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June 19, 2012

The Power of False Myths

Back in January when the Costa Concordia ran aground, the rightosphere was awash in comparisons to the sinking of the Titanic with its now famous chivalric standard: "Women and children first". It wasn't far from there to the inevitable lesson we were supposed to draw from the cowardly behavior of the captain and some passengers and crew: the real culprits were those evil feminists and their chivalry-harshing ways:

Shortly after the sinking of the Costa Concordia we started having a low level grumble in the media about the failure to implement a “women and children first” evacuation policy. Others including Elusive Wapiti and Vox Day have rightly pointed out that it is wholly irrational for our society to expect men to follow cultural norms which have long been invalidated by feminism. As Brendan put it in a different context:
If liberation for women meant liberation from accountability to men, liberation for men meant liberation from responsibility to women.

At the time, the Blog Princess pointed out one problem with this impressive display of post hoc rationalization. It turns out that the story that has come to define how civilized men respond to a disaster was not the norm, but in fact an exception to the general rule of "every man for himself":

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in the North Atlantic, from which many of us get the notion that when a ship goes down, it's "women and children first" into the lifeboats. After all, the survival rate for first-class women passengers, according to Wikipedia's handy chart, was 97 percent, while for first-class men it was 33 percent. (Of third-class women, only 46 percent lived, but that's still far above the 16 percent of third-class male passengers who made it.) However, hard-nosed research on actual human behavior has found that male self-sacrifice in shipwrecks in general is a myth: According to this review (pdf) of data from 18 non-wartime shipwrecks from 1852 to 2011, men have generally been twice as likely to survive a shipwreck than women. Hence the title of the paper, by Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson, economists at Sweden's Uppsala University: "Every Man for Himself."

According to the data gathered by the pair, the Titanic disaster also spawned another myth: Captains went down with their ships in less than half the cases, and crews had better survival rates than passengers. The data also suggest that a gender norm of male chivalry doesn't do nearly as much for women as egalitarianism: Survival rates for female passengers have improved in the past few decades, probably because more women now than then are taught to swim, encouraged to be physically fit, and not stuck in bustles and corsets.

The really impressive lesson from the sinking of the Titantic is not that chivalry was once the norm, but that one good man standing up for a principle has the power to change our perception of the way the world works:

...why was the Titanic an outlier in the shipwreck data? Elinder and Erixson note that Captain Edward Smith insisted on women going first into the lifeboats. Men who disobeyed found themselves staring at officers' drawn guns (and some shots were fired). Only when captains insist on the standard with this kind of determination, write the authors, does the male advantage disappear.

The power of the "women and children first" myth illustrates the degree to which compelling stories trump more thorough analysis:

... narratives are simple. What is ambiguous, inexplicable and accidental tends to get filtered out of them, leaving an impression that the world is more orderly and predictable than it really is. So stories incline us to blame (this didn't just happen, it's their fault) and to hubris (I know the real story, I don't care what other evidence you want to present). Then, too, we don't have a lot of different forms for our stories. Under all their variety are a few structures that occur again and again. So thinking in narrative encourages us to see disparate experiences as if they were the same (as in, "I'm turning into my mother!" or "Afghanistan is Vietnam all over again!"). And, of course, stories compel our attention and emotions, so people who tell us a powerful story can manipulate us.

Politics is organized around emotionally compelling stories: individual anecdotes eclipse the more important question of how public policy affects us in the aggregate. Which leaves the Editorial Staff with a question: is it better to see a false myth with an inspiring moral message take root, or are we better off knowing the truth?

Just as a side note, during our discussion on supposedly outdated gender roles, Grim brought up an interesting possible consequence of the recent spate of female action hero characters:

If T99 is right that these movies are about a kind of 'sweet mental revenge,' then they fall about the middle of the scale: about where that book on BDSM did. If it's about dealing with a psychological upset that comes from day to day life, then it's about getting by while doing your duty; a minor good, but not a great good.

If on the other hand it's actively causing harm by encouraging children to view 'girly' things as inferior, or encouraging the breakdown of the norm against boys using violence on girls, then it's more to the negative end of the scale. Strong criticism is warranted.

Here's a related question: do we need a strong societal prescription against boys using violence on girls? When I was growing up, it was generally considered shameful for a larger, stronger boy or man to fight a much weaker opponent. This was the concept of a "fair fight": analogous concepts would be a knight dismounting to fight an opponent who had been knocked from his horse or a man with a gun tossing it aside to fight with his fists or with a sword (if that was the weapon his opponent had).

Do we need a sex-specific ban here, or would the more general one against punching below one's weight (so to speak) suffice?

Posted by Cassandra at June 19, 2012 07:37 AM

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Comments

Since you're reaching for my favorite literature here, let me introduce you to Sir Nigel.

Actually, John Clements -- the guy I mentioned in the post about swordsmanship a few days ago -- is both shorter and smaller than me. Skill more than makes up for size.

The problem of domestic violence isn't a problem about the weak and the strong, though. The nearly 12,000 women who have been killed by their husbands or boyfriends since 2001 weren't killed in spite of being women, they were killed because they were the woman in 'his' life. Sex (in both senses of the term) cannot be detached from the problem of domestic violence.

We have a law against it, but the law plainly isn't sufficient to control the behavior. A sense of shame might be: even many criminals are controlled by honor and shame issues. The problem is that the culture in the lower classes makes treating women as acceptable objects for violence compatible with honor -- it's a way of showing how masterly you are. We need to change that, and we certainly need to keep that culture from spreading upwards.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2012 09:09 AM

Skill more than makes up for size.

Unless, of course, you're fighting a woman :p

/running for the barricades before Grim can smite me!

The nearly 12,000 women who have been killed by their husbands or boyfriends since 2001 weren't killed in spite of being women, they were killed because they were the woman in 'his' life. Sex (in both senses of the term) cannot be detached from the problem of domestic violence.

And yet this behavior is as old as time - it pre-dates the modern move towards viewing women as roughly equivalent to men (I won't say equal).

I don't see the prescription against boys hitting girls applying here, really. As you note, these women are being abused because they're viewed as property or lesser beings who must be controlled, not because there are cartoons with female action figures in the surrounding culture.

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 09:18 AM

Let's not talk about the cartoons at this time: we've got somewhat set positions on that. Let's talk about the rap music and videos that glamorize the behavior. You've got a culture whose members openly celebrate this behavior as valorous.

I really think the art matters to this question.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2012 09:32 AM

"one good man standing up for a principle has the power to change our perception of the way the world works"

Which goes back to a comment you made recently on who, performing what acts, and under what circumstance constitutes a hero. Sorry, but I don't remember where exactly.

Anywho, IMO it boils down to that moment when an adult or even a relatively mature adolescent must decide to either go with the herd or act on principle, aka do the right thing regardless of the cost to self. Most opt for the former.

"When I was growing up, it was generally considered shameful for a larger, stronger boy or man to fight a much weaker opponent."

I would hope it is still considered to be, at minimum, shameful by most people. At least in the civilized* places of this world.

"This was the concept of a "fair fight":"

As pappy always said, don't pick on weaker people or start fights, but remember that there is no such thing as a fair fight. If you are forced to fight, don't lose. To not pick on a female was so out of the realm of acceptable behavior, it went without saying. It was understood.

"these women are being abused because they're viewed as property or lesser beings who must be controlled"
...

Even in the civilized places dwell maladjusted primitives.

*Depending on road conditions, YMMV.

Posted by: bthun at June 19, 2012 10:00 AM

"Let's talk about the rap music and videos that glamorize the behavior. You've got a culture whose members openly celebrate this behavior as valorous."

Maladjusted and primitive. My unvarnished opinion, so sue me.


"I really think the art matters to this question."

While I'll agree with that, those immersed in the culture might argue otherwise just as those in the entertainment industry will deny that their product could possibly influence young and/or weak minds. Unless they are on a crusade to influence minds and shape opinions. If that happens to be the case, they will proudly, but humbly, say they are simply using their talents to make a better world...

Posted by: bthun at June 19, 2012 10:10 AM

I will fully admit, I am completely biased on this issue. I was raised to never strike a woman/girl. Period. Obviously if she's a knife wielding maniac, certain allowances are made to disarm, but in general it's "not done". I was also raised to never be the aggressor. And bullying certainly fell under that. Picking on the weak certainly does. But there have been large women I would honestly never want to find out if I could take in a "fair fight", because I probably could not. Now, would my precepts against hitting women take effect? Just because they're larger and stronger than I, doesn't change the way I feel. Now, if I or my family is in actual danger, then yes, I would fight back (and even potentially lose). But I'd feel bad about it. And similarly, if a smaller weaker man attacked me, I would defend myself, but (being completely honest) I would not feel AS BAD as I would if it were a woman.

Is that sexist? By the strictest definition, yes. Is it sexism born out of a desire to have women as inferior to men? I don't agree with that. But I can see the case of those who would. I certainly don't see women (regardless of actual physical capability) as inherently weaker than men, and thus needing protection. But I do see the assaulting of them as inherently wrong. More wrong than assaulting a man. Fair or not, sexist or not, that's how I feel.

Posted by: MikeD at June 19, 2012 10:12 AM

Fair or not, sexist or not, that's how I feel.

FWIW, that doesn't bother me a bit (and I don't think of it as a sexist attitude). It used to bother me very slightly that my husband automatically protects me physically in small ways, but I have come to see that as a valuable and kind thing to do. He is, after all, bigger, stronger, and definitely more aggressive than I am.

There's a lesser version of that ethos in the cultural prescription against women beating up on men verbally. I am generally far more blunt with women than I will be with a man not because I don't think men can take it, but because I'm aware that pride is more important to men and that they are more easily hurt by perceived criticism than women are.

So maybe that makes me sexist, too. Or just aware that there are differences between the sexes in the aggregate that should be recognized?

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 10:23 AM

Just as an aside, I don't recall ever telling my sons not to hit a girl. Ever. I don't think such a precept even crossed my mind.

I did tell them not to be the aggressor and not to pick fights with other boys. And especially not to pick on younger or smaller children - that was a big one.

During childhood there really isn't all that much difference in strength between boys and girls. I was very athletic and until jr. high did quite well competing against boys informally in races or in neighborhood sports. I never practiced as hard as they did, so my skills were never as well honed. Sports weren't that important to me, generally. They were fun and winning was nice, but as a girl I almost always felt uncomfortable if I did a lot better than other kids at something.

That sense of discomfort with winning is very deeply ingrained. To this day, I still feel vaguely bad when I compete against others and win, whereas boys (to whom winning means far more) always seem to take great pleasure in besting others.

I think of that often in the context of the current meme of women/girls doing better than men/boys at certain things.

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 10:29 AM

Just as an aside, I don't recall ever telling my sons not to hit a girl. Ever.

That's because they didn't have sisters. :)

While I'll agree with that, those immersed in the culture might argue otherwise just as those in the entertainment industry will deny that their product could possibly influence young and/or weak minds. Unless they are on a crusade to influence minds and shape opinions. If that happens to be the case, they will proudly, but humbly, say they are simply using their talents to make a better world...

Right. Justice through music!

We agree that we've got a permanent problem ('it's as old as the world'). Different cultures have handled it differently. Mine said, "Violence against women is unacceptable." Other cultures have said, "If you must use violence against women, at least do it in such a way that you won't permanently injure them." (E.g., the schools of shariah that interpret the Koran to authorize only beating women "lightly," and only if they won't otherwise submit.)

And then, in the case of this rap music culture, we have a culture that says, "Slap that ****," and shows images of masculinity that valorize pimps and a "pimp hand."

Even if you don't think art can solve the problem, then, there's an optimal approach that minimizes the problem to the greatest possible degree.

I think, though, that we've all been part of a culture in which violence against women was totally unacceptable -- and we can see the benefits of that. There's art that spreads that culture, or that develops it, too. The art I grew up with portrayed love between a man and a woman in a way that made it clear that no one who truly loved a woman would force her. It raised love of that kind to a place of tremendous importance in a man's life (or, if you prefer, it recognized the importance that love should have).

At the least, we can surely criticize art if we find that it is making things worse. I'm floating that as a general principle for the moment: aside from the question of whether any given art actually is making the problem worse, I think it's a fair criticism to raise.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2012 10:59 AM

Just as an aside, I don't recall ever telling my sons not to hit a girl. Ever. I don't think such a precept even crossed my mind.

I know my mother never did. My father MAY have, but I don't recall an incident where he said those words.

Posted by: MikeD at June 19, 2012 11:05 AM

My sons played with girls, though. Just as I played with boys as a child.

I also taught my sons not to hit each other.

...in the case of this rap music culture, we have a culture that says, "Slap that ****," and shows images of masculinity that valorize pimps and a "pimp hand."

Again, domestic violence was a problem long before rap. It's an influence, but not a cause. If rap music changed tomorrow and started shaming men who hit their women, do you think domestic violence would go away?

It might decrease - I agree that art has power. But that power is far from absolute.

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 11:10 AM

I agreed that it was a permanent problem, so no, I don't think it would go away. It wasn't entirely unheard of even in the culture I grew up in, although it was perilous -- a man who beat his wife or girlfriend was taking his life in his hands.

That cut down on the problem, but it didn't eliminate it. Some people have very limited impulse control, and the wrath that can bloom in sexual relationships -- especially over jealousy -- gives rise to very powerful impulses.

I do believe, though, that a culture that views men who beat their women as shameful -- and which carrys that portrayal through art -- will see less of the behavior, and probably less severe occurances on average. I mean that a wife-beating man whose culture is against him is more likely to slap his wife, and stop there, than to perform some of the more atrocious acts we sometimes see in cultures that valorize the behavior as examples of manly strength.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2012 11:17 AM

"Do we need a sex-specific ban here, or would the more general one against punching below one's weight (so to speak) suffice?"

I guess it would depend on one's view of this video. Here, we have a much smaller aggressor assaulting a larger opponent. Is the larger kid "punching below his weight"? Would it be different had the smaller kid been a girl?


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sb4kNcpyF_I&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 19, 2012 01:27 PM

Well, here's where I think you need more than one rule.

Rule 1: "Who started it?" rule. Don't be the aggressor.

Rule 2: Self defense rule. You are allowed to use force to defend yourself from aggressors who use force against you.

Rule 3: Matching force rule. In general, the bigger you are compared to your opponent, the more restraint you probably need to show. A punch from a 300 lb sumo wrestler is more dangerous than a punch from a 50 lb child.

If someone punches you, you don't get to pull a gun and shoot them to death (unless for some reason you have a legitimate reason to fear for your life, as in your opponent weights 250 lbs and is beating you to death).

IMO, if the aggressor is a girl, you defend yourself with matching force. It doesn't matter whether the aggressor is a girl or a smaller boy - same principle applies.

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 02:21 PM

Dad's advice: Don't start fights, but if you end up in one despite your best efforts, fight to win.

Mom's advice (I don't remember what had happened): I taught your sister that there would be times when the right thing to do would be to -- without a warning -- kick the jerk in the balls with her knee and run away. I should have taught you that, too!

Someone running around with a sword attacking people ... Gandhi would approve of violence against them, male or female. Such actions remove you from the society of the law and you are rightfully treated as a wild beast.

Ahh, I remember. I'd been feeling guilty because I'd ... never mind. A drug dealer who bragged about how he thought it was fun to spike girl's drinks with psycho-actives. Wasn't there. I believe he tripped and fell down the long back stair, didn't he?

I'd expect more men than women were on those ships; much of the crew would have been male. I have no idea of the crew:passenger ratio.

Posted by: htom at June 19, 2012 03:10 PM

I'd expect more men than women were on those ships; much of the crew would have been male. I have no idea of the crew:passenger ratio.

I downloaded the study - the only way to measure survival rates would be to compute the ratio of survivors/total people in that class separately for female passengers, children (passengers), crew members, male passengers, etc.

So it would be:

female survivors/total females on board, or

female passengers who survived/total female passengers

This part from the conclusions was particularly interesting:

Most notably, we find that it seems as if it is the policy of the captain, rather than the moral sentiments of men, that determines if women are given preferential treatment in shipwrecks. This suggests an important role for leaders in disasters. Preferences of leaders seem to have affected survival patterns also in the evacuations of civilians during the Balkan Wars (Carpenter, 2003). Moreover, we find that the gender gap in survival rates has decreased since WWI. This
supports previous findings that higher status of women in society improves their relative survival rates in disasters
(Neumayer and Plümper, 2007)

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 03:28 PM

You know, I think the "don't hit girls" rule is the only hard and fast rule I was taught (or tend to apply myself). The rest of it involves a fair degree of judgment.

"What were you fighting over?" is a question that I'd ask. Some things are worth fighting over, after all. If you had a good reason -- which can include self-defense, but there are other good reasons to fight sometimes -- well, I wouldn't judge you too harshly.

Heck, if your reason was good enough I might buy you ice cream.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2012 04:02 PM

Some things are worth fighting over, after all. If you had a good reason -- which can include self-defense, but there are other good reasons to fight sometimes -- well, I wouldn't judge you too harshly.

I can't think of too many good reasons to start a fight. Defense of self, certainly. Defense of others? Sure.

What other things justify starting a fight?

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 04:21 PM

Defense of property is one I can think of.

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 04:22 PM

Well, notice that I said that I wouldn't judge harshly. There might be cases where full justification isn't achieved, but we understand that it's not that big a deal.

For example, if a couple of 15 or 16 year old boys get into a scrap over a girl they both think they love (as happens sometimes), or one insulted the other's mother (as I have seen happen on numerous occasions), we probably don't need to call the cops and file assault charges. Most likely they're just butting heads, and have worked out all the aggression issues they had in the fight. Some token punishment -- making them scrub the baseboards or some similar thing -- is good enough.

But if some young child stood up and fought a guy who was threatening his friend, even though the bully was bigger than both of them? That's an ice cream.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2012 04:33 PM

By the way, the things worth fighting for in these examples are "Being sixteen and in love," and "Defending your mother's honor." Either one is a good reason. It may or may not fully justify starting a fistfight, depending on the circumstances, but either one is certainly at least a strongly mitigating reason.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2012 04:41 PM

Oh, by the way, Cass... this is relevant to the discussion, isn't it?

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2012 05:10 PM

... if a couple of 15 or 16 year old boys get into a scrap over a girl they both think they love (as happens sometimes) ... the things worth fighting for in these examples are "Being sixteen and in love,"

I don't really understand this, Grim, doubtless because I'm female. What is the point of fighting over the fact that you both want the same person? There are several (in my view) equally weird possibilities here:

1. They both agree to fight... umm... why again? Because they're both angry that they love the same girl and fighting will dissipate the tension between them? OK, I suppose if it's fully consensual and there's no insulting suggestion that fighting settles anything wrt the young woman's affections I could buy off on this.

2. They are fighting to determine who will win the right to pursue her affections. This is wrong because she's a person who should decide for herself who she wants to be with, not some inanimate object or property to be fought over. Also, might doesn't make right - especially when it comes to love.

3. One boy thinks he can intimidate the other into not pursuing a girl he wants for himself and the other really doesn't want to fight. This is pretty objectionable on its face too.

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 05:43 PM

Rule 3: Matching force rule. In general, the bigger you are compared to your opponent, the more restraint you probably need to show.

No. This might work for kids, except for the bad habit it would teach. Someone who attacks the adult me, or any member of my family--that is, is the aggressor in the assault--is not going to be met with "matching force." I'm not going to fight for a tie. I'm going to bring a much force to the encounter as I can to beat this thug, or these thugs, so decisively they can never attack me or mine ever again. Or be beaten just as decisively. The gender of the threat is irrelevant.

I am absolutely not going to bet my wife's welfare, or any member of my family's, or mine on the gamble that having beaten this thug in a fair fight, he won't take another run at me or mine later, perhaps with greater success.

...if your reason was good enough I might buy you ice cream.

I'd actually prefer beer. With an egg in it.

Defense of property is one I can think of.

You're not starting a fight, there. You're defending. That it might be preemptive doesn't alter the essentially defensive nature of it.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at June 19, 2012 06:52 PM

So if someone shoots your wife with a squirt gun or shoves her in a crowd, you would kill that person?

If someone attacks you or your family violently, you are justified in using violent force in return. But if another kid hits your child, you don't get to shoot the child or bludgeon his head in with a shovel. That level of force doesn't match the threat.

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 07:01 PM

So if someone shoots your wife with a squirt gun or shoves her in a crowd, you would kill that person?

Can you explain your logic in getting from what I actually said to this conclusion? I don't have your awesome powers of reason.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at June 19, 2012 07:04 PM

I think it's the same reason that young bucks clash their antlers in the presence of young does. It's the nature of the thing. It's not a fully rational action, but it's also not unhealthy or negative: it's boys being boys, as we used to say.

To train them in the right direction requires some punishment: this is one of those cases that I said wasn't a full justification. But it's understandable, in a way that (say) starting a fight in order to convince someone to hand over his lunch money would not be. That deserves a stiff punishment, including possibly assault charges. This? It's probably already solved itself; all you need to do is to make some official show of formal disapproval, and let them know that this kind of thing is something we expect them to learn to train in other ways.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2012 07:10 PM

I'd actually prefer beer. With an egg in it.

Right. As a veteran, you're entitled to one for much the same reason. Remind me next time we're in the same neighborhood.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2012 07:11 PM

It's an example used to illustrate the distinction between matching force (force reasonably necessary to prevent injury or defend property) and excessive force.

You stated that you weren't going to use matching force if you or your family were attacked. You were going to use enough force to prevent future attacks.

My point was that another child hitting your child would be an attack, yet you would not be justified in shooting the other child (even to prevent future attacks). Nor would you be justified in killing someone who attacked your wife with a squirt gun.

But you would be justified in meeting violent force with violent force.

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 07:14 PM

By the way, my remark re: young bucks was regarding Cass' question about why boys fight over girls. It was not with regard to the squirt gun issue. I don't think you two are talking about the same thing there. Mr. Hines is saying that a man who comes after his family in a violent way must be taken to be a deadly threat, and that he shouldn't be under a duty to try to balance his force in protecting them from aggression. That's right.

But Cass is also right: there is definitely a judgment issue in some cases. MikeD brought up self-defense against a woman earlier; that's a case of this type. I once disarmed a drug-addled skinhead woman who had a knife pressed to another young woman's throat. It would have been overkill to shoot her, even though she was armed with a deadly weapon and threatening another person. Even so, she didn't really want to kill anyone. She'd just backed herself into it. Mostly she was addled and scared, and needed someone to help her figure out how to let go of the knife and walk away.

Posted by: Grim at June 19, 2012 07:16 PM

It's an example...

Since you've chosen to equate shooting my wife with squirt gun with an actual attack, I have to conclude that that squirt gun was meant by you to be a weapon--loaded, perhaps with ricin in a DMSO carrier. Or perhaps one of a pair of squirt guns fired together, one loaded with isopropyl alcohol and the other loaded with isopropyl amine.

You bet I'm going to react strongly to that.

You seem to have missed that I explicitly stated both "adults," and "attack." Nothing in there about accidental encounters, or pranks, or children misbehaving. Absent a bullying assault of the YouTube type cited above, one child hitting another is hardly an attack.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at June 19, 2012 07:51 PM

Eric:

We can argue over the meaning of attack, but I don't see how that advances the discussion. What various people perceive to be an attack varies, but I believe there is a standard of what a reasonable person would perceive to be an attack. I was trying to get at that standard, and at how we decide what is matching or reasonable force using several examples.

I have tried to explain that meeting violent force with violent force necessary to repel that attack is consistent with my understanding of matching or reasonable force. But the only way I know to positively ensure someone NEVER attacks you again is to kill them or cripple them, which wouldn't prevent them from hiring someone to finish the job later. This is what you said (and I responded to):

Someone who attacks the adult me, or any member of my family--that is, is the aggressor in the assault--is not going to be met with "matching force." I'm not going to fight for a tie. I'm going to bring a much force to the encounter as I can to beat this thug, or these thugs, so decisively they can never attack me or mine ever again. Or be beaten just as decisively. The gender of the threat is irrelevant. I am absolutely not going to bet my wife's welfare, or any member of my family's, or mine on the gamble that having beaten this thug in a fair fight, he won't take another run at me or mine later, perhaps with greater success.

It may not be what you meant, but to me that sounds like you're saying you would use not only the force needed to defend your family but any additional force needed to pre-emptively ensure they never did it again. Being as there is no such surety this side of the grave, I inferred you meant what it sounded like you meant.

I used two examples (which I did not say described your scenarios) - hence the question (So if someone shoots your wife with a squirt gun or shoves her in a crowd, you would kill that person?). I thought I was being clear that this was a different scenario, but obviously I have offended.

I've had a very long day and I'm dead tired. FWIW, I think one child hitting another IS an attack - just not a deadly one justifying deadly force in return. I've seen parents ready to get into fistfights with other parents over such incidents.

That was my only point.

Posted by: Cass at June 19, 2012 08:14 PM

Cassandra,

We do, then, need a common definition of attack. And since some of this discussion is about the proper response to an attack, I suggest that arriving at a meaning of the term is useful.

What various people perceive to be an attack varies....

Yes, it does, and whether a given action constitutes an attack can vary from situation to situation, also.

Such a definition is going to be heavily case specific. The small boy hitting the fat boy in the YouTube clip is certainly attack. But one kid hitting another--even for no reason--on the playground isn't an attack. It's just misbehavior. I think one child hitting another IS an attack - just not a deadly one justifying deadly force in return. I've seen parents ready to get into fistfights with other parents over such incidents. It's the parents in this scenario, not the kids, who are attacking--each other.

I said, as you quoted, I'm going to bring a much force to the encounter as I can to beat this thug, or these thugs, so decisively...., to which you responded, ...you're saying you would use not only the force needed to defend your family but any additional force needed to pre-emptively ensure they never did it again....

But yours is a false dichotomy. The defense is not complete until I can be sure the attacker will not take another run. Anything less than that is a criminal negligence of my duty to my family.

An attack by an adult is a most serious matter. And the situation wants a clear discrimination between an actual attack on the one hand and a prank, or an accident, or rambunctiousness, or... on the other hand.

Finally, no, you haven't offended. You just pushed a button.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at June 19, 2012 08:38 PM

Time out. You two have reached fissure. I see where both of you are, and you seem to be talking cross purpose. Eric is not saying he would maim someone who slapped his wife. He's saying he would respond with sufficient force to assure that the attack would not continue. So for example, if the person slapped her and walked away (demonstrating no attempt to continue) I doubt Eric would put the offender in the hospital.

Cass is not saying that you could only slap the offender back and that must limit your response (until such time as they continue the attack) nor that you may only hit them exactly as hard as they hit you. She is saying that non-lethal force should only be met with non-lethal force, and deadly force should only be used to match deadly force.

Grim's example of the skinhead woman with the knife is actually demonstrable of that fact. The aggressor (with the knife) was not truly using deadly force, just the threat of it. If Grim had acted with deadly force to save the victim, I don't know that many juries would convict him for it (though I am sure some individuals would). But he determined that since deadly force was not being used, he could safely disarm the situation without resorting to deadly force.

Posted by: MikeD at June 20, 2012 08:50 AM

Most of us would try to be fairly reasonable in matching the aggressiveness of our response to the gravity of the situation. There are some situations so highly charged (such as a credibly dangerous assault on one's mate or children by ruffians who have demonstrated by their unprovoked attack that they are human vermin) that we're not going to split hairs. We're going to dust off and nuke the site from orbit, because it's the only way to be sure.

The Texan dad who killed his daughter's molester is a recent case in point. The grand jury just declined charges against him, by the way. Did he overact at all? Hey, you know what, not only am I not completely sure, I totally don't care. The molester put himself way outside the boundaries of any right to a nuanced response. I think Grim once mentioned acts that he would rather be dead than be guilty of perpetrating himself. Killing that guy was doing him a favor. The only hesitation I have is that, if you kill the guy on the spot, it can be hard for others to know for sure whether you made the whole thing up as a pretext to knock him off. Trials are useful as ways to discourage that sort of thing.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 20, 2012 09:52 AM

I think Grim once mentioned acts that he would rather be dead than be guilty of perpetrating himself.

Yes, that's right. That was in an Easter-week meditation on Christianity.

Posted by: Grim at June 20, 2012 10:06 AM

"Posted by: Texan99 at June 20, 2012 09:52 AM"

First paragraph: Yup

Second paragraph: Hail yeah!

Posted by: bthun at June 20, 2012 10:33 AM

We're good, Mike :)

Thanks for the more coherent summary of what I meant to say!

Posted by: Cass at June 20, 2012 11:42 AM

Live to serve, ma'am.

Oh and one more thing:

I'd actually prefer beer. With an egg in it.

Why would you put an egg in a perfectly good beer, Mr. Hines?

Posted by: MikeD at June 20, 2012 04:26 PM

Why would you put an egg in a perfectly good beer....

Why, for the double hit of protein after a hard day of commenting on other people's blogs.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at June 20, 2012 05:35 PM

"Why would you put an egg in a perfectly good beer....

Why, for the double hit of protein after a hard day of commenting on other people's blogs."

Uhhh *scratches head* I thought it reason for adding ketchup and Tabasco sauce... Mmmmmmm mmmmmm mmmmmmm

Posted by: Mongo at June 20, 2012 06:21 PM

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