Simplistic Binary Thinking in Action

Here is an absolutely textbook example of that simplistic binary thinking that comes up so often in political discourse. It's from David Bass, a "20 year old homeschool graduate" who writes for several of those ubiquitous conservative commentary sites, and it's published, predictably, in the Worldnutdaily. Get a load of this irrational thinking. He begins by quoting someone who is in favor of gay marriage making an argument I have made many times, that the benefits of marriage - and there are many, both personal and societal - apply just as well to gay marriages as straight ones:

Couples who are doing the work of marriage in their lives - caring for one another, raising kids, worrying about aging parents, paying taxes, contributing to the community - deserve an equal commitment under the law. In America, that commitment is called marriage. Marriage can bring security and deepen love, and offers an incomparable - and irreplaceably broad - array of tangible and intangible protections and responsibilities.

I couldn't agree more. The text comes from an ad, but he doesn't say who wrote it, nor do I think he knows who wrote it. Now, ordinarily when you accuse someone of hypocrisy or inconsistency, it's either because their actions conflict with their words, or because their words in one situation conflict with their words in another. But Bass comes up with a whole new accusation of hypocrisy: you're a hypocrite if something you say contradicts something an entirely different person said when he assigns you and them to the same category:

Does such a flowery description of matrimony surprise you? It should. Frankly, this sudden emphasis on the sanctity of marriage is well nigh shocking considering liberalism's past record.

For decades, liberals have not only downplayed the significance of marriage but have disparaged the institution as counterproductive to maintaining a so-called progressive culture. Feminists often equate matrimony with slavery and prostitution while upholding cohabitation, promiscuous sex, abortion as birth control and no-fault divorce as saviors of civilization. As feminist goddess Betty Friedan so poignantly explained in her culture-shocking book "The Feminine Mystique," the nuclear family is nothing more than a comfortable concentration camp.

My only question is this: If the institution of marriage is truly nothing more than contractual rape, slavery and inequity, why should liberals be so passionate about extending its so-called benefits to homosexuals? If much of the present-day suffering by feminist activists can be laid squarely at the feet of wedding vows, why is it so necessary that marriage rights be extended to those who practice homosexuality? Wouldn't doing so merely inflict a barbarous institution on yet another segment of the population?

Such a paradox makes sense when you understand the hypocritical underpinnings of liberal philosophy. Traditional heterosexual marriage is the evil manifestation of a male-dominated society, designed to trick and coerce women into life-long bondage. Extending nuptial rights to homosexuals, on the other hand, would somehow bring security, deepen love and offer an "incomparable" and "irreplaceably broad" range "of tangible and intangible protections and responsibilities."

I dare say that it's a good thing that Bass was homeschooled. If he submitted the above argument in a class on basic logic, he would fail miserably. Are there radical feminists who view the entire institution of marriage as part of the system of patriarchal oppression? Sure. But unless there's some actual connection between those people and the people who wrote the ad above, something besides having both been assigned to the same category in this guy's head, any charge of inconsistency is patently ridiculous.

There is no single "liberal philosophy", of course, except in the simplistic thinking of those who define liberalism as "all the things we oppose." Even within feminism, there is an enormous range of conflicting opinion not only on the subject of marriage but on dozens of other issues. That doesn't mean that feminists are hypocrites, it just means they don't agree with each other. To broaden that out and demand that everyone he randomly assigns to the category of "liberal" agree with each other on everything or they are hypocrites is sheer idiocy.

Then he goes completely off the deep and offers one of those hyperbolic, totally unsupported and altogether ridiculous "my enemies are out to destroy everything that is good" statements:

Liberalism's double standard on marriage may be an unsolvable conundrum to many, but I'm going to step out on a limb and offer a suggestion as to the real goal behind this quest: the annihilation of marriage itself.

In truth, the struggle to create same-sex marriage is not about safeguarding rights for a community of Americans, but about forever abolishing marriage as it has been traditionally understood, thereby all but eliminating the concept of the nuclear family. It is about turning Judeo-Christian culture on its head and establishing a new secularized version that downplays or outright eliminates any vestige of God, truth, responsibility or traditional morality.

Yep Gomer, you caught us. We just want to abolish not only marriage but truth, resonsibility, morality - and your little dog too! And now that you've figured out our little secret, we're going to have to kill you. Thankfully, we're well connected, as you might imagine, in the Evil Atheist Conspiracy and can call upon the vast resources of the Illuminati, the Freemasons and the Motion Picture Association of America, so we can pull that off. Just stay where you are...the black helicopters will be there soon.


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I'm a long-time observer of the religious right. This is the kind of thing that passes for brilliant analysis with them.

Brilliant analysis? Only in those circles that think the root word for "analysis" is "anal."

Oh, yeah, you did specify the right. There are people out there who not only think the root is anal, they practice it.

"In truth, the struggle to create same-sex marriage is not about safeguarding rights for a community of Americans, but about forever abolishing marriage as it has been traditionally understood, thereby all but eliminating the concept of the nuclear family."

Ah yes, the myth of the tradition of marriage, as if there's only one. I wonder if polygamists thought the same thing when monogamy came on scene. "Well, there goes the extended family."

I am just more and more amused that many Christians actually and quite literally believe that marriage is a Christian institution somehow bestowed upon them by God. While this is a nice faith thought, thats all it is. Marriage existed long before there religion and in virtually all cultures in one form or another.

And one could make good arguments that the feminists have had good reason for their stance on marriage through the years which until relatively recently in many lands was akin to an unescapable prison.

Uber wrote:

Marriage existed long before there religion and in virtually all in one form or another.

And even within their religion it exists in at least two forms. Numerous biblical characters were polygamous, and some Christians still practice it. You'd think that Jesus invented monogamous marriage to hear them go one about it.

Unlike traditional conservatives (people who display a rather pedestrian form of hypocrisy and view the world with a typical bias) the Xians and "neo"-conservatives that were politically selected for and breed by the evil and foolish political scientiists of the "Republican" Party like in an entirely 2-D world. I believe the generic word is "Bizarroland," isn't it?
This has many, many parallels with the logic in the children's classics "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass," and, in the case of the twisted, vain, unschooled Xian fool under discussion, in Alice's discussion with Humpty Dumpty, though of course without the humor, honesty, or intelligence which the Big Egg displays.

He doesn't know how close he is to being right about the world. What will he have to say when he discovers that Bill Gates founded Microsoft for the purpose of overthrowing the capitalist system, or that the metric system is a clever attempt to undermine Base10 notation?

Of course the only reason gays want to be married is because they hate the institution and must undermine it at any cost. He still fails to mention the mechanism by which this cabal intends to achieve thier fell objective. Doh! Those crafty Liberals!

"... abolishing marriage as it has been traditionally understood..."

This is a very strange use of the word "abolishing," and it is becoming more common these days (because it sounds scarier, of course). Even if same-sex marriage was legal, the "traditional understanding" would still exist.

Suppose my city council increases the fee for parking on Main Street. I'd sound pretty loony if I said they had "abolished" the parking fee -- as I had traditionally understood it.

I absolutely agree with the general gist of your post, but as a homeschooled college student I'd like to point out that not all homeschooled kids are as stupid as David Bass.

Although there are an alarmingly large number of bible-thumping kids around, there are also a significant number of homeschoolers with sane parents. Some of these kids have severe disabilities, or live in remote areas where going to school is impractical. Some parents think that the school system is not as nurturing to curiosity and education as it could be, and find other ways to raise their kids. There is a HUGE difference between the fundamentalist kids, and the other two groups of home schooled kids.

For an objective measure of intelligence (and presumably for grades in basic logic classes) I'd like to point out that on average homeschoolers score higher on SATs.

Um, SAT results have virtually nothing to do with intelligence.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 30 Jul 2006 #permalink

I've pointed some of these things out elsewhere, but they are always valuable arrows in your quiver when you are dealing with hyper-Christians talking about marriage.

1) The society of the Old Testament was polygamous, not just for 'the patriarchs.' This is shown by the specific wording of Leviticus 18 and the descriptions of 'prohibited sexual relations.' (For example specific prohibitions are made against having sex with 'your mother' and 'your father's wife.')

2) Jewish society -- at least for the upper classes -- was polygamous at the time of Jesus. (See Josephus' autobiography and his descrotion of his 'brother' as being both the son of his father and his mother.)

3) Jesus at no time condemns this practice. Nor do the Epistles -- though I seem to remember (and it is too hot to search the reference) that there is one limitation of a particular office in the Church to men who have only one wife -- thus implicitly accepting polygamy.

On the other hand, I am certainly sympathetic to an idea I've seen in various places and which my wife is very much in favor of. Limiting the WORD 'marriage' to relationships sanctified by a given religious institution, with such a relationship having no civil standing or implication, and requiring all couples who wish a civil relationship to undergo a different civil ceremony as well or instead of the religious one. (And any given religious institution could decide for itself what restrictions they choose to place on its own version of marriage. Only heterosexual, same-sex, even polygamous or polyandrous, that's up to them.

It's the Ann Coulter syndrome in action. Bass wishes to appear at least as intelligent as Ann. So, he apes the "Liberalism" tag without further introspection and waves it about. All Ann-loving conservatives will immediately salute.

I don't know. There are plenty of feminists who both disdain "traditional" marriage and support gay marriage. I'm one of them. I imagine many of the prominent feminist and LGBT bloggers would agree. It's simply absurd to deny that historically marriage in Western societies is a construct designed to facilitate the stable continuation of what, for want of a better word, I'll call the patriarchy (ie society, which happens to be patriarchal). It's equally absurd to deny that in the present day in the West, marriage confers certain legal benefits to both partners and their dependants without necessarily turning one of them into a chattel. It's perfectly consistent to argue that both gay and straight couples should be entitled to those benefits, even if the institution itself has for most of its history been a tool of the patriarchy. So have countless millions of things.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 31 Jul 2006 #permalink