The border between defending and supporting
When reading blogs, I usually chose to comment only when I find problems in the text read. (But not on every occasion I find problems.) Typical triggers include logical errors, a lack of ad rem argumentation, unfair characterizations of others opinions, and similar. Even just undue one-sidedness can be enough, depending on the details and my own current energy level.
As a consequence, I often find myself countering texts attacking X, even when I have no strong feelings concerning X or am even negative towards X. Indeed, I often find myself responding in an issue where I cannot judge the underlying pros-and-cons, positions, whatnot, but can clearly see that the attack is faulty on grounds not intrinsically dependent on the issue. (By analogy, I do not need to be a physician to be suspicious of a sore throat treatment that consists of amputating the foot of the patient’s spouse.)
This comes with the considerable danger of incorrectly being considered the supporter of X, especially when dealing with people who have low standards of intellectual honesty and exactness, and who do not value a fair and free debate highly—if the end justifies the means, anyone opposing even the means must oppose the end…
A good example is the last Swedish elections and the conflicts around SD, where I repeatedly protested against misrepresentations of their opinions, attempts to prevent their participation in the election campaigns by egg throwing, and similar—without being one of their supporters. (Cf. several earlier discussions, most notably Unfair treatment of Sverigedemokraterna. Almost invariably, however, I was immediately accused not only of being a supporter, but often even taken to be active in the party.
Other occasions include my speaking up in defense of the Pope or the Catholic Church in the light of distortions of opinions or facts, e.g. claims that Benedikt XVI/Joseph Ratzinger had been a Nazi. However, I still consider religion to be misguided at best—dangerous and fraudulent at worst.
In much, it is not just a matter of having the right or wrong opinion, but of having the right opinion for a valid reason—a critical failure in many.
This leads me to the first of two purposes with this post:
The unambiguous statement that my objections to a particular text do not automatically imply that I “side” with the opposing position. Indeed, there are even cases where I am in support of the high-level, principle position of the text, even while rejecting the text (or parts of it) per se.
That I do side with the opposition in many cases (notably, where feminism, astrology, creationism, … are concerned) has a simple explanation: The proponents tend to have extremely weak arguments not just in the one text currently under discussion, but in any and all texts I have encountered. Meanwhile, the opposition fares far better, using sound and factual arguments, scientific investigations, models and explanations more compatible with Occam’s Razor, and so on.
Here we land at the second purpose:
A brief pointer to the risk of unconsciously accepting too much of the opposition or of not examining their arguments or behaviours with the same critical eye through an implicit believe that those opposing the bad guys are automatically the good guys. (Respectively, the same principle concerning those one considers the good guys or the own team.)
I am aware of this risk and hope that I counter it appropriately, but even so I occasionally see myself fault, e.g. in that my unconscious opinion of Ratzinger improved the more unfair attacks I saw—without any additional positive information having surfaced in the mean time. (A risk those who like to vilify their opponents might want to stop and consider.)
At least some others appear to commit it to a far higher degree. For instance, I have often noted that political parties, at least in the Sweden of my youth, tended to oppose each other even on questions where there were no obvious ideological or pragmatic reasons for a difference. This extended to Leftist politicians and supporters rejecting suggestions from the Center–Right parties in a manner that I at the time considered it acts of bad faith. While I do not rule out a partial bad-faith explanation, I see it as more likely that this was a case of a prejudice that anything the Center–Right said must have certain intentions, leading to a biased and flawed interpretation. (See, however, an alternate explanation of at least some aspects.) Similarly, I have the fear that many who (correctly) support evolution over creationism do this for the wrong reason, namely that it is the “right” opinion to have for a Democrat, seeing that so many Republicans believe in variations of creationism. This can lead to absurdities like an evolutionist turning round and suddenly defending feminism: Both are pieces of the orthodox Democrat faith, but with regards to science and reason they have very different levels of support. Indeed, much of what political and gender-feminists claim is near incompatible with evolution (and outright incompatible with biology in general) making it very hard for a rational and well-informed human to simultaneously support both. For another example, there are very many who believe that Obama (Bush Jr., Reagan, Hillary Clinton) can do no wrong/right (depending on affiliation), without appropriately considering that he is just a human.