Thursday, December 29, 2011

I'm Not Insulting Anyone

Some people don't like to be called out for being bad people. Surprising, I know. Who wants to have the world know that, at heart, they have deep ugly recesses in their hearts filled with rage and disgust directed at their fellow human beings? If the past generation or so has taught us anything, it's no longer acceptable to be a bigot.

Except, of course, there are still bigots out there. They just don't like being called out for it, because being a bigot is socially unacceptable, so they deny-deny-deny.

I, for one, do not consider it a personal attack to call an ignorant person ignorant. When they demonstrate their ignorance for all the world to see, repeatedly, then it isn't an insult. It's just a description of . . . their ignorance. When an individual repeatedly expresses bigotry, calling them a bigot isn't an ad hominem attack. It is just calling things as they are.

If I said they were so ugly they were born prematurely because their mother's body couldn't stand them, that would be an ad hominem attack. If I said they were so stupid they couldn't breathe without cue cards reminding them, that would a personal attack. Calling someone who repeatedly demonstrates ignorance "ignorant" isn't an insult.

Just as people get all up in arms when someone notes that public figures, or bloggers, or writers, are lying - not prevaricating, being misleading, misstating the facts - I'm not sure why this is even a problem. The question of lying, for instance, is one I find fascinating. People will go to great lengths to excuse others from the charge of lying. For me, the test is really simple. If a person makes a statement that is contrary to fact, that's a lie. Do they know it is contrary to fact? With the multiple resources available to ensure factual accuracy, getting facts right is one of the easiest things in the world. So, when Michelle Bachmann claims that the HPV vaccine is dangerous, then tries to insist that she is merely relating what others have said, she is lying. In the first instance, the HPV vaccine is not dangerous; about ten seconds on Google would clear that up. In the second instance, repeating something someone else says about a topic that one does or can know is factually inaccurate is . . . lying. How is this hard to figure out?

I actually have a pretty simple standard for whether or not a person is lying. Person "A" says "X". Several people mention to "A" that "X" is false. Person "A" continues to say "X". That, folks, is lying. Even if Person "A" did not know in the first instance that "X" is false, once it is pointed out that "X" is false, Person "A" not only has a moral duty to make clear that he/she is wrong; Person "A" has a moral duty to make sure that, in the future, "X" is not presented as true.

Again, this isn't rocket science.

When a person doesn't know something, yet makes claims about understanding and insight and knowledge, repeatedly, and gets all manner of things wrong about said topic; when others, trying to be helpful point out a variety of errors in the first individual's claims, and that person continues to make claims rooted in ignorance, then that person is being both ignorant and untruthful. Not "misleading". Not "misstating the facts". They are both ignorant and, of course now, they are lying.

Again, this is first-grade moral clarity here, folks. The reason it's so simple is because it is.

It isn't "name calling". It's simple description. I'm not sure why any of this is a problem. Yet, it is.

Virtual Tin Cup

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