On Monday May 2nd, 2022, Politico dropped a story about a draft SCOTUS opinion that had been leaked to them which revealed that the court was preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade. The nation dutifully took to their posts on each side of the dividing partisan line and began to bicker about the ethics of abortion. The debate is not unimportant, but it is disturbing how easily we can be influenced to put down everything and fight about abortion, practically on command. This essay is not about abortion, however. Rather, I am going to talk about another in a now vast series of examples of woke thuggery.
The SCOTUS justice Brett Kavanaugh is most famous for the dramatic inquiry into his alleged attempted rape/sexual assault of Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford. It remains unclear if anything transpired between Blasey-Ford and Kavanaugh in the summer of 1982, but it is obvious now that this was a weaponized attempt to smear an incoming SCOTUS justice specifically to paint a target on his back if he ever did anything to upend Roe v. Wade. It was groundwork laid for future intimidation, and it seems to have been successful at least in motivating activists to try to intimidate Justice Kavanaugh.
Pro-choice thugs (not protestors) are marching to the houses of the SCOTUS justices who are part of the majority vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Do not be fooled when they refer to themselves as protestors or talk about making sure their voice is heard. There are many relevant public places that they can protest (also, do not be fooled when they tell you that the street is indeed public property!). They are there to intimidate the justices and to make them feel unsafe in their homes and because of that they are thugs.
Not only are they thugs, but they are also sophists. It may be because I am dumb, but this is a word I only became familiar with this year, and when that is the case, I like to take time to define the term for any of my readers who are also unfamiliar with it. Sophistry is a plausible but fallacious argumentation. As described by Richard Whately in Elements of Logic: “Sophistry, like poison, is at once detected, and nauseated, when presented to us in a concentrated form; but a fallacy which, when stated barely in a few sentences, would not deceive a child, may deceive half the world if diluted in a quarto volume”. How does this look when mapped to our current focus?
Reality: The pro-choice thugs are marching and demonstrating outside of SCOTUS Justices’ houses in an attempt to intimidate them into changing the court ruling.
A Sophist’s Explanation: We are exercising our first amendment rights and peaceably demonstrating on public property. We are speaking truth to power and making our voices heard because they won’t listen to us if we demonstrate in the public areas that they designate for us. Hearing the truth is uncomfortable, and we cannot cater to the fragility of these privileged justices. Even if we were here to intimidate them, why would that be your focus rather than all the women, many of whom are black and brown women, who are going to be denied bodily autonomy because of this ruling. Justices who inflict that upon women deserve to be intimidated.
The sophist explanation is squid ink. It is a meant to confuse and delay, to buy time for the sophist to escape scrutiny. The reality is simply explained and easily understood, but the sophist cannot confront that reality and when challenged vomits out an explanation that is plausible, but fallacious.
Let’s break down how complicated it would be to fully retort the sophist’s explanation.
“We are exercising our first amendment rights and peaceably demonstrating on public property.”
This is technically true, but a poor description of reality. It is the adult version of “I’m not touching you” while hovering your finger a centimeter away from their face. Yes, technically you are not touching me, but you are so close, that it doesn’t really matter.
“We are speaking truth to power and making our voices heard because they won’t listen to us if we demonstrate in the public areas that they designate for us.”
In this sentence, they justify their “I’m not touching you” behavior without acknowledging that they are engaged in it. They say that they will not be listened to unless they play the “I’m not touching you” card. This makes sense, but also operates on the assumption that there is literally no other course of action for them to take except show up at a justice’s home and intimidate them. It also assumes that the people who oppose them are simply not listening.
“Hearing the truth is uncomfortable, and we cannot cater to the fragility of these privileged justices.”
In this sentence, they acknowledge the effect that they might be having on the justices, but immediately blame that effect on the fragility of the justices themselves. The sophists are not at fault because they are simply performing the noble task of speaking uncomfortable truths. If pressed about how they might not be speaking the truth, they will modify it to “my truth” or the “truth for oppressed women” also known as pseudo truths.
“Even if we were here to intimidate them, why would that be your focus rather than all the women, many of whom are black and brown women, who are going to be denied bodily autonomy because of this ruling. Justices who inflict that upon women deserve to be intimidated.”
Translation: [We are not doing what you accused us of doing, but even if we were doing it, we would be justified]. They absolve themselves of the wrongdoing that they claim they are not doing and then demand that their accuser self-reflect on why they would be upset at the wrongdoings of the sophists (that they are not even doing!) instead of the wrongdoings of those who the sophists oppose which is the much more egregious wrongdoing.
Each sentence contains fallacious assumptions and assertions that need to be corrected if a productive discussion is to occur. Do you see how much effort it took for me, in writing, to refute my own sophistry example point by point. Can you imagine doing that in a verbal discussion or a social media interaction? Nope. Doesn’t work, and that is the point. The sophist may not know why they succeed in so many interactions, but they know that they succeed and that is enough. If you cook scrambled eggs, all you know is that if you put eggs in a hot pan, they curdle and harden, and you get scrambled eggs. You do not know that the proteins within the eggs are uncoiling and hooking onto each other and result in the curdling effect. Such it is with the sophists.
What to do with a sophist then? Well step 1 is being able to identify them. Once you can identify them, ignore them and plainly state reality. Yup, that is basically the only way to deal with sophists. The amount of effort that it takes them to create sophistry is dwarfed by the effort that you must expend unraveling their sophistry. Instead, just refute their sophistry by stating reality in an easy-to-understand way. The only necessary response to the pro-choice thugs outside of the justices’ houses is to say: “No, you are engaged in thuggery to intimidate SCOTUS justices to get them to change a ruling that you do not like. Please stop”. And just keep repeating that. There is nothing else that needs to be said. There is nuance in the world and we should explore the nuance, but not when you are standing across from a sophist.
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