Left-wing rhetorical strategies: mischaracterize your opponents’ statements
This is one of our continuing series of posts on identifying the rhetorical tactics of the opponents of marriage. This strategy of mischaracterizing your opponents’ statements is extremely common, and takes several different forms. Today we are going to deal with just one: being outraged over a statement you attribute to your opponent, but which he did not in fact make!
An example of this from Think Progress crossed my desk yesterday. Here is the breathless statement from left-wing LGBT blogman, Zach Ford, attacking Focus on the Family (FOTF):
But though FOTF is clearly trying to use this as evidence against same-sex marriage, the study did not prove anything “against” same-sex parents. The study in question (PDF here) did not, in fact, address same-sex parenting whatsoever, but instead compared children raised by married heterosexual parents to children raised by a single mother. It is one of many “fatherless” studies that conservative groups use to conflate not having a father/having one mother with having two mothers.
Mercy! Those nefarious right-wingers! Transforming a study that has nothing to do with same sex parents into an attack on gay parents!
Do you see the emotional punch of this rhetoric? You, dear reader, are supposed to be appalled by FOTF for their duplicity. In fact, the post opens with an implicit instruction to the reader on how he/she is supposed to feel:
Focus on the Family’s duplicity is not always obvious, but execution of their anti-gay rhetoric is becoming more transparent. In a post yesterday, FOTF’s director of Global Family Formation Studies Glenn T. Stanton boasted that a new study from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business proves that boys benefit behaviorally from having “a home with a mom and a dad.” (my emphasis.)
Now Mr. Ford is correct that the University of Chicago study didn’t talk about same sex parents. Unfortunately for Mr. Ford, neither did Glen Stanton or the FOTF editor. They just made the very sensible point, well, I quote below, the entire post that gave poor Mr. Ford a seizure. You will see for yourself: there is not a single word about same sex parents, for or against.
Perhaps Mr. Ford doesn’t realize that the issue of fatherlessness would be a serious issue, even if the definition of marriage were completely off the table. Even if we weren’t debating “gay marriage,” some of us would still be worried about the impact of absent fathers on children. As proof of this, I offer my own works; I wrote two books, one in 2001, and another in 2005, which deal extensively with impact of family structure on the lives of children, arguing for the importance of the two parent married couple household for the development and happiness of children. Neither book has a single word about homosexuality or same sex unions.
Glen Stanton is not being duplicitous when he talks about the importance of mothers and fathers: he is talking about what he sees as a serious issue, with or without the gay marriage issue. Likewise, Maggie Gallagher, whose earlier books on family structure have nothing to say about homosexuality or same sex unions. Likewise, David Blankenhorn, whose seminal work, Fatherless America, put the topic on the map. These books are not about same sex unions.
It is only the gay blogmen and their compatriots, who equate every mention of the fatherlessness issue as a personal affront. Why might this be? I will discuss that
question in another post. For now, let us just note that the common-sense general conclusion that Glen Stanton and Focus on the Family “intact families
are best for children of either gender,” is more about children than about adults, and is certainly consistent with the evidence in this paper. And the marriage redefiners do themselves no credit if they consider a statement like that to be fighting words.
Here is the whole FOTF post, by Karla Dial. You can see for yourself that there is no implicit or explicit attack on same sex parents, just a general statement about the general
population, based on a study of the general population.
An analysis of 20 years’ worth of school suspension rates nationwide shows that the greatest influence on boys’ behavior at school is not the type of school they attend or teacher they have, but the type of home in which they’re being raised.
Researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that boys being raised in intact homes with both parents had the least behavioral problems and school suspensions, while those being raised by single mothers had the most. However, this was not found to be the case among girls.
Glenn T. Stanton, director of Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, said intact families are the best for children of either gender.
“This supports over three decades of consistent research showing that kids who grow up in a home with their married parents tend to do better in all measures of educational attainment than their peers being raised in single, divorced and cohabiting-parent homes,” he said. “This is true from everything from grade-point average, behavioral issues, high school graduation and going on to graduate from college. Moms and dads both matter here, as well as the type of relationship between them.”
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