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The fallacy of agenda-avoidance #2: omitting facts about human nature

May 13, 2016

Last week, we spoke about the evils of the banana agenda. Outspoken members of the banana lobby want us to teach children as young as 21 about bananas; their existence in history, their location, their enjoyment by others. Whatever next? A unicorn agenda, teaching innocent, corruptible children about the existence of unicorns? You might encourage children to be bananas, and we would have a society full of them. Obviously, I’m not prejudiced against bananas or anything, but I still think we should have as few of them as possible in society, and therefore not flaunt bananaism in such a way as to make the children think that being a banana is appealing.

Or, to be more accurate, last week I wrote about how people who are concerned about the effects of people’s opinions omit these opinions from their society, so as to not influence young minds towards Lies of the Establishment. It included both anti-religion and anti-secular faulty reasoning. This week, I will be talking about anti-equality stances which omit facts about human nature, under the justification that this, too, is forcing an agenda down the throats of others and influencing young minds towards an elaborate Lie. The most recognisable example of this is homosexuality and anti-homosexual stances.

Though often supported by the same people, pro-diversity approaches are the opposite to anti-religion approaches; they propose the application of certain theories, as opposed to the avoidance of them. This stance runs a much greater risk of being accused of indoctrinating children and promoting the views of an Establishment – an establishment invariably perceived by complainants to be majority composed of members of the Other. The anti-gay wing will assume that any pro-LGBT concept is driven by a powerful gay minority, complete with shady operations behind the scenes and alterations to policy by the back door.

The concept that pro-diversity straight people are more likely to be behind the drive to change a school to a more LGBT-inclusive policy does not seem to occur to them. It is unlikely that a majority voice would be overruled by a minority one; the better explanation is that the straight majority (in any one specific institution) is pro-gay, a fact which anti-gay people find uncomfortable. As a result, they are more likely to attribute this mass cultural shift of tolerance to an aggressive, powerful minority who are so hidden from sight, the individual names of the key players are never known, and their ideas never publicly criticised.

If there was an aggressive gay lobby, every piece of critical writing about this lobby should be able to name-drop at least one observably aggressive gay lobbyist; the fact that most do not name such a person speaks volumes. Occasionally, a famous gay speaker is lambasted by the extreme Right as a gay lobbyist, but it is not clear to what extent they “lobby” in the sense we typically understand it; they express their point of view, as is their entitlement, but they are not proven to be a member of a funded, organised group with a specific target like the National Rifle Association.

Anti-gay (or sometimes confused pro-Christian) advocates suggest that something which suits a minority should never override what suits a majority. Their assumption is that whatever is good for a minority must be bad for a minority; they consider rights to be a zero-sum game, as opposed to a positive-sum game. In other words, they think that rights exist on a tipping scale between majorities and minorities – the more weight you put on the minority side, the more chance you have of creating a new imbalance, whereby majority rights are on the lighter side. These individuals tend to think that we already have equality, and thus reason that any push for greater equality would actually create inequality in the reverse direction.

It is challenging to prove this claim, as “rights” are somewhat difficult to measure. We are usually talking about the effect of certain changes in policy and attitude, as opposed to changes themselves. Gay people do not have “more rights” enshrined in law than straight people. If one was going to claim otherwise, one would have to pinpoint the specific right in law gay people have that straight people do not have. That is not usually what people do – instead, they imply by anecdotal example (or no example) that gay people benefit more from the rights that exist for both. “How much does someone benefit” is a nightmare of a scientific question. Researchers would never seek to find out; a benefit is too general a term. Therefore, the only way to substantially prove that any one group of people are benefiting more is to collect that data from all the institutions and compare gay datum to straight datum. In other words, you would have to research everything about everyone in society. Not possible.

Thus, the viewpoint is certainly not informed by verifiable fact, but rather ideological conviction that an increase in minority rights simply must indicate a decrease in majority rights (or perhaps “privilege” would be a better word). What such people are missing is an understanding that rights are not pitted against each other in straightforward terms of majority versus minority; there are many forms of minority and majority whose dealings with each other are complicated and often perceived to be at odds with each other. The majority groups of male and female, for example, or the minority groups of British gays and British Muslims. Therefore, the analogy of the weighing scale that so many people have in their minds does not work at all; no linear scale accurately depicts our multifaceted society. When people talk of “powerful minorities”, they are not observing that the push for minority rights is often a push against other minorities, not against majorities; therefore, do not effect that majorities in one direction or another.

There is also a diminished sense that to increase the rights of one increases the rights of the other. Minority-acceptance theory is universalisable. Advocating Black rights leads gay activists to use Black-rights theory to benefit the gay rights movement. That this theory is applicable to multiple groups is what’s known as a positive-sum game; when one group benefits, other groups benefit off the back of it. The view that everyone is always at war with each other is a simplistic approach, symptomatic of people who are broadly against minority-rights advocacy.

Those who understand that supporting minority rights is a positive-sum game are the people who instigate minority protection in institutions such as school. They perceive that heterosexual, cisgendered, white, Christian or secular children have nothing whatsoever to lose from a broad policy of equality for all. Perhaps the execution of this policy is sometimes over the top; expelling pupils for offensive remarks, for example. Carrot policies work better than stick policies, as striking someone with a stick tends to make them angry. They strike back, and before you know it you’ve got a war between two sets of people whose rights were never at odds with each other.

Whatever justification anti-such-and-such-agenda speakers may make about blocking freedom of expression or freedom of belief, their choice of target betrays their prejudices. Anti-gay and ant-Christian rhetoric of this type sound exactly the same: “we shouldn’t listen to gay people because their thoughts corrupt us all” versus “we shouldn’t listen to Christians because their thoughts will corrupt us all.” Quite obviously, both sets of people have an agenda against, and therefore a prejudice towards, the groups about which they are speaking. Nothing else could determine on which side of that argument one would pitch oneself. Herein lies a classic example of how equality seeking is a positive-sum game; if instigated correctly, religious institutions including Christianity stand to gain from pro-equality stances.

This is why as-little-harm-as-possible approaches are the only rational approaches. Conservative Christians or Muslims must ask themselves; how harmed are children by the view that gay and straight people are equal, and that it’s OK to be gay? The honest answer to that question will often quickly expose itself as homophobic: it’s not OK to be gay, so it’s not OK to tell people that it’s OK to be gay. Alternatively, the view might be heterosexist: it’s acceptable to be gay if it’s unavoidable, but it’s better to be straight. If we remove homophobia from the rationale, we find that there is nothing left.

So perhaps the next time we read about so-and-so’s such-and-such Agenda, perhaps we will consider how empty this scare rhetoric is; that agenda-setting is rarely about shady or domineering organisations forcing their views upon us, and more about groups of people coming to some compromise over apparently conflicting rights in such a way as to reduce harm to its lowest possible level. Anybody who doubts that this process ever happens is a conspiracy theorist. Just remember that the banana agenda corrupts everything from the inside, and we just don’t know it because they are so hidden and powerful.

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