Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Desperate Defense of DADT

According to some survey , the majority of that minority of troops who oppose the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (or, to be precise, who predict negative consequences from its repeal) are from combat arms units. As part of the grand tradition of lying with statistics, this datum was marshaled by Republicans in opposition to DADT .

Why is this dishonest? Several reasons. For one, of course some number of troops would oppose it, and of that number, a plurality will be part of some group that can easily be thought of as especially valorous — this is the military, after all! It's not like there's some part of it that Americans agree are a bunch of losers.

Relating to this, a politician saying "The majority of those who believe X are of group Y" is not a meaningful fact about the opinion of Y, because it remains quite possible that the majority of Y take the other side of the question. In fact, it's almost certain that that's so, because otherwise the politician would have used the more straightforward phrasing, "Most Y believe X".

An unspoken implication here is that the opinion of group Y — combat arms units — should be weighed more heavily than the rest of the military. Except, of course — guess what! — most combat arms units actually didn't care either.

Using this statistic is a blatant attempt to screw with the brain in the same way the affirming the consequent does. If P, then Q — so if Q, then P, right? Most X-believers are Y — so that must mean most Y are X-believers, right?

Another thing that really gets me is John McCain's repeated message along the lines of "You non-troops don't know what it's like". But in addition to his being just one person and not the Navy Incarnate, the man hasn't served in almost 30 years! Would he say that the 70% of current troops who are fine with serving alongside gays are naive elitists who have no idea what it's really like to be in the military?

In any case, if your military readiness is profoundly affected by the knowledge that one of your fellow soldiers is gay, then I, a man who would likely wet his pants in a combat zone, am quite happy to question your courage. I mean, seriously, huh?

It's as pathetic as it's insane. Hooray the bigots lost!

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