Friday, November 17, 2017

The Perfectly Spherical Democrat

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.

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:
  1. It did not involve a weapon, threat of deadly force, nor was it done in the commission of another crime.
  2. It was not directed against a minor.
  3. 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)
  4. 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:
  1. He used force. He used alcohol.
  2. Some of the victims were under 16 (a specific category of increase badness)
  3. He had care of some of the victims (an aggravating factor in the statute)
  4. 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.

Wrapping Up

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:
  1. Acknowledge a "scale of badness" where, in this instance, one party is much further down it than the other.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

1 comment:

  1. Just ruminating here but let's have a shot.

    Franken is a pig and his schtick was to press the envelope. His 'grope' was a grope too far. I dislike all the self-righteousness of both sides. I get that also, you are there.

    I am still thinking about Moore. The one fact we know is it appears he dates girls young and most above the age of consent. Of the 7 or 8 allegations, about 5 were of the sort they did not like the attention of a 30 something. Nothing wrong there. There were three touchings reported that deserve attention. The others- nothing burgers.

    The gal in the lawyer's office rear touch seems a vengeful act by the woman, as Moore represented the mom in a custody battle against the accuser. Moore was a lawyer representing the mom in the case and the mom won. Seems this one falls apart easily.

    Then there was the attempted rape of the 18 year old waitress. This concerns me the most. I tend to disbelieve this one a lot. The gal has a history of false allegations, several marriages, a step-son who does not believe her (and probably family who probably doesn't want to get involved with the loose cannon) and finally, no record of the gal working the restaurant at time of accusation. There was also the doctored up yearbook Allred refuses (or accuser) to release for checks.

    Lastly, the underage one. Since by process of elimination, it is a one-off for me. So, considering that and the fact the gal had mental issues earlier than the encounter, I put it in the maybe category.

    I disregard it when I consider the accusation just surfaces now and the McConnells of the GOP seemed prepared with responses right as the news hit, I also discount this and feel I have to go with this:

    If voting, do I vote for the one-off or go with 30 plus years of no problems?

    Lastly, my brother had a child out of wedlock. I believe he asked to have baby aborted (ed. note: I do not agree), woman refused, so my bro was involved in baby's life. So, the mom did not like bro big time.

    At two or three, the baby had a sexual encounter of the worst kind. Somehow, my bro was blamed. I do not think he did anything and certainly had not done anything to his older daughter or to any of his younger siblings.

    My bro's wife said to me, "I believe the daughter really did have the experience but the mom diverted attention away from her mental family".

    Did the same happen here?