Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

6/05/2005

Faulty logic

Atrios is my blogging role-model--in fact, if there had been no Atrios, there would be no Dadahead!--but in this post he makes a type of argument that, while common, is, in my opinion, specious. Commenting on a scandal involving employment agencies that cooperated with employers who refused to hire blacks, Atrios says:

I'd be a bit more open to conservative opposition/outrage about affirmative action if they piped up a bit more loudly when this kind of shit was uncovered.

While I understand and perhaps agree with the sentiment here, I don't like the implication: namely, that a person's argument regarding one issue is somehow less convincing because of their relative quietness on another, similar issue. This is the same kind of logic invoked by conservatives whose arguments against dissidents like Noam Chomsky basically consist of their saying, "I'd be more willing to listen to him if he had spent half the time talking about the crimes of the Soviet Union that he does criticizing the US." Chomsky's (appropriate) reply to this is, essentially, that there were already plenty of people in the US media documenting and commenting on the wrongdoing of the USSR; another one wasn't needed. What there was a shortage of, however, was people talking about the wrongdoing of the US.

I have also been the target of similar criticism; when I condemned a certain caninical blog for comparing white American Christians to the victims of racism in the South, I was attacked on the grounds that I hadn't made similar hay out of left-wingers who trashed the Bush administration by invoking comparisons to the Nazi regime. Again: there has been plenty of noise made about these things on the right.

And anyway, one's position on issue X shouldn't usually be relevant to one's argument about issue Y. That is: even if one does fault Chomsky for not spending enough time on the crimes of the Soviets, that doesn't make what he says about the US any less true. Or: even if you think I am to be blamed for not speaking out against liberals who compare Bush to Hitler, that doesn't mean that I am wrong when I say that it is obscene for conservatives to compare themselves to the victims of lynching.

And if we are going to be fair about things, we can't dismiss the conservative arguments against affirmative action on the grounds that they don't care enough about racism against blacks. That could be true, and yet it could still be the case that they are right about affirmative action. I don't think they are right, mind you; but the reason I think they're wrong has to do with the arguments for and against affirmative action itself, not with their position on related issues.

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