Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Lying liars and the lies they tell

It's a small point, but the case is so clear-cut as to call it a lie. In his attempt not to piss off Mr. Akin's pro-torture pro-aggressive interrogation position, Shea said the following of me:
When asked point blank if they thought torture is legitimate or not, they refused to answer "on principle" (whatever the hell that means).
I don't know why "on principle" is so hard to parse. It's a very common expression without much shading and I was using it in its customary way, and without irony or indirection.

But to the lie ... "if they thought torture is legitimate or not" was not what I was asked. Shea probably assumed people wouldn't follow the link. But it gives the exact question there.
Victor, would you, the only you you have, the you of 2006 AD, torture a man to protect others?
Now ... does anybody notice the difference between these two questions? As Shea inaccurately repeats it, it is an abstract question. (And as an aside, when that question was asked of me, by Dave Armstrong, I answered it. Not that this let Shea tell his story about how awful I am.) But as it was asked of me, it was asked of me in a personal way. Not "what should one do?" but "what would you do?" with intensifiers designed to ramp up the personal angle ("the only you you have, the you of 2006 AD").

Nor is this distinction trivial. I refused to answer that question on principle, it is true. But the reasons I quite explicitly gave related to its personal tone.
One of the reasons I consider Mark et al Torture Pharisees™ is questions like this one (love the "good night" touch at the end. Almost like "End of Subject."). Questions that are not relevant to anything except establishing one's personal bona fides. It's an essentially both a form of ad hominem and a demand to perform a public moral bath on oneself, primarily for the benefit of others' seeing it (the very definition of pharisaism). I do not do that. And this is not unrelated to my already stated distaste for "ick!" and moralistic poesy as arguments.
So on those grounds, I refuse to answer. On principle.
Thus, misphrasing the question as Shea did is not an innocent mistake, like a misspelling. Let me make an analogy. "Is birth control immoral?" is simply not the same question as "Do you and your wife use birth control?" Or my asking Torq "Is fornication legitimate?" is a very different beast from asking whether he's gotten any from his fiancee.

Leaving out the personal nature of the question leaves out the very heart of why I refused to answer the question. Makes the citation misleading, and Shea even links to the very post that makes all of this explicit. That, my friends, is a lie. And very far from Shea's first, as has been copiously documented.

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