by Grania Spingies
A drive-by commenter named “Jaime” appeared yesterday evening when Jerry posted his commentary on the hoax that fooled the South African branch of the HuffPo. (Recall that the original piece published by HuffPo called for both removing the ability to vote from white men for several decades, and also confiscating and redistributing their property. “Jaime” apparently agrees.
It is entirely possible that “Jaime” (no longer able to post here as a result of PCC[E]’s decision) is a Poe who had trouble identifying when the joke has run its course. However, considering the number of people who actually defended the suggestions in the original HuffPo piece before the piece was taken down, the ideas put forward by this commenter are worth answering. Here’s the attempted comment:
When you come up with a brilliant idea that has one small flaw, in that it’s utterly unworkable and unenforceable, what you have is mental masturbation rather than a useful or thought-provoking philosophy.
This argument is functionally illiterate when it comes to the subject of statistics.
Let’s take the claim that “Virtually 100% of child molesters are men.” Even if one assumes this to be completely correct (it isn’t, but let’s hypothesize), it tells you nothing at all about how prevalent it is in society at large. A study conducted by Dr Michael Seto at Royal Ottawa Healthcare group to answer the question How many men are paedophiles? put the figure uppermost at 5% – note this was not an estimate of how many men actually abused children, but of how many men had sexual thoughts or fantasies about children, even if only once as opposed to an lifelong obsession. Five percent is a a potentially very serious figure, although one cannot assume that someone who commits a thoughtcrime is ever going to try to translate his fantasies into reality. However, the argument here is that it is not only acceptable but even desirable for society to censure 100% of the male population to attempt to hobble the 5%. For comparison, 40% of abused or molested children are attacked by a family member. Should we ban parents from rearing their children?
Here’s another: the average car owner can expect to be in 3 to 4 accidents in their lifetime. That’s 100% of car owners who can statistically expect an accident in their lifetime. And yet nobody seriously entertains the idea of putting all cars off the road with immediate effect. (But I look forward to the ascendancy of Google Smart Cars).
So you’re concerned about fairness, equality, safety and the well-being of the human race. It is curious – no, actually it beggars belief – that anyone thinks that you can make society more egalitarian and diminish human misery by making 50% of the world’s population second class citizens. It also beggars belief that someone who no doubt identifies as liberal thinks that is in any way a morally defensible position to effectively disenfranchise a group based on the behaviour of a minority of that group. How does anyone not see the ground being dug out underneath their own feet with this tactic?
Let me put it more plainly: how are you going to condemn racist attacks on Muslims or on People of Color when you’ve just argued that it is morally not only acceptable but desirable to judge and censure an entire social group based solely on the the actions of a minority of that group?
This line of thinking is morally bankrupt and intellectually idiotic. There can be no basis for arguing that society should be fair or egalitarian if you think that the tactics that should be used to achieve it are ones that are discriminatory, divisive and punitive based on skin color or genitalia.
Anyone who thinks that such tactics will only be used by people with whom they agree and who think exactly like they do is the sort of person who buys the Brooklyn Bridge from a smooth-talking con artist.
The PuffHo piece was not a clever thought-exercise, and those who liked it, like erstwhile reader “Jaime,” were not morally virtuous. It’s the philosophical equivalent of running off the edge of a cliff and wondering why there is suddenly a yawning chasm underneath your feet.
[JAC: I’ll add here that “Jaime” wasn’t brave enough to use his/her real name and stand behind their comment. It’s cowardice]