Okay, it's time for a brief critical thinking lesson, because someone on the right wing has his feathers in a tussle. In Gary Aldrich & Ashley N. Varner's article posted here the case is being made for a return to masculine power by the men of America who have let their wives and other women wrest away the power they deserve. Now THAT is a fair summary of their position, one I doubt they could disagree with, but one that of course sounds leading coming from me.

There's something in the practice of philosophy, (or critical thinking if you like) called the Principle of Charity that basically asserts that if you want to attack someone else's argument, you should attack the very best possible version of their argument, and assume the best for their own position. Essentially, this means that if a person says "I believe all animals have the same rights," that you first clarify "do you mean 'all creatures that are animals' or do you mean 'sentient' animals?" Often, when people harp on about animal rights, they have no real intention of protecting the rights of ants and gnats and such, and statements like "killing an animal is as bad as killing a person" don't hold up to much scruitiny when you start trotting out examples like fruit-flies, worms and such. So, the Principle of Charity is employed so that as an arguer, you aren't wasting your time battling over some minute hair that isn't really the crux of the argument. In fact, it's not uncommon in philosophical circles to actually correct and beef up someone else's argument, in effect making their position STRONGER before you attack it with a counter-position.

This all makes a tremendous amount of sense if you are a philosopher and if your aim is simply to arrive at knowledge or truth... but when you are a politician, political pundit, columnist, talk-show host, or other such person whose goal is not to arrive at truth but to accomplish persuasion, then that principle often gets in the way. In fact, it's probably often easier to be persuasive when you are not being entirely honest, sympathetic, or understanding.

Such is the case with this article, in which women are chided for relying on " their precious victim status" (direct quote!), and are generally characterised as subverting the power system (Patriarchy) by appealing to men's desire to shuck off the responsibility of parenthood. The debate is all about abortion here, and the article's authors overstep their bounds numerous times in presenting their opposition's side. For instance:

"Clearly, General Clark is embracing the pro-choice position that men, for a variety of reasons, have no say in the birth of an infant, or in its death ? even if that death occurs one minute before what would have been a natural delivery. "

Okay, so the pro-choice position is that any and all abortion up until the minute before childbirth should be a viable option and a decision left up to the mother? Well clearly, this doesn't characterize many, or maybe even most people who identify as pro-choice. Most people would not agree that an abortion in the third trimester when the fetus is developing its brain, having dreams, kicking, etc is an acceptable action. Yet through the use of rhetoric, the author's of this article paint the picture for you of a mother on the delivery table changing her mind and just before the baby begins to crown, asking for an abortion. Would that that were enough, but as you read further, you see that the authors' contempt for the subject causes a severe lack of responsible argument-making.

Next, the authors go on to use the time-honored technique of bashing someone's good sense by suggesting, "Can we assume General Clark is saying he would be helpless in the face of the partial-birth abortion of his own grandchild?" Once again, this is an unfair characterization of the pro-choice side of this debate. Many people who believe in choice are adamant that they would NOT choose an abortion for themselves or their families. It's not that they encourage abortion, just that they believe it is a women's health issue. Whether you believe that or not is really beside the point here... the point is that someone is writing an article that attempts to demonize the objects of his ire rather than present their case in as favorable a light as possible.

The article goes on to say that "Since before Roe v. Wade, feminists and the few men who agree with them have been reducing man?s power, as well as his role in the family," and it trails off some more talking about murderous women who want absolution from responsibility and seek to take power away from men. What the article fails to address is the fact that THERE WAS A REASON THERE WAS A WOMEN'S MOVEMENT AND THERE IS A REASON THERE ARE FEMINISTS. The fact that women were historically treated like property, forced to remain uneducated, unskilled, and unmotivated to achieve anything on their own certainly plays into this picture. Sure women have been trying to take power away from men... just as ANY oppressed segment of any population does. To suggest that feminism and sexual freedom are the problem here is paramount to talking about women gettin' riled up and wanting 'eqaulity'. This is the kind of talk people had to endure centuries ago--is this not something we should be beyond now? In casting stones in every immoral, un-Christian, lliberal direction, the authors of this passage have spent all their ammunition and hit nothing.

You see, when you apply the Principle of Charity, and THEN defeat your opponent's argument, then you've landed a victory. There's no point in standing on a soapbox and declaring yourself the victor over an argument that isn't even worth mentioning to begin with, and that's what these folks are doing. The debate over abortion is a serious one, plagued with brow-beaters and absolutists on both sides, but rarely does anyone step up and address questions that might actually matter. This article was just another example of bad op-ed journalism that makes no point other than to demonstrate its authors' complete inability to construct an argument. Sorry for the lecture there, but I've just got to call people out sometimes.