Thursday, February 19, 2015

"The Slippery Slope"

The "Slippery Slope" fallacy is: If we allow A to happen, then Z will eventually happen, too.  Therefore, A should not happen."

Throughout history, there have been various attempts by "do-gooders" to warn the general public against things that they insisted would lead to addiction, sexual deviance, crime, violence and the downfall of civilization as we know it.  And of course, it wasn't enough for these people to just warn us; in every instance, there were always "movements" to villainize, criminalize, boycott or ban a thing or an action.

The early 1800's saw the beginning of the temperance movement, warning that alcohol was a "slippery slope" to domestic abuse, child abandonment, moral degradation and crime.  It eventually led to Prohibition in 1920, and as we're all aware, the 18th Amendment only succeeded in creating MORE crime, due to simple supply and demand.  Regular, everyday people were unable to purchase alcoholic beverages legally, so organized crime stepped in to fill the need and profited from it.  Some states actually banned possession of alcohol, making the consumer a criminal and subject to arrest.  Even worse, a lot of the illegally produced alcohol was of poor quality.  Many stills used lead coils or lead soldering, which gave off acetate of lead - a dangerous poison.  Some bootleggers used recipes that included iodine, creosote or even embalming fluid.  Amazingly, Prohibition lasted 13 years before it was finally repealed, but contrary to the early temperance warnings, the country did not slip into chaos.

In the late 30's, "reefer madness" was the next "slippery slope," warning that the evil weed would lead children into narcotic use, sexual deviance and prostitution.  And just like Prohibition, the "War on Drugs" led to the imprisonment of otherwise innocent users for mere possession of small amounts of marijuana.  Between 2001 and 2010, there were 8.2 million arrests for possession.  This obsession with criminalizing marijuana cost American taxpayers $3.6 billion annually.  And fast-forwarding to the present, 23 states now have legalized either medical or recreational marijuana use/cultivation.  Civilization still intact.

Homophobic and anti-gay people have resisted same-sex couples and unions for decades.  Their bizarre "slippery slope" argument usually goes something like,"If we allow same-sex couples to marry, then the next thing we know we'll be allowing people to marry their parents, their cars, and even monkeys."   Again, they suggest - mostly through religious objections - that the very fabric of society will be torn asunder if we do not live our lives according to their rigid, conservative world view.  Anita Bryant organized "Save Our Children," a major campaign to oppose gay rights, suggesting that gay people were interested in "recruiting or molesting" children.  Again, fast forward to the present day, and we now have 37 states where gay marriage is legal.

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn.

The movement to villainize or ban adult media is another common "slippery slope" group that has flourished for decades.  When Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" was published back in 1934, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice wrote that the novel was,"…not a book.  It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity."  Copies of "Lady Chatterly's Lover" were regularly confiscated by the Post Office until a 1959 court decision, after which the book promptly sold 6 million copies.

President Reagan went after adult media in the 80's, telling Attorney General Ed Meese to focus on "gay sex, anal sex, and black-white couples."  Bush's DOJ Porno Task Force told the prosecutors to go after X-rated entertainment companies who produced videos and magazines.

Interesting that to this day, it is illegal to sell sex toys in Alabama.  But then, we also realize that Alabama ranks near the bottom of the list in quality of public education; surpassed only by Mississippi and (surprise!) the District of Columbia.

I don't have any current statistics on the adult "industry," but as of 2002, Comcast pulled in $50 million from adult programming, and all the nation's top cable operators - from Time-Warner to Cablevision - distributed explicit video to their subscribers.  Hilton, Marriot, Hyatt, Sheraton and Holiday Inn all offer adult programming in pay-per-view, and they are purchased by 50% of their guests, accounting for 70% of their in-room profits.  Adult DVD sales hit $3.6 billion in 2003.  Current estimates are at $10 billion.

The latest "slippery slope" paranoia seems to revolve around the book,"50 Shades of Grey," a story involving BDSM.  Within a year of its publication, libraries in a Florida country began removing it from their shelves, but that action was reversed due to public demand.

Opponents of the novel insist that it "glorifies" abuse and violence and that it will lead to misunderstanding by younger readers and abuse within relationships.

Novels and movies often cover the fringe, the bad and the ugly, but just because they cover it does not constitute condoning same.  That is where the critics of "50 Shades" go too far.  It is safe to say that author, E.L. James is not encouraging rape, since there is a "safe word" in the book.  Further, James's inclusion of Christian's behavior in the novel does not mean James supports this behavior.  She is merely telling a story.

We don't expect that crime thrillers be 100% faithful to the reality of detective work, or that romances heed the complex nature of real relationships, so WHY should an erotic novel be held to some higher standard??

It's just prejudicial and "slippery slop-ish" to suggest that this book has the power to increase violence against women.  100 million copies sold testifies to the fantasy of some women to be dominated.  Fantasy.  Are we to also boycott women's fantasies?  To tell them that these fantasies are "dangerous" and possibly responsible for domestic violence?

The bottom line to all this "slippery slope" mania is that none of the above activities or objects have led to the general degradation of society, but that will not stop people from trying to villainize objects or ideas.  It's just easier to hate something if you can pin some kind of blame on it, while the rest of society seems to move along just fine in spite of all the warnings and dog whistle blowing.

Do some people have a serious problem with substance abuse?  Yes.  Some people have a Crispy Creme doughnut abuse problem, too.  The rest of us seem capable of moderated consumption without any risk of tobogganing into alcoholism or obesity.

Look…if you don't like alcohol or cannabis, then don't consume them.  If you don't like same-sex couples, then stay hetero.  If you don't like adult sex-based media, then don't watch or read it.  But for crying out loud, stop suggesting that any of it is in-and-of-itself evil.  If you're a parent, then do your damned job and talk to your kids about whatever you're concerned about.  But also realize that eventually, they are going to want to know what all the fuss is about and make their own decisions about all the verboten.

The horse is dead.  Your club is bloody.  Put it down and walk away.  Goodness knows, before too long, there will be some new thing to worry about that will potentially plunge us all into chaos.

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