Monday, October 26, 2009

Doggerel #210: "Victim"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

On some level, as social beings, we have an instinct for justice. When one of "our group" is harmed, we can quickly direct our anger at who or whatever caused that harm. Much of the time, however, cynical manipulators can pull our heartstrings to persuade us into irrationality.

Many forms of pseudoscience attempt to play victim to win sympathy. They treat ridicule and criticism as persecution when it may very well be deserved. In such a case, the use of this doggerel is a subject change: Instead of defending ideas and answering criticism, the user looks for pity so that those who fall for the scheme can complain about irrelevancies like the skeptics' tone of voice or choice of language.

In other ways, the use of this doggerel can be self-fulfilling. Take, for example, a certain Big Lie: That it's illegal to pray in school in the US. It's not. The law only requires that teachers, staff, and other government employees not lead students in prayer while on the clock. But because the Big Lie is so prevalent, many people in those positions actually believe it and end up enforcing the false law, allowing those who spread the lie to claim persecution and milk people's sympathies.

Others claim that non-victims can't possibly understand, therefore all their scientific questions and efforts to point out logical fallacies are meaningless. This is hardly the case. In fact, someone who believes himself to be a victim must redouble his efforts to be objective: Having an emotional stake in the issue can easily lead to bias.

Talking about the problems caused by an injustice can be useful to ignite someone's passions, but it's no substitute for logic and scientific inquiry. Wanting to solve a problem, and knowing the true nature of the problem and its solution are entirely different things.


Dark Jaguar said...

I had a weird argument the other day with a relative over whether to go to the police over someone they overheard at the bar confessing to murder. I took the position that they had a responsibility to, but she had this bizarre idea that the criminal had some impossible network of knowledge that would promise that if she told the police, not only would the police be completely ineffectual, but the guy would just get "a gang" to drive by and shoot her down. The concept of being able to submit the report anonymously, and the police being able to follow up on any investigation in a way that wouldn't betray her report at all was not getting through. She apparently had seen too many movies. The whole thing ended with a dramatic appeal to "living in the real world" and that I was just "naive". I myself never followed up on it, because I was a person removed from the whole thing.

Not entirely like this, but it reminded me of that at any rate.

The biggest recent example of this "playing the victim" card I saw was that idiotic creationist/intelligent design movie with Ben Stein. The whole first half was just a dumb appeal to victimhood (which, as it turned out, was utterly baseless with just the slightest modicum of research I did for each claim). The rest was some appeal to it being evil and the infamously poor interviews they did under false pretenses. Oh, and what really got to me the entire time was how they constantly, without fail, switched their position through the whole thing. One moment they are creationists arguing against ANY form of evolution, ID included, next they are arguoing for ID. One moment they argue their views are religious ones that deserve respect, and the next they are arguing their views are scientific ones that have nothing to do with their faith. They really just couldn't even nail down their OWN ARGUMENT, and it was just so painful.

Yakaru said...

Very timely - a Doggerel for James Arthur "Death" Ray, currently trying to play the victim of a media smear campaign. Cosmic Connie has the whole story and lots of links.

Yakaru said...

Bit more background to James Ray's victimhood.

Here is how "Secret" star, James Ray has been trying to play the victim, despite himself having a direct and decisive hand in 4 deaths and about 20 hospitalisations. (3 deaths in a sweat lodge, and the 4th was a rarely reported suicide occurred in one of his groups in July. He covered up his involvement, and didn't even notify other group participants that one of them had killed herself.)

After refusing to talk to police about the deaths, he later posted this on his website:

For me, for the families and friends of the sick and deceased and for many people who believe in the important work we do, these have been the most difficult ten days of our lives.

Identifying himself, along with his own victims, as a victim.

People are throwing out accusations and disparaging me and our mission.

The police named him as a "person of interest" in their homicide investigation. That is hardly "throwing out accusations". Seems rather cautious, if not generous. And describing "our" mission, in a post aimed at the victims' families, as if the families are part of his mission, and as if anyone who "disparages" him are also disparaging the families, is classic politicking, worthy of Tony Blair.

And actually, people aren't so much "disparaging" him as calling him a killer, and quite reasonably too.

So Death Ray's version of events is that the dead chose to die because during out of body experiences, they were having so much fun they decided not to come back. Nothing to do with asphyxiation, multiple organ failure and inadequate medical treatment. All in accordance with the LoA. Then the ignorant media and grandstanding police got hold of it and everything turned chaotic and challenging for him. But he will continue doing his work. And he's "even" hired his own team of investigators, because he really needs to dream up some kind of defen- I mean, really wants to find out what happened.

Please join me in a moment of silence to pay homage to their lives and to pray for the speedy recovery of others taken ill.

How about a moment of noise, shouting f*** you, you slime bag, I hope you finish up providing a few years entertainment for sex starved inmates in a California jail.

Bronze Dog said...

Rather disgusting. Definitely earned that nickname of "Death Ray."