I’ve seen it all over social media and news sites; the use of a false dilemma argument to promote a variety of agendas all dependent on exploiting incidents like the Cologne. One must either listen and believe, or be assumed to condone the sexual violence alleged to have taken place.
There are several threat narratives involved.
The establishment in the U.S. is using Islamic terrorism as an abstract threat to make giving up civil liberties look like the lesser evil.
The American conservative establishment is using Islamic extremism as an abstract threat to demonize competing with conservative-approved Christianity.
Different groups of feminists are reacting to the rape accusations differently depending on their pet issues. Intersectional feminists can’t get past the cultural tolerance imperative to connect their rape culture threat narrative to this situation, but gender feminists can, and they’re using it in Germany to sell the citizens on the idea of teach men not to rape campaigns.
The American left establishment is sticking with its exploitation of racism as a threat narrative, which parallels that of intersectional feminism, likely because breaking that narrative would undermine the promotion of laws based on it.
And within the manosphere, there are some who have flipped from “innocent until proven guilty” to “listen and believe” so they can shout to the world, “Look! We’re more humanitarian toward women than feminists are!” I never thought I’d live to see that one.
There is also the fact that all of these threat narratives are built around grains of truth.
It’s not wrong to acknowledge, for instance, that the religion is currently being exploited along with a familiar us-vs-them outlook by authoritarian elements within it as a vehicle for influencing many of its practitioners to engage in a war on the rest of the world. It’s not the first set of ideological beliefs to be used that way, and it won’t be the last.
It’s also not wrong to acknowledge that terrorists have used the flow of refugees as a cover to enter countries they wanted to attack. It’s not bigotry to take those facts in to consideration. In fact, it may be vital to do so in the context of this discussion because as long as that’s happening we don’t know that there aren’t elements of ISIS entering European nations with refugee groups, intent on using reprehensible behavior to poison the social environment against the refugees to keep them from having any place to flee from ISIS violence. And it’s not wrong to take into consideration the fact that criminal behavior exists within every population. There is research which shows that sexual violence is more likely to come from individuals who engage in other forms of criminal violence, attributing the behavior to between 4% and 13% of the population. (1) (2)
Islamic extremists are a real threat. Racism really does result in false accusations. Violence, including sexual violence, really are aspects of human behavior. They’re dysfunctional aspects, but it’s undeniable that they occur. Rape really is being used as a weapon of war… and in many of the word’s conflicts. Therefore, it’s easy for anyone to use hasty generalizations and the tendency to fear unknown people to infer that all Islamic practitioners are the same threat that extremists are, that all Muslims believe it’s ok to rape non-Muslim women, or that all people who criticize any behavior exhibited by any Islamic practitioners are racist.
Those and other hasty generalizations are being made. Various media and the grassroots of various movements are presuming all accusations from the Cologne incident proved, and and inferring guilt over the entirety of larger populations. Anyone who remains skeptical pending further evidence is being accused of everything from rape apology to conspiracy theory.
A gynocentric public, to which men are already disposable, is easy to rally against a group of men accused of getting out of line and abusing women. Every group with an agenda this threat narrative fits is going to take measures to exploit it.
At the same time, that doesn’t mean that there are no sex crimes occurring. It means we can’t trust any narrative put forth using accusations of them to promote an agenda, and should examine anything we’re told with an eye toward minimizing human rights violations rather than panic.
The entire situation seems to boil down to simple questions.
Should we just automatically believe all of the accusers?
If so, does that infer characteristics upon practitioners of the religion associated with the accused, and/or on the ethnic group most represented in it?
The first question is the same one that gets applied to accused men, and it’s where MRAs and social justice types usually disagree. We believe in the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and social justice types follow the “listen and believe” mantra.
The second question is dependent on the first, but it’s still an issue. In a society that supposedly values due process and is against racial and religious bigotry, presuming guilt because it’s “them” instead of “us” is hypocritical, and transferring presumed guilt from the accused (or found guilt from the judged) to their whole ethnicity and religion is bigoted.
That said, it’s also bigoted to claim that trust should be afforded for the sake of avoiding being seen as racist or anti-religion. It’s hypocritical of social justice types to abandon their listen and believe mantra for that reason, as well.
This is where the false dilemma comes in, creating a third, more important question. Is this really an either/or situation?
Presumed innocent and presumed harmless are not the same thing. We should not treat all refugees or all Muslims as violent, rapacious thugs just because there have been accusations, even if some accusations are proved. Evaluation of an accusation should not change based on personal prejudices. Evidence should be the determining factor in its assessment. We should not, however, treat these groups any differently than any other group of strangers, male or female, and presume the entire society devoid of criminal elements. While it’s unreasonable to paint an entire population with one brush, arguments in favor of precautions like refugee and immigrant screening based on known risks are not out of line. Citizens of any nation also have every right to want deportation of those convicted of crimes after immigrating, with or without refugees, expedited. It’s not necessary to demonize a population to justify that, nor is it necessary to pedistalize them to justify refraining from hosting those who really are fleeing from violence. Like every other person in the world, they’re an unknown group of individuals who deserve the courtesy of at least being treated as such.
- Relational aggression and victim gender – a tale of two standards | HBR Talk 165 - January 14, 2021
- Antifeminism, relational aggression, and the men’s rights movement | HBR Talk 164 - January 7, 2021
- Update with Deborah Powney | HBR Talk 163 - December 31, 2020