i dream of being possible

the competing rights derail

This derail is actually a variation of one I”ve discussed in the past, the callout derail. Both of which are types of relevance fallacies (in case anyone cares to refer to the ‘formal” logics on this).

I”ve previously discussed the callout derail as working thusly:

Person A calls out Person B on an axis they do not share. In response, person B calls out Person A on a different axis they do not share. In so doing, the focus is taken off of the initial callout.

Important to note: both callouts are valid, its just that one is irrelevant to the actual situation.

An example of this happened last week on my very own blog. I mention the anti-Blackness of a non-Black person, and someone defends them by asserting that I”m lesbophobic. Both statements are true. Just… one is irrelevant to the actual discussion.

The ‘competing rights” derail is actually older? And more commonly used outside of teh Discourse. This is actually a favourite tactic used by many conservatives and reactionaries.

Contemporary examples:

  • Trans women asserting we have a right to equal access to public accommodations. Conservatives responding that allowing such access is a violation of cis peope”s right to privacy.
  • Any given oppressed person saying we have a right to safety and protection from discrimination. Reactionaries responding by saying they have a right to free speech.
  • Gays saying they have a right to get married (equality under the law). Conservatives saying they have a right to practise their religion.

Note. I”m not saying that there are never genuine conflicts between competing rights. There are. And striking a balance between them can be difficult. However, cases of genuine conflicts of rights are actually relatively rare.

But the point of these counter-claims is derailment. Because conservatives and reactionaries aren”t working within a liberal framework. This seems like an obvious point, but it does need to be remarked on. What this means, is that because of the general framework for conservative politics and ethics, they don”t actually believe that there are competing rights. It”s only within a liberal framework is one actually required to consider that some rights compete and sometimes a balance must be worked out (or, worse yet, sometimes no balance can be had).

Conservatives don”t actually care, at all, about balancing rights. And while their assertions are broadly true (ie, they do have the right to privacy, religion, and free speech) they are largely irrelevant to the actual issue at hand.

(It also relies on the misbelief that all rights are of equal weight. When they really, really aren”t. And are not treated this way under most legal frameworks. Some rights are actually more fundamental than others. Moreover, in cases where the rights are of equal weight, the courts tend to look at the context of the situation. Kim Davis can”t assert her freedom of religion because she is a public official. However, a priest shouldn”t be forced to officiate gay marriages bc of freedom of religion. See? Context matters and can usually resolve ‘conflicts” between rights.)

In any case, I just wanted to log this derail so that ppl understand that while these assertions are true, they are also irrelevant and intended to derail.