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Shut Up, He Explained

not-all-men-cropped

Saturday, as the NFL draft was winding down, Spencer Ackerman retweeted Rafael Noboa y Rivera‘s observation, “The SEC Defensive Player of the Year is still on the board. Way to go, NFL.”  For those who’ve somehow missed the story, Noboa was referring to Michael Sam, the Missouri Tigers defensive end who not only shared the Southeastern Conference’s top defensive accolade but made international headlines by announcing to the public after the season that he was gay.

The assumption that Sam’s coming out was the only explanation as to how someone winning such a prestigious honor in the most dominant collegiate league would still be available in the final round of the NFL draft is a reasonable enough assumption for someone who only casually follows such things to make but, alas, is mistaken. So, I chimed into the conversation, observing, “Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks have gone undrafted. Sam was a marginal draft prospect before he came out.”

Both of those are true facts. But, rather than challenging either assertion, Ackerman retorted, “[T]his is your ‘not ALL men’ moment.”

He was referring to an incredibly insipid internet meme in which males pointing out that we shouldn’t be blamed for actions of a small subset of our gender is lampooned as denying that bad things happen to women.

Ignoring both the ad hominem and the non sequitur—I was making a very specific argument about a specific football player—I continued the exchange, observing, “The NFL is obsessed with measurables. I’d never heard of Blake Bortles two months ago and he went well ahead of Manziel.”

Bortles, who was taken third overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, played quarterback for the University of Central Florida; I was only vaguely aware that UCF had a football team, much less who its quarterback was. Johnny Manziel, meanwhile, played at Texas A&M, was the first “freshman” to win the Heisman Trophy, and a national celebrity. He fell to 22nd. Why? Well, Bortles, a 6’4″ 229 pound pocket passer, fits the prototype NFL scouts are looking for in a QB whereas Manziel, at 6’1″ and 209 pounds and a decided propensity to run with the ball,  is considered too short and too small to thrive in the NFL.

Ackerman responded, “[K]eep explaining, it reflects well on you & shows how much you know!”

For those unaccustomed to Twitter, this was not meant as a compliment. Sensing that rational argument was not of interest in this conversation, I moved on.

The point of all this isn’t to vent about Ackerman, per se. Indeed, I’ve had many exchanges with him over the years and, despite us tending to be on opposite sides of the issues, have always found him smart and reasonable. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother to follow him on Twitter.

Rather, this was an example of something that I’m seeing more and more in the public debate: a sense that people—and especially people who are white and male— who disagree with a particular point of view have no standing to even discuss the issue.

In addition to “Not all men,” Ackerman tossed out a variant of the “mansplaining” meme. In its original form, it referred to males jumping into a conversation among women on a topic where they had especial expertise and offering a patronizing or condescending explanation. Soon, though, it became a form of poisoning the well; any contribution made by a male that disputes a premise made by a woman is simply held to be invalid.

Recently, Ramesh Ponnuru took issue with yet another of this memes in a column titled “‘Check Your Privilege’ Means ‘Shut Your Mouth.’

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask someone to consider whether their arguments or observations reflect the biases of privilege. Perhaps an upper-middle-class white man’s claim about the hardships of poverty or the prevalence of racial discrimination reflects a lack of experience of those things, for example. But all of us need to ask ourselves whether our views are skewed, regardless of how privileged we are, because there are many possible sources of bias. Fortgang is quite right to complain that being obsessively on the lookout for white male heterosexual bias can obscure more than it reveals, in part by ignoring how much heterosexual white men can differ.

In any case, Fortgang didn’t complain about being asked to reflect on the incompleteness of his worldview. He complained about the dismissal of opinions based on who was uttering them.

And while the phrase “check your privilege” could be used, hypothetically, to deepen a conversation instead of to shut it down, the critics don’t seem all that interested in doing so.

Alas, Ponnuru and Fortang could be accused of violating a variant of the “Not all men” shibboleth as well.

Lest I be accused (again) of being a privileged white, heterosexual male complaining about debating tactics that happen to be detrimental to my privileged position, I would point out that, despite being a combat veteran who supported the Iraq War, I was a vociferous and frequent critic of the “chickenhawk” meme being trotted out against non-veterans daring to offer a contrary opinion.

All of these memes are variations of the poisoning the well and ad hominem fallacies, serving to misdirect the argument to the person making it rather than facts and logic. They are, to say the least, not helpful in advancing understanding.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Jim Henley says:

    The thing about Sam specifically is that, as I understand it, he dropped 90 rungs on the mock draft boards the day after he came out. This was well before his subpar combine performance; the only thing that changed was his public announcement that he was gay.

    The other thing about Sam is, not all college awards show the same draft patterns, so it’s not germane that some small Heisman-winning QBs from non-pro offenses, say, have gone undrafted. SEC DPOY’s have uniformly gone pretty high before Sam.

    I do get that his Combine performance was legitimately lame. The funny thing is, there are always crusty personnel dudes out there who want to tell you, “I don’t care about a prospect’s workouts. I wanna know how he did in competition, dammit!” They don’t seem to have snapped up Sam – possibly because this set of personnel guys skews old-school in terms of social mores too?

    I disagree about the merits of “check your privilege” and “not all men” too, though I do see why they rankle, but that’s a whole separate topic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  2. Tillman says:

    It’s usually fallacious in any context to claim an argument is without merit based on who’s uttering it, since you’re no longer countering the argument itself but the arguer.

    Is it considered mansplaining if the woman is genuinely wrong? Or is it only considered if the man’s being condescending while doing it, regardless of whether he’s right or not? All this new slang is annoying me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  3. mantis says:

    You commit the offense you decry in the same post you decry it. To wit:

    Soon, though, it became a form of poisoning the well; any contribution made by a male that disputes the premise made by a woman is simply held to be invalid.

    You just dismissed all criticism of any male who engages in what may be called condescending “mansplaining” as illegitimate because some people may have applied such criticism too broadly.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 16

  4. EddieInCA says:

    Before he came out, before the combine, Sam was predicted to be a 3rd round pick. After he came out, he dropped to a 5th round pick. Period. Full Stop.

    So if he dropped another two rounds after the combine, he still should have been a 5th round pick, based on his original prediction. As Jim states above, he had he not come out, he would have started the combine in a much higher position.

    Bottom line is that the Rams got a 3rd-4th round talent at a 7th round price. He will be a good NFL player, and I say that as someone who watched him play many saturdays with my relatives from Missouri.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @mantis: Sorry, you are wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  6. C. Clavin says:

    Yeah…it’s a valid point…but sometimes all you need to know is who is making the argument and you know it’s flawed at it’s very foundation. For instance…anything Bill Kristol, Dick Morris, or Karl Rove say.
    And for what it’s worth I don’t buy that

    Sam was a marginal draft prospect before he came out.

    Average, yes. Marginal, no. So maybe Ackerman was right??? (snark)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Sam was always a mid-round prospect. Coming out of the closet certainly hurt him, maybe more than his bad combine did. Maybe not. With some it was the first, with others it was the 2nd. If Sam turns out to be a good player, or even just a decent one, the Rams will look like courageous geniuses. If he doesn’t make the cut, the rest of the league will say, “I knew it all along.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  8. Gavrilo says:

    Michael Sam may turn out to be a great NFL player. Wes Welker went undrafted, didn’t even get invited to the combine because he was too small. He’s now considered one of the elite receivers in the league.

    But, what if Michael Sam sucks? You know there is going to be a serious backlash if St. Louis cuts him. I suspect many NFL teams chose to avoid the potential PR nightmare that could come with drafting an undersized LB that had a bad combine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Jim Henley: @EddieInCA: This is interesting. Since Missouri is new to the SEC, I only saw one of Sam’s games, the game where Alabama stomped them in 2012. Sam made no impression on me and I simply had no idea who he was when he came out.

    But pretty much everything I read about him is that he was too small for a 4-3 defensive end and too slow and unathletic for a 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s the classic “tweener” and didn’t have a natural home. Given Dallas’ sad defense, I was hoping that the Cowboys would grab him with one of their umpteen 7th round picks. But Jerry Jones, who was very effusive about Sam as a person and as a cause after the draft, was very clear: he simply didn’t fit the Cowboys’ 4-3 scheme as a football player.

    @mantis: I think “mansplaining” as a term is useless. If someone is being condescending or a jerk, simply point that out. Otherwise, it’s just poisoning the well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  10. James Joyner says:

    @Gavrilo: I do think that’s part of it. Part of the reason that slide @Jim Henley alludes to may have happened is that, once Sam became viewed as a marginal prospect, a lot of teams probably moved him down the board. Now, it’s possible that some of that was because of locker room concerns. But, more likely, it was because coaches are obsessed with “distractions.” It’s one thing to have a media circus around a Tim Tebow or Johnny Manziel and quite another to have it with a 5th or 6th round talent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t give a damn about sports, but do care about debate.

    If you want to understand politics you have to understand people and their motives. So it is not a mistake to consider the source of any comment in a political debate. Understanding the source gives you insight. It may alert you that a person’s “facts” are likely to be cherry-picked, for example.

    When Karl Rove says Hillary is “old” he’s factually correct, but politically motivated. One can counter his point with various examples and logical points, but politics is only distantly related to rational debate. Politics is the evolutionary descendant of two guys beating other to death with mastodon bones, it’s not the child of Socrates shooting the breeze with his students. (As Socrates found out.)

    But it is morally contemptible to try to shut down conversation and the free exchange of views. I get angry when I see that some speaker has been shouted down, for example. Those are brown shirt tactics. All sides have a right to be heard.

    Once the opportunity to speak has been exercised, we each have a right to form a judgment, on the issue, and on the individual making the argument.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 0

  12. anjin-san says:

    @ Gavrilo

    You know there is going to be a serious backlash if St. Louis cuts him.

    7th round picks fail all the time in the NFL. I would say the Rams have little exposure there.

    What we will hear a lot of if he does not make it in the NFL is “we knew teh gay could not cut it” – and those comments will be from the right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  13. Anderson says:

    Grantland had a thoughtful piece about Sam & the draft. For ex,

    I spoke to one NFL team that suggested it was interested in drafting Sam and had no concerns about him fitting into its locker room or creating any distractions. The team was instead worried what the public perception would be if it drafted and then cut him — and this team had projected Sam as an extremely late pick, likely to be on its roster bubble — even if it made the move solely for football-related reasons.

    I would’ve been happy had my Dolphins picked him, but the Fins were in the center ring for the 2013 media circus, and I’m sure they want to avoid a return there. (Witness their swift, harsh slapdown of the dumbass safety who tweeted his disgust with gay kissing on TV.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  14. PD Shaw says:

    If we’re going to ad hominem the discussion, I suspect that Spencer Ackerman’s conscious has been Iraq’d by guilt and he’s trying to pick a meaningless fight to get back in good graces.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  15. Tillman says:

    @michael reynolds: Aristotle was the big logic guy in terms of systematizing it. Socrates was just a dick who asked pesky questions. And Aristotle thought the best use of logic was in making political arguments since in the civilized society that evolved after people realized beating each other up wouldn’t work well to settle disputes on how to run a city, you needed something to beat people up with. Why not words?

    The point behind designating ad hominem and poisoning the well as fallacies is that they don’t address the argument. Dudes using them are not Flynning like they’re supposed to on the political stage. You’re much more likely to see that final stab as just a guy couching the fake blade in his armpit if that’s all that’s done in front of you, and no one is convinced by that. If you Flynn it up some first, then you can discredit the dude himself and impale him as you please. That’s believable. Gosh darn it, that’s a frickin’ catharsis.

    And most of the guys who get discredited around here (Rove, Kristol, etc.) have been Flynned to death already, so immediately jumping to the impalement isn’t really exercising those fallacies unless someone new thinks so, in which case you have to rewind a bit and show them the reel highlights.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. PD Shaw says:

    @PD Shaw: “Spencer Ackerman’s conscious”

    It is also the lowest form of argument to make fun of people’s spelling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  17. @michael reynolds:

    It may alert you that a person’s “facts” are likely to be cherry-picked, for example.

    This actually marks an important distinction: ad hominem fallacy only applies to dismissal of ARGUMENT based on who is making it. The credibility of TESTIMONY, on the other hand, does depend on the person providing it.

    That is, if I say “A implies B; A; therefore, B”, you can legimitately question whether I’m a credible source on whether “A” or “A implies B” are actually true. What you can’t legitimately do is accept both of the antecedents but then argue only certain people are allowed to draw conclusion B.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  18. Dave Schuler says:

    @PD Shaw:

    As Aquinas pointed out, an appeal to authority is the weakest form of argument.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  19. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: @michael reynolds: There are certainly plenty of instances when the person making the argument is relevant. For example, if John McCain is arguing that we need to invade country X, it’s reasonable to point out that he was also in favor of invading countries A-W. But that doesn’t, in and of itself, mean that there aren’t good reasons for invading country X! We can dismiss McCain as an authority but not his facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  20. pajarosucio says:

    While Ackerman’s tweets were more childish than reasonable, this post comes off a bit whiny.

    But, I think there is something to it. Zooming out from the specific case, there does seem to be a growing trend toward silencing speech rather than debating it. It seems reactions are to protest/interrupt speakers, report twitter users as spam accounts, or to otherwise blacklist someone for having a counter opinion. What happened to debate?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  21. mantis says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think “mansplaining” as a term is useless. If someone is being condescending or a jerk, simply point that out.

    Well, having personally seen it as a rather common phenomenon, especially in some industries (tech, for one, in which I work), I think it’s rather descriptive and different from just being a jerk. Some men assume a level of experience/intelligence/expertise lower than their own among any women they encounter, even in cases when they know the woman/women’s level is above their own, and take it upon themselves to condescendingly explain things to them in ways they never would to men. My wife, who also works in tech and is far more intelligent and talented than myself, experiences this on an almost daily basis. It’s real, and your dismissal of it is a good example of what you’re arguing against.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin:

    …sometimes all you need to know is who is making the argument and you know it’s flawed at it’s very foundation. For instance…anything Bill Kristol, Dick Morris, or Karl Rove say.

    I would add Charles Krauthammer. This is not an ad hominem argument that they are wrong because of who they are. It’s a practical realization that given their history, you will learn nothing by reading anything they say.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  23. @James Joyner:

    We can dismiss McCain as an authority but not his facts.

    But you are dismissing McCain’s facts. Namely his fact that we need to invade country X. It may be true, but you reject his credibility to testify to that fact.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  24. BTW, while I understand the phenomenon that led to the term “mansplaining” is a real thing, I always thought that was a dumb term for it. Everytime someone says it, I’m immediately reminded of Frida Waterfall from Futurama, which makes it hard to take them seriously afterwards.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  25. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    SAVE THE FEMALE SPOTTED OWL!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  26. anjin-san says:

    We can dismiss McCain as an authority but not his facts.

    Were those the facts Lieberman was whispering into his ear?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  27. James Joyner says:

    @mantis: But I don’t reject the original usage, merely what it has morphed into:

    In its original form, it referred to males jumping into a conversation among women on a topic where they had especial expertise and offering a patronizing or condescending explanation. Soon, though, it became a form of poisoning the well; any contribution made by a male that disputes a premise made by a woman is simply held to be invalid.

    @Stormy Dragon:Whether we ought to invade country X isn’t a fact; it’s a matter of opinion. Whether A, B, and C being used to argue in favor of invading country X are in fact true are matters of fact. Whether the combination of A, B, and C–even if true–are sufficient reasons for invading country X is a matter of opinion.

    @Stormy Dragon: There is a certain sophomoric quality to the term.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  28. Tillman says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “And we won’t let you mandoze this beautiful gynodesert!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  29. MarkedMan says:

    James, I may be picking nits here but defending yourself by pointing to your history of defending the so called Chickenhawks might be a tad misleading to those younger readers unfamiliar with the history of the Iraq war debate. You agreed with the Chickenhawks, in that you and they both thought the war was a good idea.

    And if there is any general example of man-splainers it is those Chickenhawks. People who had used every trick and dodge to avoid actual military service condescendingly explaining just how obvious that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Sadaam posed an immediate existential threat to the US, and how easy the War would be won, and if you didn’t get this then, well, it’s because you were a bit of a hysterical ninny or maybe just hopelessly naive. Since this wasn’t only directed at women it might not have been technically man-splaining, but it was obvious that it was directed at those who weren’t Real men.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  30. C. Clavin says:

    @MarkedMan:
    You forgot un patriotic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  31. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    You agreed with the Chickenhawks, in that you and they both thought the war was a good idea.

    Yes, you’re right: I’d actually forgotten the origins of the debate, simply remembering that people were arguing only those who’d served in combat had a right to an opinion on the war. There are variants of the charge made by those on the right who demand that we listen to the generals.

    @MarkedMan:

    And if there is any general example of man-splainers it is those Chickenhawks. People who had used every trick and dodge to avoid actual military service condescendingly explaining just how obvious that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Sadaam posed an immediate existential threat to the US, and how easy the War would be won, and if you didn’t get this then, well, it’s because you were a bit of a hysterical ninny or maybe just hopelessly naive.

    In perhaps a better example, I argued pretty vigorously–even during the more heated parts of the debate in the run-up to the war—-against the notion that those who opposed the war were “objectively on the other side” or coddlers of terrorists, dictators, etc.

    That said, I don’t understand the notion that Dick Cheney, who avoided service in Vietnam by getting college deferments well before the war was even a big deal, was therefore not in a position to make judgments on the need for war in Iraq.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  32. MarkedMan says:

    BTW, I should also say that based on what you’ve written here, it sounds like Ackerman was being a jerk. You may have launched into football minutiae and glossed over the well documented whispers from NFL management that Sam’s orientation was going to affect draftability, but I’ve been around here long enough to know that you are a deeply football minutiae kind of guy. Nothing wrong with that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  33. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: I absolutely agree that Dick Cheney had the right to make those arguments. Regardless of his military status. But I heard a pompous ass questioning the manhood of anyone one who disagreed. That’s why the term Chickenhawk is justified in his case. You may well have heard differently.

    I may not remember the specifics of your arguments but I actually started reading you and Sullivan to make sure I paid attention to rational voices who had a different view on the war.

    And as a side note, and in the vein of conspiracy mongering, I suspected then and now that the specific terminology Cheney was using against his opposition even in Congress was designed to categorize specific people as falling under the umbrella of those who could be spied on. I still expect that some day we will find out that Cheney/Bush et al were using their Patriot act powers to spy on their political opposition and gain electoral advantage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  34. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    But it is morally contemptible to try to shut down conversation and the free exchange of views.

    In principle, I agree with you.

    In practice, I am OK with us privileged white guys getting a few decades of baseless dismissal in any important discussion. Not only is it the intellectual discourse version of Affirmative Action, it’s also probably the only thing that will (eventually) get us privileged white guys to understand what it’s been like for everyone else for centuries. Except, of course, for those who never get past the whining about it stage…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 10

  35. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:

    Oooh, thanks for the Flynn lesson. I’d never heard that term before. I like everything about that and will not only use it, but eventually start pretending that I invented it.

    And you just demonstrated what I enjoy most about debate and the exchange of views: it’s a free education. Sometimes. Mostly it’s just batting down the nonsense of ass clowns (I invented that term) like superdestroyer, but every now and then you walk away with a nugget of actual learning.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  36. EddieInCA says:

    Why? Well, Bortles, a 6’4″ 229 pound pocket passer, fits the prototype NFL scouts are looking for in a QB whereas Manziel, at 6’1″ and 209 pounds and a decided propensity to run with the ball, is considered too short and too small to thrive in the NFL.

    Drew Brees
    Russell Wilson
    Colin Kapernick

    A few small quarterbacks, two that run the ball alot, have had a wee bit of success lately.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  37. michael reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I see your point, and in general agree that “we” have it coming – although as a nominal Jew I’m never sure if I’m counted as white. (Note to self: check with superdestroyer to see whether I’m white.) However, ideas are my religion insofar as I have one, and I’ll always at least try to err on the side of pure egalitarianism in the exchange of same. I want The Truth even if it’s the devil giving it to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  38. James Joyner says:

    @EddieInCA: There have been a few, although they’re rare. And Brees went at the top of the 2nd, Manziel near the bottom of the 1st, and the others in the 3rd—so somebody saw something in them. But lots of teams simply dismiss them out of hand.

    @DrDaveT: @michael reynolds: That’s an interesting argument but ultimately, two wrongs don’t make a right. Have I enjoyed some modicum of privilege just for being white and male? Yup. And I’m fine with acknowledging that fact. But it’s absurd to argue that, therefore, we ought to make up stupid logical fallacies to make it harder for white males to contribute to the conversation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  39. Francis says:

    The Chickenhawk argument may fairly be made against those who argued that the war in Iraq should be fought because it was the moral thing to do. Also known as the Lord Farquaad: “Some of you may die, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”

    The only possible response is:

    Hey sport, if bringing democracy to the benighted persians is such an important moral cause, then put your own skin on the line. What, you’re willing to kill off your fellow American unlucky enough to be enlisted at this time, but not put your own pasty ass on the line? What are you, some kind of chickenhawk?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  40. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    But it’s absurd to argue that, therefore, we ought to make up stupid logical fallacies to make it harder for white males to contribute to the conversation.

    You would prefer it if we just forbade white males from participating?

    “Two wrongs don’t make a right” assumes an equilibrium. If the system is far enough out of kilter, you need a period of persistent bias to get it close enough to the center that it can rebalance itself stably.

    That you can even use the phrase “modicum of privilege” makes it pretty clear that you do NOT, in fact, have a good feel for just how much you have personally benefitted. Your objection to my point merely serves to convince me that you haven’t yet been discriminated against enough; the lesson hasn’t taken.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 12

  41. MarkedMan says:

    @DrDaveT: I get your point, but fear it flies in the face of millennia of experience. If you do something bad to someone, their reaction is very unlikely to be “Wow, that felt really sh*tty. I better make sure never to do it to anyone else.” If human nature worked that way, war and other violence would have died out at the dawn of history.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  42. Hal_10000 says:

    For what it’s worth, Football Outsiders, based purely on the numbers, is very skeptical that Sam will be a success in the NFL. (http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2014/sackseer-2014) They point out that he didn’t have any real success until his last year. And his combine performance wasn’t just bad, it was bad on the specific skills needed to be an edge rusher.

    I’ll be rooting for him. I hope he succeeds. But it’s worth remembering that MOST NFL draftees will flop, gay or not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  43. MBunge says:

    @pajarosucio: What happened to debate?

    What happened was the collapse of judgment and standards. When “debate” allows Bill Kristol to still be treated as a credible figure, who needs debate?

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  44. MBunge says:

    As far as NFL success and the judgment of player personnel experts goes, I’m reminded of one name – Kurt Warner: He was not only arguably a Hall of Famer, you can argue he was the best player at his position in his era. But without someone getting hurt and Warner getting exactly the right opportunity, he could have found himself out of the league in short order. That’s because no one was going to give a QB from the University of Northern Iowa a chance to do anything more than compete to be somebody’s backup.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  45. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan:

    If you do something bad to someone, their reaction is very unlikely to be “Wow, that felt really sh*tty.

    True enough. On the other hand, it seems to work on two groups of people. Those who are intelligent and self-aware enough to take the lesson when it’s pointed out, and young children who can be taught not to pinch/kick/bite by being pinched/kicked/bitten and asked how much they enjoyed it. I do James the courtesy of assuming he’s in the first group, like I was.

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  46. James Joyner says:

    @Francis: No, that’s not an argument at all. As I wrote almost exactly a decade ago,

    The “present day” category is made particularly interesting by the fact that we have a volunteer military. One could reasonably be in favor of a governmental policy and yet have no desire to join in its enforcement. One could, for example, support government restaurant inspections and yet not be willing to change careers to become a food inspector. No one argues that that’s hypocritical. “Ah,” you say, “but food inspectors don’t risk their lives in the way that soldiers do! Straw man! Straw man!” Fair enough. Can one support putting out fires but not be willing to join the fire department? If so, does that make one a Pyro Chicken? Or, since we all know bears are in charge of preventing fires (at least in the forest) perhaps chicken-bear? Can one advocate the arrest of murderers and not go off and join the police department? I’ve never heard anyone called names for that combination. Chicken-Shepherd? I dunno.

    The Vietnam argument is more compelling, I suppose, given that there was a draft. Then again, the draft predated the war and was just the natural order of things at the time. Over time, we created—wrongly in my view—a system whereby any number of people could get out of military service while others were compelled to join. Is it cowardly to think a war is worthwhile but decide to do something else–like go to school or join the Peace Corps–that the political system has decided was an acceptable alternative to military service? I suppose that depends on one’s motivations. Certainly, there are a lot of people who come to the conclusion that going to war is the right thing to do who are not particularly compatible with military service or who think they would be more valuable doing something else. (As an aside, what were the views of Bush and Cheney on the Vietnam war, anyway? Are we so sure they were hawks?)

    @DrDaveT: Perhaps I should have said “no small modicum.” Look, I get the Louis CK argument about the universal advantage of whiteness. And I draw plenty of scorn from my own side of the aisle when I invoke the “privilege” argument in the gay rights debate or against the notion that there’s a war on Christianity in this country. That there is substantial, unearned advantage to being white, male, and heterosexual is not disputable.

    My point in qualifying is that, while I have all manner of unearned advantage–I’d add being reasonably intelligent and tall to the previous list–I wasn’t born into money, am first generation college, etc. There’s sometimes an assumption in these debates that every successful white guy started on third base. Maybe that’s a version of the argument that spawned the “not all men” meme; I nonetheless think context and nuance is useful.

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  47. JWH says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “We need to invade Country X” is not a fact. It is a conclusion or an opinion.

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  48. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “And I draw plenty of scorn from my own side of the aisle when I invoke the “privilege” argument in the gay rights debate or against the notion that there’s a war on Christianity in this country. That there is substantial, unearned advantage to being white, male, and heterosexual is not disputable.”

    Except that it is disputed, as shown by the scorn you get when you make that argument (not to mention the frequent complaint of people on your side of the aisle who argue to the contrary that whites are the ones truly discriminated against in our society).

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  49. george says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Your objection to my point merely serves to convince me that you haven’t yet been discriminated against enough; the lesson hasn’t taken.

    That sounds like something out of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”, where no matter what Brian said it was proof of his being the Messiah.

    If you say you’re not privileged, then you’re obviously privileged. And if you say you are privileged, then you’re also obviously privileged.

    I think the biggest problem is that there are so many kinds of privilege, and people who are at the bottom of one kind of privilege resent being told they’re particularly privileged.

    A poor white man is more privileged than a poor black man. But a rich black man is more privileged than a poor white man. Same with gays – a rich gay has privileges that a poor hetro doesn’t have.

    How about height privilege? Tall people have (stats show) a lot more success financially and in relationships. I suspect a 6′ 4″ black man has an easier life than a 4’6″ white man. Or good health privilege? I’ve a couple of friends who are paralyzed; I wouldn’t call them privileged by any measure, though one is a white man.

    The problem with the way privilege is used is that there doesn’t seem to be much awareness of how diverse it is, and how the various kinds may overlap. You can be privileged in one sense (race or health or financial etc) and be unprivileged in others, with the net result being a much harder than average life.

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  50. Tillman says:

    @DrDaveT:

    “Two wrongs don’t make a right” assumes an equilibrium. If the system is far enough out of kilter, you need a period of persistent bias to get it close enough to the center that it can rebalance itself stably.

    If we were immortal, and the racists of the past were the ones being discriminated against in turn because of their systematic oppression of those not like them, this would be appropriate and proper. Unfortunately, we deal not with those who did us wrong but their descendants, whose only possible crime can be one of relation instead of action. You obscure the moral foundation of your bias when you start applying it to the relatively innocent.

    To be sure, some of the bias against white heterosexual men popularly displayed (and I’m not really sure how popularly or publicly it’s actually displayed since I don’t see much of it except on Internet message boards) is inevitable and deserved since white straight men have arguably caused a great deal of the world’s ills in the past century. But I don’t see that sort of justified (for lack of a better word) bias against James in this post. I see it’s uglier cousin, the reflexive bias that comes from a ingrained prejudice instead of an understanding of history. It also came without consideration of the context.

    Prejudicial bias is not justifiable, logically or morally.

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  51. Matt Bernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    My point in qualifying is that, while I have all manner of unearned advantage–I’d add being reasonably intelligent and tall to the previous list–I wasn’t born into money, am first generation college, etc. There’s sometimes an assumption in these debates that every successful white guy started on third base. Maybe that’s a version of the argument that spawned the “not all men” meme; I nonetheless think context and nuance is useful.

    All very fair points and gets to the *subjective* problem with using a phrase like “privilege.” It’s a great word to use to describe a very specific phenomena. That said, it’s also so bound up with additional meanings that, outside of clinical use, it tends to immediately poison the conversation because it makes things exceedingly personal.

    Anyone who has read your material for a while James knows that you took advantage of most of the opportunities you were offered (and through that hard work, opened up even more opportunities). And we also know that your life has not been easy at times as well (far from it). References to “privilege” have a tendency to downplay all of that hard work.

    Rather than “priviliage” (which seems to always erase the individual’s actions from the discussion), I really like John Scalzi’s framing of this topic using the metaphor of “Easy Mode” from gaming. In most games, you can still die or fail even in easy mode. In other words, you still have to work — i.e. the individual’s actions still matter. At the same time, easy mode gets to the tangible and intangible things that made your (and my) paths a little easier than others.

    Of course, to your point James, everyone’s “easy mode” isn’t the same. And clearly there are those who have had an easier time than you did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  52. Tillman says:

    @Tillman:

    To be sure, some of the bias against white heterosexual men popularly displayed (and I’m not really sure how popularly or publicly it’s actually displayed since I don’t see much of it except on Internet message boards) is inevitable and deserved since white straight men have arguably caused a great deal of the world’s ills in the past century.

    Just want to single this point out. If we, the white straight men, are being hit with prejudice about our views because of our [inherited] station, we also need to realize that we’re being hit with it on the frickin’ Internet. That’s a really low magnitude of discrimination, the Internet. The Internet bitches about everything.

    When they start insisting I can’t drink their water because I’m white and might pollute it with my evil whiteness, I think I’ll consider other avenues of action besides shrugging.

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  53. stonetools says:

    James’ problem is that he is arguing with a guy who is passionate about gay rights but who doesn’t know much about football, so when James tries to move the argument to football specifics, he is out of his depth. He could respond by admitting “He doesn’t know about that” but on the Internet the rule seems to be “Never admit you don’t know” and “Never admit you are wrong. ” In order not to violate those rules, he then HAS to resort to ad hominem/snark .
    However, there is also a tendency of those who do try to divert an argument from the main issue by harping on minutiae. You see these arguments in the gun safety debate, when gun “experts” harp on the differences betyween “fully automatic” and “semi-automatic” , insist that describing a gun as an “assault weapon” is a sign of inferior intelligence, and pompously explain that guns can’t fire themselves, etc., as if someone would actually argue that.
    I guess the problem is that there is a multitude of different ways to make bad arguments, and the Internet facilitates every one.

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  54. mantis says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    It’s also one of the reasons I really like John Scalzi’s framing of this topic using the metaphor of “Easy Mode” from gaming. In most games, you can still die or fail even in easy mode. In other words, you still have to work — i.e. the individual’s actions still matter. At the same time, it acknowledges all of the tangible and intangible things that made your path a little easier than others.

    I like this analogy a lot as well. I’ve been on easy mode for most of my life. I’ve still worked my ass off, and had my share of problems, but I try not to forget that most other people deal with challenges I never need to even consider. I don’t always succeed at this.

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  55. James Pearce says:

    Not very related: Spencer Ackerman is my second favorite rapper.

    Eli Lake is slightly better.

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  56. DrDaveT says:

    @Tillman:

    You obscure the moral foundation of your bias when you start applying it to the relatively innocent.

    On the contrary — the entire point of my argument is that it must be applied to the relatively innocent, or they will never understand what it is like to be treated unfairly because of group membership. I’m not trying to be fair here — I’m hoping to teach a lesson.

    Of course prejudicial bias is not justifiable — but a sizable chunk of our population doesn’t really get that, not viscerally. They have, at best, an intellectual notion of what it might be like to have been the victim of such discrimination, systematically and incessantly, for centuries. I see great value in teaching them the truth by immersion, rather than by appeal to intellect. A little bit of true empathy will go a lot farther in advancing our society than any amount of rational debate.

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  57. DrDaveT says:

    @george:

    If you say you’re not privileged, then you’re obviously privileged. And if you say you are privileged, then you’re also obviously privileged.

    Cute, but not actually related to what I said. My awareness of James’s privilege does not depend on anything he says here — he’s a while male, and we already know what that means.

    On the other hand, his comments — and his continued need to mitigate his privilege by pointing out how self-made he is — lead me to conclude that he doesn’t really get it. I think @Matt Bernius had the right take on it, quoting Scalzi’s “Easy Mode” analogy.

    Let me ask a question of the various objectors and downvoters in this thread: is it that you think I’m overstating how much advantage white guys still have, or is it that you think subjecting white guys to arbitrary discrimination as a way of bringing home the lesson is unacceptable? If the latter, why?

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  58. Tillman says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Of course prejudicial bias is not justifiable — but a sizable chunk of our population doesn’t really get that, not viscerally. They have, at best, an intellectual notion of what it might be like to have been the victim of such discrimination, systematically and incessantly, for centuries. I see great value in teaching them the truth by immersion, rather than by appeal to intellect. A little bit of true empathy will go a lot farther in advancing our society than any amount of rational debate.

    So it’s not justifiable unless we need to teach about how unjustifiable it is?

    That’s a peculiar notion.

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  59. Tillman says:

    @DrDaveT:

    If the latter, why?

    Because subjecting people to arbitrary discrimination has been argued since before its obvious, nonsubtle end to be an immoral act. The arguers have shown it is morally superior and beneficent to be nondiscriminatory. For the people who spent time demonstrating its immorality to turn around and deploy it as a teachable moment is to render their earlier arguments void. If it’s not justifiable, then don’t do it.

    Worse, the people using it won’t all be intellectuals trying to teach. They will set examples among those unaware of how they’re using the discrimination to teach, causing people to discriminate reflexively. I get how we’re irrational and visceral experience trumps intellectual disposition, but that irrationality comes back to bite you in the ass with unintended consequences.

    But that’s the absolutes. We’re still talking about Internet discrimination, which is, again, shrug-worthy.

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  60. anjin-san says:

    Manziel, at 6’1″ and 209 pounds and a decided propensity to run with the ball, is considered too short and too small to thrive in the NFL.

    Joe Montana was a late third rounder – 6′ 2″ 205. He had a decent career.

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  61. Gavrilo says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Let me ask a question of the various objectors and downvoters in this thread: is it that you think I’m overstating how much advantage white guys still have, or is it that you think subjecting white guys to arbitrary discrimination as a way of bringing home the lesson is unacceptable? If the latter, why?

    Who gets to determine how much advantage white guys still have? Is it even quantifiable? Should all white guys suffer the same discrimination as punishment for their privilege or is there to be some kind of sliding scale? Who will determine when the lesson has been learned?

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  62. PT says:

    I personally don’t see color. People tell me I’m white and I believe them, because I just spent part of my morning reading a thread filled with comments by white guys debating the extent to which being white has granted them privilege. (with thanks to Mr. Colbert)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  63. Tillman says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Who gets to determine how much advantage white guys still have? Is it even quantifiable?

    …yes, it is. Accumulation of a country’s wealth broken down by race, hiring rates broken down by race, median income of households broken down by race — these things exist and show a statistical advantage for white people. Similar breakdowns are done along gender lines and show the advantage for men. Since gay marriage is still a contentious topic and only straight people get married, the advantage is de facto on the straight side, on top of other statistics you could look at.

    The privilege/advantage is there. I don’t think anyone is disputing it.

    @PT: Thread’s not about the existence of privilege, it’s about dismissing someone’s arguments because of the privilege.

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  64. Barry says:

    @Anderson: BTW, for all – this is the sort of thing where ‘ad hominem’ is not a fallacy. From what I’ve gathered (with limited exposure), Grantland is a reliable source. If not, we’d have to trust their stated ‘facts’ and their stated analysis of those ‘facts’.

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  65. Barry says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “This actually marks an important distinction: ad hominem fallacy only applies to dismissal of ARGUMENT based on who is making it. The credibility of TESTIMONY, on the other hand, does depend on the person providing it.”

    This is critical, because in most circumstances, we’re not in a math debate, where the antecedents are assumed, and the logic can be checked.

    We live in a world where most ‘facts’ are kinda/sorta, where they can be cherry picked with ease (ignoring other facts), and the conclusions don’t depend rigorously on them.

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  66. Barry says:

    @Dave Schuler: “As Aquinas pointed out, an appeal to authority is the weakest form of argument. ”

    Aquinas was full of sh*t. Appeal to authority can be a very, very strong argument, depending on the authority. For example, how do you know that the Earth moves around the Sun?

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  67. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “We can dismiss McCain as an authority but not his facts. ”

    In general, we can and should dismiss his ‘facts’. McCain is not a reliable source.

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  68. Barry says:

    @MBunge: “What happened was the collapse of judgment and standards. When “debate” allows Bill Kristol to still be treated as a credible figure, who needs debate? ”

    When prominent voices can be wrong time after time after mother-frakkin’ time, and still be given prominence, then others can lose patience – and should.

    There’s a whole list of prominent public voices to whom the reaction should be ‘STFU, and go back to diddling your momma’.

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  69. Matt Bernius says:

    @Tillman:

    Accumulation of a country’s wealth broken down by race, hiring rates broken down by race, median income of households broken down by race — these things exist and show a statistical advantage for white people.

    Not only is it apparent in income issues, it pops up in statistics across our society. For example, look at the criminal justice system and you will find sentencing disparities that fit to racial lines.

    Prison sentences of black men were nearly 20% longer than those of white men for similar crimes in recent years, an analysis by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found.
    (source)

    Likewise, the death penalty is disproportionately applied in cases where the victim is *white*.

    While white victims account for approximately one-half of all murder victims, 80% of all Capital cases involve white victims. Furthermore, as of October 2002, 12 people have been executed where the defendant was white and the murder victim black, compared with 178 black defendants executed for murders with white victims.
    (source)

    Can exact specifics be quantified? Of course not.

    But to deny any significant presence of privilege/”easy mode” or simply create an excuse to ignore it because it cannot be exactly defined is a cowardly move.

    If and how it can be dealt with is a far more complex discussion. But that’s the discussion that we should be having at this point — not “is privilege real.”

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  70. Moosebreath says:

    @Tillman:

    “The privilege/advantage is there. I don’t think anyone is disputing it.”

    Sorry, but plenty of people (even among the commenters here) do dispute it. For example

    “A recent Public Religion Research Institute poll found 44% of Americans surveyed identify discrimination against whites as being just as big as bigotry aimed at blacks and other minorities. The poll found 61% of those identifying with the Tea Party held that view, as did 56% of Republicans and 57% of white evangelicals.”

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  71. stonetools says:

    Speaking of debate problems, one thing that truly irritates me is the way the media in order to show “balance” in debate, brings on Expert A to argue one side and Expert B to argue the other side. After some spirited cross-talk, the newsperson says “Well its obvious that there are strong opinions on both sides and we are still far from resolving this ” as if the issue is still in dispute because two experts disagree.

    Mark Oliver put things the right way here:

    For over a decade, people like me have been explaining why so-called “balanced” coverage—in which journalists devote “equal time” to both sides of a “controversy”—is totally inappropriate when it comes to climate change. But many in the mass media, especially cable shows, have continued to regularly host climate “debates” in which one skeptic debates one climate science defender…or, lately, in which one skeptic debates Bill Nye the Science Guy.

    That’s what made John Oliver’s climate segment last night, on his new HBO show Last Week Tonight, so perfect. Not only did Oliver explain why there’s no debate at all over global warming; he then demonstrated what an actually appropriate televised debate might look like. Bill Nye appeared on set, as did a climate “skeptic,” but then 96 other scientists appeared at Nye’s side (hilariously crowding onto the set) while their opponent got two additional supporters. These numbers—97 and 3—were based on a now-world famous study of published climate science papers, showing that 97 percent of studies that took a stand on whether humans are warming the planet said the answer is “yes.”

    In the case of James, it would have been nice if he could have produced a dozen football scouts to say “Yeah, despite Sams’ homosexuality, the real issue for NFL scouts are his size, speed, and combine scores.”

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  72. bookdragon01 says:

    I appreciate that you are offended by an accusation based on a false perception. And that both ‘mansplaining’ and ‘privilege’ are sometimes used to tell people to shut up. I agree that using any phrase/meme that way is wrong.

    I will point out however that both of those arose in response to women or minorities or poor people being talked over or ignored or, worse yet, having their lives ‘explained’ to them by (often well-off) straight white men with zero experience of what it’s like to walk in their shoes. The responses came about not to shut down debate but as sort of judo – using the person’s own tacit assumption that they should be treated as authorities/with deference to throw them.

    It was employed in large part because if, say a woman, were to write a piece like this about how she was dismissed/attacked on a issue just for being a woman, she would immediately be inundated with responses telling her ‘not to be so sensitive’ or calling her whiny/immature/etc.

    But now I keep seeing articles by straight white men complaining that gays/minorities/women/etc. are being bullies (another form of ad hominem, no?) for calling out instances of (perceived, whether rightly or wrongly) mansplaining or privilege.

    At least we’re not being told we’re whiny or oversensitive. I’m just not sure if that’s progress or not.

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  73. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    or is it that you think subjecting white guys to arbitrary discrimination as a way of bringing home the lesson is unacceptable? If the latter, why?

    Because, as far as I can tell, this notion has never worked even once in the history of mankind. The more common result is the “I was beat as kid and I turned out all right, so why should I stop hitting my kid?” defence of bad behaviour.

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  74. R.Dave says:

    @bookdragon01:

    I appreciate…that both ‘mansplaining’ and ‘privilege’ are sometimes used to tell people to shut up.

    I read several feminist / social justice oriented blogs on a regular basis, and I have literally never seen ‘mansplaining’ used in any other way. ‘Privilege’ may have some actual analytical value, but ‘mansplaining’ is nothing more than an (obliviously ironic) gender-based disparagement.

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  75. Pharoah Narim says:

    I have been a draftnic for the past 20 years. Sam was a one-year wonder who’s combine numbers were HORRIBLY bad–beyond marginally bad. The 3rd round projections were merely because he was putting up some good numbers speed rushing against SEC competition. When it became obvious because of his poor workouts that there are NFL lineman with more speed and quickness than Sam–it pretty much sealed his fate. A speed rushing defensive end….needs to be more athletic than the lineman they are rushing against. Sam is not big or strong enough to be stout against the run–too slow to be a linebacker–too slow to be a speed rushing end. Its really that simple. The guy needed to come out and run in the 4.7s range with 1.6s in the 10 yrd splits and mid to low 6s in the shuttle drills–he didn’t come close. There is a certain athletic bar that needs to be met to play in the NFL and its orders of magnitude higher than college. You can be undersized but can’t be under-athletic. Congrats on his great year in the SEC but he’s not a good fit for the NFL. The Offensive lineman in that league are freaks of nature…he physically isn’t able to matchup with them. The 6-7th round is correct for guys that had great production in college but have size/athletic challenges to overcome.

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  76. @JWH:

    “We need to invade Country X” is not a fact. It is a conclusion or an opinion.

    Well, it should be a conclusion or an opinion, but when John McCain says it, he usually states it as though it is a self evident fact.

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  77. Tillman says:

    @bookdragon01:

    The responses came about not to shut down debate but as sort of judo – using the person’s own tacit assumption that they should be treated as authorities/with deference to throw them.

    Around the second or fourth time I heard someone use the word, that’s the idea I had in my mind. It’s brilliant in that respect; always have to respect sociopolitical aikido. “Womansplaining” is also a mouthful and doesn’t have the zing.

    But can you answer my earlier question? Is it just that the mansplainer is condescending/pretending to be an authority? Does it have any relation to whether he’s right or not? ’cause I think it’s still fine to deploy it against a guy who’s right but is a dick about it.

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  78. Tillman says:

    @Moosebreath: Excuse me, sloppy generalization. Learnéd people who’ve bothered to read a broad spectrum of views don’t dispute it.

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  79. @stonetools:

    Bill Nye appeared on set, as did a climate “skeptic,” but then 96 other scientists appeared at Nye’s side (hilariously crowding onto the set) while their opponent got two additional supporters. These numbers—97 and 3—were based on a now-world famous study of published climate science papers, showing that 97 percent of studies that took a stand on whether humans are warming the planet said the answer is “yes.”

    I have to disagree with this as it’s a fundamental misrepresentation of what science is. Journalist seem to think it’s the process of getting a bunch of scientists in a room and having them vote on what the truth is.

    Nye’s theory is better because he has more evidence, not because he has more supporters. Part of the problem in the debate is that most science reporters are embarassingly innumerate and thus aren’t capable of writing about the actual evidence.

    How it should go is not what Jon Oliver is doing, but what Neil Degrass Tyson is doing on Cosmos: going through the actual evidence and explaining how those 97 scientists got to their conclusion rather then just making a naked appeal to authority.

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  80. James Joyner says:

    @bookdragon01:

    It was employed in large part because if, say a woman, were to write a piece like this about how she was dismissed/attacked on a issue just for being a woman, she would immediately be inundated with responses telling her ‘not to be so sensitive’ or calling her whiny/immature/etc.

    Note, though, that the person employing the memes in this case was a privileged white dude. They’re just laughably silly in that case.

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  81. James Joyner says:

    @stonetools:

    In the case of James, it would have been nice if he could have produced a dozen football scouts to say “Yeah, despite Sams’ homosexuality, the real issue for NFL scouts are his size, speed, and combine scores.”

    And I could easily have done that had Ackerman responded in a manner similar to @Jim Henley‘s first comment on the thread. But when my general statement and slightly-more-specific example were dismissed with silly memes, it was obvious that evidence wasn’t going to advance the debate, so I just disengaged.

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  82. Moosebreath says:

    @Tillman:

    “Learnéd people who’ve bothered to read a broad spectrum of views don’t dispute it”

    Whether or not this is true (and I suspect it is not), it reminds me of when an aide gushed to Adlai Stevenson that he;d have the support of every thinking person in the country, to which Stevenson replied “But I need a majority”.

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  83. Matt Bernius says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    You raise some good points. To some degree an alternative visualization would be to show the amount of peer-reviewed material published whose evidence supports the current theory of AGW versus the amount of peer-reviewed material published that disproves it.

    However, it’s important to note that while “science” as an intellectual concept works the way you describe, “science” as a socially constructed concept (and in particular the notion of consensus) functions, at any specific moment in time, closer to the metaphor that Oliver used.

    Either way, the point still stands that modern journalism’s formula for “objectivity” rarely offers a realistically objective view on these sorts of polarizing issues.

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  84. stonetools says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Nye’s theory is better because he has more evidence, not because he has more supporters.

    The point is that he has more scientific supporters precisely BECAUSE he has more evidence. When the newscaster brings on two experts to speak for a couple of minutes the amateur onlooker has no way of judging who has the better evidence and who is just spouting bull. The onlooker might just conclude that the sides are evenly balanced, especially if the newscaster intones that the issue can’t be settled tonight and is still in dispute. Jon Oliver’s stunt just shows how overwhelming is the expert consensus in favor of AGW and this in itself is a form of evidence.
    Its one thing is one expert says A and another says Not A. Its another thing entirely if 97 experts says A and and the not A side can only muster 3.

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  85. DrDaveT says:

    @Tillman: @Tillman:

    So it’s not justifiable unless we need to teach about how unjustifiable it is?

    It’s not justifiable as a way of life. It may be justifiable as a temporary way to teach an important lesson. Like boot camp; it would not be justifiable for Army life to be like boot camp forever — but boot camp is a valuable experience that saves lives later.

    I have been assuming here that everyone understood that I was talking about a lesson that is (a) temporary, and (b) followed by an explicit discussion of what the point of the lesson was. Maybe that wasn’t so clear.

    And, as you have pointed out a couple of times, internet discussions are a perfect medium for this, because people do get emotionally involved in them, but they just aren’t that important in the bigger picture. If the teacher can make the point without ever actually harming someone’s livelihood, family life, housing situation, etc. then so much the better.

    Thanks again, by the way, for another discussion in which we can disagree without being disagreeable. This is not a topic on which I’m convinced I’m right, and the arguments that you and Matt and others have provided are helping me to clarify my thoughts.

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  86. @stonetools:

    Jon Oliver’s stunt just shows how overwhelming is the expert consensus in favor of AGW and this in itself is a form of evidence.

    No it’s not. And to suggest it is evidence is profoundly anti-scientific. As in, if you truly believe that statement to be true, science actually becomes impossible. All scientific progress begins with one person going “you guys are all wrong and I have the evidence to prove it”. It’s the evidence that matters, not the popularity of that evidence.

    You can’t fight anti-science opponents by resorting to their methods.

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  87. stonetools says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    No it’s not.

    Ah, yes it is-not from the point of view of scientific proof but from the point of view of convincing the amateur onlooker. I’m sorry, but have seen too many “debates” when expert A presents scientific evidence, B spouts absolute BS and the audience thinks that B either won or at least held his own. And that audience votes.

    It’s the evidence that matters, not the popularity of that evidence.

    Maybe if you are talking about philosopher kings discussing issues at some Platonic academy, or at a scientific symposium,but debate on the popular level is something else again. Doubt that? Think of how many people disbelieve evolution, or AGW.
    You should understand too that the reason Bill Nye can muster far more scientists in support is because those scientists have looked at the evidence and found it convincing. Finally, in a court of law, testimony by a scientific expert is in fact considered credible evidence and juries are instructed to accept such evidence as credible.
    The point that you are trying to make is that the appeal to authority is a fallacy. That’s not quite correct. It’s the appeal to unsupported authority that is wrong and fallacious.

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  88. Mumbles says:

    And on the flip side of the coin, I’ve seen and heard exchanges like this:

    Black woman: “Yeah, I’ve noticed that all too often, white men won’t even listen to what I had to say, in their rush to tell me why I’m wrong about my own life.”

    Same black woman, a short time later : “this one time at a checkout counter, the white person in front of me paid by check, and was not asked for ID. But when I tried, the cashier asked for ID. So I showed her my driver’s license. But then she asked for more ID. So I showed her my health insurance card. But then she asked for more ID, so I showed her a credit card with my name on it. But then she asked for more ID, and I didn’t have any, so she called the cops on me!”

    White guy: “Oh, you think it’s racist to ask for a single piece of ID when you’re paying by check? You’re way to sensitive!”

    At that point, what else is there to say, other than “Shut up!”

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  89. @stonetools:

    Think of how many people disbelieve evolution, or AGW.

    Yes. And in the 1860s, how many scientists would have been included among those people? How long was continental drift considered a crackpot theory?

    Finally, in a court of law, testimony by a scientific expert is in fact considered credible evidence and juries are instructed to accept such evidence as credible.

    And the result has been numerous scandals involving people convisted on the basis of fraudulent “scientific” evidence because the juries took the expert opinion rather than trying to understand the evidence.

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  90. DrDaveT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    How long was continental drift considered a crackpot theory?

    This one’s an interesting example, but perhaps not of the sort you’re looking for. The acceptance of Wegener’s continental drift theory was hindered by three important factors:
    1) Wegener had no plausible mechanism to propose.
    2) most people interpreted his theory as requiring the continents to move through the Earth’s crust, which geologists knew was impossible. (The English translation of Wegener’s work, which was pompous and obscure, didn’t help.)
    3) Wegener was a meteorologist with no academic training in geology.

    #3 is a social barrier (but not irrational). #2 is mischance. #1 is an important objection that doesn’t fit cleanly into the caricature of science that sees it as “reacting to the evidence”. There really wasn’t much evidence for Wegener’s theory, other than the nice fit of one continent against another as puzzle pieces. The fossil evidence, paleomagnetic evidence, and other clinchers all came much later.

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  91. @DrDaveT:

    1) most theories don’t. Neither Newton’s theory of gravity nor Darwin’s theory of natural selection offered any sort of mechanism at the time of their proprosal (indeed, Darwin’s attempt to come up a mechanism) ended up being widely off course.

    3) which is precisely what makes the “97 scientisits agree” model so dangerous to actual science. Scientists are ultimately people and suffer all the biases and human failings any other person suffers (in this case tribal loyalties, both deliberate and subconcious). If we reject notions based on credentialism rather than a serious consideration of the evidence itself, we are no longer engaged in science.

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  92. Tillman says:

    @Stormy Dragon: The public debate on climate change is not science, nor is it conducted with the scientific method.

    You can’t fight anti-science opponents by resorting to their methods.

    I’m really sympathetic to this statement because in general I subscribe to it. But I think you and stonetools are somewhat talking past each other and having a different debate than either of you think.

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  93. @Tillman:

    The public debate on climate change is not science, nor is it conducted with the scientific method.

    Which is precisely my problem!

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  94. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    And in the 1860s, how many scientists would have been included among those people?

    It’s unwise to compare the scientific community of the 1860s, such as it was, to that of the 21st century. We’ve gotten a lot better at it, and we’re not as hampered by ancient religious dogma as we once were.

    And by the way, the 97% that Oliver represented with people in lab coats on his comedy show was not reflecting 97% of scientists. They represented the 97% of climate studies that have supported the phenomenon of anthropogenic warming. That means that the overwhelming majority of massive amounts of scientific study over many decades by many thousands of scientists supports the conclusion with evidence.

    There is no comparison with evolution. Very few scientists were even investigating that area when the Darwin’s theory emerged. In biology, most simply assumed an essentialist paradigm, though some like Lamarck had found evidence of inherited traits but did not think outside the bounds of essentialism.

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  95. george says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Let me ask a question of the various objectors and downvoters in this thread: is it that you think I’m overstating how much advantage white guys still have

    For my part, I think its not that you’re overstating the advantage of white guys (that advantage is real), but understating other potential non-racial advantages which I’d argue tend to be at least as strong, and in individual cases, stronger.

    Take a look at the advantages of wealth. Do you think a street person white guy has it easier than a rich person of any race? Or of height (I’ve a friend who’s 5’0″ – he’s white, and I wouldn’t trade with him for anything). Or worse, of health. Nothing I’ve experienced in terms of discrimination would make me willing to trade with my white friend who’s in a wheelchair.

    The problem is lumping all of any group together in a privilege group is simply going to create resentments. Being rich is privileged; being rich and having say ALS probably isn’t. For that matter, being a genius like Hawkings is privileged, but I suspect he’d trade that genius for having had a healthy life.

    Considering only the racial axis of privilege creates the kind of backlash you see here, and with reason – people know from their own experiences that privilege is much more complex than just race.

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  96. Tillman says:

    @Stormy Dragon: …I don’t think you can conduct a public debate with the scientific method. I’m not even certain how you’d do that. Unless you mean having more actual science/scientific findings in public debates.

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  97. @mantis:

    We’ve gotten a lot better at it, and we’re not as hampered by ancient religious dogma as we once were.

    And replaced it with new ills such as funding which is dependent on patrons interested in a specific outcome, and a combination of careerism and hyperspecialization that make it very difficult for academics to abandoned a theory they previously supported based on new evidence.

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  98. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    And replaced it with new ills such as funding which is dependent on patrons interested in a specific outcome

    That existed before, but it is a problem. That’s why government-funded research from bodies such as the NSF and the NIH is so important.

    and a combination of careerism and hyperspecialization that make it very difficult for academics to abandoned a theory they previously supported based on new evidence.

    I don’t see this as that much of a problem, as there are always new scientists looking to make names for themselves by exploring new avenues and making new discoveries. If entrenched academics drag their feet in recognizing new evidence because they are comfortable in their niches, they will eventually become irrelevant and uninfluential.

    The biggest problem I see today in science is that not enough important studies are thoroughly replicated and tested. Replication needs to be better funded and institutionalized in academia than it is now.

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  99. @mantis:

    That’s why government-funded research from bodies such as the NSF and the NIH is so important.

    Which makes the assumption that the NSF and NIH have no interests in particular outcomes.

    I don’t see this as that much of a problem

    It’s actually a huge problem. For example right now in theoretical phyics, there’s something of a crisis going on because the LHC has basically disproved Supersymmetry, meaning a big chunk of physicists have spent the last 40 years on a blind alley. Not suprisingly a lot of people are going to ridiculous lengths to avoid accepting that there entire career has been wasted.

    They’re basically proposing extensions the allow them to keep supersymmetry at the expense of it no longer solving the problem it was originally created to solve. This would make it non falsifiable: if it doesn’t work out on any particular energy level, they can just claim it needs to be tested at a higher energy level. Which I suppose is great if you want to justify funding for a never ending series of progressively larger particle accelerators, but makes it useless from the standpoint of being a scientific theory.

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  100. Grewgills says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Public debate cannot operate like the scientific method unless perhaps we all become Vulcans. It is not approaching realistic for our society or even for human populations. At some point if we are going to do anything evidence needs to be evaluated. Not everyone can be an expert on everything. We have to have specialists and if we are going to make rational decisions we should be listening to those experts. If 97% of those experts agree on something, I think we can all agree that that indicates broad consensus among those experts. Plucking out one from the 97% and one from the 3% and presenting them as though they are equal when we are having a policy debate simply does not make sense, nor does coming up with conspiracy theories to elevate the relative importance of that 3%.

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  101. Grewgills says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    It’s actually a huge problem. For example right now in theoretical phyics, there’s something of a crisis going on because the LHC has basically disproved Supersymmetry, meaning a big chunk of physicists have spent the last 40 years on a blind alley. Not suprisingly a lot of people are going to ridiculous lengths to avoid accepting that there entire career has been wasted.

    That dynamic tension is a feature, not a bug.

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  102. MarkedMan says:

    Stormy, your basic premise is wrong. The thing that you think is so obvious that it should go without saying is incorrect. All viewpoints in a scientific debate aren’t equal. The viewpoint of say, the people I know who have spent their whole lives researching obesity and diabetes is worth a lot more than some schlub who read something on the internets about corn syrup. And scientific consensus isn’t reached by inviting everyone in the world to a vote. It’s reached amongst the experts in that field. And the experts in the field give more weight to their colleagues that have demonstrated a hard nosed approach to data, the ones that have attacked their own ideas and methodology the hardest and publicly revealed when it showed they were wrong.

    Anti-evolutionists and climate change deniers don’t enter into the scientific consensus in their chosen hobby-horses not because there is a vast conspiracy, but because 1) the overwhelming majority (99%+) are not scientists, 2) of those that remain the vast majority are not scientists in the relevant field and, 3) the few people who remain are often fixated on some arcana, or over applying something that the rest of the community finds to be a trivial detail.

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  103. MarkedMan says:

    Oh and BTW, the anti-evolutionists are particularly bad in this respect. Some armchair genius reads something on a christianist website and concludes that “those scientists” are so stupid they didn’t even realize some terrible flaw in the evolutionary argument. This “revelation” is often one of the things that Darwin himself pointed out as being problematic for the theory (no causal mechanism being perhaps the biggest. Hello DNA). And those issues have been raised and resolved one by one by one over more than a century and half. So when some chair warmer starts blathering on about how what a bunch of dummies the current crop of scientists are while being completely ignorant of the intervening decades of meticulous work, well, it’s only natural that those same scientists dismiss the rantings of the pompous know-nothings out of hand. They should dismiss them.

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  104. DrDaveT says:

    @george:

    For my part, I think its not that you’re overstating the advantage of white guys (that advantage is real), but understating other potential non-racial advantages

    That certainly wasn’t my intent. I see racial and gender privilege as applying across the board to whatever situation. A poor white male has it easier than a poor white female or poor black male or poor black female. A tall white male has it easier than a tall black male. A rich white male has it easier than a rich black male or a rich female of any color. Etc. I wasn’t talking about those other axes of advantage at all, and I don’t think I’ve said anything that could be interpreted as claiming that racial privilege trumps everything else, even though it always applies.

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  105. george says:

    @DrDaveT:

    That certainly wasn’t my intent. I see racial and gender privilege as applying across the board to whatever situation.

    But those other privileges also apply across the board. A tall black man has it easier than a short black man. A rich Chinese woman has it easier than a poor Chinese woman. A healthy (take person from category X) has it easier than a crippled (take person from same category X). All the ones mentioned also always apply.

    In fact, some of them are so powerful they overwhelm other privilege categories. On average, a healthy but poor black woman has it easier than a rich but wheel chair bound white man.

    I think this is the root of much of arguments about privilege. Gender and race always apply, but so do many other privileges – wealth or lack there-of for instance, health for another. I’m having a hard time thinking of cases where they don’t. Is it ever better to be unhealthy than to be healthy? Or poor rather than wealthy?

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  106. MarkedMan says:

    Being a middle aged mid-westerner, not bad looking (not a euphemism for “good looking” – I really am just not ugly. Average) white guy who has lived in Africa and China I’m certainly used to being stereotyped and it can be annoying but it is a positive stereotype 99% of the time. People assume that I am honest. People assume that I belong wherever I happen to be. Only a couple of times have I gotten an inkling about what it must be like to be a dark skinned American, or grossly obese, markedly ugly, or a turban wearing Sikh. Once, I walked into a particular woodworkers store/workshop in New Orleans. A particular piece of antique equipment had been featured on the back cover of “Fine Woodworking Magazine” and when I found myself nearby I stopped in to see it. As I walked in the door several things happened in rapid succession. I saw the machine and my face must have lit up. The owner saw me, followed my gaze, and his face lit up with pride. He greeted me. I greeted him. He heard my Yankee accent. His face fell and turned hard. All welcome flowed out of the room.

    It isn’t much but it gave me a lot to think about. How would I be different if that was my life’s norm rather than the exception?

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  107. DrDaveT says:

    @george:

    Is it ever better to be unhealthy than to be healthy? Or poor rather than wealthy?

    These days, in America, wealth is pretty dominant — but not in all times and places. There were a lot of centuries in Europe where a wealthy Jew lived at the whim of poor Christians.

    Health seems to me to be a different category; it cuts more randomly across all others, and you don’t get it automatically from your parents. You might as well say that people who haven’t been hit by lightning (or buses) are privileged over those who have. That’s not ‘privilege'; it’s just luck.

    Overall, I’m not sure what your point is here. You seem to be arguing against a claim I’ve never made. My comments were not specific to any one kind of privilege. “White male” was the specific example that came up in the context of James’s indignation, but it could just as easily have been something else.

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  108. Grewgills says:

    @george:

    On average, a healthy but poor black woman has it easier than a rich but wheel chair bound white man.

    Easier at what? Easier paying her bills? Sending her children to college? etc etc

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  109. Tillman says:

    @Grewgills: …walking? Going up and down stairs?

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  110. george says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Health seems to me to be a different category; it cuts more randomly across all others, and you don’t get it automatically from your parents. You might as well say that people who haven’t been hit by lightning (or buses) are privileged over those who have. That’s not ‘privilege’; it’s just luck.

    Disagree, at least in part. The base health comes from your parents (there are plenty of illnesses like Down syndrome for example). Luck plays a part in those, but that’s using luck in such a broad sense that it applies to everything from wealth to race – it becomes another word for fate at that level.

    Overall, I’m not sure what your point is here. You seem to be arguing against a claim I’ve never made. My comments were not specific to any one kind of privilege. “White male” was the specific example that came up in the context of James’s indignation, but it could just as easily have been something else.

    My apologies, I interpreted your earlier comments to mean you thought race and gender were more general, more fundamental privileges than others such as health, wealth, height etc. If that’s not the case then you’re right, I’ve been arguing against a stance you didn’t take – my bad.

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  111. george says:

    @Grewgills:

    Easier at what? Easier paying her bills? Sending her children to college? etc etc

    Overall ease of life. The parapeligics I know all state they’d happily give up all their possessions, all their money just to be able to walk again. I believe them. In fact, the number of bankruptcies in the US from people giving up everything to pay medical bills (going into poverty) show how many people in practice, when forced to choose, value health over money.

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  112. Nikki says:

    @george:

    But a rich black man is more privileged than a poor white man.

    Henry Gates, Rob Brown, and others would beg to differ.

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  113. Barry says:

    @Nikki: “But a rich black man is more privileged than a poor white man.”

    In addition, ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ are opposite ends of the social scale. For example, if one said that a genius-IQ woman would be promoted more than a mentally retarded man, I’m not saying much.

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  114. Barry says:

    @george: “A poor white man is more privileged than a poor black man. But a rich black man is more privileged than a poor white man. Same with gays – a rich gay has privileges that a poor hetro doesn’t have.”

    BTW, this has been studied. IIRC, one study showed that a ‘black name’ reduced the odds of a call-back to those of a white felon. (or that for a carefully almost-matched pair, being black was equivalent to have a felony record for whites).

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  115. Barry says:

    @mantis: “I like this analogy a lot as well. I’ve been on easy mode for most of my life. I’ve still worked my ass off, and had my share of problems, but I try not to forget that most other people deal with challenges I never need to even consider. I don’t always succeed at this. ”

    I would agree, both in getting some good breaks, and in avoiding an embarrassing number of well-deserved bad outcomes.

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  116. DrDaveT says:

    @george:

    The base health comes from your parents

    No, not really. Predictable genetic disorders like Tay-Sachs or sickle-cell anemia are a tiny minority of serious health issues. Down’s Syndrome, which you singled out, is not inherited — it’s just bad luck, like catching the measles. Inherited predispositions for various kinds of cancers, or adult-onset diabetes, generally only kick in later in life, and are still probabilistic.

    In general, the most significant predictable effect of birth family on health is… wealth.

    Luck plays a part in those, but that’s using luck in such a broad sense that it applies to everything from wealth to race – it becomes another word for fate at that level.

    I couldn’t disagree more. I see a fundamental difference between the luck that affects your starting position — who you are, in effect — versus the luck that determines which of the various random things that can happen to anyone will actually happen to you. The former, when it is unrelated to merit, is privilege. The latter is not.

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  117. bookdragon says:

    @Tillman: It doesn’t necessarily imply he’s wrong. In fact, what he is saying may be 100% factually correct, but what makes it ‘mansplaining’ is that he is telling the woman something she (a) already knows and (b) almost certainly knows better than he does.

    So, yes, “Stop mansplaining” usually doesn’t mean “You’re wrong”, it usually means “Stop being a dick”

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  118. bookdragon says:

    @James Joyner: LOL – I admit I don’t know who Ackerman is. If he is a straight privileged white dude, then telling him to check his own privilege or to stop ‘splaining (fansplaining in this case?) would have been a perfectly appropriate comeback.

    The later in fact would be most appropriate since he was lecturing you on something you know better than he does because he _assumed_ someone of your ‘type’ [fill appropriate category] couldn’t possibly really understand.

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  119. Ken says:

    @bookdragon: @Tillman: It doesn’t necessarily imply he’s wrong. In fact, what he is saying may be 100% factually correct, but what makes it ‘mansplaining’ is that he is telling the woman something she (a) already knows and (b) almost certainly knows better than he does.

    So, yes, ‘Stop mansplaining’ usually doesn’t mean “You’re wrong”, it usually means “Stop being a dick”

    I would change this a bit for accuracy: “So yes, when used appropriately, “Stop mansplaining” usually doesn’t mean ‘You’re wrong’, it usually means ‘Stop being a dick’ ”

    Unfortunately, in actual usage it all too often means “You won’t stop disagreeing with me, so here’s a little mockery laced slogan to dismiss your opinion without having to address it, and hopefully to make you shut the fark up as well ” See also: Check your privilege, fark your tone policing

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  120. Moosebreath says:

    @Moosebreath:

    And for a further example of how some dispute that being a white male is an advantage, I give you the effective leader of the Republican Party.

    “You boil it down here and the only and greatest achievement Hillary Clinton has is her gender — being female,” [Limbaugh] said, noting that the liberals focused on gender and race are “primarily young people.””

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  121. george says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I couldn’t disagree more. I see a fundamental difference between the luck that affects your starting position — who you are, in effect — versus the luck that determines which of the various random things that can happen to anyone will actually happen to you. The former, when it is unrelated to merit, is privilege. The latter is not.

    That’s a very limited definition of privilege. The typical dictionary definition goes along the lines of: for instance

    a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most: the privileges of the very rich.

    Privilege is usually defined by the advantages you enjoy, not the path there. And even so, there is a genetic component to health (there’s no shortage of research on cancer and cardio diseases suggesting this), so even with your very narrow definition of privilege, health would have to be included.

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  122. george says:

    @Barry:

    BTW, this has been studied. IIRC, one study showed that a ‘black name’ reduced the odds of a call-back to those of a white felon. (or that for a carefully almost-matched pair, being black was equivalent to have a felony record for whites).

    On the other hand, which would be more likely to be privileged enough to own a large home, or an expensive car, or be able to spend a month in an expensive resort. I think you too are limiting privilege far beyond what the dictionary definition states. In our society, money gives you many privileges that cannot be obtained any other way.

    That doesn’t mean it wipes out other privileges. A poor white man has some societal privileges over a rich black man (only an idiot would suggest otherwise), a healthy poor man has many advantages and freedoms denied a rich cripple. But I’d argue the balance in many of these (height, race, gender in any case) is more than balanced by being rich … don’t think that’s the case in terms of health, though maybe that’s just me. I get the sense that others believe being rich and crippled is an easier life than poor and healthy.

    The point is, privileges aren’t mutually exclusive. You can be privileged in some ways and unprivileged in others. Maybe the overall sum depends on the individual – as I said, I can’t imagine trading my health for anything (other than the health of my family), so I consider myself extremely privileged to have it (in fact I’d say its my greatest privilege by a long shot). It never occurred to me that others would have different valuations of that, so I guess I stated it as a given when in fact for many health would seem to be a minor privilege.

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  123. KansasMom says:

    @george: This was linked to above. I highly recommend it addresses every point you’ve made.

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  124. DrDaveT says:

    @george:

    That’s a very limited definition of privilege.

    Yes. It’s the one relevant to this conversation, which has been using the term ‘privilege’ in a very specific social sciences sense. The dictionary definition is not relevant here, any more than the dictionary definition of ‘rent’ is relevant when two economists are talking, or the dictionary definition of ‘force’ is relevant when two physicists are talking.

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  125. george says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Yes. It’s the one relevant to this conversation, which has been using the term ‘privilege’ in a very specific social sciences sense. The dictionary definition is not relevant here, any more than the dictionary definition of ‘rent’ is relevant when two economists are talking, or the dictionary definition of ‘force’ is relevant when two physicists are talking.

    I think I’d be more open to that if this was a formal journal; if for instance you said that someone was paying $200 a month rent and I said that didn’t describe the economics definition, you’d probably say I was being pedantic. Same if you said a tenant was forced from her home and I insisted that you could only say that if you meant it in the physics sense (F=ma etc).

    As someone with a physics degree, I’ll admit physics has been bad for taking general usage terms and putting specific meanings on them (though its getting better, things like ‘quark’ and ‘chromodynamics’ for instance). But at least most physicists don’t insist that people use those terms correctly outside of formal discussion.

    The problem is people want the connotations of the original word to come along with the new denotation – there’s a slight of hand going on there. Politicians and advertising people do this all the time as well, but its still somewhat sleazy. Better to make up a completely new word.

    In an informal discussion, both the formal and informal definitions are allowed. If you say someone was forced from his home that’s allowable even if no physical force was applied. If I say he was forced (as in pushed) from his home (but not evicted) that too is allowable. Same for privilege – both the dictionary and the specific definitions are applicable. It’d be better to have different words to avoid confusion.

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  126. Grewgills says:

    @george:
    You’ve got it reversed. In your analogies, we were talking physics and you inserted the Webster’s definition of force or we were talking economics and you inserted the Webster’s definition of rents. We were in a conversation where the terms were understood by those participating and you attempted to broaden the definition to the Webster’s form from the sociological term that was being used.

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  127. Moosebreath says:

    Another view of Not all men:

    “”Not all men.” Fine. But pointing out individual exceptions doesn’t help us understand or combat behaviors that really are mainly committed by men, from small things like interruptions up to domestic violence and rape. Not all men beat their partners, but people who beat their partners are mostly men. Pointing out that you’re not one of them doesn’t help us figure out how to understand and deal with that problem.”

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  128. @Moosebreath:

    Not all men beat their partners, but people who beat their partners are mostly men.

    1) The gender of people who beat their partners is a lot more balanced than most people would suspect, so by focusing only on male domestic violence, you marginalize a large community of victims

    2) Even if most people who beat their partners are men, most men don’t beat their partners. Focusing on the gender issue doesn’t “help us figure out how to understand and deal with that problem” because it becomes an excuse to avoid looking for the actual causes.

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  129. Lenoxus says:

    Hmm, it’s disappointing to see what I would consider poor defenses of the “not all men meme”: that men deserve a taste of our own medicine, or that what’s important is that “most of the people who do X are men”. So here’s my take:

    When someone says “Not all men are sexists”, they might think they’re saying something equivalent to “Not all politicans are criminals”, or even the narrower “Not all politicians are beholden to lobbyists.” But what they’re actually saying is more like “Not all politicians vote for themselves in elections.”

    In other words, behavior like “mansplaining” and sexist stereotyping in general isn’t just some incidental misdeed that certain “sexist men” choose to commit. It’s ingrained in the way society trains the mutual perceptions of men and women. But unlike voting, it’s not always explicit or intentional. If you’re a man who pleads “not guilty” to sexism, or who pleads guilty with the hedge that women are “just as bad”, then you still don’t get it.

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