Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Look at this apple." "But what about this orange?"

A friend posted a video discussing a campaign to get the UN to oppose 'defamation of religion' onto Facebook. The video was presented by the daughter of Salmaan Taseer, a Pakistani politican murdered recently for alleged blasphemy. Naturally, this woman who had lost her father to religious fanaticism was concerned that anti-defamation laws would be harmful.

The first person who replied to my friend's post wrote this:

what about resolution for people killed in palestine,afghanistan,iraq where weapons of mass destruction were not found after killing and abusing so many people lol

Puzzling stuff! He shifted from blasphemy laws to Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, which are simply irrelevant to the conversation. This is not an either-or situations, it is perfectly reasonable for someone to be against the blasphemy campaign and to be against the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Israeli policies in Palestine. But they simply have nothing to do with it.

My friend: Look at this apple.

Commentator: But what about this orange?

I see this in online debates often. One person raises an issue and a rival raises an unrelated issue, insisting that the first cannot be discussed unless the second is also. Bad political debates accept these distractions and spiral outwards into discussing ever less related topics while the original one is left neglected.

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