False equivalences: RL vs. SDMB

So in this post, Bricker (who I usually have a good deal of respect for) engages in what I claim is a preposterously false equivalence…
(1) some public figure (in this case, Sarah Palin) says something in a public forum
(2) people on the SDMB criticize what was said in (1) not specifically because it was wrong or insulting or whatever, but because of the affect it will have; usually in a “this might incite violence” sense, but potentially in a “this strongly increases the divisiveness of the populace, which makes the country on the whole a worse place”
(3) in the midst of this criticism, someone on the anti-Palin side says something divisive or inciteful
(4) someone on the pro-Palin side levels an accusation of double standards/hypocrisy

Now, on the surface, this seems reasonable. After all, if we’re going to criticize Palin (or whoever) for something, we should hold ourselves to the same standard. But there’s a massive fundamental difference: Palin (or whoever) is a public figure speaking to a public audience, one that (at least in her case) she has a massive amount of influence with. People on the SDMB are, well, people on the SDMB.
If the reason we’re attacking Palin is not “hey, look, I’ve detected what I believe to be an error in logic in this claim she made” but “there’s a very real chance of violence arising from what she said”, then nothing anyone on the SDMB could ever possibly say could ever possibly be comparable no matter what.

I think Bricks is right on the money. When I was reading that thread yesterday, and that post in particular, I thought the exact same thing.

As far as your justification for the double standard, to wit: People on the SDMB are people on the SDMB and can be trusted to hear this kind of talk. Sarah Palin’s audience–well, they live in small, rural towns! Many of them didn’t even go to college! Some of them go to churches, evangelical churches! [or words to this effect]; it barely merits a response.

But I will ask: Can you point to any episode of physical violence fairly attributable to any of Palin’s remarks?

You’re totally missing my point, which has nothing to do with the character of people on the SDMB and everything to do with the size of the forum. People on the SDMB are people on the SDMB… and there are only 10,000 or so of them. Plus, random posters on the SDMB are just random posters, not influential leaders.

Regardless of the intelligence or character or anything of the audience, Sarah Palin is speaking to an audience of millions who look up to her, whereas poster-on-SDMB is speaking to an audience of thousands who only vaguely know who he/she is.

Not buying it, sorry. There are false distinctions as well as false equivalences.

What are you smoking? He makes no claims about the quality of the audience. The distinction is with the status of the speaker. A accurate equivalence would be if President Obama, or Nancy Pelosi, or even Michael Moore had said something about violence in response. Or if DianaG had been responding to posters at Free Republic making indirect violent statements instead of a public figure.

Pray tell, what act of violence did Palin solicit? “Stop a Subaru with an Obama sticker and ask them how that hopey changey thing is working out?”

Only among the hacky left is this treated as an incitement to violence—and even that claim is typically made in bad faith.

It’s the cheap seats of the left preaching to the converted (to mix a metaphor). And that’s why it’ll get a lot of play on FireDogLake and HuffPo and Rachel Maddow and nothing at all from the likes of Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod.

OK, I will try one more time being very clear about what I am and am not saying… was Sarah Palin’s statement an incitement to violence? Was it over some line from free speech into shouting fire territory? Should she have been more careful? Well, all of those are interesting and legitimate questions. Had she said “Obama is doing a terrible job and we should all go out there and make sure everyone knows” that would have been totally unobjectionable. Had she said “Hey everyone! Go home right now and get a gun and go kill a liberal” that clearly would have been over the line. And of course there’s a difference between “that statement, in and of itself, had the potential to cause violence” and “that statement, in the current political climate, had the potential to cause violence” and “that statement is so likely to cause violence that Sarah Palin should be ashamed and apologize” and “that statement is so likely to cause violence that it ought to be illegal and Sarah Palin ought to be arrested”. The whole question is a complicated and interesting one on which reasonable people can disagree.

BUT, the point I’m making is not actually responding to, or staking a claim on, that question at all. I did not actually state my position on Palin’s statements. Rather, I am talking about Bricker’s response to DianaG’s response to Palin’s statements. Bricker accuses DianaG of (essentially) hypocrisy, and I claim that DianaG’s statements are in fact, not hypocritical. They may or may not be rude or tasteless or stupid or in bad taste or various other things. I was not defending them in general. But I claim that what DianaG was specifically accusing Palin of is NOT a criticism that can be meaningfully directed at DianaG.
The chances of random statements on the SDMB that sound like they’re inviting violence towards public figures actually resulting in violence is beyond miniscule. Hey everyone! Let’s go kill Obama! No, wait! Let’s go kill Palin! No, let’s kill McCain! Heck, let’s go kill MaxTheVool! And Bricker! And Kimmy_Gibbler! Am I going to stay awake late tonight worrying that my post might actually lead to violence? I am not. Because I am not an adored leader of a movement of millions in an already tense national situation.

You know, Palin didn’t suggest violence. Merely confrontation. And hey, whatever happens as a result of those confrontations isn’t *her *fault.

My post would have been closer to equivalent (in content, if not scope) had I skipped explicit mention of an accident and simply suggested someone take her hunting (nudgenudge, winkwink).

If you read the thread in question, you would see that the only reason this was not considered just a goofy throw away refrence to her earlier line was that earlier in the same week someone repeated rammed a car (although not a Suburu) with a child in it because it had an Obama/Biden sticker on it. (none leftycite)

I would accept the argument that she was ignorant of that, but that just speaks to her team not keeping her informed enough to avoid that type of gaffe.

Yes, it is a false equivalence because rhetoric is addressed and crafted primarily towards the audience. A SDMB troll is preaching to a bunch of internet addicted fat asses who are lucky to get all the way to the mail box once a week. Sarah Palin is addressing her national following, which includes whack jobs she has no control over once the pearls of wisdom and calls for action leave her lips. She sure as hell isn’t responsible for the actions of her listeners, as she has no control over that, but she does have a responsibility for the crap that comes out of her mouth.

Do Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh bear responsibility for saying things that they don’t believe in for ratings? Yes they do. But they do not bear criminal or tort responsibility for one of their ditto heads actions. They are scum for crapping in the pool of public discourse, but not directly responsible for someone who uses that crap to hurt someone else physically.

It seems a bit silly to require a certain standard of behavior by public officials, if you can’t hold yourself to the same standard.

Yes, Ms. Palin has a bigger audience and people are more likely to listen, but that doesn’t make any difference with respect to this double standard you’re promoting. This whole “fire in a crowded theater” analogy doesn’t hold water. If I were to post a thread saying people should confront Obama fans, you wouldn’t respond with “Oh, it’s ok that he said that, he’s just some guy on the internet and no one will listen.”

If you’re actually just concerned that she might be causing a divisive climate, then you can say the same thing about either party encouraging people to engage in the public debate about any issue.

I object to being called a troll. I’d mail you a formal complaint, but I have it on good authority it would be at least a week before you get it, so please consider this your notice.

I hold myself to the standard of never inciting a crowd to frothing near-riot levels.

Strangely, this is no limitation on my behavior. But it would limit hers. You’d almost think that it would be false to try to draw an equivalence between us.

The speech of popular leaders has influence over the actions of others in a way that the speech of anonymous internet posters does not have. Therefore, if one believes that the ethical responsibilities related to speech turn on how that speech influences others, then such a person may legitimately distinguish the ethical responsibilities surrounding the speech of popular leaders from that of internet posters.

I’m surprised that even on the SDMB there is enough sophistry to seriously object to that point.

Really? You’re coming up on your sixth anniversary here, but you’ve never seen one of lil’ Bricker’s posts? The odds must be astronomical!


Meh. Bricker’s credibility has taken bigger self-inflicted wounds than this.

I suspect that Bricker may view the posters in the other thread as hypocritical because he took them to be criticizing hateful or divisive speech, generally, rather than the effect such a speaker can have on others. Or something. I’ll let him speak for himself.

My comment was in reference to posters in this thread who appear to be accepting the premise that leaders have more influence (duh), and accepting the premise that the posters in the other thread were criticizing the possible effects of that influence, but rejecting the conclusion the leaders can therefore be distinguished from the posters even if the speech of both was hateful or divisive.

Just noting that she is not a public official anymore, just a loud mouthed moron.

Someone would no doubt say you were a jerk, but no one would say that your statement is putting any one in danger. If Palin confined her comments to internet message boards, we wouldn’t worry either.

If you can’t tell the difference between encouraging debate and talking about putting people in crosshairs, or reloading, or encouraging confrontation, you’ve got a problem. Especially right after Democratic representatives (and their families) had homes and offices vandalized or worse.

This is the dumbest thing I’ve seen on the Internet this month, and that’s saying something. People in positions of high responsibility obviously are and ought to be held to higher standards than random members of the Teeming Millions.

Sarah Palin speaks for a large portion of the population- at least, indirectly; she ran for the second-highest office in the land (if not the world), and still has a large following. No, I don’t get it, either.

**DianaG **, on the other hand, speaks for… uh… lemme see… I coulda sworn I had the list 'round here somewhere…

Sarah Palin influences quite a few people (scarily enough). DianaG… um… well.

Bricker seems willing to paint all Liberals with the **DianaG **brush, but doesn’t seem quite so willing to paint all Conservatives with the Sarah Palin brush. Sorry, the two don’t seem the same, to me.

Now, personally, I thought that what **DianaG **said was a bit over the line. I prefer not to wish death on *anyone *(although I wouldn’t mind if Karl Rove got a nasty set of painful hemorrhoids). However, outside of this forum, who’s going to hear her? And, to take it a step further, who will attempt to act on DianaG’s message?

One of these things is not like the other, as they say on Sesame Street.

**DianaG’s **message- over the line, but ultimately harmless. Sarah Palin’s message is louder, reaches more, and, as a result, can have far more serious consequences.