The guy who tweeted this--"Educated Hillbilly"--is pretty invested in, at this point, both the Dems / Republicans--or the left and the right--or the liberals and the conservatives--or whatever--both being bad. This is because, for a lot of people, the other side was the bad one--and now, in the age of 2017, it's kinda hard to argue that your own side isn't bad.Anyone pretending one side is better than the other is a fool or a liar.— EducatédHillbilly™ (@RobProvince) November 16, 2017
Well, it is if you're Republican.
The both-sides argument--today--and about the morality of the "parties" relies on the performance of a rhetorical magic trick that, if done skillfully, can fool the viewer into believing an equivalence exists where one does not. What is that "magic trick"?
The Myth of the Perfectly Spherical Democratic Party
When we look at a Tweet like Rob Province's up there, we can, if we know what to look for, see two things right way. Firstly there's "one side" and then there's "better than the other." What does this mean? By what standard? Are there only two sides?
The obvious answer is: DON'T LOOK BEHIND THE (rhetorical) CURTAIN
The magic trick done here is a model of what physics teachers do when they want to simplify a problem: "Imagine a perfectly spherical cow."
Attacking hard problems by making some incorrect--but greatly simplifying--assumptions is a good way to teach introductory math. It's also, if you elide your precepts, a good way to stage false-equivalence rhetorical arguments. To wit:
Rob Province In Front Of A Black Board: "First you assume a perfectly spherical homogeneous Democrat Party. It is also know as 'The Left.' With this assumption, any given piece of it--like this guy on Twitter here--can be said to accurately represent the whole. Of course for me, I'll make it clear I don't belong to any party so you can't pull this shit on me--but hey--I'm solving a hard problem for you here.That's what it'd sound like if we were being honest.
Both Side! Just As Bad!!
In practice, the both-sides-ism and just-as-bad-ism is being used to equate Al Franken to Roy Moore (you can morph this--hocus-ca-pocus to go to other people like Bill Clinton or JFK--but this Tweet in question is definitely in the here-and-now). So is one-side just like the other? Given our two test cases, let's go to the tape.
1. Franken, So Far As We Know, Engaged In Loutish, Offensive, Sexist Behavior And Had A Picture Taken of Sexual Assault
This is plenty bad--and Franken could--or maybe should--be sued / prosecuted for it (it's out of the statute of limitations--but let's pretend it's not). In this case the operative ingredient is that as we have a picture we can be pretty sure the entire story is true (about him forcing a kiss--which is definitely sexual assault).
So what should be done? Well, what Franken did is definitely some kind of illegal sexual abuse / assault. However, as far as categories go:
- It did not involve a weapon, threat of deadly force, nor was it done in the commission of another crime.
- It was not directed against a minor.
- There was an aggravating factor of the victim being sleeping when she was groped (whether Franken specifically touched her or not would likely be of interest to some hypothetical jury-defense--but is not to The Omnivore)
- But there is, thus far, no aggravating factor of a recurrent behavior.
Secondly, Franklin apologized, the apology was accepted by the victim, and there is/may be an ethics inquiry.
If you want to know what 'signaling' looks like--it's "don't care about what the victim has to say."
Finally: There has been round condemnation--both from Democrats and the mass media. Oh, sure, plenty of people are both defending and "defending" Al Franken. From a WaPo post that says he is still important to the feminist cause to people on twitter claiming they can see a shadow between his hands and her breasts, this is all happening.
However, there is, at least verbal censure of Franken and some specific real-life ramifications (he is being asked not to co-sponser a sex-abuse bill, for example). These do, in fact, stop short of resignation or unseating him--but they are more than "nothing."
TAKE-AWAY: Rather than being unimportant partisan defense, these issues are extremely important to the case that Rob is making. There is, in fact a scale of badness for sexual assault. There is, in fact a victim here who is speaking out--very capably. There, in fact, has been condemnation of both the event and the perpetrator.
These are not what partisans want--but they are, in reality, facts.
2. Roy Moore Has a Set Of Credible Allegations Of Sexual Assault Against Minors Against Him--But Denies Having Done Anything And There Is No Proof
In this case the wiggle-room is that these people might be lying. On the other hand, if they are not lying the situation is thus:
Firstly: It is one of the most aggravated types of sexual abuse crimes that does not involve completed rape or murder. By the story:
- He used force. He used alcohol.
- Some of the victims were under 16 (a specific category of increase badness)
- He had care of some of the victims (an aggravating factor in the statute)
- He has a history of recurrent behavior.
This makes it one of the worst possible crimes according to federal statues.
Secondly, he denies having done it. There is no apology to the victims and no (substantial) defense. Now: if you think he didn't do it--or maybe didn't do it--this would make sense--but, in fact, that isn't how people who are defending Roy Moore are defending him. They're suggesting he did do it and it's okay. Without going into conspiracy theory (a faked year book, WaPo pay-outs, a bunch of people lying and talking about it for no good reason) the only reasonable assumption is that Moore did it and is just trying to get away with it.
That is worse than what Franken did. There is a scale, there are victims.
Finally: Moore has been subject to strong censure. He has been told to quit by McConnell--there is nothing more GOP-Establishment than that--unless you count the AL-GOP which is standing by him. He has been told to drop out by McCain and many others--in a lot of cases ignoring the "if true" dodge. This is a strong, comprehensive voice of support from the GOP--unless you count The President--the actual head of the party refusing to weigh in.
In that case, no, the censure from the GOP seems to be missing some key components.
TAKE-AWAY: Unless you think it's pretty obvious Moore is the subject of a conspiracy hit-job, what he did was objectively way worse, his reaction to it has been objectively worse, and the party's reaction to it has been worse.
This is not what "both sides" people want to hear--but the above points are, nonetheless, facts.
We should not leave without noting that Al Franken is a Democrat fund-raising machine and Roy Moore is a loose cannon that the establishment doesn't want seated in the Senate anyway (they endorsed the corrupt-looking Strange, recall?). In other words, even verbal censure against Franken has potential downsides that censure of Moore doesn't.
The real point here, however is that if you are not fiercely wearing your partisan blinders, you see that that the legal system and most of humanity:
- Acknowledge a "scale of badness" where, in this instance, one party is much further down it than the other.
- Acknowledge that there is a "how did they react" question where one side took responsibility for what we are told happened and the other didn't. One was forgiven by his victim and the other wasn't forgiven by his victims.
- Both parties have condemned the specific people involved to some degree--but within this context there are some big missing pieces of important people not saying the right things--and it's mostly POTUS and the AL-GOP.
So are both sides just as bad? No. And you know it.