Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Guardian: "Donald Trump Jr. Compares Refugees To Poisoned Skittles" (Or: Return of the Mexican Rapists Fallacy)

   Via /r/SocialJusticeInAction, where the poster, /u/rodmclaughlin makes the relevant point in the post title: actually, he compared refugees to skittles, and terrorists (or terrorist sympathizers) to a small minority of poisoned skittles.
   As I've said, I've got nothing against criticizing this analogy, of course. But this is the kind of anti-Trump bias that shows up over and over in I actually about to say this? I guess I am...yaaaargh! MAINSTREAM MEDIA THERE I SAID IT
   This is basically the same distortion that we see over and over and over again with respect to Trump's comment about crime among illegal immigrants. Trump said:
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
This is reported over and over and over and over in (let's face it) liberal i.e. mainstream media as: (all) Mexicans are rapists. Of course, what he seems to actually have been asserting is: a higher-than average number of illegal immigrants (from Mexico) are rapists. That's a statement about illegal immigrants, not about Mexicans. And the distorted gloss is some combination of inaccuracy and distortion tantamount to a lie. This distortion of the skittles comment is of the same kind: someone in the Trump camp says a small percentage of F are G; this gets reported as: Trump camp says all F are G.
   The Guardian title is closer to being accurate / not as egregious a distortion...but it's in the same general direction. It's stated in such a way as to spin it in a bad (or, you might argue, worse) direction. And that's how most bias operates--not as outright fabrication, but as spin.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't see it as bigotry when I first saw the bowl of Skittles tweet, and I didn't think that the comparison was meant to dehumanize refugees by comparing them to candy. What bothers me about that comparison is not just that it's off by magnitudes, but that it is another example of Trump and Trump Jr. turning a massive humanitarian crisis, one of the worst since WWII, into an opportunity to scare people and turn Americans against Syrian refugees. So maybe the outrage is not entirely that he is comparing humans to chewy candy, but that this is a way of encouraging a certain view of Syrian refugees that emphasizes fear rather than empathy. You could use the Skittles analogy for all kinds of devious purposes. Imagine that the skittles in the bowl represents all Muslims in America. Maybe not all of them are terrorists but a few of them are and we don't know which are which. So to secure our country we should round them all up and put them in camps until we can figure out “what’s going on,” to use Trump’s favorite phrase about blocking Muslims from entering the country (which policy employs basically the same reasoning). And you’re right that this Skittles dust-up is similar to the furor over Trump’s Mexican immigrants comment: he could have used the same image for them to make the point he made in his announcement speech. There’s obviously nothing wrong to use candy to make a point about people. But is it acceptable to encourage Americans to fear Muslims, Syrian refugees, and Mexican immigrants in order to accept a specific policy that would negatively impact all of these groups (to say the least)? In fact, this is not just ordinary fear that Trump and his minions are encouraging, but a hysterical and overwrought fear, one that shuts down debate and puts fear above logic or reason or empathy. Is that something we should accept as an ordinary, uncontroversial part of American political rhetoric now? If we normalize this kind of thing, it could easily encourage people to advocate terrible policies against these groups because any one of their members may be the poisoned Skittle. So, long and short of the matter: I agree that there’s been a misidentification of what is outrageous about the tweet, but I don’t think the tweet is just fine, and since I don’t think that the PC overreaction is necessarily the most widespread reaction to this, I think it’s a little unfair to make it seem like it is and become outraged at the people who are outraged…

8:28 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Fair points, A.

I'd object to the stuff in the middle that all sorts of things *can* be put to nefarious uses--so we can't let that be our standard.

As for the stuff at the end of your comment, I think that's important and it does me good to be reminded of it...though I don't necessarily think that I'm always most pissed off at the most important error humanity is making. PC is bad and it happens to really piss me off for all the ranty reason I'm always ranting rantingly about...but I'm not saying that there aren't worse problems. In general, there's no doubt in my mind that racism is a bigger problem than lunatic, irrational racist PC "anti-"racism...but damn, I've got basically nothing to add to the project of anti-racism...

Also, I deny that by pointing out errors in something I'm indicating that it's the worst problem.

Also, though I tend to avoid counterproductivity arguments on principle, I do think that shitty bigotry arguments make it more difficult to combat actual bigotry.

Anyway, thanks for the cogent criticism.

8:37 AM  

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