THE AMY BIEHL VIOLATION
Logic teachers like to give arresting names to common reasoning errors, such as the "Monte Carlo Fallacy" or the "Concorde Fallacy". But some corruptions of reason are so evil that the name ‘fallacy’ is wholly inadequate. Such an error is the one here labelled the "Amy Biehl Violation".
Readers who don’t recall her name should still remember Amy’s story. She was the idealistic young white woman from California who went to South Africa some years back to help the black people in their opposition to apartheid. Some black extremists ran across her one night; seeing in her nothing but just another hated white, they killed her.
It did not matter to Amy’s killers whether she, personally, had done any wrong. They did not see her as an individual at all, but only as a representative of an entire category of people. Instead, their perception of her was something like this: You have the same skin color as persons who have done evil; therefore, you are evil.
Not only is the Amy Biehl Violation a terribly twisted way of thinking; it is at the very core of racism and other forms of bigotry. From Northern Ireland to the Balkans to the Middle East and on around the world, people for centuries have thought this way: having some feature in common with certain other individuals is enough grounds to condemn (or to honor) any given person.
"But this is modern Canada", you may say. "We would never be guilty of such barbaric ideas." Think again. The Amy Biehl Violation is committed here on a massive scale.
The "end violence against women" campaign
Large numbers of examples could be listed. But the most outrageous application of this kind of thinking here today involves the problem of violence in society. Month in and month out, reaching a crescendo on the anniversary of the killing of 14 women by twisted sociopath Marc Lepine, Canadians are bombarded with appeals that they oppose "violence against women".
Why only violence against women?—Isn’t physical assault on anyone a terrible wrong? Does not violence against men matter enough to mention? What reasons have those who promote this campaign for excluding half the human race from their feelings of concern? Those who do so, when they are (on rare occasion) challenged, offer various rationales:
"There is much more violence against women". Some people are so misinformed as to actually believe this. But it is demonstrably false. Every single source of statistical information on the subject, from police records to public survey questionnaires, reveals that men are considerably more often the victims of serious violence in our society. Most who wage the "violence against women" awareness campaign do not claim there are greater amounts of such violence, however. They offer other grounds for ignoring all male victims, such as:
"There has been less concern for female victims of violence in this society; we are merely expressing the compassion which has been absent in the past." It requires very distorted thinking to believe this. Some even go so far as to claim there is widespread hostility toward women in our culture; in their eyes, Marc Lepine was merely acting out what large numbers of others feel and teach. Though it is hard to imagine how any presentation of actual facts could reach such people, here too the truth is the exact opposite. There has long been more concern, in this society at large—by both sexes—for women’s pain and suffering than for that of men. But again, many who support the "violence against women" campaign know better than to make this grotesque claim. They give other arguments, such as:
"Women are more vulnerable to assault than men." This is certainly true, and it often requires that greater effort be taken for women in order to afford them equal protection. But that is a very different thing from showing less concern, or no concern at all, for the lives of men. Moreover, the most serious violence involves weapons, to which the typical man and the typical woman are equally vulnerable. Those who, for example, make gun control a "violence against women" issue know perfectly well that a bullet is as deadly to a man as to a woman. (And in fact, men are killed by guns much more often.) So this argument also cannot explain why so many are willing to ignore violence against men. Most of them turn eventually to the following reason:
"But the great bulk of the violence in society is committed by men." Here it is: the Amy Biehl Violation. Male victims of violence do not deserve as much sympathy as female victims—no sympathy at all, in the standard campaign propaganda—because the people committing the violence are usually also men. "Whether you are personally innocent or not is unimportant. If you have some feature in common with your assailant, you share the blame for your own victimisation and therefore merit no compassion."
Hypocrisy over the Violation
To repeat: this kind of reasoning is responsible for vast amounts of hate and injustice in the world. Indeed, ironically, it is responsible for much of the violence in the world. Someone who has been victimised by a member of a certain ethnic category sees it as merely righting the scales of justice to harm in turn, not the individual who committed the wrong, but some other person of the same ethnicity. The cycle runs on endlessly; it must be stopped.
Now for the most evil thing about this gross evil. It is bad enough that humanity, with its primitive tribalistic mentality, has so long been afflicted by such thinking. What is downright damnable is this: in modern-day Canada, the Amy Biehl Violation is widely recognised as bigotry—but that recognition is totally selective. Indeed, many are hypersensitive to this kind of prejudice; but they notice it only if it is directed toward certain "designated groups".
A high percentage of rapists, it turns out, were abused when they were little—especially sexually abused—by women. This fact seemingly reveals Amy Biehl-type thinking in their conscious or unconscious minds. Yet no one else on this basis sees their actions as less evil, or their female victims as less worthy of compassion.
A few years ago, City Councillor Rose Rosenberger raised the wrath of many people, and especially of the Edmonton Journal, by suggesting that the local Vietnamese community should do more about crimes by Vietnamese gangs. Now, in this she may or may not have been motivated by bigotry. She may merely have felt that any small, close-knit community with a common subculture can exert more influence than outsiders can over antisocial behavior by members of that community, and therefore that community should attempt to do so. (Notice well that no such claim would apply to the two "groups" men and women. People in the life of a violent man may be able to influence his behavior, but the average man has no more ability to do so than the average woman has.)
Whatever motive or mix of motives Ms. Rosenberger may actually have had, she was immediately accused of expressing a "you people are all alike" mentality, or else for blaming all Vietnamese over what a few of them were doing. And certainly, clear cases of the Amy Biehl Violation are standardly deplored. Consider what would happen, these days, if someone were to mount a campaign to oppose "violence against whites". Say, one taking a native killer/rapist of white women, maybe Peter Brighteyes, as its icon.
You know perfectly well what such publicity would be seen as saying about victims and victimisers. "This sends the plain message that non-white victims are not worth mentioning", it would be cried immediately. "And it employs guilt by association, genetically linking all non-whites with a small minority of violent ones." Likewise, you know perfectly well how arguments in support of an "oppose violence against whites" campaign would be regarded. Excuses such as "But there is more violence by people of color against white people than by whites against non-whites" (which, as it happens, is true) would be recognised as what they are: pretexts for hate.
But it was not always thus. Within living memory, general public attitudes have supported exactly this kind of vicious racism. And morality is so fragile. To tolerate any manifestation of bigotry among us, no matter how "politically correct" it may be to feel unconcern toward its targets, is to risk losing the hard-won level of moral advancement we have gained.
It is a deep irony, and a grotesque perversion, that the main people committing the Amy Biehl Violation today are not the ignorant and the reactionary; they are self-described progressives who claim, in the very act of promoting bigotry, to be advocating compassion and equality. Indeed, the reason it has been seen necessary here to name the form of bigotry after a female victim is that some people recognise injustice only when someone of their "own kind", or someone in a "designated group", is on the receiving end. Many of them still will not get it.
MERGE Ideas Series #11 Movement to Establish Real Gender Equality Phone: 488-4593 Fax: 482-6648