This is my answer, nitwits

You all should have fun watching our resident Cuttlers twist themselves into impossible mental shapes in the vain attempt to pretend that two contradictory things are, in fact, identical – and that refusing to go along with this attempt is in fact our mental failure, not theirs.

Perhaps I’m bad and should feel bad for laughing, but I find myself increasingly open to author Sarah Hoyt’s advice: when obvious loonies say obvious lunacies, point and make duck noises at them. Refutation, as you can see, made no difference.

Why am I so on about it despite the Cuttlers’ predictable failure to

  • understand what we’ve said
  • grasp why they can’t grasp it
  • notice the same mistake applies to how they see both the topic and the debate
  • understand basic metaphors or figures of speech?

Because this is really important – not just the topic itself but the process used in turning the innocuous into the poisonous with the willing compliance of the victims. Allow me to indulge, below the fold, in an analogy…

… Let us suppose there’s a community that has a big stray animal problem. There are shelters in other towns but they haven’t got the resources to handle it. So a guy decides to open a large one right in town, and before long, there’s a noticeable improvement in the neighborhood.

A year goes by, and suddenly the town’s shocked to see the premises raided and Shelter Guy hauled off in cuffs. Well, it turns out that he hasn’t been actually rehabilitating and adopting out stray pets. The records show adoptions but they are frauds. They weren’t adoptions, but sales… to a restaurant. The strays have been turned into food. And it might have gone on for years, except that a few patrons got ill and complained, leading to the uncovering of the scheme – not only were the animals sold as food, but they weren’t cared for at all, leading to the sickness in the folks who were unknowingly served Puppy Stew.

Shelter Guy goes to trial, and his defense firm, Cuttler Cuttler and Squirty, LLP, come up with a novel defense. “Your Honor, members of the jury, the definition of a shelter is ‘a place that provides food and protection for people or animals that need assistance.’ My client ran a shelter. Therefore by definition he is innocent of these charges.” No, the prosecution insists – he didn’t give food or protection to any animal in his care. There’s testimony as to his actual behavior, and it’s not ‘sheltering.’ “OBJECTION!” cries Z. Cuttler, Esq. “This is the No True Shelter fallacy.”

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, would not Shelter Guy go to All the Jail? About the only thing that could keep him out of prison, in fact, would be his perfectly reasonable assertion of ineffective counsel. It’s so ineffective, in fact, that Z. Cuttler would likely face disbarment for it.

Q.E.D.? Oh…. oh no, friends. I’m not quite finished with my metaphor.

What if this defense… worked?

Now we have the seeds of a rapidly-growing problem. Shelter Guy goes back into business, and business is good – after all, he isn’t burdened by the requirements of a legitimate shelter to provide costly veterinary care, regular food, or a decent facility. He can set whatever price he likes to turn as large a profit as he pleases on his furry little menu items. And because of the new legal precedent, he is able to sue for damages when people say he’s a monster operating a slaughterhouse. “It’s a legit shelter! I’m just caring for animals here. What do YOU have against caring for animals?”

Over time, it gets worse. People stop complaining; it’s too ruinous, and besides, they have real shelters to try to run. Every time the press talks to a legit shelter, they make a distinct point of saying “Of course shelters are all about caring for animals.” Anyone can see this is what they’re really doing, but they still have to say it… the Kaley Shelter got closed down for saying that they weren’t like that Shelter Guy franchise.  Implying that Shelter Guy wasn’t legit didn’t get them sued, either – it got them fined by the law and boycotted into oblivion by a loud group of protesters.

Soon, veterinary schools are affected. Some of these programs amount to little more than cookery lessons, but nobody’s allowed to say so. One of the graduates finally just up and says it: “All pets are meat, OK?”

Whom would you expect to make the loudest protest against that statement? It’s sharp enough to shock even the slumbering conscience. In fact, Shelter Guy himself no longer runs Shelter Guy Facilities Inc. at this point. He realized that according to his actions, his parakeet was nothing more than an hors d’oeuvre, and it made him think that maybe other people’s pets shouldn’t be food either.

The loudest condemnation of this graduate’s statement comes from the “Shelters care for animals” crowd, of course. They don’t want anyone to notice the difference between what they do and what they claim to be. They are hostile to this truth on both ends – those who talk about the real meaning of “shelter” and those who talk about the real meaning of their actions.

Even though, however, this outcry does have at least one gleaming silver lining to it – it’s still necessary. There’s still the need to pass off slaughter as shelter or the game ends. The final destination is even worse…

Yup, the metaphor isn’t done. Those of us who have been paying attention to history, to culture, to current events, to how a movement co-opts well-meaning bystanders to make their extremism seem majority and mainstream, knows how this would inevitably continue: the graduate starts a career that leads eventually to a job at Shelter Guy Facilities. There’s a bland corporate statement, all respectable and professional, that of course a person needs a job and this graduate has a lot of energy and passion for animals.

Then there’s the end game: the day that every Shelter Guy Facility puts up a sign on their walls: All Pets Are Food. And on that dark day, we have lost, because now they no longer need or care to hide what was going on from the very beginning, before the first trial even started. Now they have the power not to bother with pretense. The openness of the statement would be, in effect, the declaration that they no longer even need to bother with strays, either – they can take your pets by force, and you have no recourse to prevent or punish it. You aren’t allowed to prefer them uneaten, so long as someone else has come over all peckish for Pekingese.

That is why I am so on about this, why I have been writing thousand-word comments on poor Morgan’s blog. Whenever a vocal-enough group invests a lot of time and energy in the attempt to convince people that they aren’t really seeing what they’re seeing… when they enlist many of them to aid the deception and act as their megaphone to amplify their shrill little voices… when they shout down questions they can’t answer… and when they deny that they’re heading for the same sort of misery that all such schemes result in by their nature… that’s when our freedom is being stolen. That’s when our right to think, do, say, and believe are being hijacked.

After forty-plus years of watching several such movements blossom and bear their rotten fruit in this world, I have had enough. It’s my Riker Moment.* And that’s why I titled this post the way I did.

No – that’s one half of why. The other half? As predictable as the dawn, the Cuttlers are going to reach the same point they always do. Having utterly failed to defend (much less cogently explain) their positions, having failed to even begin to answer any of the serious objections to their positions, they will walk from the sorry mess and claim victory. The dictionary said so.

*updated: I originally suggested to YouTube Riker’s epic rant. It was a good suggestion, so I followed it. Enjoy.


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8 thoughts on “This is my answer, nitwits

  1. Severian April 2, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    Well said!

  2. Zachriel April 3, 2015 at 8:13 am

    nightfly: “This is the No True Shelter fallacy.”

    No. The No True Scotsman fallacy arbitrarily *narrows* the definition.

  3. Zachriel April 3, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Notably, here you are defending the use of the dictionary definition, while on the other thread, you arbitrarily rejected the dictionary definition.

    • nightfly April 3, 2015 at 11:09 am

      You cannot be serious.

      You can’t honestly read this whole thing and think that this pretty blatant analogy is the OPPOSITE of the discussion at Morgan’s.

      What I contend, here AND there, is that the definition and the behavior are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS, and that some people intentionally lie about this difference for their own gain, to the detriment of the actual thing in question – and everyone else.

      But you have finally convinced me of at least one thing: I’m clearly being unfair to any nitwits in the audience.

  4. Zachriel April 3, 2015 at 11:30 am

    nightfly: What I contend, here AND there, is that the definition and the behavior are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS, and that some people intentionally lie about this difference for their own gain, to the detriment of the actual thing in question – and everyone else.

    Thank you for the succinct statement.

    Yes, some people lie to garner support. For instance, a politician may say they are pro-market while cynically using politics to achieve an unfair market advantage for their personal business holdings. However, that doesn’t change the definition of pro-market. That just means they may be lying about their actual position. Nor does it mean that the vast majority of people who are pro-market are not actually pro-market.

    • nightfly April 3, 2015 at 11:43 am

      Good. But in that case, would you still give the politician pro-market credit? Would you quote what *other people do* to defend the politician’s behavior?

  5. Zachriel April 3, 2015 at 11:46 am

    nightfly: But in that case, would you still give the politician pro-market credit?


    nightfly: Would you quote what *other people do* to defend the politician’s behavior?

    No. You would say the politician is not pro-market despite the politician’s rhetoric.

  6. Zachriel April 3, 2015 at 11:49 am

    As for the pro-market movement, it might be legitimate or not, depending the degree of rot in the organization.

    Your claim, then, would be that the feminist movement has been taken over by man-haters, or some such. While there are certainly man-haters, and there is certainly over-wrought rhetoric at times, the feminist movement is clearly bigger than any individual as the majority of women in the U.S. say they are feminists.

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