Monday, February 24, 2014

Passionately Missing the Point

Adam Baldwin is not stupid. He fully understood what he was doing when he recently ignited a firestorm, by linking to an article quoting Republican Matt Bevin on same-sex marriage. Mr. Bevin suggested that by changing the definition of marriage to allow for same-sex marriage, that they weakened its meaning. He went on to state that without a clear intent, that they were opening it up to the eventual possibility that a father could marry his son for tax purposes. In the surrounding discussion, Mr. Baldwin was called homophobic and accused of equating gay marriage with incest. This was exactly what he wanted.

Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Bevin were talking about tax and inheritance benefits. They choose an inflammatory example to control the argument, and to allow their opponents and supporters to make the association between same-sex marriage and incest for themselves. It also allowed them to make their underlying point against same-sex marriage without anyone challenging it.

The argument against their argument is quite simple:

Society has always chosen to recognize couples as a special form of relationship. Same-sex marriage is extending the benefits, which were previously only extended to a relationship between a man and a woman, to all couples.

To extend the benefit beyond couples would be a much more significant change, which nobody is proposing at this time. Should somebody propose it, it would no longer be an issue of equality, and would need to be debated on its own merit.

But nobody was making this argument. They weren't pointing out that he had used a purposely inflammatory example. Instead, his opponents were all attacking him for his perceived homophobia, and his supporters were rightfully able to point out he had never made any direct connection between same-sex marriage and incest; that his opponents had made that connection for him.

His supporters also pointed out that nobody was challenging his actual argument. Opponents had resorted to attacking him without addressing any of the reason in his underlying argument. They stated that liberals were so intent on attacking Baldwin that they missed his point entirely.  They were right.

Adam Baldwin isn’t stupid. He spoke directly to his supporters, made points that went unchallenged, and made his opponents look foolish in the eyes of his supporters. In short, his opponents were so busy calling him a homophobe, they didn’t even notice that he won.


  1. Actually, several people have challenged his point but he evaded the issue. That is to say, if a father and son could utilize same sex marriage for tax benefit purposes, why aren't mother/son & father/daughter couples doing it under current state and federal law?

  2. Because his point wasn't that people would be more likely to attempt it as two men. If you read carefully, it's not about how a father and son could marry each other once same-sex marriage is allowed, it's that by changing the definition of marriage once, it would be open it to further changes.

    He uses a father-son example as a situation where the legal benefits of marriage would be beneficial. His point is that if you reduce the concept of marriage to one of legal benefit, it would need to be expanded beyond couples. But allowing same-sex marriage isn't reducing marriage to the concept of a legal benefit, it's allowing for equality within the existing definition.

    His choice of example was purposely inflammatory. He wanted people to make the inference; to debate it on those terms. It wasn't a mistake though, as it caused most people to focus on his example instead of the underlying argument it supported.

    1. His pertinent initial tweets stated, and I quote:
      "What's wrong, now, with a father marrying his son for love & to avoid tax penalties?"
      "Why would #SSM advocates H8 the idea of fathers & sons using marriage exemptions to avoid governmental tax confiscations?"

      Where exactly in those tweets did he discuss changing the institution of marriage exactly? His literal text discussed blood relation family members utilizing SSM as a loophole to the inheritance tax - an example, by the way, that falls apart since heterosexually paired parents/children don't use this "loophole" now.

    2. It was clearly based on the article he linked to. The article laid out the full argument more clearly than the tweets did. The underlying point was that by weakening the definition of marriage, any two people who wanted the benefits, in this case the tax benefits, would be able to get it.

      As discussed in the post above, I don't believe this is a reasonable conclusion as expanding the definition from certain couples to all couples is a reasonable stopping point.

      As for why they choose that specific example, it's entirely because they wanted people attacking them instead of the underlying point for the reasons stated above.

  3. He used the hashtag #PolymorphicPerversity....which was Baldwin talking about with that tag? The death benefits or the inheritance?

    1. I'd have to see which tweet you were referring to. The only time I saw him use it was when going after someone who claimed he was equating same-sex marriage with incest.

    2. I'll help you out, since I know how difficult it is to do a hashtag search on Twitter:

      That's the tweet that basically started it all, linking to an article to KY Senate candidate Matt Bevin arguing the same thing Baldwin would then spell out in his follow up tweet. ("THIS!")

      So again, what did the "liberals" misunderstand when THEY supposedly brought sex into it?

    3. Simple. He was using language to imply multiple points. In this case, #PolymorphicPerversity referred to the potential perversion of the definition of marriage (to move beyond couples), as well as possibly implying it about same-sex marriage.

      But since you can't prove his intent, it's better to disprove the underlying point and call him out for inflammatory language than to attack him for a point that isn't possible to prove. If you can't prove he was being homophobic, there's no value to shifting the conversation there, for all the reasons stated above.

      Especially since in this case, it seems more likely that he was choosing inflammatory language to control the discussion, as he's done that before. He's good at it. If in the eyes of his supporters, he's debating policy while you're resorting to ad hominem attacks, he's winning.

  4. That's honestly a strange way to try to have a conversation. I don't understand why anyone would want to try to do that.

    1. It's political theatre. He appeals to his supporters and angers his opposition. From his perspective, and from the perspective of his supporters, that's a win.