Home > Opinion > The hypocrites “two wrongs don’t make a right” fallacy fallacy

The hypocrites “two wrongs don’t make a right” fallacy fallacy

In debates, it is common for “pro-China” arguments to be dismissed by hypocrites who trot out the “two wrongs don’t make a right” fallacy. For example, a murderer criticizes a one-time burglar to no end, and the burglar finally points out the murderer’s heinous crime. The burglar obviously cannot absolve his guilt by pointing out someone else’s wrong. Hence, the “two wrongs don’t make a right” fallacy. However, the burglar is absolutely correct to point out the hypocrisy, especially when the murderer makes himself out to be a model citizen. That fallacy cannot simply be used to dismiss the burglar’s rightful criticism. To do so is to further heighten that hypocrisy at best, or at worse to not accept one’s own heinous act as crime which makes that person more prone to repeat.

China obviously has many problems; pollution, corruption, food safety, poverty, wealth gap, and so on. Why are comparisons often employed by “pro-China” arguments? That’s because advancing society, especially a county of 1.3 billion, is an arduous task. Despite the shining examples that are developed countries, especially the supposed ‘democracies,’ who are often put on a pedestal, they nevertheless are full of faults. Despite their best efforts, they still have tons of problems not able to overcome. The comparisons are employed because the “pro-China” arguments are trying to appeal to rationality; perhaps some of China’s problems given her unique circumstances are difficult to overcome too.

Understanding the “two wrongs don’t make a right” fallacy does not mean others don’t understand that idea. Using that fallacy to dismiss other’s perfectly valid argument is a fallacy itself; it’s hypocrisy and I dare say, low quality in one’s character.

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  1. wwww1234
    May 7th, 2012 at 23:08 | #1

    What a coincidence, I just replied to friends with the following,
    much of it quoted from wikipedia,

    “two wrongs don’t make a right” is a general statement that we all subscribe to in moralistic debate.
    But to base solely on it as the gold standard in reality, risks being out of contact with the enormous complexities of human affairs.

    I quote the following for your consideration,

    ===================================
    1. philosophical concepts of retribution by Thomas Hobbes. He states that if something supposedly held up as a moral standard or common social rule is violated enough in society, then an individual or group within society can break that standard or rule as well since this keeps them from being unfairly disadvantaged. As well, in specific circumstances violations of social rules can be defensible if done as direct responses to other violations. For example, Kavka states that it is wrong to deprive someone of their property but it is right to take property back from a criminal who takes other’s property in the first place. He also states that one should be careful not to use this ambiguity as an excuse to recklessly violate ethical rules.

    2. Conservative journalist Victor Lasky wrote in his book It Didn’t Start With Watergate that while “two wrongs don’t make a right”, if a set of immoral things are done and left un-prosecuted, this creates a legal precedent. Thus, people who do the same wrongs in the future should rationally expect to get away as well. Lasky analogizes the situation between John F. Kennedy’s wiretapping of Martin Luther King, Jr. (which lead to nothing) and Richard Nixon’s actions in Watergate (which Nixon thought would also lead to nothing).

    3. A makes criticism P.
    A is also guilty of P
    Therefore, A is dismissed (from his/her role as a model of the principle that motivates criticism P).

    that deals with hypocrisy and double standard,
    and I guess moral authority does have societal utility.

    4. In common law, a legal maxim exists stating a person cannot approach the courts of equity with unclean hands. If there is a nexus between the applicant’s wrongful act and the rights the applicant wishes to enforce, the court may not grant the applicant’s request. Eg landlords vs tenents.

    5. At the Nuremberg trial of Karl Dönitz, this was accepted not as a defense to the crime itself, or to the prosecution proceedings, but as a defense only to punishment.

    Problem is, meaningful comparisons could only be achieved with a solid base of historic knowledge, a task most people would rather not commit.

    Thus the prevailing mode of social (self/mutual) persuasion in HK – mainly through impulse/emotion/and faith— qualities that are readily manipulated.

    Much more can be said when the saying is used as a tool for cultural domination and racial superiority.

  2. Robert Thomas
    May 8th, 2012 at 01:58 | #2

    I WOULD LIKE TO BRING YOUR ATTENTION TO RACIST COMMENTS MADE IN THE FOLLOWING DISCUSSION:

    『US forget 「respecting Rule of Law」, full on 「Vigilante Human Rights」』

    Please see posts 16 and 20.

    I have posted this before, but had no response from the administrators. Do no other users find this type of racist language offensive?

  3. Robert Thomas
    May 8th, 2012 at 05:22 | #3

    I had hoped that the above concerns would be dealt with by the administrators. I thought that perhaps they had not yet seen the offensive remarks that I refer to above.

    Then, I saw further offensive comments made by a user in the discussion ‘Crossing the gender divide’ (post 1). What was yinyang’s response to this (post 2)? Was yinyang critical of such hateful remarks?

    Please, see for yourself.

    Why do I mention this here? Because this discussion concerns ‘hypocrisy.’ I consider it hypocrisy, because some of my comments have been heavily criticised. Yet some comments by other users (see above), which are deeply offensive and hateful, have been ignored.

  4. Lime
    May 8th, 2012 at 05:24 | #4

    This post’s analogy doesn’t apply at all. Neither the “burglar” nor the “murderer” are participants in the discussions on this blog (at least not openly so). The people who are commenting here are not representing either the Chinese or American governments, even if they’re apologists for them. So if anything, the analogy should be an unaffiliated third party (a neighbor perhaps) telling another that they think the burglar ought to stop stealing things, and the other replying, “Well yeah, but there are murderers! And that’s worse, so let’s just forget about the burglar.”

    If you want to frame every post as “Why something that the American government did is worse than something perceived to be bad that the Chinese government did”, that’s fine, but you can’t counter every criticism anyone makes of the Chinese government or anything or anyone else with an unrelated example of a supposedly worse instance. That makes for a very pointless exchange.

    @Robert Thomas
    You’re wasting your breath. The posts you reference aren’t even close to the most offensive things that guy has said on this website. When you come to nationalist blogs, you’re going to get that sort of thing. That’s just the nature of the beast.

  5. Robert Thomas
    May 8th, 2012 at 05:36 | #5

    @Lime
    I believe that the majority of users will find comments such as those mentioned above offensive. I think it would be a good thing if we all could manage to be consistent in our criticism and praise. One alternative to this would be to base all our criticisms, praise and debates along political or cultural lines.

  6. Lime
    May 8th, 2012 at 06:32 | #6

    @Robert Thomas
    Aren’t we already basing our criticism and praise along political or cultural lines? Wayne, for example, is a Chinese ethno-nationalist, an homophobic, and an anti-Caucasian who believes women should be regarded as property. This is his political and cultural orientation and he is pretty consistent. I know what you mean in general; if you were to say something racist against some group other than Caucasians, you would be reviled by the moderators, where as Wayne’s comments are just ignored or brushed aside. But whatcha going do? As I say that’s the nature of beast.

  7. silentchinese
    May 8th, 2012 at 07:46 | #7

    1. IF one holds itself in high moral regard and uses such highregards as basis for its moral authority, pretencious or otherwise, then its own moral standing should and will come into question.

    2. What the “Do Gooder” fail to see is a evolutionary model of nation-states. for them the absolute standards and the moral authority derive from that, is Time-Invariant. despite the common sense that it is not so.

    In another word, *all *morality *is *relative. because circumstance varies with time.

  8. LOLZ
    May 8th, 2012 at 07:55 | #8

    Lime :
    @Robert Thomas
    Aren’t we already basing our criticism and praise along political or cultural lines? Wayne, for example, is a Chinese ethno-nationalist, an homophobic, and an anti-Caucasian who believes women should be regarded as property. This is his political and cultural orientation and he is pretty consistent. I know what you mean in general; if you were to say something racist against some group other than Caucasians, you would be reviled by the moderators, where as Wayne’s comments are just ignored or brushed aside. But whatcha going do? As I say that’s the nature of beast.

    Oh please, for every Wayne on this blog there are typically 2-3 posters are who outright anti-China bigots in other china-blogs. In fact, I would say that for every Wayne post here there are at least 2-3 troll attempts at capitalizing Wayne’s post. I would not be surprised at all if Wayne is a socket puppet of the anti-China trolls who frequent this blog.

  9. Hugh Wells
    May 8th, 2012 at 07:55 | #9

    Silentchinese- how would you know enough about any poster here to question their “moral standing”?
    Or do you merely do it based on which passport you assume they have?

    You do realise that the posters here don’t represent countries or governments, and are merely individuals, right?

  10. LOLZ
    May 8th, 2012 at 07:59 | #10

    I don’t think “two wrongs don’t make a right” is a fallacy. It makes sense. The issue with China bashers is that they don’t care about China in general and would be very happy if China went back to become the shithole that it once was. Yet most of them criticize China because they claim to “care” about Chinese people.

  11. Robert Thomas
    May 8th, 2012 at 08:03 | #11

    @silentchinese

    Thank you for you comments. I have tried to have a debate on morals, arguing not for ‘universal morals’ but rather against ‘universally exclusive morals.’

    For further reference, please see post 9 in ‘Russia Today.’

    Furthermore, if morals are relative, in the case that I mention in post 9, are these moral standpoints different and if so, how and why?

    Lastly, I do not think the term ‘do gooder’ really does any good. As you can see from the ‘About us,’ HH is:

    ‘…about fostering a community of intellectual and influential citizens from around the world interested in China to comment, discuss, praise or critique (as the case may be) a world that is fast-changing.’

  12. silentchinese
    May 8th, 2012 at 10:16 | #12

    Hugh Wells :Silentchinese- how would you know enough about any poster here to question their “moral standing”?Or do you merely do it based on which passport you assume they have?
    You do realise that the posters here don’t represent countries or governments, and are merely individuals, right?

    Obvioustly that was a generalized shot at perceived moral superority of the west.

    do not confuse the particulars with the generalized.

  13. colin
    May 8th, 2012 at 10:17 | #13

    @Robert Thomas

    You’re a misguided troll (or is that a racial slur too?). All you do is spam with fallacies, flawed logic and distract conversation. That’s why no one responds to you. It’s sad someone has to point this out in writing.

    Mods, we’ve seen enough of what Robert Thomas’s points are. I’d say more of the same from him constitutes spamming and deserves banning.

  14. silentchinese
    May 8th, 2012 at 10:18 | #14

    @Robert Thomas

    stop before u guys jumping over yourselves to defend yourself…
    that just seems like my salvos are too effective.. 🙂

  15. Robert Thomas
    May 8th, 2012 at 10:39 | #15

    @colin
    If you believe that you have a case for getting me banned, please provide examples. Otherwise, throwing accusations of ‘troll’ are meaningless.
    If you believe that my arguments include fallacies or flawed logic, again, please give examples.

    Finally, it should not be necessary to point out how strange it is to write ‘no one responds to you’ in a post addressed to me, but I think you will find that my posts have generally attracted numerous responses.

  16. Robert Thomas
    May 8th, 2012 at 10:42 | #16

    @silentchinese
    ‘stop before u guys jumping over yourselves to defend yourself…
    that just seems like my salvos are too effective.. :)’

    I’m sorry, but I really don’t understand what that means.

  17. colin
    May 8th, 2012 at 10:50 | #17

    @Robert Thomas

    Easy example, trying to point out false accusations of racism in this thread to distract discourse.

  18. Robert Thomas
    May 8th, 2012 at 11:07 | #18

    @colin
    That was an exceptional circumstance, I felt I needed to bring that issue to the attention of the moderators. I apologise for interrupting the discussion. Please see ‘Chen Guangcheng escapes’ post 305:

    yinyang: ‘We do appreciate you bring to our attention.’

    Furthermore, as you mention ‘false accusations of racism.’ By that, do you not find the comments I refer to in post 2 as racist?

  19. May 8th, 2012 at 13:21 | #19

    Yes, yinyang is correct, sometimes accusing someone of the “tu quoque fallacy” is in itself a fallacy.

    The best philosophical treatment of this is Jerry Cohen’s excellent paper “Casting the first stone: Who can and who can’t condemn terrorists.”

    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/TerroristsCohenJerry.html

  20. Sigmar
    May 17th, 2012 at 06:48 | #20

    @Robert Thomas

    Now, THIS notice is an exceptional circumstance. You have been exposed as a troll. You have been barred from this site. Now that the truth is set free, goodbye and good riddance.

    yinyang from the “Open Forum” #562:

    “Folks, I’ve deleted Robert Thomas’ account. Though, he may come back as another person.

    In general, ignore trolls like that if you can. Their trick is to get you to engage with their red herring. Then they continue with another red herring, adding nothing whatsoever to the discussion.”

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