Playing the Devil's Advocate

120 posts / 0 new
Last post
Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
Mar 29 2014 19:12
Playing the Devil's Advocate

I wanted to answer Croy's post, without further derailing the thread on confronting sexual violence in the left.

Croy
I don't feel that you've got my point on playing the devil's advocate in a discussion about rape.

Quote:
If the problem with my response is it is triggering it's no less triggering than any one else's comments, or the article itself. To my knowledge people post trigger warnings on stuff that discusses the topic in any sense, be it supportive or playing devils advocate.

The point is that of course any discussion about rape is going to be triggering but it should be carried out in a way which is as sensitive as possible. Putting a trigger warning at the top of a discussion does not exempt posters from this. Playing the devil's advocate is a debate technique in which someone argues a position, which they do not necessarily agree, for the sake of debate. If in doubt, the OED definition

Quote:
A person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments:

Why would you feel this was a necessary thing to do in a discussion about rape, in which rape survivors were taking part? It's all very well to do this in a conversation which is not emotionally bruising to the participants but to argue a hostile position with people who are potentially triggered by the subject is what can be seen as insensitive. This isn't a high school debate club, when the objective is to win an argument but a discussion on how to support survivors and prevent sexual assault (two things which are not separate but work symbiotically imo), as well as that, a conversation in whichactual survivors are taking part. So a little sensitivity towards these survivors and less emphasis on the hypothetical small number of men who might be subject to false allegation- bearing in mind that it's already been agreed that being falsely accused is an awful thing to happen. And also bearing in mind that the number of survivors is far, far higher that the number of false accusations anyway.
Playing the devil's advocate is a shit discussion technique to start off with, often used to stir up an argument. If it's not a position you agree with, why argue from it? The devil, metaphorically speaking, is perfectly capable of speaking up from himself.

Quote:
fleurnoire-et-rouge wrote:
Quote:
C I can't apolagise for everything shit that happened ever because I wouldn't have time to live otherwise.
No-one's asking you to.

I think you'll find EmC is

Quote:
A lot of people here seem horrified by the idea of violence against an innocent man but the most awful stories of rape against children which have been told on this thread don't even merit an "I'm sorry that happened" from the same posters

Nope. There's nothing in EmC's post which is asking you to "apologize for everything shit that happened ever." She is making a very salient point that more empathy has been expressed for an innocent man - and rightfully expressed - than for rape survivors. There's nothing in that which is trying to coercively extract an apology from you for something that you did not do. When you said that you didn't say that you were sorry because "why wouldn't I be?" is very dismissive and comes from the position that it is assumed that everyone feels empathy for survivors, where in fact it is the lived experience of survivors that this is not the case. It really doesn't hurt, in the great scheme of things, to express empathy. The lack of expressed empathy feels almost as bad as the expressed hostility and it's another one of those things which keeps survivors from speaking up.

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Mar 29 2014 20:43

Spot on. Great post.

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Mar 29 2014 21:27

I could come back to this but it's not even really useful or worth it. This has run it's course.

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Mar 29 2014 21:41

The reason behind my devils advocacy and general persistence comes from a place where I see a lot of unquestioning orthodoxy in anarchism at the moment. It's not that I am un sensitive, more that I am asking questions people are afraid to ask because they are worried to do is is to instantly be accused of misogyny (which is accurate a lot of the time). You're right, it's a very sensitive and triggering subject, but I don't think this should be used as a justification for not harboring discussion and debate. I think a lot of people, especially men, would feel the same un ease with the unquestioning acceptance of certain positions like they are beyond challenging but afraid to say it because everyone would think they are doing so because they are sexist, rather than they just want to understand better.

And now a bunch of people are going to down vote this and call all of the above basically 'BUT TEH MENZ' etc.

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Mar 29 2014 21:45

If anything, rape culture is the unquestioned orthodoxy in anarchism.

EmC
Offline
Joined: 21-03-14
Mar 30 2014 00:34

When you play devils advocate, that is arguing against someone for the sake of it, it come across as hostile and as if you are trying *not* to understand their position. It is possible to ask difficult questions in a sensitive way. Eg "I know there are extremely low rates of false accusations, but I still am worried that if we automatically believe the survivor we would run the risk of committing injustices against innocent people. Can you please help me understand better?"

Also tbh I'm just not sympathetic with the argument that men aren't asking questions because they're intimidated. Two reasons:
1. How ever uncomfortable men may feel in the discussion, they are still feeling way less uncomfortable than any survivor reading or commenting on the thread.
2. The entire discussion (and pretty much every other discussion on this topic) was dominated by questions about false accusations. We rarely get a chance to discuss anything else.

EmC
Offline
Joined: 21-03-14
Mar 30 2014 01:23

Also... I think you might have interpreted my comments about a lack of empathy for survivors as being aimed at you personally. They weren't. It was more a general observation. I wrote it after having written quite a few posts on the "Politics of Denunciation" thread (which is currently taken down) trying to get people to see things from the survivors POV. I realised after a while I had hit a brick wall. Frankly I felt kind of icky about it. Like almost begging people to have some empathy and getting a totally blank response. I'm finding it hard to express this... But it feels almost like a display of power or something.

boozemonarchy's picture
boozemonarchy
Offline
Joined: 28-12-06
Mar 30 2014 01:56
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
It's not that I am un sensitive, more that I am asking questions people are afraid to ask because they are worried to do is is to instantly be accused of misogyny (which is accurate a lot of the time).

. . .

And now a bunch of people are going to down vote this and call all of the above basically 'BUT TEH MENZ' etc.

This is the same kind of hyperbole that endeared everyone to the beloved Mike S.

Also, complaining about a bunch of contrived reactions and then framing these imagined arguments as internetz cat speak trifle. Solid.

Tyrion's picture
Tyrion
Offline
Joined: 12-04-13
Mar 30 2014 03:27

Great, post, Fleur. This is one of those subjects that doesn't really very likely to yield anything interesting by playing devil's advocate, probably not any more so than a discussion in which one presented pro-fascist arguments for the sake of playing devil's advocate (not saying you're a fascist, croy! Just that I'm doubtful as to how constructive playing a contrarian role in this case is).

kingzog
Offline
Joined: 28-10-09
Mar 30 2014 04:52
Quote:
This isn't a high school debate club, when the objective is to win an argument but a discussion on how to support survivors and prevent sexual assault

I think this is really key. We don't even need the other purpose of the DA: "test the quality of the original argument and identify weaknesses". this place, and that thread, are/were just not the appropriate place for it considering the subject matter. Its too bad (a tragic yet all too familiar event really) that a discussion which should have been about how to support survivors turned into a debate about false accusations , etc.

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Mar 30 2014 10:18

When people are openly suggesting beating the shit out of some one based on some one else's word alone we need some questions.

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Mar 30 2014 10:57

Thing is, I've seen serious retribution happen exactly once. In my whole life. And I actually thought it was fair enough under the circumstances. Whereas the victim has to repeatedly move house, move city, is ostracised, blanked, excluded, blamed, threatened, stalked, beaten up again, persecuted, has threats made on the phone to her five year old kid,, is just generally treated like shit in various ways...... well, I've seen that fucking hundreds of times.

And no, I'm not advocating that anyone should beat the shit out of someone just on my or anyone's say so. I am saying that I don't think, based on a lifetime's experience, that too much retribution on the abusers is the biggest problem operating here. I'm not saying that's a non-issue or that nothing could go wrong or that I don't care anyway if it does. I'm saying that I see the hundreds of victims getting treated like shit, and the attackers getting away with it, on a massive scale, and I think it's worrying that the default response is nearly always to worry about if men were wrongly accused or that the case is "messy".

bounce's picture
bounce
Offline
Joined: 29-10-12
Mar 30 2014 11:36

Weird how no one plays devil's advocate when people suggest beating up fascists. I'm not suggesting people beat up rapists but rape isn't something that someone accidentally does, it is a violent assault, usually committed on someone with less social power than the rapist.

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
Mar 30 2014 14:55
Quote:
When people are openly suggesting beating the shit out of some one based on some one else's word alone we need some questions.

Where exactly are you getting this? Looking back at the thread I found 2 posters on the first page who said that such things happen, but didn't endorse it.
A Wotsit said that he felt that he wanted to beat the man who repeatedly raped his friend but didn't, and then went on to say -

Quote:
I don't think an anarchist organisation should condone or participate in violence against perpetrators.

EmC expressed a violent wish against the man who raped her - which is an entirely reasonable thing to do, if you ask me but then went on to say -

Quote:
To be clear, I'm saying that an anarchist organisation should NOT be involved in any attacks on a perpetrator

No-one here is suggesting that "beating the shit out of someone based on someone else's word alone." That's entirely your extrapolation and it's something plucked from the realms of fantasy, given that right now survivors are often not believed, rarely supported and it seems a bit of a tall order to expect that abusers are even excluded from our spaces. (Do a little research about what happened at the London Anarchist Bookfair.) To go from this to organized punishment beatings, nah, doesn't look very likely. Nor would that be very desirable.
And way to go anyway. In a discussion about how to support rape survivors, let's endlessly dwell on hypothetical scenarios about what may ( but is unlikely) happen to the perpetrator. Let's just carry on re-inforcing the idea that the survivor is the party of lesser importance.

And

Quote:
some one else's word alone

Because the word of the survivor isn't enough. Tell me about it, it never fucking is.

commieprincess's picture
commieprincess
Offline
Joined: 26-08-07
Mar 30 2014 15:42

Fleur, such a cracking post as always.

EmC and bounce, mad props and solidarity.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Mar 30 2014 17:02
bounce wrote:
Weird how no one plays devil's advocate when people suggest beating up fascists. I'm not suggesting people beat up rapists but rape isn't something that someone accidentally does, it is a violent assault, usually committed on someone with less social power than the rapist.

this is exactly right. People never seem to get too worried about the possibility of "false accusations" against possible fascists. And from personal experience I don't know of any people who've been beaten up after being falsely (or even genuinely) accused of a rape, but I do know of people who have been accidentally attacked by anti-fascists.

See also: scabs. In the discussions we have had about picketline violence, no one has ever express concern that a non-scab might accidentally be beaten up. This only crops up in discussions about sexual violence by men against women. And I think people should have a good think about that.

On top of that, as Fleur pointed out, it wasn't even something which the article or any posters were actually saying should happen. Everyone specifically said that anarchist organisations should not do that. But I can totally understand how some survivors could want, and would be totally justified in wanting, violent retribution. Similarly a lot of males who have been attacked by male bullies, for example, may also be justified in wanting violent retribution also. However, even though this sort of thing is very common, it doesn't seem to attract the same sort of fear has the former. Again, I would urge some people to think about why that is…

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Mar 30 2014 18:22

People are just repeating the same arguments. I've never felt that comfortable with anti fash violence when it's not provoked or defensive, I don't think it's helpful, I think it's more risky than it's worth, and I think it plays into fostering a macho culture with anti fascism which is a lot of the reason why I haven't gotten to involved in it (as well as all our opposition to it seems to amount to is static shouting matches in our own groups engaging with no one and literally walking into kettles).

About revenge violence, it is most definitely implied by logic. If you believe some one by default (which is what people are suggesting), and at the same time are basing your actions around what the survivors want, then if a survivor wanted some one to beat the shit out of the accused rapist then people would do so without question. That's literally a perfectly logical conclusion borne of those 2 practices being held simultaneously. I am deeply uncomfortable because it seems really irrational. People have said I am being un necessarily contrary, I would say the same thing about certain principles of the already existing justice system. I asked the questions for those reasons. I don't think we are going to get very far if we are content with letting revenge beatings (how often they happen is irrelevant, the fact it is possible that it could happen is more my point) go just because it's supposedly less amoral if the person getting beat up is a shitter person.

I'm pretty much done now.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Mar 30 2014 18:36
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
About revenge violence, it is most definitely implied by logic. If you believe some one by default (which is what people are suggesting), and at the same time are basing your actions around what the survivors want, then if a survivor wanted some one to beat the shit out of the accused rapist then people would do so without question. That's literally a perfectly logical conclusion borne of those 2 practices being held simultaneously.

no it's not: this is a strawman. Where do you suppose this legion of violent anarchists is, who goes around beating the shit out of people "without question"? And as has been pointed out several times, no one has advocated anarchist organisations do this - quite the contrary in fact.

Quote:
I don't think we are going to get very far if we are content with letting revenge beatings (how often they happen is irrelevant, the fact it is possible that it could happen is more my point)

TBH I think this is relevant. Unless we're talking about the real world, what's the point? If we are talking about the real world, which is what I'm interested in, then you can see how many women are subjected to sexual or domestic violence or harassment in the activist scene (a whole bunch) and aren't properly supported if/when they complain about it (again, a whole bunch), and how many falsely accused men have been subjected to punishment beatings (I have heard about a maximum of one single possible case in the US, but don't really know much about the details).

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Mar 30 2014 18:42

It's not a strawman. Woman A comes to members of organisation X and says "I have been raped by Y member of organisation X". People are suggesting that said members of organisation X should believe her without question because statistically most accusations of rape are true. What's being suggested, instead of innocent till proven, is, as well as this default belief, victim support based our the victims wishes. Therefore if the victim so wished that members of organisation X should go and beat the shit out of the other member of organisation X she is accusing, why would they not do it. Firstly, she has definitely been raped in their eyes because they believe her by default rather than not. Secondly, the support for said people should be based on what they want. What justification could they have for refusing?

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Mar 30 2014 18:59
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
It's not a strawman.

I'm afraid it is…

Quote:
Woman A comes to members of organisation X and says "I have been raped by Y member of organisation X". People are suggesting that said members of organisation X should believe her without question because statistically most accusations of rape are true. What's being suggested, instead of innocent till proven, is, as well as this default belief, victim support based our the victims wishes. Therefore if the victim so wished that members of organisation X should go and beat the shit out of the other member of organisation X she is accusing, why would they not do it.

Firstly, the article was talking about women who were themselves members of organisation X. And that being the case, the article, as well as the posters below it, suggested that such support from the organisation should extend to excluding Y from the organisation and/or or its spaces or events.

No one suggested that the organisation should physically attack them: this is a strawman.

Quote:
Firstly, she has definitely been raped in their eyes because they believe her by default rather than not. Secondly, the support for said people should be based on what they want. What justification could they have for refusing?

this is getting a bit silly. The point of that article was saying that the concept of "innocent till proven guilty" should apply when someone's liberty is at stake. Excluding someone from a particular anarchist organisation or space is not depriving someone of their liberty. Physical attacks are different kettle of fish. Having a policy of supporting survivor-led doesn't mean that you have to offer yourself up to perform potentially-imprisonable acts.

For example, on libcom, our policy is for our actions to be survivor-led. Which means we take action against perpetrators guided by what the survivors have requested. Which can extend to warnings, post editings, banning, etc. It doesn't mean that we are going to go out and beat people up or murder people on demand.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 30 2014 19:02

Edit: crossed with Steven.

Except everyone's been saying that organisations should not go round doing punishment beatings? Like, categorically, explicitly, repeatedly, and quoted extensively above.

When feminists talk about rape culture, they're talking about a culture where the bodily integrity of a hypothetical man trumps that of any number of real women.

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
Mar 30 2014 19:19

Croy:
That is a completely paranoid fantasy scenario. And absolutely nothing like the real world. Where are you plucking this dystopian idea of unquestioning cohorts of men meting out punishment beatings on the orders of She Who Must Be Obeyed? Because nobody's advocating anything of the sort. And how do you extrapolate that by believing rape survivors the obvious consequence of that would be organized punishment beatings? Tell you what, when us vengeful feminazis actually take over the world and hold the menfolk in our thrall (mwahaha!) I will use my superhuman powers of mind control to prevent this.

Quote:
What justification could they have for refusing?

I don't know, maybe because the whole scenario is batshit.

What is a real world scenario though, is that women are subjected to violence at a massive scale. And what drives me batshit is that whenever the subject comes up, whether it is in the context of a political situation or not, what people bring up all the time is false allegations, false allegations, false allegations. And that women have to spend a disproportionate amount of time empathizing with the men on this. Even having to empathizing with hypothetical victims of false allegations which may or may not happen at some point or another, when we would rather be talking about actual, real instances of abuse and how to support, prevent in the real world.

And let me spell this one out, because people are tip-toeing around this one and because I am fed up of being polite and going out of my way to make sure I don't say anything to offend men whenever I talk about the subject of gendered violence; you know what it sounds like when people bang on endlessly about false allegations? That deep down there's something in it. That maybe women are making it all up after all.

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Mar 30 2014 19:21
Steven. wrote:
Firstly, the article was talking about women who were themselves members of organisation X.

So was I

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Mar 30 2014 19:33

No ones advocating the violence on an organisational level, but like I said earlier with my flags comment, there is no clear line between violence perpetrated by an organisation as an organisation (which is as vague as it sounds) and violence perpetrated by people on their own free will. Numerous people said, at the same time as not endorsing it as a party line as such, they would not blame people for doing it and turn a blind eye to it. Because the line is vague, you still have the possibility which bothers me.

It doesn't bother me because I don't care about survivors whose cases were genuine. It bothers me because it is an easily preventable thing by having a formal rule which specifies just how far people are meant to go with victim centered support and what they will and will not do for them, or even just a rule that says that if anything is controversial then there has got to be discussion about it. Yet it's let slide because no one wants to say "well beating up accused rapists is may well be less bad than other violence because they are rapists but it's still not desirable or effective, and the only other situation is one even worse where the rapist isn't actually a rapist". It's a lot easier to not address the possibility and let it slide.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 30 2014 19:53

There's already a lot of formal rules against beating people.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Mar 30 2014 19:59
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
No ones advocating the violence on an organisational level, but like I said earlier with my flags comment, there is no clear line between violence perpetrated by an organisation as an organisation (which is as vague as it sounds) and violence perpetrated by people on their own free will.

er, yes there is.

Individuals in organisations and their friends do things all the time, which are nothing to do with the organisation. Including things which may be violent, like get into fights. For example, if a member of Solfed was getting robbed and they defended themselves, possibly with friends, this isn't something the organisation should condemn. But I don't think it would be a good idea for the person to go to a Solfed meeting afterwards, and get a motion passed to seek out the robber and give them a punishment beating.

Quote:
It doesn't bother me because I don't care about survivors whose cases were genuine. It bothers me because it is an easily preventable thing by having a formal rule which specifies just how far people are meant to go with victim centered support and what they will and will not do for them

mate, the article which sparked this discussion contained the following policy suggestion, and this is what people were agreeing with:

Quote:
This means that we should have survivor-centred responses to sexual violence – where the needs and desires of survivors determine our response. We need to be open to excluding people responsible for sexual violence, at the discretion of the survivor, from our political spaces, organisations, and movements. And we need to be prepared to support survivors in engaging with the people who harmed them through accountability processes, if that is what they’d like to do. Most of all, though, we need to make it a political priority to actively support sexual violence survivors through all of the personal and political challenges that come in the aftermath of being assaulted.

this is what is meant by survivor-led support. Nothing in there about punishment beatings

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Mar 30 2014 20:07
Steven. wrote:
[the article which sparked this discussion [/URL] contained the following policy suggestion, and this is what people were agreeing with:

Quote:
This means that we should have survivor-centred responses to sexual violence – where the needs and desires of survivors determine our response. We need to be open to excluding people responsible for sexual violence, at the discretion of the survivor, from our political spaces, organisations, and movements. And we need to be prepared to support survivors in engaging with the people who harmed them through accountability processes, if that is what they’d like to do. Most of all, though, we need to make it a political priority to actively support sexual violence survivors through all of the personal and political challenges that come in the aftermath of being assaulted.

this is what is meant by survivor-led support. Nothing in there about punishment beatings

There is nothing in there but there's nothing there to exclude it. If it is the survivors desire why not, according to this article?

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Mar 30 2014 20:13

And why do we need to make it overly explicit that we shouldn't extend our support to beating people? Well because as numerous people have admitted, if it happened to one of their friends we would be strongly tempted to fuck whoever did it up VERY badly. Then you could say well, that's friends, we are dealing with political comrades, that's different. Well, if we are to adopt as a formal position to believe them by default, on top of generally giving a shit about fellow human beings, why should it?

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
Mar 30 2014 20:29

Do we actually have to have an explicit policy on everything anyone does, in their own time, out of their own free-will, outside of the remit of an organization? Or is it just this particular hypothetical scenario?

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
Mar 30 2014 20:30

On the physical retaliation thing, I don't think at present this is an actual problem. That said, organizations are not perfect things, and you can't wait around for a 'perfect' policy that imagines every possible scenario before implementing it. If its broken, then you change it. But what we're talking about is a hypothetical scenario of which I've never heard actually happen VS real scenarios that do and are happening.

In the other thread I mentioned that physical retaliation sometimes does happen in these situations. I don't think the way I threw that out there was helpful, so I'd clarify that where I do know of these situations where this happened the scenarios are very different from what we're talking about such as:

1) an activist scene with little policy on responding/preventing an occurrence of sexual violence, so the response of physical retaliation is an informal response in an informal organizational scheme. Very different from what we're talking about.

2) People acting on behalf (but without consulting) survivor(s) outside of any formal organizational mandate or process. This is not only different from what we're talking about, but the complete opposite of what the original article this thread was split from was advocating.

3) The accused perpetrator refusing to engage in beginning a formal accountability process, openly hostile to it and the survivor(s) or continuously violating what was agreed in said process. Basically the last resort after numerous efforts to make a constructive and formal process work have been exhausted. Again, different from what the article was advocating.

I very seriously doubt the hypothetical put forward: a survivor comes to a formal process and requests physical retaliation as the first response, and then the organization does it, has actually ever happened. Or if it has, is anything but a tiny minuscule percentage of the results of said processes. I think this isn't a realistic concern. And it pales in comparison to inaction from an organization and/or members of an organization actively enabling and defending perpetrators, of which there are countless accounts. This is where the playing 'devil's advocate' in this way is problematic, it muddies the waters and prevents action being taken on stuff that is actually a problem, based on a scenario which you would be hard-pressed to find a real world example of.

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Mar 30 2014 20:33

This organisational/personal distinction is a false dichotomy. Sure, some one wouldn't carry out the violence as a party line. They would do so with friends/members outside of the organisation. But the thing is they wouldn't even know it had happened if that member hadn't of come forward to the organisation looking for support, guidance and possible consequences. It's not like they heard about the accussation on the grape vine from some random woman, the woman, was a member of the organisation, came to the organisation about it wanting consequences specific to the organisation, which these members of the organisation, heard because they were in that same organisation. Does no one else seriously see how that makes the distinction very murky.