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Ovid (2709)

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Stuff with the Perl Foundation. A couple of patches in the Perl core. A few CPAN modules. That about sums it up.

Journal of Ovid (2709)

Monday September 16, 2002
02:52 PM

Intellectual Dishonesty

[ #7760 ]

I'm against the death penalty. I'll stipulate that certain people deserver to die, but I question whether the state should kill them. My reasoning for that is beyond the scope of this post, so I'll skip that. I bring that up only to point out a dishonest argument that many death penalty opponents use: "Why do we murder people to show that murder is wrong?"

The answer to that is simple. By our legal definitions, the death penalty is not murder. In offering the above argument, the anti-death crowd equivocates on the word "murder". If they want to support that argument they must preface it with their definition of murder. When caught in such a dishonest argument, they make themselves look foolish and call into question their own integrity. If one can't support a position without resorting to such tactics, the merits of the position should be re-examined.

This brings me to the US "war" on terror. Aside from questions about violations of US civil liberties being perpetrated in the name of the "war", some claim that it is specifically being used to justify discrimination against Muslims. On a recent radio talk show, I listened to the host and his guest espouse this viewpoint and, in fact, I'm inclined to agree with them. However, just because I agree with someone doesn't mean that I will agree with dishonesty to support their position.

These two people, both sounding quite educated on the subject, used a recent arrest of a Muslim cleric to prove their point. One of the reasons for the arrest was the alleged detection of "bomb making material" residue on his possessions. The two individuals argued that since this was an upstanding member of the community with no prior trouble with the law, the FBI was using chemical tests of dubious validity to persecute a Muslim. Since I was not too familiar with the facts of the case, I was a bit skeptical that this constitutes proof of discrimination, but I was willing to hear more. Then, they started taking calls. I was looking forward to hearing the debate as I believe that this "war" is being waged in a discriminatory fashion.

Their first caller stated up front that he didn't agree with them. He fumbled, stuttered, and was pretty much incoherent. I was thinking "ha! Some idiot calls up to argue and is just proving one of their points about ignorance driving discrimination!". Then the caller dropped The Bomb.

"What about the cleric's three social security numbers?"

Hey, the host didn't mention that and it's a valid point. The guest on the talk show started saying something about "many people have more than one social security number and don't get arrested". (I won't even bother to comment on that stupidity.) After the caller babbled, stuttered, and pointed out that this doesn't make the three social security numbers legal, the host of the show jumped in and said (paraphrasing) "this man is going to trial and he has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Until we have the full facts of the case, it's unfair to judge him."

For about .02 seconds, that sounds reasonable. But in this case, the host and his guest mentioned the cleric as an example of discrimination. If they bring him up, they introduce him as fair game in the debate. They can't just arbitrarily exclude information that shows that the FBI behaved in a reasonable fashion. I was prepared to believe them, but they completely destroyed their credibility.

So often, this is the level of debate we can expect and it's pretty disgusting. Do people really think it's acceptable to use any tactic available to "prove" their point? The host and his guest either should have used a better example -- easy enough to find -- or have been honest enough to admit their mistake and move on. While the latter would also hurt their credibility, it would have done less damage in the long run. I switched off the radio in disgust and am not inclined to listen to that host again.

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