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August 1, 2007

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.

New Feature: Guest Bloggers

We've decided to occasionally invite guest bloggers on this blog, just to introduce new perspective and to introduce other views. If a guest blogger already has a blog, we will link up to that blog from here.

Our first guest blogger is Tim Blackwell.

Tim is a deaf law graduate, and says, "[has] basic BSL, and still learning after an oral upbringing". [Note from me: isn't this the case for many of us?] He is a former CAB volunteer, and a strong believer in the self-determination of deaf people. Some of you may remember his name from the Read Hear pages, and he's even written for The Voice.

We're really pleased that Tim has said yes, and his post appears in the next entry. Talent like his should not be wasted.

Please let our guest bloggers know what you think by using the comment box.