Friday, September 18, 2020

"Force birther"-ism and Virtue Signaling

There's seems to be an increasingly popular "move" online of calling people who think abortion is wrong and should be illegal "force birthers." 

The thought is that these are people who want to, and would, force women to give birth because they would force women to not have abortions if they could and that's their goal. 

Here I want to observe that calling someone a "forced birther" is just silly.

So, here's the dialogue:

A. "You're a 'forced birther'!"

B. "Why's that?"

A. "You would force women to not have abortions, and so force them to have birth!"

B. "Yes, I think abortion is wrong and should be illegal."

A. "So you are "forced birther"!"

B. "Well, yes, I think abortion is wrong and should be illegal. So, yeah, you are observing that I do indeed believe what you are accusing me of believing: that's what people who think abortion is wrong and should be illegal think: do you have any reason to think this position is mistaken?"

So, what's happening is that the pro-choice finds someone who they (correctly or incorrectly) believes abortion is wrong and should be illegal. They then angrily call them a "forced birther" which basically amounts to saying "They think abortion should be wrong and should be illegal!!" 

Now, isn't it just obvious to everyone that this person thinks abortion is wrong and should be illegal? 

Of course.

Is telling something who thinks that abortion is wrong and should be illegal that "You think abortion is wrong and should be illegal!!" giving them any new information or arguments to think about it? Might it in any way going to change their minds (for the better)? Does telling anyone this give them any reason to think that they are perhaps mistaken in their views?

No, not at all. 

So then why do people say things like this, since it's obviously not going to persuade anyone, give them any kind of reasons to consider that might lead to their changing their mind, or "shore up" any pro-choice persons' views on the issues?

Seems like the answer is this: saying this (and things like it) amounts to "virtue signaling," which is this:

vur-choo sig-nl-ing ]

noun Sometimes Disparaging.

the sharing of one's point of view on a social or political issue, often on social media, in order to garner praise or acknowledgment of one’s righteousness from others who share that point of view, or to passively rebuke those who do not:The virtue signaling of solidarity with the victims can be a comforting affirmation of community.Their outraged virtue signaling comes across as contrived.

Why do people say things like this and other soundbites

On the theory of virtue signaling, they say this to try to fit in with their crowd. To try to show that they are true believers. To be part of a . . cult?

While there's maybe a time and a place for that, it's surely worth asking if this move is helpful in any way. 

Surely it isn't. 

And it isn't because it does nothing to engage any arguments or concerns of people who oppose abortion. All it says is "You oppose abortion! Boo to that!" which is not productive in any way. 

What would be productive, for pro-choice people and organizations?

One suggestion - beyond voting and engaging in relevant lawsuits - is to see all the types of things that anti-abortion people and organizations do, in terms of trainings and "educational" activities and think tanks, and matching those activities. 

Pro-choice people being more informed on the issues, and so better able to engage other people on these issues by not relying on unpersuasive slogans based on bad arguments, would be very good, indeed a true virtue. Given the urgency of these issues, that's what's needed, not virtue signaling. 

P.S. People who think abortion is wrong and should be illegal get called called "forced birthers," but sometimes people who observe that some reasons given to think abortion is not wrong and should be legal are bad arguments that will convince nobody also get called "force birthers." Anyone critical about any arguments in favor of abortion can get called this, even if they think abortions are generally not wrong, should be legal and even write books arguing that! (How do I know this??)

P.P.S. Sometimes observations of virtue signaling are themselves virtue signaling. Is that relevant to this post? If so, how? How is the group who shares the view expressed here best described?

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