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

Listen, I’ll not hash this out with you, as you have a hard-on for me anyway. I’ll just let others chime in with their opinions.

But based on what I saw, and what I posted, IOKIYRTFirefly.

The situation you describe could be handled equally well without involving the personal element. Hypothize a “citizen” who lives in a community where no-kill shelters are the norm and foster programs are the primary means of dealing with a rising pet population. Show the impact, using those numbers, on this hypothetical citizen, and all other citizens in this community. There is nothing added to this arguement by making it personal to the other party in the discussion. The risk of offending that individual by implying they are a hypocrite, or wounding their pride by showing exacly how stupid the idea would be if implemented would make it less desireable to use specifics in the discussion. Just as people here have taken offense at implications of cowardice or hypocrisy when they were the subject of a hypothetical. Why allow these kinds of opportunities for offense or conflict when you can build an equally solid arguement without getting personal feelings involved?


Hey, hashing this out was completely your idea. Sorry the results weren’t what you’d hoped. Seeya.

Exactly. Getting into the specifics of a poster’s life doesn’t affect the truth or falsity of an argument one bit.

It may demonstrate the degree of commitment that a poster has to a position IRL, but that’s really kinda stupid even as far as that goes - most of us who participate in political debates on the Dope debate a plethora of subjects, and our real-world commitment to more than one or two is likely to be almost nil.

And it still doesn’t make a bit of difference with respect to the strength of the argument.

This tactic used to come up regularly in the abortion threads. Some form of, “If you really believed that pro-life blather, you’d be storming abortion clinics and killing the doctors. Since you aren’t we can all safely assume that it’s really your disapproval of women expressing themselves sexually that we’re witnessing, not any true belief in the sanctity of unborn human life. Once again, pro-life hypocrisy.”

Actually, when that question is posed civilly, it can lead to an illumination of a pro-life belief. But it generally didn’t end that way. One or more posters would insist that there was absolutely no other logical conclusion than hypocrisy, despite the counters offered by pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike.

So, I don’t think it’s necessarily a fruitless tactic, so long as the one posing the question is sincerely interested in exploring the philosophy in question and open to thoughtful responses. The one used as an example in the OP could be the trigger for good discussion, if the poster’s question is, “If you’re okay with imposing an economic burden on others in the interest of helping those less fortunate, do you accept such a burden yourself? Would that be fair? Where do you draw the line?” The response could be, “Here’s why that’s not a good analogy,” or “Hmm, you have a point,” or “Well, no, but that just makes me a hypocrite–the idea is still a good one,” or a million others. If the exchange clarifies and illuminates, then it was a good question.

If it’s just venting from someone close-minded, that’s another story.

I would have thought so too, but in an assortment of threads where I’ve pointed out that Mr Gore’s personal energy usage is at least ten times the US average, which is already a multiple of the world usage, that his personal house energy bill has risen 18% since he released “An Inconvenient Truth” and that there is not nearly enough “green energy” or real value of carbon credits to justify this profligate energy consumption, I don’t think a single poster was swayed.

Here is a spectacular, egregious example of personal hypocrisy and the psychology is to overlook it if the position being advocated is consistent with the poster’s position.

I hasten to beg not to hijack the thread on whether or not Mr Gore is a hypocrite; I am only making the point around the OP that calling for personal conduct as a litmus test is a common technique that tends to be used only when it would negate the position-holder’s position. It is not used when it would bolster an opposing position. Where the position-holder is personally hypocritical (say, Mr Bush encouraging my son but not his daughters to go to Iraq) I think the average response is to simply find excuses for the putative hypocrite as long as they agree with the poster’s position.

You’re right. That’s what he gets for starting this thread.


You know what? I’ve been mulling this one over, and I have to say that even here you’re full of it.

I had two grandfathers - both of them were of fighting age during WWII. One received an exemption from military service due to a congenital heart defect. But the other one was healthy enough to serve.

However, he also had six children at the time that he was the sole support for. So with the blessing of his draft board, he spent the war stateside welding Liberty Ships together. The one with the heart murmur worked in the steel industry.

Now, both of these men believed that they were involved in an existential conflict (they probably didn’t know that term, but they sure understood the implications of it.) They sure supported that war. They did what they could for it, but they didn’t fight.

What is more, nobody today would suggest that what they did was in any way wrong.

So what gives anyone the right today to demand anyone sign up and fight just because they support a conflict politically? Even if you are doing so in the abstract about a group of people, it still seems to me the height of arrogance to do so.

Like I said, I am no angel when it comes to calling people out. But I won’t do this - this kind of poisonous rhetoric is way out of line, even if you dress it up by saying you’re calling out people who believe this is an existential conflict. You may as well call my grandfather a coward for not fighting the Nazis.

So I have to conclude with all of this, given that you would not stoop to do so, that this take on it, that a participatory response is required for an existential conflict, is just dressing on an otherwise untenable position, and a position that also puts you squarely at odds with one you’re now advocating. Until you resolve this little discrepancy, I think you shouldn’t be so absolutist about this, and approach this case by case, like I said above.

It sounds like both your grandfathers attempted to serve their country in the military, likely because they didn’t have the modern notion that people of a lower socioeconomic stratum should bear the entire burden for a war that lasted many years while anyone who could get out of it should “support the troops” with a magnetic yellow ribbon and fuck-all else.

Look, if you’re going to bitch that

and you keep hanging around, people might get confused about who’s got the hard-on for whom.

As far as your post is concerned, Yeah, I didn’t include all the detail in this thread that I did in others, some of which might apply to your grandfathers.

And it should be pretty obvious from those threads that I had in mind Young Republicans and those similarly situated - young, generally healthy, mostly single, and those with kids (as many of our soldiers serving in Iraq do) having beaucoups of resources.

That seemed obvious at the time, and since I was stating a basic idea, rather than writing DoD regulations, I didn’t include every last detail I might have. I also forgot to mention that I wouldn’t have applied this standard to quadriplegics. Gee gosh golly.

That’s a pretty pathetic basis for your argument, but that’s all you’ve got.

This strawman again? No matter how many times you’re corrected, you’re going to keep saying this, aren’t you?

It’s the height of dishonesty to continue to claim for your opponent a position he’s repeatedly and specifically said he doesn’t hold.

Could you be specific about which word, phrase, or paragraph I’ve said is “poisonous rhetoric”? Be specific - quote me.

I think you should be ashamed of turning your own grandfather into a debate strawman. Bad on you.

You volunteered.

What you consider the ‘dressing’ was the primary motivation for my having posted those other threads to begin with. It’s ‘dressing’ the way an engine is just ‘dressing’ in a car.

No existential conflict, no such claim on my part.

All you have to the contrary is your humble opinion, which isn’t worth jack. You don’t have any of my words that back up this assertion.

Now: can we get away from your apparent desire to have a debate about me and debate actual substance?? I’d be deeply appreciative.

And then you go on to deny that you said it.

This in addition to your previous assertion that it was somebody else’s idea for you to start a thread.

A hint for the future - if you are going to lie, it helps not to supply the proof of it in the same thread.


The way I look at it, personal conduct is only at issue if you are asking the general public to do something that you are not willing to do yourself. For instance, I wouldn’t consider someone who is for the war to be a hypocrite just because they do not sign up to fight, as long as they are not asking anyone else to sign up to fight. We have a professional military, and I don’t think we need to apologize for sending them to war (putting aside any debate over the justification for the war). It’s no different from thinking someone is hypocritical for not being a fireman, but still expecting the fire department to come if their house is on fire.

On the other hand, it would be hypocritical to call for a draft, and then send yourself or your child to Canada to avoid it.

I think the proportionality of the request is important. Asking someone to do something which is reasonable (in light of the importance of the request) but not doing it yourself is an instance of hypocrisy, and can be an indication that the requestor has motives beyond what he alleges. Thus if Algore is given to pronouncements about how we need to curtail our lifestyles to save the planet but has a carbon footprint as large as Ted Kennedy’s bar bill, then it is an indication that he is proposing a standard that he is unwilling to meet, and is hoping to impose a disproportionate share of it on the rest of us. If someone suggests that (to take LHod’s figure) $6000 a year is a fair price to pay for universal health care, but will not spend the six grand to buy insurance for some number of currently uninsured, then perhaps the proposer also does not want to distribute the increased tax burden evenly across the public. And then this tends to shade off into denials of “class warfare” so denied in another thread.

But the ‘chicken hawk’ accusation against a veteran (like Mr. Moto or President Bush) is merely silly, and evidence (in many instances) of the search for advantage. If someone didn’t condemn the draft-dodging Clinton when he sent the military into harm’s way, then don’t expect any sympathetic hearing from anyone fair-minded when they try it against Bush.

IIOKIADDI is never valid unless IIAlsoOKIARDI.


It is a bad debate tactic, but it can be used to illustrate a point and I think that’s often the purpose. It’s not like fellow Dopers really care what you do, they just what to illustrate to you your ideas as actions.

The second quote was about the subject of the OP.

The first, which came later, was about Mr. Moto’s unsupported assertion that the Bushie/wingnut claims of the existential nature of the GWoT were peripheral to my calling those who make those claims to their duty of participating in that existential conflict.

If you are going to present someone else’s statements in a way that makes one of them appear to be about something completely different than its actual subject, there’s an exceedingly old-fashioned (as in, over 3000 years old) name for this: bearing false witness against your neighbor.

Number nine, number nine, number nine…