Friday, 28 February 2014

An Anti-Discrimination Idiot

On my way to the station today I had to pass by the gathering of Socialist Workers Party activists who usually accost passers-by on a Friday. They were handing out leaflets about a forthcoming demonstration against Islamophobia in London on 22nd March 2014. I felt I had to respond to this and fell into discussion with one of the activists.

I learned some interesting things about the thinking of the Left on this issue. I know that’s a generalisation but I’ve heard the same arguments over and over again from Left-wingers so there is a broad consensus at work.

He made the point that he was opposed to discrimination against Muslims because it was similar to the Nazi persecution of the Jews. This parallel is often drawn and it can be difficult to counter because once you’ve said anything such as “Muslims are different, they really are a threat” you have cast yourself in the role of fascist as far as these sorts of people are concerned. I attempted to make the point that it was the Islamic system as a whole that was a problem rather than individual Muslims.

He kept reiterating the point that as far as he was concerned all religions were roughly the same and all could be considered a problem collectively but to single out Islam for special scrutiny was discriminatory. It’s that hobgoblin of equality again!

It struck me that discrimination is an extremely important issue for these people. They are very opposed to discrimination in general. However, they are unable to focus on a specific cultural form of discrimination (as in Islam) because to do so as far as they are concerned is to discriminate. This is why they are completely brain-locked on this matter.

The fact that they are so brain-locked might help to explain why they so frequently rationalise and equivocate (by this I am referring more to their tendency to find false equivalence and present tu quoque arguments.) I heard lots of these fallacious arguments from this fellow but rather than get derailed by these I kept to my line of enquiry.

He (and they I believe) are also very cognizant of the Nazi persecution of the Jews (ironic given that they are now joining the jihad against Israel – this guy was wearing a kefayeh). They rarely make their arguments or assumptions explicit but the implication of what he was saying was this: any discrimination (this is never clearly defined) against Muslims will lead to persecution and persecution will lead to ethnic cleansing. This is an instance of the slippery slope argument. A will lead to B, then C,  then D, and eventually to Y then Z. Z should not happen. Therefore A should not happen either. The causal links between the different steps is not made clear but taken to be inevitable. This is unsound reasoning.

From the fallacy files:
This type [of argument] is based upon the claim that a controversial type of action will lead inevitably to some admittedly bad type of action. It is the slide from A to Z via the intermediate steps B through Y that is the "slope", and the smallness of each step that makes it "slippery".
This type of argument is by no means invariably fallacious, but the strength of the argument is inversely proportional to the number of steps between A and Z, and directly proportional to the causal strength of the connections between adjacent steps. If there are many intervening steps, and the causal connections between them are weak, or even unknown, then the resulting argument will be very weak, if not downright fallacious.
The striking fact in the instance of Leftist attitudes to Islam is that at the top of this slippery slope is the purely cognitive process of focusing on one religion to the exclusion of all others. This is the forbidden thought process. We see in this the heart of politically correct thinking. It is self-inflicted stupidity.

The comparison of contemporary Muslims to the position of Jews in Nazi Germany is also based on crude pattern matching. As they see it, Muslims are a minority in European societies so they are therefore like the Jewish minority in Nazi Germany.

The Nazis whipped up suspicions about Jews in order to demonize them and render them defenceless against the Final Solution. Voicing any concerns about the ultimate consequences of a growing and radicalising Muslim population is seen to be just the same.

Muslims are predominantly dark-skinned. The host populations are predominantly white (though the gap is closing fast). Therefore the pattern is similar to apartheid South Africa or racial divisions in other places. These are crude parallels rather than carefully evaluated comparisons.

This crude pattern matching is triggered by our lowest cognitive functions. From his studies of different levels of cognitive functioning Howard Margolis concluded that basic pattern-matching is often used by the brain when a more rational and complex approach is required. This lower cognition is a poor discriminator. It is intuitive and affective rather than rational. It would appear to be this lower cognition that people like my interlocutor use when they draw parallels between rational scrutiny and evaluation of Islam and the brutal ethnic cleansing of the Holocaust.

As I pointed out in my previous post, the Holocaust, the Nazis, and the figure of Hitler cast a powerful gravitational power over many people’s minds which leads them to try to repel anything that they associate with these dreadful forces. Discrimination per se is one of the things they associate. The already affectively charged pattern-matching is thus given considerable impetus by these associations.

Ironically, in this context, it is their reaction to these inner conflicts which has more the appearance of a phobia than anything said or done by those concerned about Islam. Those voicing worries about Islam have generally arrived at their conclusions through careful study and well-scrutinised reasoning.

Those on the the Left, by refusing to discriminate (they are blocked from doing this by the conflicts described above) between the two cases (Jews in Nazi Germany and Muslims today)  render themselves incapable of distinguishing between a belief system which is not a threat (Judaism in this case) and one which is – Islam. All belief systems have to be treated equally in their view.

The very ambiguity of the term ‘discrimination’ is also a problem in this context. To discriminate can simply mean to distinguish one thing from another but it can also mean to give preferential treatment to one person over another or one group over another.

Also, those on the Left fear instigating an in-group/out-group relationship. Understandable though this is, once again their very concern about this is preventing them from realising just how discriminatory and divisive Islam is.

The encouraging thing about this encounter is that he was genuinely concerned about discrimination and avoiding a repetition of Nazi Germany. He was just too stupid and ignorant to realise that he may be fighting for the side that would be only too happy to have a second Holocaust. Sadly, this stupidity is entirely self-inflicted.

This is why I describe this man as an Anti-Discrimination Idiot. See also Liberal Hans.

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