Don’t attack policies/ideas because of what they symbolise

(Epistemic Status: Uncertain. Many obvious counterarguments. At best a general rule with many, many exceptions)

In debating a few years ago there was a controversy over gender pronouns. At the start of a debate speakers introduce themselves. For example, the first speaker would say something like “I’m Bob, speaking first”. The British and American contingent in the world debating council pushed for gender pronoun introductions, meaning speakers would also say what their preferred pronoun was. There was a backlash with many non-anglo nations objecting. What happened next isn’t important. What is important is that those objecting to the policy made a fundamental mistake. Instead of objecting to what they actually didn’t agree with, creeping liberal bias and imposition of western far-left norms on debating, they objected to what they a visible symbol of those things and the faction that pushed them. This was wrong, both morally and tactically.

If there is something you think is wrong, it is usually good to attack that thing rather than other things tangentially associated with it. (We usually associate policies when they are proposed by the same faction or seem to be from the same political ideology). The original policy you disagree with probably has flaws and you can explain rationally and clearly why you think it’s bad. On the other hand, the related policy may well be good ideas and by attacking it you stop a good thing from coming to pass, make yourself look like an idiot and waste time and political capital on a hard target when a soft one is readily available. Don’t do it. You’re choosing to loose. You’re also contributing to the problem of ideas being judged by which side supports them rather than on their utility.

The general principle: Judge ideas on their own merits.

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