidnapping, torture, murder, that kind of stuff? Well, we just found out about this today. We're gonna do, of course, our due diligence research on it. But nevertheless we got a hundred troops being sent over there to fight these guys -- and they claim to be Christians."

He's just spent a full page supporting the LRA and didn't bother to do any research beyond the vague idea that they're Christians? I'm baffled. Why do we let facts take a back seat to emotion? Why do we accept this from our media gurus, newspapers, politicians, pastors? Does it just make us feel good to get up in arms about something?

Last week a commenter decided to email me privately about my posting on hormone therapy. Instead of interacting with the questions and facts I'd raised, this person launched into a eloquent but off-topic diatribe about their personal governmental policy/leadership peeves, and stated that they were "offended" by my analogies. I responded, requesting that they interact with the question I raised in my blog post, namely, that insurance should 1) be fair and 2) cover basic health care regardless of the religious or other beliefs of an insurer or employer offering said insurance. I've yet to receive a response.

It seems the facts weren't really what they wanted to discuss.

The reason I bring this up, besides the offendedness we talked about in the previous post, was that the email had a sentence that caught my eye. It employed a classic logical fallacy as a way of diminishing the statements made by Sandra Fluke during her testimony. The sentence reads:
"Being a 3rd year law student at Georgetown University means she is actually a 1%er, one of the elite who will start out making near $200k a year."

I'm not sure how Fluke's potential future earnings have any bearing on her testimony. Sounds like an ad hominum attack to me.

Ad hominum attacks, as explained on the Fallacy Files, exist "...when he [the debater] introduces irrelevant personal premisses [sic] about his opponent. Such red herrings may successfully distract the opponent or the audience from the topic of the debate." This fallacy and its subfallacies, which you should go and read on the info page, are so common it makes me want to go and bang my head against a concrete wall right now, lamenting the state of debate in the English-speaking world. Ad hominum attacks are common ways of deflecting and attempting to reduce someone's position, especially in the world of politics. These stink bombs are also incredibly easy to find and defuse, being nothing more than distraction tactics.

It doesn't matter if you are a 99%er or a 1%er. It doesn't matter if you are blind, black, homosexual, staunchly celibate, blond, freckled, Communist-leaning or Republican...when we disagree, it's the facts that matter. I don't need to know anything about you to interact with the facts you present. If people can't see the facts for their messengers, then...we have a problem. The next time someone wants to ignore facts by using irrelevant personal data as a way of refuting information someone presents, call them out on it! Make them justify their statements. Maybe we can regain a little civilized debate yet...

And so, for the record, here's my response to that commenter:

It's a fact that male sexual health care for non-life-threatening and non-urgent conditions are routinely covered by insurance and taxpayer funded health care. It is also a fact that equivalent care for women is routinely not offered. It's also a fact that no one is honestly trying to take religious objection to erectile dysfunction pumps and vasectomies, restricting men's access to them. But it's also a fact that the equivalent care for women IS being actively restricted on those same grounds. Interact with those facts. Wiggle them around in your brain. Let them sink in and sit there uncomfortably.

It's okay for men to get devices that make it possible for them to have sex (and have sex without consequences) and taxpayers or employers pay for it without any questions about one's sexual proclivities and whether or not they're going to do it in a way that appeals to a particular religious sector, but it's not okay for women to use contraceptive devices that assist with major medical issues...and yes, possibly allow them too to have sex without any questions asked and little risk of pregnancy?

I've yet to hear a dissenting voice actually tackle this topic without slipping down the distraction trail. People are happy to talk ad nauseum about what should be done with women's bodies, but none of the guys (sorry men, but most of the dissenting voices I've heard are male!) are willing to spend even five minutes debating why their nether regions shouldn't be equally legislated.

Now...why is that?

If I sound offended, I'm not. I'm angry.
Fred Clark, at Slacktivist, makes an excellent point when he says:
"The problem with taking offense is that it’s impotent and indulgent. It may feel good, but it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t matter. Offendedness is a pale, watery substitute for anger. Anger, that beautiful daughter of hope, demands action. Anger changes things. It seeks to correct the injustice that offendedness merely wants to savor. Anger sees injustice and tries to rip it out at the root."

It's tiring to watch people minimize injustice. It's exhausting listening to people support the expansion of their own personal convictions and liberties while attempting to limit the convictions and liberties of others. It's maddening to see faith being wielded as a weapon of violence and oppression instead of as a beacon of hope and protection. So if I sound like an angry feminist...well, I am. I'm angry in the best, most Biblical way: the kind of anger that grows out of indignation and a desire to see justice done. Oh. And for logical thinking to prevail. Because you can't have freedom in a nation full of robots parroting the party line. You just can't.


Anonymous said...

My greatest complaint is that all of our "facts" are given to us second-hand. It doesn't matter who does the reporting, it's always biased one way or the other, and important info is left out. I usually figure that I need to read/watch both sides in order to get a semblence of the truth. All that, however, requires time away from actually living and serving, and I need to decide just how much of my life I want to waste ...

Thankfully, we had a primary source for info on the LRA, and I didn't have to rely on Rush Limbaugh! I wish civility and truth would make an appearance again in the media, politics and everyday life.

Love, Mom

--jenna said...

That's an excellent thing to remember: unless you've witnessed or been part of an event, all facts are second-hand and filtered through someone else's lens. Truth in history and real life is different than in mathematics or biology: it's not a testable, repeatable thing, but one that depends almost subjectively upon the observer/teller of the facts. Thus, the need for more than one source! :)