"Abortion Rights Under Threat From SCOTUS"

Maybe if there were a stronger basis for the idea that abortion was (or could be) a "right" than SCOTUS rulings, you wouldn't be in this position. What only SCOTUS gives, SCOTUS can take away.

The March for Life this weekend appears to have produced some very significant fireworks. It's been interesting to see the mob turn on minors, and then -- when all the positive claims fell apart -- decide that it was sufficient that the kids were at the March for Life. Or wearing MAGA hats. Whatever: dox them! beat them! (Or chop them up.)

In a way this was the second running of the Kavanaugh fiasco, where felt empathy for the alleged victims completely overwhelmed any interest in the question of the actual guilt or innocence of the accused. Not shockingly, it's really over the very same issue at its foundation.

But there's also a general point to be made about the perils of empathy. Empathy is linked to unreasoning aggression against those who stand accused of harming the empathetic victims -- or even, as the study found, those who are just bystanders to the empathetic victim's alleged suffering.
There is a history of this sort of thing. Lynchings in the American South were often sparked by stories of white women who were assaulted by blacks, and anti-Semitic attacks prior to the Holocaust were often motivated by tales of Jews preying on innocent German children. Who isn’t enraged by someone who hurts a child?

Similar sentiments are used to start wars.
I keep hearing people say that America needs more empathy, but I think we really need a lot less of it. Stop feeling, start thinking.


E Hines said...

A couple of asides:

...the second running of the Kavanaugh fiasco, where felt empathy for the alleged victims completely overwhelmed....

I'm not aware of any empathy, felt or otherwise, for the alleged victims in that fiasco. There was a lot of posturing for personal political gain, especially (but not exclusively) on the Left, but nothing else.

Empathy is linked to unreasoning aggression against those who stand accused of harming the empathetic victims....

Mostly by those who cynically abuse the term for their personal benefit. Empathy is nothing more the ability to understand the other person's perspective and motive, regardless of whether the empathetic one agrees with that perspective or motive.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

I disagree with your reading of the Kavanaugh episode significantly. I think a lot of the women who showed up to scream in rage at Congress were motivated by empathy for Dr. Ford. I think they either had experiences similar to the ones she was alleging, or knew women who had, and the thought that these things had happened to her and were being set aside by the Senate was made outraging by that very empathy.

That's how empathy works, as the linked article specifies. That's how you get to people feeling self-righteous about destroying a good man's life in spite of the clear evidence that he was not guilty of the charges. It wasn't even a lack of evidence, the evidence was clearly on his side. But they were passionately certain that he had to be destroyed.

That's what empathy gets you (as the article's study shows, and as it subsequently argues). You're so furious about what was done to this alleged victim, for whose suffering you feel so strongly, your own impulse to retributive aggression can become irrational.

E Hines said...

I disagree strongly with your strong disagreement with me. [g] I've seen no evidence that those who showed up to scream in rage or otherwise act out their rage were motivated by empathy rather than loudly virtue signalling. Of course I have no evidence that they were only virtue signalling, but that's far more consistent with the Circus atmosphere the Progressive-Democrats on the Committee so carefully constructed--they were drawn in by like kinds.

Any real rage is a follow-on to empathetic understanding, it's not a part of empathy.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

They're conceptually severable, certainly. That doesn't mean they don't correlate -- which is proven -- and it doesn't mean the one doesn't cause the other. I can conceptually sever the pleasure of drinking excessive amounts of beer from the hangover afterwards; but the one reliably correlates with the other, and in fact the same underlying process produces both.

My sense is that empathy is quite dangerous, and ought to be indulged sparingly. In matters where we are likely to take vengeance for an affront, we can't really afford empathy. Empathy for the alleged criminal is obviously problematic for justice, but so too empathy for the alleged victim. Justice is really about getting the facts and thinking through the relevant principles. The application of mercy, following a determination of a just vengeance, is practically a harder question sometimes if harm is to be avoided by it; but it's one I take theologically seriously.

E Hines said...

Empathy is especially important in deciding whether we should be affronted--which is always a choice, not a ganglion-generated reflex. My grandmother, coming of age at the turn of the last century spoke of darkies. Empathy lets one discriminate ignorance from bigotry, and that discrimination lets us decide whether to be insulted or not.

Taking vengeance for an affront also is a conscious decision, not a ganglionic reflex, even if acculturation may make the reaction (as opposed to the reflex) powerful.

We are, after all, rational beings with strong emotions, we are not emotional beings with a smattering of reason. Our lizard brains do not dominate unless we choose to allow it, or we have suffered some damage.

Eric Hines

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I had not thought of the danger of empathy that way. When we employ empathy only in the service of one group, it is dangerous, as your examples of lynching and attacking Jews shows. People can get worked up and not show any general empathy for others, which would include the ones we are now attacking. Compassion might be safer, as it does not necessarily involve feeling the feelings of the victims.

As to the rage at the Kavanaugh hearings, I think you are right about at least some of the protestors. They were feeling the pain of the purported victim so strongly that they were blinded to reason. Others were more calculated and only look to power. The latter use the former as cannon fodder.

It is related to the idea that the police and the justice system are there to protect the accused. Without that, the mob would just tear them apart.

Texan99 said...

Empathy is that sense is just tribal rage. You hurt one of our guys. He's our guy, right or wrong, so we have to take his side in the fight. It's one of the hardest things for a sophisticated justice system to combat, the reason we demand impartial judges and juries and try to impose a universal law.

That kind of empathy is supposed to be unthinking, an instinctive and unquestioning loyalty. It doesn't even imply any real commitment to the wellbeing of the injured party, only a need to close ranks against the outsider.

douglas said...

"We are, after all, rational beings with strong emotions, we are not emotional beings with a smattering of reason."

Mr. Hines, I'm not at all confident that is an absolute fact, and not more individual in determination.

Texan99 said...

I'm with Douglas. The former group is surely a minority?