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Debating Subterfuge (Tim Blackwell)

I would like to thank Alison and Jen for inviting me to guest blog here. You’ll never guess what I’m going to talk about! I thought I would share some of the tricks I’ve found that RNID apologists seem to use to sweep criticisms of the charity under the rug. They may not always be deliberate, but they are certainly mistakes.

First, personal attacks or argumentum ad hominem, as a clever clogs might say. This is when an RNID apologist attacks the person making the criticism rather than attempt to refute the criticism itself e.g. suppose I’ve just said that “RNID are not accountable,” then the incorrect answer is that I am a “nasty, ungrateful person who whinges, whines and carps, etc, etc.” Even if all of those things were true, it doesn’t actually answer whether RNID are not accountable, let alone refute it.

Then there is the bandwagon argument or argumentum ad populum, where it is pretended that just because a lot of people or a “majority” support something, it must be good or true. Just because RNID has 37,000 members who are quiet or disagree with the critics does not mean that the critics are wrong.

Next, we have misdirection, or diversion, where the criticism is met with something completely unconnected to it. Let’s say that somebody has said that “RNID have a terrible record on employing deaf people.” A misdirection would be to reply “Well, RNID are not perfect, but….” and then trot out the usual Brady Bunch tales about type talk, the legal casework team, the tinnitus helpline and other things that have got nothing to do with employing deaf people at RNID.

An equally cheap trick is the use of emotional blackmail, which often combines with misdirection. A basic form would be “You can’t criticise RNID because they help deaf people!” Saying that ‘it’s a little sad’ that people would protest against RNID when they ‘help’ all sorts of deaf people, including people who are ‘old and not hearing so well’ is just using people as human shields to deflect criticism.

Don’t forget the pretence of conditionality – when it is suggested that people have to do something more than simply be a deaf or hoh person before they can complain about RNID – e.g. they have to join as a member, become a trustee or have a private audience with the Duke of Edinburgh. RNID are answerable to all “Nine million” deaf and hoh people that they explicitly claim to represent.

Finally, we have the presumption of positive, when it is claimed that RNID are “positive” and doing lots of helpful things whereas the critics are “negative.” This can easily be turned around when you argue that the critics are positive about the ability of deaf people to speak and act for themselves and manage their own affairs, whereas RNID are negative. Indeed, having no deaf or hoh people in your entire senior management team is the ultimate vote of no confidence.

The bottom line is that deaf people have the right to say what they want to say to RNID and it’s apologists without being dismissed or insulted, bullied and manipulated. RNID are our agents, not our masters – it is for them to do our bidding.

Comments (18)

WOW, interesting post :-)

Very spot on!

Great post, Tim. It is reaffirming to know that I am entitled to my view, just as much as everybody else whom RNId claiming to represent. I very much look forward to the day when this can be debated with magnanimity and inclusivity. HoH and BSL ppl are equally affected by the charity's activities. It is a very complex subject and all views must be considered rather than be told go and join BDA. (re conditionality)

Bloody excellent post, Tim, you make really really valid points. Can we send you to meet Jackie B before she gets in??

Fantastic post, I hope you get asked to be a guest writer again as that's an excellent post. You put into words perfectly what I do think but is unable to put into words.

I do hope others including myself take on board what you've written and try to remember it while in a debate.

You left out petito principii - the fallacy of assuming the truth of any argument you're trying to make, on no evidence other than the argument itself. (This is the real meaning of the well-known but much abused phrase "begging the question", by the way). Your statements may well be valid but need supporting evidence in order to be taken as true. Where are your real-life instances of the RNID's (alleged) wrong-doing to back up your claims?

Excellent stuff, Tim... welcome to GOD! Dunno how you managed to work all that out but you are spot on... wonder if any RNId lovers will argue with you via this comment box?! Will be interesting to see which tactic(s) they use(!)

@SDR - I see you are entitled to ask for evidence. But these are not circular arguments nor a fallacy - it is direct experience as I have also witnessed these occurrences personally or even been on the receiving end.

The only real argument is how best to make the points, we seem terminally divided on that. I understand one approach is to join the RNID and fight them from within, while another approach is along the lines of barricading the doors till they listen, the third option (the one currently pursued), is we all complain about it and do very little..... none are workable sadly, because of the still huge divisions of deaf people themselves.

Each debate has raidly deteriorated into in-fighting, and I am as guilty as anyone, because I know this issue is MORE a priority than the RNID is, because until we can sit down at the same table, I cannot see how you can launch a campaign, let alone carry it through. Tim and Andy are of the view joining works, I'm pessimistic of this stance, we'd need significant numbers and we can't get them. Sign users have stated openely they'd never do it.

I've offered to travel from Wales to featherstone street in October (when the new people take over officially)|, to lend support to a day of action if they organise one, perhaps along the lines or 'reclaiming symbolically' the RNID for the deaf ? I don't care if that support are BSL users or HoH, or whistle colenel Bogey all day, we can hold the battle for one day of unity. Failing that I'd go on my own, I can't see how else I can show support.

I agree totally with Tim on this, and applaud the total and reasoned points regarding the RNID he made. I just can't see how best to get a unified approach to changing it at this time... it's a shame, and of course the RNID win again....

I've been thinking about how a hypothetical alternative to the RNID might be constituted in a way which prevents this (subterfuge from the membership) from happening, and forces the organization to be an agent rather than master. My (somewhat fractious) thoughts so far are at http://deaf.wikidot.com/purpose - I'd be interested to hear what other people think.

Thanks for the warm welcome and kind comments. Now let honest and uncluttered debate begin!

To be quite honest, Dale, I would rather play Flash games than mess about inventing a Sim City-style deaf organisation for "fun" (Fun? Is that why you are doing it, unless I have got something wrong?) ... if you ever get bored of your wiki, check out lazylaces.com ;o)

@ Dale: I wouldn't worry about MM comments - this is what he does best - divide and conquer. Although he does provide some real profound insight (enough to get Bill Oddie twitching), it is undone by his innate frustration that there ain't more lip-reading classes or his inability to belong to the local deaf club. If you try to counter-act him on See Hear forum, his bum boy, Cornshit, will leap into his defence and call you "BlOOdy Children" or other childish stuff. It is hard enough to get beyond that point unless I am doing this wrong.

You're doing it wrong.

I know both the CornishAndy and MM online personas very well, and they both know mine much better than you do (they put in a lot of time and effort to help me get the Deaf Village going); they both know that ideologically I am very independent, and that I don't worry about petty comments from anyone.

If it is your opinion that MM is out to divide and conquer and you don't agree with it, why don't you try to counteract the effect by making an attempt at building bridges? Otherwise I can only assume that you are happy to go along with the divide and conquer paradigm.

Actually Dale some of these comments come out as patronising as hell. Tony B's comment is extremely valid. Most of us around here are extremely independent too, and don't indulge in petty stuff.

Jen for example hasn't just talked about an alternative organisation, but was involved with the initial set up committee for FDP (and served there for 6 years). (I was also co-opted to the committee too - pulled out in 01).

A lot of us have been around, and battled with such politics for a lot more years, and done more. Both Jen and I have worked for deaf orgs too, and have seen it from the inside.

Just because people don't want to fill in a wiki right now, does not mean they don't get the issues ... its just they are on a different point on the curve.

I've cited the FDP constitution before, no need to rehash something that a lot of us worked on 10 years ago. The BDA is another example.

What does hinder a lot of what looks good on paper though is personalities. People hate each other, perhaps become apathetic / lazy, and expect others to do work, infighting, etc.

For me, an ideal organisation cannot exist without others re-examining their behaviour and listening to us. What happened around the BSL recognition campaign is a perfect example of this. Thus such an organisation cannot exist in isolation.

Moving back to Tony B's comment, its valid because I don't want to waste my time on trolls. Ignoring them 99% of the time.

MM and Andy, they contradict themselves at the best of times. E.g. Andy says that he thinks Tim's post was excellent, thus must agree with the points he raised. This would include this point:

First, personal attacks or argumentum ad hominem, as a clever clogs might say. This is when an RNID apologist attacks the person making the criticism rather than attempt to refute the criticism itself e.g. suppose I’ve just said that “RNID are not accountable,” then the incorrect answer is that I am a “nasty, ungrateful person who whinges, whines and carps, etc, etc.” Even if all of those things were true, it doesn’t actually answer whether RNID are not accountable, let alone refute it.

Then Andy goes on to say [re GOD]: "they are a bunch of naughty children, desperate to cause trouble for Deaf people in any way they can. Rather sweet but an embarrassing nuisance to those of us who take this seriously."

Contradiction of terms, and tactic by dismissing. By saying that he's now disagreeing with Tim!

GOD right now has 4 posts on the rnid in its front page (since its topical this week - 1 of which was written by a guest) and 9 posts which are of a non-political nature / about something else.

MM - he then tries to pull Tim out of posting here, "he is one of very few here, who understands what it is all about, and I've too much respect really to tell him his talent is wasted on your blogs". He says he has too much respect and won't say it, but says it anyway(!) This is what makes Tony B's comments valid.

Other tactic frequently employed by both of them to detract discussion, is that I closed down the rnid forum, and rewriting history to suit them ... which is entirely not relevant to what the rest of us might be talking about. I don't usually talk about this. For the record, I just asked for them to remove some posts about me (I was not participating in discussion). This is the e mail I sent, don't see any request to close in there; and ultimately its about people taking responsibility for their own postings. Tony has a copy of all posts that Andy made in a PDF document. He could easily make this available, no problems.

They will then throw other tactics to discredit you. E.g. you can't have ever met a person who uses a CI, to further discredit opinion and dig something deeper, even though they have never met you. (In fact I've met well over 100 such people, and worked with). So it goes on.

The reason I'm stating the above, is to go back to Tony B's comment re its often frequently impossible to engage. This is frequently misinterpreted as signing elitism. (As if the world is black / white).

Good post, my only slight addition would be to point out that it's not just Deaf people who are up in arms about the bizarre machine that the RNID has become. I think that there are more supporters out there for the argument that the RNID has become a behemoth that doesn't listen to the group it supposedly works for. Oh, hang on, it "helps" them, not works for them. Part of it would be getting more hearing people informed and engaged in the debate.

Perhaps if RNID does continue to dismiss the voices of its users, perhaps it would listen more to unaffected but interested parties?

Good points Howard. I think the biggest thing that hurts them, and possibly the only thing that can make them accountable is money.

Too often trusts, statutory fundraising etc believe what is written on paper re who it represents. I believe the organisation has something called an Impact report too (or at least once did) ... a lot of spin?

The reason the RNID grabs the cash is because they are the only people able to prove they can supply the goods to deaf people on a nation-wide basis, in short it has neither equal or 'competitor', and believe me the deaf provide a lucrative living for some. Sign language generated a lot of money for people, but the deaf are still struggling to see practical benefits of it. We read of horrendous fees being charged to learners, so bad, a lot decided not to take qualifying exams, deaf have no say in that either !

If the 'state' reverted to supply of 'support' to the deaf would that be acceptable ? at least you then you could insist on input, deaf people were sold a pup years ago by government happy to 'let them run their own thing' via 'their' charity, with the occasional hand out, saved them millions, too late, the deaf didn't see that as our support went commercial, hearing would see thew cash cow, move in,and take over. We are punished for being naive. Spin ? the RNID has a 'media' section dedicated to it,and used it to stifle and discredit people who complained, unforgivable... That the deaf should be pitted against professional spin merchants is to totally undermine any voice they might have.

Not ONCE since deaf people raised concern at the RNID has it ever responded either, so they ignore you as well... they'll continue to do that until you go away., it's a very effective tactic, as it demoralises, you write etc no-one responds or cares, you think, why bother ? The RNID rolls on...

I agree that the fees for learning sign language is horrendous. This should be a basic right to supplement existing communications tactics. In Derby, anybody with hearing loss can get sign language for free, even for family members of a deaf person. (note the lower d).

If we are pissing in the wind, then why are you going down to RNID HQ in October to protest and greet Gerry? You just have argued how we are at the mercy of the relentless march by RNID.

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