When You Already Are the Middle Ground


We’ve all seen the media promote false equivalence in matters of science (evolution, climate change) and history (David Barton; need I say more?). Roy Speckhardt has a recent article up in The Huffington Post pointing out that they do the same thing when it comes to human rights.

Take for example the debates over LGBT rights. On one side are people who understand the constitutional guarantee of equal protection for all and advocate for marriage equality, employment non-discrimination, and equal benefits on that basis. Leading the opposition are religious fundamentalists, who interpret their holy scriptures as condemning homosexuality. While there are certainly two different opinions, only one is a valid expression of political thought, while the other is merely a vocalization of deeply held bias.

Arguments for LGBT discrimination are based not upon considerations for public health or legal precedent but upon religiously enshrined prejudice. It’s embarrassing and unjust that practices like employment or housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity persist in many states. And one of the ways this discrimination continues is through fabricated debate on topics not worthy of deliberation.

Speckhardt also mentions men’s rights activists in his post, which makes the comments what you might expect.

The important thing about these “debates”, aside from acknowledging that they are used to hurt and control people, is to recognize their shape. On one side, you have absolutists. You have people who get their information from wherever it takes to prop up their side. You have people who tell you that any deviation from their position is unnatural, immoral, punishable by god.

On the other side, painted as extremists by comparison with the first group, you have people who are already dealing with the complexities of the real world. You have people calling, not to overturn the current order as depicted, but calling for relatively small changes to make things work better. You have scientists adapting their knowledge of the world as new data comes in. You have LGBT people saying, “Include us in what you already have.” You have women saying, “Treat us as well as you treat each other.” No one on this side is calling for the power or the capitulation demanded by the other side.

Another example that I was talking about the other night: the abortion debate. A friend was suggesting both sides were extreme while talking about what the middle ground would look like. They noted that this middle ground would consist of people looking to prevent as many abortions as possible while still leaving the option open. I pointed out that one side that this person had just painted as extreme supports birth control on demand and good sex education. They already are the middle ground.

So it is with any of these “debates” over rights. Those people working for their rights are not looking to have their rights granted at the expense of anyone else’s. They are simply fighting for equal space and equal consideration in a field where everyone else’s rights are already recognized. We have to stop pretending–or letting the extremists pretend–anything else.

Comments

  1. D. C. Sessions says

    Those people working for their rights are not looking to have their rights granted at the expense of anyone else’s.

    Well, from a Yankee perspective that’s true. From a neofeudalist Southern perspective, “freedom” and “liberty” mean my freedom to do what I damn well please without any unfair ganging-up on me by the Government to keep me from taking “liberties” with your or anyone else who can’t look out for herself.

    It follows that when some inferior sort like you tries to claim so-called “rights” that I and mine have long claimed for our own, you are taking something precious away from us — our birthright, as it were. It’s all the more precious since it’s one of the few things that we can really call our own, when those higher up in society have left us so little else.

  2. Randomfactor says

    I feel this way when I hear how abortion-rights advocates are unwilling to compromise on Roe v. Wade.

    RvW *****IS****** the compromise. This far and not a millimeter further.

  3. Rodney Nelson says

    As Stephanie points out, one side is arguing for rights for an unprivileged group and the other side is complaining about losing their privilege.

    Don’t read the comments to Speckhardt’s post. The MRA brigade is out in force to whine about how they’re the rational ones and feminists want to oppress men.

  4. sheila says

    If the pro-choice crowd were as extreme as the pro-unborn-life crowd, then they’d be demanding the right to decide whether other women should be allowed to continue with their pregnancies, rather than demanding that women should chose for themselves.

  5. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    YES.

    Exactly. The polar opposite to the opponents of gay marriage would be people arguing for gay only marriage. Marriage equality is not the opposite, it is the middle ground, where we should be.

    The opposition to MRA propaganda is female supremacy. We want equality, the middle ground.

    Of course, the extreme viewholders will project the opposing attributes on to anyone they view as opponents; If they are being opposed then their opponents MUST hold contrary views, therefore are arguing for gay and female supremacy. It’s one of those ‘oldest tricks’ we all love to hate: Characterise your opponents as just as horrible as you are to drag the median view back closer to where you want it to be.
    If you paint your opponents as extremists, casual viewers without context will most likely assume “both sides” are just as bad as each other and settle on a view somewhere in between.

    This is why we need posts like this to remind us that we’re not dealing with a “both sides” situation here by any stretch of the imagination. It goes for all social justice issues, too. This one is just so… overt.

  6. says

    A friend was suggesting both sides were extreme while talking about what the middle ground would look like. They noted that this middle ground would consist of people looking to prevent as many abortions as possible while still leaving the option open. I pointed out that one side that this person had just painted as extreme supports birth control on demand and good sex education. They already are the middle ground.

    Heh. See, when I was slogging it out debating abortion on Gaia Online, everyone who came in calling for a ‘middle ground’ turned out to be closet anti-choice; they’d say such inane waffling things as “I’m politically pro-choice but personally pro-life” and/or regurgitate the ‘responsibility’ tripe, generally followed by condescending to pro-choicers for paying too much attention to the extremists who are passing restrictions left and right in red states and/or calling for some sort of limit on ‘elective’ abortion because responsibility.


    Sophia #5:

    Of course, the extreme viewholders will project the opposing attributes on to anyone they view as opponents; If they are being opposed then their opponents MUST hold contrary views, therefore are arguing for gay and female supremacy. It’s one of those ‘oldest tricks’ we all love to hate: Characterise your opponents as just as horrible as you are to drag the median view back closer to where you want it to be.

    You forgot that this only works on the left. If you start calling out right-wing politicians for supporting all sorts of institutionalized oppression, or (heaven forbid) call them fascists, or even in many cases call them out as right wing (libertarians especially get in a tiff with this one), you face condescending walls of text about how you’re completely wrong, unfairly painting the right-winger(s) as extreme, only focusing on extremists and paying no mind to moderates, etc. I can’t begin to describe the sort of crap I heard during the Bush years to sweep what is now called the Tea Party under the rug as far as possible — and now, the media mostly ignores the fact that a lot of these Tea Party reps have been in since Gingrich’s “Republican Revolution” of 1994, as if they just popped up out of the blue and took the “once-reasonable” (ha, ha) Republicans by surprise.

    On the other hand, it is acceptable to degrade an opponent by labelling them as a communist, socialist, anarchist, or some other division of the radical left, and media outlets love to play down the effects, play up the violence (even though most of it is generally by state security, not demonstrators) and misrepresent (if not simply ignore and declare “there are no demands”) the positions and demands of leftist demonstrations and movements while lauding right-wing movements like the Tea Party. And yet, when you look at the actual definition of far-left from Wikipedia…

    The far left seeks the creation of strong or complete social equality in society and the dismantlement of all forms of social stratification. Far leftists seek to abolish all forms of hierarchy, particularly to end unequal distribution of wealth and power. The far left seeks the complete equalization of the distribution of wealth, and a society in which everyone is provided equal economic and social opportunities, and no one has excessive wealth or power over others.

    …sounds good. Sounds damn good. In fact, it sounds like being a decent person and like anyone who isn’t far-left has blind spots if they’re not an outright asshole. And yet, if you ask someone to describe “far-left” to you, chances are very high that they’ll spit out an extremely hierarchical state like the USSR or North Korea because, well, they said they were socialists!

  7. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    Setar:

    If you start calling out right-wing politicians for supporting all sorts of institutionalized oppression, or (heaven forbid) call them fascists, or even in many cases call them out as right wing (libertarians especially get in a tiff with this one), you face condescending walls of text about how you’re completely wrong, unfairly painting the right-winger(s) as extreme, only focusing on extremists and paying no mind to moderates, etc.

    That’s step two – Hand-wavey obfuscation and No True Scotsman! ;)

    Because real arguments and facts are for commies. Bleh.

  8. freemage says

    Zinc: Sadly, even that parody isn’t enough. I’ve heard more than one Confederate flag-owning blowhard declare that war could’ve been avoided and slavery ended “peacefully” if the abolitionists had just ‘let time take it’s course’, because the economics of owning slaves was going to do in the practice without any interference by Lincoln. Naturally, the only sane response to that is “Fuck that fucking fuck right in its fucking fuckhole,” but the poor, gentle dears get upset when you point this out.

  9. D. C. Sessions says

    I’ve heard more than one Confederate flag-owning blowhard declare that war could’ve been avoided and slavery ended “peacefully” if the abolitionists had just ‘let time take it’s course’, because the economics of owning slaves was going to do in the practice without any interference by Lincoln.

    True as far as it goes [1]. However, looking at the persistence of Southern cultural feudalism, we’d still be waiting for time to take its course. How many generations of slavery from Florida to Montana would be enough?

    [1] Bearing in mind that the war wasn’t fought over slavery in the Old South, it was fought over the expansion of slavery into the West and Northwest. And somehow the “War of Northern Aggression” began with Yankees tricking Southerners into firing the first shots.

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