Friday, November 11, 2011

Discrimination Part 2

I've already shared my thoughts on discrimination, how some laws meant to stamp it out may have create more of it or have other harmful effects; and why pointing this out doesn't mean you're on the side of the racists.

However the topic has raised itself once again with a statement made by one of our Councillors and the reply from another. In essence Councillor A said something racist and Councillor B responded with the equivalent of "That's racist!". On the surface that might seem fine, I don't think it is and I find it worrying that people may consider that by itself that this is just fine.

My pointing this out has led to the "biannual spat" between myself and Gobby Robby which as I've said in those comments I welcome because I hope it's making people think about their views (see also my conversations with the Bratii). My first comment on the page was to point out what wasn't said and that was the racist comment was untrue. Now again I think this is an important omission and I've tried to explain why in the comments; but as that's all in spread comment form I'll collect my points here.

I'll start with my main fear and that's displayed by how a simple question is answered - If I make a comment (negative or positive) about an ethnic group that's factual and demonstrably true is it still racist?

If the answer is yes then I consider this to be a problem. Research into various ailments that only effect certain groups may become suspect; anything that asks why certain groups are different from others becomes non-discussable; and unlawful incidents that are prevalent amongst certain groups become unsolvable.

If the answer is no then it's up to the person making the statement to show that what they've said is based on fact. Yet time and again they seem to be let off this task because of what I consider the knee-jerk response of "That's racist". As soon as that gets said first it sets the entire tone of the discussion and results in everything being dealt with at an emotional level. Why do I think this is a problem?

Problem 1: Emotions are easily manipulable.

Get a crowd worked up and they won't stop to think about whether anything they're being told is right or wrong they'll simply go with the flow of their own preconceptions.

When this happens it can do so to both sides of the coin to both those making the racist comments and those opposing them. But stop; we on the opposing side (and yes I include myself) should be better than them. We shouldn't just be firing back the same type of arguments they use we should be using better arguments and to me that means not starting with emotional arguments because:

Problem 2: Emotions are subjective.

That means there is no real right or wrong to them. Without a complete experience swap there's no way of stating that you're wrong in feeling that and I'm right in feeling differently the result is the childish "Are no! Am too!" and that's due to:

Problem 3: Polarisation.

We like binary arguments - simple yes/no's and that lends itself to taking sides. This is where aphorisms such as "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" and "You're either with us or against us" come from.

We insist on an all or nothing approach and as such whenever someone on our 'side' points out problems in what's being done suspicion is levelled at them that they're on the other's 'side' - "If you don't like the way we do things go and join the others". Expressed like that without a context I hope you see how immature that expression is. But it persists because:

Problem 4: We're generally not having an argument to discover what's right or wrong, but to win.

And this is why I despise knee-jerk reactions. Because once they've been uttered the person doing so will do almost anything to justify what they've said. This is what leads to the type of behaviour we see where someone will still proclaim their innocence despite having video evidence of the action and signed confessions from everyone involved because they started out by saying they're innocent and by God they're going to win that argument.

So does cutting out the emotional arguments and dealing only with the facts work? No; we still have all the emotional baggage attached as above - A store keeper who's constantly being robbed by black people complains about all  "the black criminals". Tell them that the facts show that there is no discrepancy between the ethic groups committing crimes and they won't believe you because look they're always being robbed by black people. (substitute any racial/ethnic group for the same effect)

What starting from a factual base allows is to point out that this is just an emotional argument. That in this case their argument is based solely on their own personal experience yet they're applying it to everyone as a universal - "I'm being robbed by black people; thus everyone is being robbed by black people"

That's the beauty of doing this. If you start off down this route then those you are arguing against are either forced down the same route or have to try to switch the field to dealing with emotions which in this context hopefully will appear an obvious tactic to those watching.

So why do I try to start out with a factual basis beyond that I consider it to be the most effective method to crush racism? Because once the emotional field is drawn up any attempt to shift over to the factual one leads one to be dismissed as being cold-heartened etc. A shift from a factual basis to an emotional one is obvious and amusingly a detriment to those seen as attempting it as an obvious ploy; a switch from an emotional basis to a factual one is nigh-on impossible.

As a result those who know,or suspect, that the facts aren't on their side will always try to start off with emotional arguments and the sooner an attempt by the opposition is made to shift it to factual the better. If you know the facts support your argument then start with them.

To return to the specific. In the article originally linked to we've had two councillors and two who want to be in power commenting on this and not one of them has stated that the original allegation is untrue. Now as was pointed out by Neil (and applauded by me) why should they have to provide proof that it's untrue shouldn't it be the allegation that needs to be proved. Yes it should be except up to that point no-one asked for it to be or even pointed that out instead it was the simple knee-jerk  of the "That's racist!" or "You can't say that!" .

The first thing out of the respondent's mouth should have been a challenge to prove what was said was true. Bam straight onto the factual field and putting the pressure on the person making the allegation. As we all know there are no facts to support this they'd either have to apologise (see Problem 4) try to switch the field (see my point about how we treat that attempt) or try to bend the facts to try to fit their argument (a la Problem 4 with the same results as trying to switch the field) Slam-dunk they're destroyed.

So why didn't this happen?

I laid out some possibilities as to why in the comments. To rehash them.

1. The allegation was so obviously wrong no need to demonstrate its falsehood was required.

Which as a mindset for someone supposed to be representing us (or one who wishes to) I find that very scary. What they may consider obvious we might not, but hey they're not going to explain it because it's obvious.

2. They know the facts, but prefer to argue using on the basis of emotion.

I find this condescending. That somehow we won't be able to understand the facts so there is no point in using them.

3. They don't know the facts.

So what gives them the right to weigh in with a definitive option? If they don't know, find out; they're supposed to be representing us if they don't want to deal in the facts how good at their job are they?

4. They think/know that the facts won't support them so they don't use them.

So they're condescending cowards trying to score cheap political points by going with the consensus.

As always these are my thoughts on the matter and I don't pretend that I'm always right or heck hold firm that my position on the way to argue is the best. I'm presenting my arguments and it's up to you to decide for yourself and/or to present your own arguments for or against me.