False Moral Equivalency

MoralEquivalencyby Jerry Richardson   8/1/14
What is false moral equivalency?

“The disdain for Israel among the Obamacrats is just visceral. And thank you Mr. President, you appear to have saved Hamas for at least the next 72 hours. How this administration can draw any moral equivalence to Israel – which wants to live in peace – and murderous Islamist thugs who use their own people as human shields, it’s just stunning to me.”   —Lt Col Ralph Peters

A moral equivalency is a judgment that evaluates two separate categories as having basically the same moral value: both are equally good or equally evil, equally praiseworthy or equally blameworthy, etc.

Hence a false moral equivalency (FME) is an incorrect (false) judgment of moral equivalency.

Category: “A class or division of people or things regarded as having particular shared characteristics…”   —New Oxford American Dictionary

Of course the concept of false moral equivalency (FME) is critically dependent upon the concept that there are absolute moral values. As with many of the philosophical disasters in our post-modern world, there are those who claim that moral values are completely relative to a given culture—hence, they claim, there are no absolute moral values.

I reject that abominable philosophy for the insanity that it is.

Following are two recent examples of FME related to the issue of Israel versus Islamic terrorists.

Here is a jaw-dropper from a university professor (maybe that helps explain it):

“A Virginia Tech (VT) professor compared Israel to the extremist Islamic group ISIS, in a tweet on Tuesday.

“#Israel and #ISIS are but two prongs of the same violent ethnonationalism.
— Steven Salaita (@stevesalaita) July 22, 2014

“English professor Steven Salaita likened America’s closest ally in the Middle East to the Sunni radical group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), that is persecuting Christians and mandating strict Islamic regulations by force.”
Virginia Tech Prof

It is difficult to imagine anyone being so in-the-grip of an ideology that they could seriously believe there is any moral equivalence between the use-of-force actions of the State of Israel and of use-of-force actions of Islamic terrorists such as ISIS or Hamas.

I quote the next FME example, an article by Guy Benson, in total because it also illustrates the underlying fallacious mechanism so often found in FME:

“I now present to you my Twitter exchange with progressive pundit Sally Kohn,* sans commentary: [@s used in addressing have been edited out.]

[A comment on Twitter] “How can same people who believe Hamas violence justifies Israeli violence then disagree that Israeli violence justifies Hamas violence?
Sally Kohn July 22, 2014

[To Sally Kohn] “perhaps because those people reject utterly false moral equivalencies.
Guy Benson July 22, 2014

[To Sally Kohn] “and perhaps because lumping all “violence” together without attempting to draw meaningful moral distinctions is moronic?
Guy Benson July 22, 2014 

[To Guy Benson] “and drawing distinctions between “good” violence vs “bad” violence is morally righteous!!??? Not according to my faith…
Sally Kohn July 22, 2014 

[To Sally Kohn] “Really? So the ‘violence’ of, say, fighting off a rapist is morally indiscernable from the rapist’s actions?
Guy Benson July 22, 2014

“Her rebuttal, as of this writing?  Crickets.  Maybe she’ll eventually enlighten us with additional insights into the moral pillars of her faith.  And maybe those who read the above conversation will consider the state of Ms. Kohn’s moral compass when judging her counsel on other matters.”  —Guy Benson

The preceding two sets of quotes illustrate FMEs; additionally, the second set also shows that the underlying mechanism for that FME is the commission, by Sally Kohn, of the fallacy known as category-error.

No discernment from Sally Kohn that there plainly exist two classical, well-known categories for the use of armed-force: aggression and self-defense.  The single category, violence, is neither a sufficient nor an honest descriptor for the distinguishable uses of armed-force.

This type of logical fallacy (category-error) is very common with progressive speakers and writers.  But still it can be frustrating if you are attempting to reason (can it be done?) with a hard-core Progressive.

Indeed, I have progressive acquaintances that insist that there is no fundamental moral difference between Sharia law and USA law—thereby attempting to force-fit two disparate legal systems into one moral category.  Unbelievable!

What is the origin of this twisted logic?

Clearly, it is the cultural relativism inherent in Progressivism. This has produced, among other disasters, the phenomenon of multiculturalism, usually implemented on university campuses with “diversity” and “tolerance” programs and “identify-studies”; and implemented in business and governmental organizations with analogous social-engineering efforts.

What is multiculturalism?

“Multiculturalism is a body of thought in political philosophy about the proper way to respond to cultural and religious diversity. Mere toleration of group differences is said to fall short of treating members of minority groups as equal citizens; recognition and positive accommodation of group differences are required through “group-differentiated rights,” a term coined by Will Kymlicka (1995).”

[Comment: According to the US Constitution, “rights” are for individuals (“the people”), and, by implication, are not intended as special protections for groups.]

Multiculturalism requires “group-differentiated rights.”

The notion of “group-differentiated” rights is predicated upon the claim that some cultural group (a collection of people who share some specific characteristic such as ethnicity, gender, religion, etc.) has in some way been disadvantaged relative to a larger culture; and hence the “disadvantaged group” is due some amount of privileged treatment relative to the larger culture. Usually this privileging involves being exempt from certain laws, regulations, or mores that non-disadvantaged group members are expected to follow.

The extreme danger of this idea, as we have already seen in the modern world, is that the designation of a “disadvantaged group” can be based upon virtually any imaginably perceived human characteristic.  The success of the effort to have a group accepted as
a “disadvantaged group” depends entirely upon the strength of the political campaign in support of the group.

It has become fashionable in many circles to seek to exempt Islam from public criticism:

“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.  That’s not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.  These terrorists don’t represent peace.  They represent evil and war.”  —George W. Bush

“The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
Barack Obama

“Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.”  —Barack Obama

This call for exemption from public criticism that Islamists strive-for and imams issue fatwas-for, has become for many Progressives, a de factogroup-differentiated right.

However, when confronted with the unmistakable (now often pictorial) evidence of the brutality of ISAS and Hamas, a Progressive will not be so daft, usually, to insist that Islamic terrorists (in this case ISIA and Hamas) are equivalent to “peace” or “promoting peace”.  On the other hand, they cannot bring themselves to actually condemn ISAS or Hamas, so what is there left to do?

Simple: they resort to their old standby, false moral equivalency.

There is an observable, detrimental effect on logical thinking that is caused by the selective-privileging (“group-differentiated”) philosophy of multiculturalism:

For Progressives, cultures are morally distinguishable, only with the use of some privileged, ad hoc differentiator such as “group-differentiated rights.”  This is how it is possible for Progressives, as they are fond of doing, to morally rate American Culture or Western Culture as “bad” relative to some other touted culture.

But what happens when a specific aspect of a culture under scrutiny is ipso facto so heinous that any “group-differentiated right” cannot satisfactorily provide justification?


There is then no logical way to draw a moral distinction since the selective-privileging differentiator is transparently insufficient.  Hence, there are no moral distinctions that can be drawn between the cultures in question. It is precisely in such a situation that a progressive is forced into a bogus one-category situation.

We then have a category-error.

Yet history and common-sense observations reveal that different cultures do, in fact, often prioritize widely-differing moral values which necessitate multiple moral categories for proper description.  But, the dedicated Progressive continues unabated with a sophomoric category-error because he is trapped in the illogic of multiculturalism.

The end result is the loss of the ability, or the will, to discern between cultural good and evil.  This is a serious moral malady and the Bible levies a solemn warning against it:

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
Isaiah 5:20 NASB

© 2014, Jerry Richardson • (1584 views)

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5 Responses to False Moral Equivalency

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    A superb example of FME over Israel vs. the Palestinians came when Jimmy the Creep smeared Israel as an apartheid state. (Q: What is the difference between Jimmy Carter and a bucket of excrement? A: The bucket.) What the dishonest anti-Semite carefully forgot to mention is that Israel allows Muslim Arabs civil rights they don’t even have in Palestine (or anywhere else in the Evil Crescent), and even to vote — and occasionally decide election results, as they did around 15 years ago when Arab Muslim votes defeated Netanyahu’s re-election attempt despite his majority among Jewish voters. By contrast, all Palestinian-controlled areas are entirely Judenrein, but Jimmy the Creep didn’t object to that. As usual for liberals, his claim was the opposite of the truth. (Of course, this difference also applies today to the FME of Israel and ISIS.)

    Incidentally, Star Trek actually dealt with the concept in an episode in which Kirk and Spock (with assistance from their leadership ideals) confronted their greatest symbols of evil (oddly enough, neither Hitler nor Stalin was included). In the end, the aliens running this experiment pointed out that Kirk and Spock used the same violent methods as the forces of evil — to which Kirk reminded them of the very different motivations of the two sides.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    What is the origin of this twisted logic?

    Dishonesty and/or mental illness.

    • Tom Riehl TRiehl says:

      I would add laziness as a support of the twisted logic. Beneath that level is the accelerating erosion of real education. I had three classes in logic, and most people I tell that to are surprised. But then I’m a bit older. Taranto at WSJ does a terrific job of sniffing out logical errors and classical fallacies, and names them.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        You must have majored in philosophy. I got a good bit of training in logic in mathematics and computer science, but I never had a whole course on the subject. One of my favorite logic questions from a computer science course involved finding the logical flaw in an apparent proof by mathematical induction that all horses are the same color. Not many got that one, but I did.

  3. Moral relativism allows a person to pontificate without really knowing anything — once you’ve reduced all prior human thought to a few mindless rules (no judging, no violence, no facts) you can run on automatic pilot and if anyone has the effrontery to point out your errors, you just call them “racist” and go right on feeling good about yourself. It’s true poison.

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