Dismiss real issues in three easy steps!

On a largely unrelated video, someone left this comment:

If the general experience & belief of the Christian is outdated & invalid, then why give them validity through focusing so much of your attention upon them? Respectfully, it seems as if, in your presentation & discussions, you hope(?) to bring them to a place where they will embrace, accept, & bless alternative sexual lifestyles via reason or ridicule. It almost seems as if you want them to validate you. Is this accurate at some level within you?

I was actually impressed by how, in just a paragraph, they managed to invalidate legitimate concerns so thoroughly and in so many ways. It almost makes me think this is practically a reflex action for such people. I figure it’s worth dissecting just how they do this – it happens so quickly, it could otherwise easily pass unnoticed.

So, what did this person do?

1. Flip the script, shift responsibility: “why give them validity through focusing so much of your attention upon them?” Our refutation of wrong reasoning and wrong beliefs is instead cast as an affirmation of this, simply due to the fact that we said anything about it at all. This sets up an obvious double bind. We can either say nothing, let this wrongness pass completely unchallenged, and be perceived as not taking issue with it, or we can say something and be accused of validating the wrongness just by talking about it. Is a majority of society Christian? It’s the atheists’ fault. Is our country still widely homophobic? Must be because of gay people.

There remains no accepted way to express disagreement or criticism – anything we do will always be turned against us, because of the fundamentally ridiculous implication that those who disagree are the ones responsible for validating the wrongness, rather than the vast majority who agree with and openly validate said wrongness.

2. Otherize: “alternative sexual lifestyles”. Depicting being gay, being trans, being an atheist, or any other such “lifestyle” that’s out of the traditional mainstream as an “alternative” means implicitly treating the alternative to this – being straight, cis, religious, etc. – as some kind of default. It positions that particular “lifestyle” as something that’s inherent to us all unless we choose otherwise, as though we’re all born heterosexual and cisgender and believing in some kind of god. It gives all of this a nice little seal of approval reading Official Life Path™; anything else basically amounts to running a nightly build of some unofficial fork at your own risk.

What differences we have are used to portray us as a fundamentally different people – not merely exhibiting some small fraction of the variety that occurs across all of humanity, but dissimilar enough from others to warrant placing us into a whole new category of lifestyle.

3. Personalize and isolate: “It almost seems as if you want them to validate you. Is this accurate at some level within you?” Finally, our stance on the issue at hand is condescendingly reduced to a mere personal issue, a presumably pathological need for validation. To distract from the actual issue, they’ve instead shifted the focus to (their guesses about) our psychology and personal needs. The reality of the situation is disregarded and erased, and our position on it is treated not as a reaction to an actual problem, but just the product of some imaginary windmill-tilting quest that exists entirely in the minds of a few deluded individuals. It almost suggests that our very understanding of the situation may be wholly disconnected from reality.

But even if they insist on making this about us as individuals, that does not erase the problem itself, hard as they may try to ignore it. Just because something is personal does not mean it is only personal. We have no choice in being impacted by common prejudices on a personal level – this is necessarily a personal matter. But it is not just in our heads. Those prejudices still exist, and insofar as you care about people’s lives and well-being, you should care about how these things affect us. We would like to be able to hold our partner’s hand in public without having to watch our back, talk to people in the course of everyday life without the irrelevant minutiae of gender coming between us and everyone else, and have a fair shot at public office without being required to profess a belief in a god just to have a chance. These are real things, and just because a thing is personal does not mean it is at all minor, insignificant or unimportant.

Personal things are people’s lives. Does this not matter? Not to those who take our objections to such treatment as evidence of mental or emotional deficiency, rather than part of the completely normal, completely human desire to be accepted by others and interact with them on an equal footing without being pointlessly shunned. For anyone else, it’s an entirely legitimate and unchallenged expectation. But of course, when we, the alternative lifestyle, expect this, we’re just being needy. We’re the ones who were affected by something real, noticed it, and called it out – and somehow that means the problem is with us.

Dismiss real issues in three easy steps!

10 thoughts on “Dismiss real issues in three easy steps!

  1. 1

    What hit me most about this post was breaking down the use of the word “alternative,” though the post in its entirety is excellent.

    The reason I’m focusing on that is because much of our experience (everything from health care to gun control) is packaged in such a way that the “solutions” available to us are necessarily the regulation or purchase of a product. With the privatization of prisons, even human lives and labor are commodities to be shuffled around for profit, despite the corrupting influence this has on our society. Suspects are increasingly subjected to pain compliance via Tasers and torture, as if with the correct inputs, the right answer will be forthcoming.

    What ever happened to looking at the worker’s talents and abilities, and even more fundamental to that, what happened to looking at a person’s needs?

    Oh right, it doesn’t pay. Fortunately (or unfortunately), it’s only possible to drive full-speed at a wall until you hit it, and then something has to change. We’ll see how that goes.

  2. 2

    I’ve found the best way to deal with the dishonest arguments presented in that kind of ‘discussion’ is to turn them around on the one trying to be dismissive.

    “If the general experience & belief of the Christian is outdated & invalid, then why give them validity through focusing so much of your attention upon them?”

    Retort with:

    “If the general experience & belief of the *imagined moral outrage du jour here* is outdated & invalid, then why give them validity through focusing so much of your attention upon them?”

    Their focus on homosexuality, by their own argument (I won’t call it logic…) lends it validity. By turning it around, it generally has one of several results;
    1) they accept that it’s a dishonest tactic and drop it. (very rare)
    2) Special pleading (but that’s different *whiny voice*) (probably the most common).
    3) They shut up and at least go away. (Not always the preferred option, but hey, at least they can annoy someone else now.)

  3. 3

    ZJ, you made a video where you acknowledged finding out you weren’t very smart after all. Whatever happened to convince you of that is bullshit. This was absolutely brilliant.

  4. 4

    When people attack you, why do you fend them off? Why should the answer change when the attacks are verbal and the injuries emotional?

    This is a great post on all three counts, but especially #3 resonates with me in a new way.

  5. F

    The person making the comment should should follow their own reasoning if they believe it. The comment was so very dismissive (in the JAQ/concern troll style) that it must have a point. So why “validate” the Zinnia-view by commenting on it? Duh.

    You unpacked and analyzed the comment quite well. (Now stop giving it attention, or yer gonna validate it!)

  6. 10

    While I’m certain you realize that these people don’t care about how the discrimination we face in all aspects of our lives impacts us, it was still a fantastic read. Thank you.

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