Friday, August 20, 2010

Responsible Name-Calling

I have written in recent posts that some form of condemnation is legitimate. Somebody who makes harsh derogatory comments about the behavior of another is not necessarily "being a dick."

A lot of harsh and derogatory comments do not meet this standard, however. Some are bigoted or prejudicial. Others are meanness just for the sake of being mean.

Legitimate condemnation contains the following:

(1) The accuser begins with the assumption that the accused is innocent and that it is his obligation to prove guilt.

(2) The accuser defines the moral charges that make up the accusation. Whether he calls the accuser a murderer, rapist, child abuser, thief, liar, hate-monger, bigot, hypocrite, sophist, demagogue, manipulator, con-artist, or the like, he sets out the conditions that define that type of person.

(3) The definition of the moral charges being used must account for the implication that people who meet those conditions deserve moral condemnation - that people generally have real, many, and strong reasons to condemn such people.

(4) The accuser must then provide evidence that the accused fits the definition for the moral charge being made against him.

(5) From this the accuser can conclude that the accused deserves condemnation and, in fact, condemn the accused.

Another topic I have discussed recently is to call anybody who would be sensitive or hurt by the construction of mosque near the site of the former world trade center a bigot. Furthermore, I accuse those politicians, bloggers, and politicians who are expressing disapproval hate-mongering bigots.

It does not matter to me that polls show that over 65% of Americans are hate-mongering bigots. It would not be the first time in human history that bigotry in a community was found to be so wide-spread. The accusations still stick.

Step 1: I begin with the assumption that the accused are innocent and that I must prove guilt. Towards this end, I hereby present my evidence.

Step 2: I define the moral charges of bigotry and hate-mongering.

A bigot is somebody who engages in derogatory overgeneralizations across members of a group. He takes the wrongs or shortcomings (real or imagined) of a subset of a particular group and he tars the entire group with those crimes/failings. Holding all Muslims morally responsible for the 9/11 attacks is an example of making derogatory overgeneralizations.

A hate-monger is somebody who sells hate for profit. The profit can be in the form of cash contributions to a non-profit organization, readers to a blog, ratings for a cable news network television show, or votes or contributions for a political campaign. Regardless of the form that this profit takes, the agent seeks to obtain these benefits by selling hatred to a target audience from whom they can expect these types of profits or rewards.

Step 3: Our nation would be better off without hate-mongers and bigots. Both of these people waste community resources condemning or otherwise motivating people to behave in ways harmful to others. The members of the community being harmed certainly do not benefit from being harmed unjustly, and those doing the harming can certainly find better uses for the time and energy inflicting unjust harms on their victims.

Often, the harms that bigots and hate-mongers inflict on innocent people are quite excessive, making substantial portions of the population significantly worse off, as happened with the Holocaust, the genocide of the Native Americans, slavery, segregation, and civil war. Bigotry and hate-mongering should not be treated as moral misdemeaners.

Step 4: I actually demonstrated that people opposed to the community center are bigots by showing that it involves the gross overgeneralization of blaming all Muslims for the crimes of a few. Only a person, in whose mind "mosque" is associated with "9/11 attacks" in such a way that it is not possible for something to be a "mosque" and not be morally blameworthy for the 9/11 attacks could possibly be offended or hurt by having this recreation center near the World Trade Center.

It would make as much sense to say that the Catholic Church across the street from the World Trade Center should be closed because the people who flew the airplanes acted for religious reasons. We would consider it a gross overgeneralization to condemn all religious people for the 9/11 attacks and be hurt by the presence of a religious building - because, in fact, it is a gross overgeneralization.

We would not think it legitimate even blame the Catholics or the Amish if the World Trade Center were attacked by a rogue violent sect of Christianity.

When we blame all of Islam for the crimes of a rogue and violent subset of Muslims we are being just as irrationally bigoted as if we were to blame all Christians for the crimes of the KKK (which, as it turns out, is an extremely religious organization).

As for hate-mongering, there is clearly profit to be had in the form of public approval, applause, and even contributions in the form of cash and votes, going to those who oppose the construction of this recreation center. Where we see signs of profiting from making extravagant and exaggerated derogatory generalizations we have reason to at least make allegations of hate-mongering; hatred-for-profit.

Certainly, labeling somebody a bigot and a hate-monger qualifies as name-calling and criticism. It is not a nice thing to say to or about a person. However, the fact that a claim is unkind dos not imply that it is untrue.


Anonymous said...

In a paragraph after the fifth criterion for responsible name calling you mention "politician" twice. I assume this is an error, but I'm curious what you intended in place of the second occurrence.

Steven Wayne Lytle

Fletch said...

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the firing of Juan Williams' by NPR.