An earlier issue of this newspaper contained an article about the problems with democracies and illegal immigration titled "Democracy & White Privilege." I found the article highly offensive, although not for the reasons most people who have read the article would expect.
Throughout the entire article, the author just casually made highly contestable claims without any evidence to back them up. This was a persuasive essay with the audience being students of the University of Massachusetts Boston. Put these two facts together and you reach the conclusion that the author thinks UMass Boston students are so stupid, thoughtless, and manipulatable that we will accept whatever opinions we are told to believe just because an authority figure says that we should.
I think that Philosophy Tube’s video criticizing democracy is the channel’s best video for months and having a heated debate about immigration is one of the most fun activities I can think of, but I will not tolerate someone who treats any other person, let alone a whole class of intellectuals, as an unthinking boor.
The very first sentence of the article is objectively a lie: “People like to say—incorrectly—that the United States is a democracy.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines democracy as a “method of group decision-making characterized by a kind of equality among the participants at an essential stage of the collective decision-making.”
In the United States, the decision of who should run the country is decided by a vote where every citizen has one vote. Even if you ignore this, congressmen themselves pass laws by votes where each voter has one vote. On top of all of that, the Supreme Court decides the outcome of a case by this same type of vote. QED! The U.S. is a democracy.
The next two paragraphs make a case against pure democracy, a term never defined, by quoting James Madison and an unnamed author. The reader is left wondering what a pure democracy is and why should they care what some random, anonymous person has a negative opinion on it.
True, it only takes a minute using Google to learn that a pure democracy is a government where every decision is decided by the entire population voting and that this quote was stated by Benjamin Franklin, but making a bad argument and then relying on the reader to do extra work just to understand it is a fairly horrible way to write.
I see only two reasons for why the author would choose to leave this information out. The first is that they wanted their article to be a dozen words shorter for some reason that escapes me. The other is that they were being deceptive in order to hide the weaknesses of their own position.
Because they wanted to criticize democracy in general, but were only able to make an argument against pure democracies, they left the definition of that phrase out in order to make it seem like it was not a technical term that referred to one specific type of democracy, but a general term that referred to all democratic systems.
The author goes on to do one of the most boldfaced actions I have ever witnessed. He claims that, “In any nation where one demographic is the majority, it is inevitable that the social and economic systems that govern a system are designed to support and assist the majority,” and then offers no evidence supporting this unbelievably hard to swallow idea.
I may not be a history major, but I am pretty sure that first there was slavery, then abolition, followed by civil rights, and lastly affirmative action. The trend there seems to be that social systems changing to favor minority groups. The author introduces a principle to make an argument that affirmative action is against the trend of history, when affirmative action itself is a significant counterexample to the very same principle. The only way such an argument would work is if another principle were introduced to explain how a system designed against this trend came to be, something that this article contains no hint of.
This next part boils my blood the most. The author supplies a quote from the Pew Research Center, an organization that provides statistical analysis so rigorous not even Nate Silver can hold a candle next to them, that basically said that the mean of a dataset increased, but so did the standard deviation. The very quote used by the author warns that dismissing this change in standard deviation can lead to misleading results, but the author does that in the very next sentence anyway. True to form, no reasoning is provided for why a critical piece of information that any statistician will tell you is required to understand data should be ignored.
Another mistake that is even more disastrous is that the dataset in question was the income of people with Asian heritage and Pew Research Center concluded that, “Asians overall rank as the highest earning racial and ethnic group in the U.S.” This in itself is not a problem, but the sentence immediately before this quotation claims that, “race in the United States is practically irrelevant.” How could someone claim that race has no measurable effect and then quote a trusted resource that directly states that different racial groups earn have different average incomes? I am completely unable to think of a reason what an author would introduce evidence that contradicts their own argument and then act as if it supported their argument other than the author being so foolish that they do not even understand what they are writing and are simply quoting anything that sounds impressive in an attempt to impress an audience they hope will never critically think about what is written.
At the very end the author does manage to say a little about a flaw in democracy called the tyrant of the majority, but considering they never use that exact term and only provides a bare-bones, surface-level analysis, I find it most likely that they happened to stumble onto a valid point during their illogical ramblings.
Of course, this author would not be them without asserting two more controversial ideas without providing any proof whatsoever: “Those who support white privilege are merely expressing human nature, because deep down, you would want your race to be successful … In nearly every case, a subsidized industry increases prices for non-subsidized recipients and decreases quality for everyone.”
I am upset for the simple reason that it is a bad article. If I were a high school English teacher and told students to write a persuasive paper on a topic of their chose and this were turned in, I would give them a solid D. The author makes assertions and then either provides no evidence, evidence that lacks a proper level of analysis, or evidence that directly contradicts the point they are trying to make. The article is not persuasive in any way, never presenting a reason why a reader holding an opposing viewpoint should change their mind. If someone wants to write an article supporting a controversial position, I am perfectly fine with that. I would actually encourage such a person because discussion controversial positions in a rational manner furthers dialogue on the topic. Just make sure that the article is actually good enough to be worth reading before handing it to me.