Monday, July 30, 2012

Those Goalposts Are Heavy

You should never discuss politics or religion with your family. But my damned parents can't seem to stop themselves. It wouldn't be so bad if they could actually discuss things in a reasonable, logical manner without resorting to logical fallacies. But they just can't.

On a recent visit, my parents brought up a recent case where a woman in Connecticut filmed a traffic stop from her own front yard and the cops hassled her, took her camera away, and arrested her, because, basically, they didn't like being filmed. A clear violation of civil liberties. On this, my parents and I agreed. But then...

My father says, "Well, those cops are going to get fired and she'll end up owning that town after she sues."

Well, I read a lot of blogs that focus on these kinds of issues, such as The Agitator, and the truth is that cops very, very rarely get fired for even egregious violations of civil rights. Police unions close ranks and protect the offenders and make sure they get nothing more than a slap on the wrist (if that). 

So, I point this out to my father.

He says, "Oh, no, they'll all get fired when the Feds come in and take over."


When the Feds come in and take over? What? The Federal Government can only come in and take control over local policing when there's a long-term pattern of corruption and civil rights abuses, like in Compton (CA). Not over an incident like this and not over a single incident no matter how egregious. There's exactly 0% chance that the Federal Government will step in over the case in Connecticut.

So, I point this out to my father.

He says, "That's not true. They do it all the time. Look at what happened in Florida with that Trayvon Martin thing."


Wait, what?

First off, we were talking about how often the Federal Government takes control over local policing in response to civil rights abuses by the local police. To support his claim that the Federal Government does this quite often, my father brings up a case about a civilian shooting and not about local police violating civil rights. A case in which the Federal Government did not, in fact, come in and take control over local policing anyway. In other words, he brought up a case not relevant to the one we were discussing in which what he claims happens all the time didn't even happen.

So, I point this out to my father.

And he says, "Well, they threatened to because the guy was black."


Okay. Leaving out the casual racism...

In a case not about civil rights violations by local police, the Federal Government didn't come in and take control over local policing. But because they threatened to (which I don't think is true anyway), it somehow supports my father's thesis that in cases of civil rights violations by the local police the Federal Government often comes in and takes control over local policing, even after only a single incident. 

That's some hefty goalpost-shifting there. 

And they don't even realize how illogical and irrational their arguments are. They are blinded by partisanship to the point that these ill-founded arguments somehow make sense to them. The fact that my father couldn't actually come up with an example of when the Federal Government took control of local policing and fired the offending cops after a single civil rights incident did not trouble him at all. The fact that in his own example what he claimed was common didn't happen bothered him not at all. The fact that his own example wasn't even an example of the kind of situation we were discussing was unimportant. It still, somehow, in his mind, proved his point. 



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