Thursday, September 18, 2014

False Equivalency

This is a growing trend among the ‘freaked out’ crowd lately. The crowd that wants you to just STOP what you’re doing and PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR ISSUE! So often now, I will see, especially on news articles, but occasionally in normal conversation (which is disturbing) the tendency for people to say things like “You’re worried about whales? What about BENGHAZI?” or, “Why is this news station covering this story when a white guy got beat up by a black guy? WHERE IS THE COVERAGE”. This is an attitude morph from ‘false equivalency’ arguments made by many people who have lots of opinions, but little to no facts, not to mention a serious case of myopia.

In debates or political rhetoric, this often comes in the form of some “Let’s not talk about this issue, because it distracts from the issue I WANT YOU to pay attention to”. For example, many times in modern political debates (let’s say, we’re talking about climate change, which has sadly become politicized instead of remaining in the scientific realm where it belongs), people will start the discussion with “Global warming is a serious issue that we must address in order to survive”. Immediately and almost predictably someone will inevitably attempt to either compare this subject with something completely unrelated, like abortion, or they will attempt to derail the entire conversation by saying something like “Why are we talking about Global Warming when it’s clear ISIS is on the move in the Middle East?”.

False equivalency is a distraction tactic, and is usually employed by skilled and unscrupulous debaters. However, the ‘general public’ emulates what it sees on TV. Nowadays, if you follow news media such as CNN on social media like Facebook, they opened themselves up to these very people who have been influenced by this behavior. For example, CNN made it possible to post to their ‘wall’, so you can go to CNN’s Facebook page, and post news stories directly to it to ask CNN to give it a look. SO MANY posts are along the lines of “CNN, why are you covering whaling in Japan and not giving THIS story (pick any topic) any attention?? You suck!!”, to which CNN, usually exercising infinite patience and restraint will issue a canned and adult-to-child response such as “Thank you for sharing this with us. We covered this at (URL) a week ago. We will see if this warrants an update, thank you”.

The notion among the less-than-critical thinkers out there seems to be that the world, and all of its news agencies, must immediately drop what they are doing to focus on their unrelated issue. Otherwise, it’s got to be a clear conspiracy, because why ELSE would a news agency simply fail to report on my issue of choice?!

Let’s be clear. Each issue demands a separate but not necessarily equal amount of attention. Debunked ‘scandals’ such as the Benghazi attack, or the conspiracy laden cries of ‘false flag’ for mass-shootings, or the whole ‘9/11 truther’ stories do not warrant the same attention in mainstream news as say, the fact that the USA is again going back to another war zone in the Middle East (and a familiar one). However, this does not mean that a massive news organization such as CNN isn't covering the story you’re getting all worked up about. They probably are.

It is amazing to me that in the age of instant information, Google, and mobile computing that anyone would be SO LAZY as to not simply search for their topic and see where it is being covered. Chances are there are literally hundreds or perhaps thousands of articles covering what you want to read about.
It must be really hard for people to stay ‘on topic’ on the web. It reminds me of the meandering and sometimes drunken conversations I might have with a buddy while blowing off steam or just hanging around. Starting with ‘how nice the weather is’, it segues into topics like humming birds, then on to dinosaurs, then on to how stupid people are that don’t believe in dinosaurs, then on to religion and politics, like some creatures that’s constantly morphing in and out of different forms. Only when you read stuff like this on the Internet it just looks absolutely insane.

I’ll be the first person to tell you, humans are not sane creatures. We kill each other, kill everything that we deem tasty, invent horrific weapons like nukes and chemical bombs, then develop moral conversations about it that are meant to elevate ourselves above the beasts of the world. Eloquent words are spoken, agreeable points made, and life goes on. But don’t think for one measly second that anyone on this planet, especially including myself, knows anything outside our bubble. We simply don’t. Especially not me. I read a lot. I call myself informed on certain issues. But there is simply too much to know, and from someone else’s perspective, I’m as insane as I think they are.

But back to false equivalency, it really needs to die as a tactic. How about you just say something like “CNN, have you covered this yet” instead of “CNN, you rat-bastard fuckheads, why the hell are you covering a feminist who was groped, when PETA is killing thousands of puppies daily?”. Apples and oranges. They’re not the same subject matter, they’re not related, and chances are very good it’s already been completely covered.

Maybe I was a prototype of sorts for the new A.D.D. future, where we’re all so damn distracted by – oh shit, butterfly!... where was I? Oh, yes, false equivalency… 

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