The use of personal conduct litmus tests in debates on the Dope

:smack: Thanks.

I’m perfectly consistent. I support universal healthcare, but in the meantime I think RTFirefly should purchase healthcare for me out of the goodness of his heart.


I think the device is at best an ad hominem. It re-focuses the debate, which was usually about some broad policy affecting tens of thousands to millions or billions, to the personal level. Kind of like the “Al Gore using a private jet while promoting energy conservation” debates we had a while back. No useful discussion about the policy focuses on the individuals promoting various views. It’s no different than bashing a policy put forth by Bush just because “he’s an evil bastard”. At most it points out personal hipocracy, but I don’t really care if the person advancing an arguement is a hypocrite. The arguement stands or falls on its own merits, not the merits or flaws of its proponents.


Right, and I have heard a lot of politicians say that we need to fund such-and-such a spending increase by increasing taxes on “the rich”. Which at least implies that voters should support something that benefits them or groups with which they are sympathetic even if, or perhaps especially because, it will cost them nothing.

Or “why don’t you join the Army” is doing.

I can remember some studies on how lots of voters support universal health care. Then they are asked how much increased taxation they are willing to endure to pay for it. I don’t remember the exact figures, but it wasn’t enough to pay for it.


The thing is, I think that’s a perfectly valid question: “Are you willing to pay $6,000 a year (or whatever) more in taxes to pay for universal health care?” is asking someone to shoulder a realistic share of the burden of public policy: that’s what a real person who has their capabilities might be asked to do. “Are you willing to go pay for the health care of half a dozen random people?” is not, unless they happen to be extremely wealthy.

Similarly, “Are you willing to go join the army?” is a very reasonable question to ask of a young, physically fit supporter of the war, since that’s exactly the burden they’re asking other people with their capabilities to share. “Are you willing to go step on an IED?” is not, since that’s actually something we’re trying to avoid with the policy.


At its best, though, it can function as a reality check. When I worked for the humane society and people suggested that we could avoid euthanasia by just increasing the foster networks, I’d sometimes run some numbers by them, showing that after ten years of that policy, they’d have to be fostering three dozen animals simultaneously, just like every other household in our community.

If a person is a hypocrite, it doesn’t weaken their argument; if a proposed policy imposes an unsupportable burden on individuals, however, it can help people understand that burden by imagining what it would be like to shoulder it themselves.


Then we disagree. I think that $6000 a year and joining the army are not very equivalent. Asking "are you willing to pay $X to support the war in Iraq?’ would be.


But what if my heart doesn’t have any goodness? :slight_smile:


But if they say, “this war is an existential conflict upon which the survival of our civilization depends,” that’s a bit different, isn’t it? If you (the general ‘you’) believe there’s no tomorrow for everything you hold dear if we lose this one, with the outcome still very much in doubt, then how can you possibly stay on the sideline? If you truly believe those things, you should be finding a way to get your ass over there and help save Western civilization, even if the Army won’t take you. Are you going to sit by and do nothing but yap about it when a loss would mean the end of our civilization? Good Lord, I sure hope not.

That’s what I was saying in that thread. I still find that compelling.

I was also trying to get across the idea that nobody really believes this is an existential conflict, no matter how much they say it. Which is why all the Young Republicans and whatnot who spout such nonsense aren’t actually over there, fighting for the survival of Western civilization. They know full well that if the Green Zone gets overrun by the Mahdi Army next week, putting our embassy personnel to the sword (or more likely the AK-47), they’ll still be able to go to the mall and buy stuff next year, and the year after next, and the year after that.

Which, IMHO, is why it’s worthwhile to call them on their bullshit. We can’t back out because it’s an existential conflict that we literally can’t afford to lose, but they’re not having to pitch in and help win over there because it ain’t really.

OTOH, if you’re simply in favor of this war, but are somewhat less cosmic about the consequences of defeat (like Rudy Giuliani is, for instance), well, we’re all for a lot of things that we don’t lift a finger to bring about. The fact that we don’t doesn’t make our belief in the rightness of those things any less true.

So confusing what I was saying in that thread with the claim that if you favor the war, you need to fight in it, is WRONG.

Thanks for noting that.

You might have noticed that you and several other posters were keeping me quite busy in that thread. Do you make this claim based on evidence that I read that comment? (Can you link to it? I’m certainly not going to search through five pages of thread to try to find it.)

Well, hell no. If they tossed out warnings on the basis of using unsound debate tactics, we’d lose a lot of posters. Can you see the GD mods warning people about using strawmen or tu quoques? Good grief.

I hope I have now explained that to your satisfaction.

If not, well, screw it. I can’t think of a clearer way to put it.

Maybe yes, maybe no, but you can bet I’ll be using this technique a lot on people who feel this has a place in debates here at the Dope. (“What - you haven’t written the President and all your Congresscritters about this? Well, you obviously don’t really mean what you say. Why should I take you seriously?”) Even though I feel it’s a crock of shit, for the reasons that my parenthetical should make clear. Maybe it’ll bring them around. :slight_smile: But I thought I’d try this approach first; seemed more civilized to discuss before escalating, with the hopes that escalation might not be necessary.

As George Steinbrenner said thirty years ago, he was against free agency, but if those were the rules, he was going to use them to his best advantage.

[Emphasis mine]
Responding to the part I bolded, I’d say that an allegation of hypocrisy ***can ** * (big CAN) alter-or effectively end-a debate, especially if the accused party is unaware that their actions and ideas aren’t in agreement. I don’t think this happens much on this board (since the opinions here are largely well thought out-or have at least had alot of thought put into them), but IRL, I’ve encountered many people who will argue completely contrary to their actions and not be aware of the discrepancy. Obviously the ‘put up or shut up’ gambit would draw their attention to this, perhaps causing them to alter their stance or retract their argument altogether.

Please don’t think I am advocating this approach-for reasons stated above, I think it should be used very sparingly-if at all-on this board.

Happy to oblige.

First of all, you started that thread. I think we can assume you monitor threads you begin. But that’s not all.

In post 29, minty green posted this:

and hyperlinked to a website called Operation Yellow Elephant.

When I pointed out that that criticism was misplaced, at least in the aggregate, I got this later, in post 57, also from minty green:

and hyperlinked to

Now, I did reply to this immediately afterward:

Now of course, you saw this exchange, because you commented upon it. But did you take minty green to task at all? Hardly. You replied to my last post and commented:

So you will forgive me if I take this concern of yours as springing from your own ox being gored. This behavior didn’t raise red flags with you in the past when your ideological compatriots were engaging in it.

I’m sure you’re sincere in this new found belief of yours, but it is telling how this conversion came about.

As in, “read every word.” An interesting new standard.

Bogus, of course, but interesting.

Post 29 is mine; post 57 belongs to John Mace.

I can find nothing at all posted by minty green on the first two pages of that thread.

We are talking about the thread you linked to in post 3 of this thread, right?

There have been a number of instances lately where I have asked you to back up one of your confident assertions, and you’ve come up with nothing. Unlike those other times, this time I’m sure you must be quoting something, somewhere, that were actual words typed in by you, me, and minty.

On the one hand, I can’t just dismiss your claim out of hand (because I feel fairly certain you’re not making this exchange up), but on the other hand, without context to make it clear what was meant by everyone, it’s impossible to rebut, too.

So could you kindly be more careful when making and attempting to substantiate claims such as this?

I did a ‘search thread’ in that thread for the word ‘rationalizing’. No matches were returned.

So you will forgive me if I tell you…hell, I don’t know what I can tell you that is both apropos to this, and OK for this forum.

But the best face I can put on this for you is that you’re obviously pulling this exchange from a whole 'nother thread than the one you linked @3, and are being extremely sloppy in your leveling of these claims about my motivation.

No we certainly are not. We were discussing your behavior in this thread. That is where the post Shodan linked to is located, and when I mildly defended you but also criticized you, it was with that thread in mind.

Please read that thread. And maybe in the future you could be more careful yourself.

Like I said, you came to this little realization of yours when you found yourself on the receiving end of this treatment. But for groups who you are in opposition to, you happily dish it out. And when one of your ideological compatriots makes a personal attack along these lines, you sit back and grin.

A less fair person than me would question your sincerity entirely. I won’t. But I will say that your sense of injustice wasn’t troubled until recently, which seems fair just from what I observe.

Oh, really? Then you should have made that clear. I was assuming we were still talking about the same thread we had been discussing from the beginning. There are certain posters whose posts I skip past.

And why you thanked me for noticing your tone in that post? Missed that did you?

Look, I can understand how you skipped grooves here, but don’t pin it all on me.

Good. Go read post 43 in that thread, mmkay? I wrote it. You know what I said?

IOW, the same thing I said in the other thread you linked to.

I could say the same thing to you.

Seems I’ve been quite consistent, haven’t I? The only time I’ve expected a participatory response in any of the threads we’re discussing is when the consequences of failure are absolute.

Who cares, given how poorly the thread you really meant supports your claim? Really, your argument of inconsistency is an atrocity. Your argument concerning my motivation falls just as hard.

But at the time, I thought you were referring to my use of ‘you’ in the OP of the thread you linked to @3.