If there’s one thing the latest Planned Parenthood sting videos have brought to light, it’s just how terrible people are at thinking about things.
Lest there be any doubt, I am firmly opposed to the chopping up and selling of any person, regardless of age or residence. And for that reason, we need to talk about some of the nasty fallacies people have been flinging around the internet.
1. The Evil You Are Exposing Did Not Make My Short List
There are several variations on this one, but they all boil down to something about like this:
How dare you talk about Egregious Evil #367, when I feel that Egregious Evil #243 bothers me much more? You insensitive clout. You uncaring oaf. You naive, hysterical monomaniac. Clearly you just want people to suffer!
All the versions, whether it’s righteous indignation about the plight of the ________, or an outright insistence that until ________ is addressed there can be no discussing this other blatantly, undeniably serious matter, come down to the same basic argument: I am changing the subject now.
Tip: If someone brings a very serious problem to your attention and your response is to promptly wave it all away by changing the subject, this suggests that you don’t take the problem seriously. Indeed, we might even think that you are intentionally trying to avoid the subject because in fact you approve of the evil act being discussed.
2. Obviously You Care About Nothing Else
Did you mention that piracy is an ongoing concern? Clearly you have no heart for refugees from war-torn countries. Just linked to a post about brutal persecution of an out-of-favor people group? You must think sex-trafficking is AOK.
A subset of the subject-changers concede that Problem A is indeed a problem — but if you are bringing it up because it happens to be in the news just now, clearly that’s a sign you are utterly uninterested in Problem B. It is as if there exists some law of holiness that requires you to begin every conversation by listing all the other topics you think are important but just don’t happen to be discussing right now.
Tip: The best way to find out what someone thinks about a moral issue is to listen to what they have to say about that issue.
3. This Problem Is So Serious The Moral Law Has Been Suspended
One of the weirdest outcomes of the Planned Parenthood investigations has been seeing how firmly rooted a certain line of warped morality has become. In it, there exist two levels of operation: Normal Life and Very Serious Problem Mode.
- In the everyday workings of human life, a set of moral codes apply that we must follow rigorously.
- If things are bad enough, however, the moral code is suspended. We are free to employ any means necessary to attempt to solve The Very Serious Problem.
- When The Very Serious Problem is resolved, we will return to following the usual moral code.
You can tell the binary moral system is in play because during Very Serious Problem Mode, any questioning of the usually-immoral means is now declared treason. The arguments, which are unleashed with all the fury of a threatened Ring-bearer in a Peter Jackson Lord of Rings adaptation, go like this:
How dare you question the way I have decided to solve this problem? The problem is serious! Your quibbling over niceties is proof you’re on the side of the enemy!
Tip: You can tell when someone has a moral double-standard because they are unable to articulate the right use of the immoral behavior. (Understandably: There is no right use of an immoral behavior.)
- Puzzled over #3? See my previous post for a list of links on the question of double-effect vs. utiliarianism.
- For more reading on the wider issues, check out my Twitter feed of recommended reading @JenFitz_Reads, which also flows through to my Facebook page JenFitz.Writes (so pick the medium you prefer). My decision to link is not a canonization, it just means I thought there was something of merit that might be worth your attention.
Photo: Venus Fly Trap by Jon Fitz. This is a photo of my 2008 birthday present. I had no idea we’d get such pretty flowers. The rest of the plant, of course, was just as horrid-looking as you have learned to expect. Little green jaws of death reaching skyward, waiting for prey.