This article is worth reading , not so much because the author criticizes the worldview of the GOP, but because he describes, with great clarity, how our worldviews are constructed and preserved - and how inaccurate they can be when they are the product of confined experience.
I once hoped that the internet would prove an antidote to this process of epistemic closure, but I'm no longer as optimistic about this.
In last night’s episode of “Breaking Bad,” Walter White (“WW”) and Jesse Pinkman (“JP”) discuss the whereabouts of “Mike”- the muscle for the late Gus Fring’s meth distribution operation, and recent partner of WW’s and JP’s reconstituted operation. Mike is about to be arrested by the DEA and is fleeing. WW agrees to retrieve Mike’s drop bag - a bag containing a pistol and a large amount of cash - and bring it to Mike so that he can escape.
Their meeting did not go well. It ended with WW killing Mike for nothing more than showing flagrant disrespect. This, by the way, is new. All prior killing by WW and JP was genuinely necessary for their own survival. Here, WW kills because Mike refuses to respect him as the great man that he has become.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, anyone?
But I digress. When WW returns to their meth lab headquarters, JP asks him what happened? He asks, “did you get the money to Mike? WW responded “Yes.” JP then asks “did he get away?” To this WW responded “he’s gone.”
“He’s gone?” Well, that’s certainly correct. Mike’s corpse may have been in the trunk of the car that WW and JP were standing next to, but he was definitely “gone.” Still, everyone can see that WW was lying to JP. He combined JP’s knowledge of what Mike intended to do, with a technically true but intentionally misleading response, to lead JP to believe something that WW knew was false. It was a great moment of irony - made so by the obviousness of the lie.
What interests me is how partisans can sincerely deny equally obvious instances of this type of lie in Politics? Take, for example, the Republican’s (now campaign foundational) claim that Obama said “you didn’t build that.” Its certainly correct to note that Obama said that - he uttered those exact words. But the context in which Obama uttered those words makes it unmistakably clear that he said that successful business people did not build the infrastructure and “amazing American system” that allowed their business to succeed.
Yet Republicans keep claiming, with a straight face, that Obama said successful people did not build their businesses - the government did. Hence the constant refrain “we built it!”
This is an obvious lie - so obvious that it is hard to believe it would get any traction at all. But it has. What’s obviously a lie between WW and JP is undeniably and irrefutably true when it comes from the mouth of Mitt Romney.
Granted, he’s not on solid legal ground.We have not (yet) decided, as a matter of law,
that a fetus is a person entitled to all legal protections extended to persons –
including prohibitions against being killed.The fact that a candidate for sheriff is proposing to act contrary to current law is
But millions of people, including the Republican
presidential and vice presidential candidates, are on record supporting the “personhood”
thesis.They want that thesis enshrined into
law.You would think that their criticism would be limited to his plan to use his office to impose his own
moral views on others, as if his views were the law.You would expect their criticism to focus on the
importance of enforcing actual law, not one’s own convictions about what the
law should be.
However, you should not expect any criticism of the sheriff candidate's
stated willingness to use “deadly force” to protect “innocent persons” from
slaughter – particularly when you, yourself, believe that this is what abortion
constitutes.If you accept the “personhood”
thesis, as millions of Americans insist that they do, then using deadly force
to protect innocent persons, including multi-celled zygote persons, makes
As Dr. Seuss taught us long ago, “a person is a person, no
matter how small.”
The theory that rape cannot result in pregnancy is somewhat
shocking.Thousands of women each year
claim that they became pregnant as a result of rape, and there is nothing in
the medical or scientific literature that would lead a rational person to doubt
their allegations.Nevertheless, many hard
core pro-lifers – those who want to criminalize abortion without exception – accept
that theory and, implicitly, call the women who claim that their pregnancies
were the result of rape “liars.”
The logic goes something like this:A fetus is, from the moment of conception, a
full human person – a “someone.”As a
full human person, a fetus is entitled to the full range of legal protections
enjoyed by all persons, including legal prohibitions against being killed.The fact that you became a person as the
result of rape is irrelevant to the question of whether prohibitions against
being killed apply to you – as a “person” they do.Therefore, a “rape” exception to an abortion
ban is inappropriate.
The logic of this argument is airtight.By that I mean the conclusion follows from
the premises, logically.If the premises
are true, the conclusion is true.However,
the vast majority of people are uncomfortable with a law that would force a
scared, fourteen year-old girl to bring her rapist’s baby to term.It seems pretty obvious there should be an
exception in such cases – and rightly so.
In a normal person’s mind, the presence of this kind of
cognitive dissonance leads them to reconsider the premises they are relying
on.If I think there should be an
exception for rape victims, perhaps I don’t really believe that a fetus is a
full person from the moment of conception.Maybe there is a period between conception and person-hood when an
abortion is not tantamount to killing “someone.” Of course, there is no logical problem adopting
the view that, as unfortunate as forcing the young girl to bring her rapist’s
baby to term would be, the law must do so in order to honor the embryo’s
right to life.However, there is a huge
moral/psychological problem with adopting this view, which is why very few hard-core pro-lifer’s
ever articulate it.
Enter the “make things up strategy.”A certain faction of the pro-life camp has
latched on to the theory that pregnancy cannot be the result of forcible rape.They argue that a woman who is being forcibly
raped is so traumatized that her body will not produce the hormonal “juices”
that make pregnancy possible.There is
no science behind this claim. It contradicts
the testimony of thousands and thousands of actual women.And it implies that all women who allege
that rape caused their pregnancies are liars.But no matter.The theory dissolves the
cognitive dissonance and exempts the believer from any need to reexamine their original
premises. I can go on believing as I wish. Whew!
I am a 51 year old 7th year attorney and former philosophy professor. I am married and have one son. I am originally from California, but have lived in Honolulu and Salt Lake City, Utah all of my adult life.