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Okay if we do it, awful if they do it

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There's something I see a lot in political discussions. It may just be human nature or something, but it always bugs me.

Group A discovers that a member of group B has done some particular thing, usually something that's frowned upon in polite company. And they vilify the person.

Later, it turns out that a member of group A has done some relatively similar thing. And all the members of group A trip over themselves explaining that no, what our person did is okay, because it's totally different from that awful thing that that awful group-B person did.

I see this most often where the two groups are the Democrats and the Republicans, in either order.

And it goes further than that. Sometimes each party uses argument X to support the things they like, and says that argument X is ridiculous when the other party uses it to support the things they like.

(The States' Rights argument is the one that springs to mind for me. In my experience, a lot of Democrats are pretty unhappy about S.R. arguments used to support Republican goals—but use S.R. arguments themselves to support Democratic goals. And, of course, some Republicans use S.R. arguments in many contexts, but reject them in contexts like same-sex marriage.)

Before I'm willing to make an argument, or to condemn someone for an action, I usually try to remember to run my argument through a filter: if people who disagree with me politically were to use this argument, would I object to it? If someone I agreed with politically were to do this thing, would I defend them instead of attacking them?

The funny thing is, this whole approach (of having different standards for members of your own group than for members of another group) doesn't bug me so much when people I disagree with do it.

But I expect better from people I agree with. I want the arguments on our side to be good arguments. I want us to refrain from attacking people for doing things that we wouldn't object to if our friends did them. I want us to take the moral high ground.

In other words, I have different standards about having different standards for members of my own group than for members of another group.

So I suppose I've got a meta-double standard.

But really, I would be happier if people just didn't make this kind of argument at all.

(Wrote most of this entry in September of 2008; just came across it today, cut out the extended discussion of a particular instance that had bogged me down and caused me to leave the entry unfinished, and am now posting it.)

1 Comment

> So I suppose I've got a meta-double standard.

This makes perfect sense, though: It's much more of a problem if your friends are evil than if your enemies are.


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