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Criticism Part II: How to respond March 8, 2009

Posted by obnoxioususername in Uncategorized.
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In my last post, I talked about criticism of social movements-in this post, I’ll go more into answering criticism towards your movement and dealing with counter-movements since I didn’t really go into that enough in my previous post.

No-one would probably believe me if I told them that our little movement had an actual counter-movement. As one person who signed a postcard as part of our letter-writing campaign put it, “do you hate homeless kids?”
No-one hates homeless kids (or at least, nobody will admit to it in public). Even the critic at our movie event who said she wasn’t convinced that she should vote for the Minnesota Runaway and Homeless Youth act because she thought that Runaway youth were responsible for their own situation made sure to say that she agreed that homeless youth needed help and that she hoped to become a foster parent someday. But I think that, in her statement, we see how counter movements to movements with even the most benevolent intentions justify themselves.
“Responsibility”-sure, just as nobody wants to say that they don’t like homeless youth, nobody wants to say that they oppose building a responsible society. And so, opposing the Minnesota Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (and, perhaps not coincidentally, the minor tax hike necessary to fund it) becomes a matter of “responsibility”. It’s a classic example of using framing to your advantage: one cannot oppose the act on the grounds that it helps homeless youth, so you change the argument so that it’s about “responsibility”-and opposing the act becomes the duty of all those who want a responsible society.
This can be seen at its most ridiculous form in the anti abortion and pro abortion movements, or, as they love to call themselves, the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” movements. No-one can really claim to be anti-life or anti-choice-and that’s not what the argument is really about. People who aren’t pro-life do not go around spreading death as far as possible (in fact, people who ARE pro-life are more likely to kill people over abortion than those who aren’t). People who aren’t pro-choice don’t follow others around when they’re doing their shopping and try to prevent them from choosing between blue and red shirts. It’s a ridiculous use of language, for people to label themselves “pro-choice” or “pro-life”. And yet, they do it, hoping that a few twists on language will make their position seem more palatable to the predictably simple and gullible public.
In order to work against counter movements, and to defend yourself against criticism of your movement, you will have to make sure to debate on your own terms: you need to call out the critics (I still stand by what I said about them being necessary, btw) when they try to warp the issue so that their side of the debate looks better. In the case of the woman who wasn’t convinced to support the Minnesota Runaway and Homeless Youth act, we needed to point out that this wasn’t about responsibility-this was about helping homeless youth, who, as they are under 18, cannot be held responsible for their homelessness.

-Alex