A Slippery Slope to Moral Panic: Refuting the Martin Niemöller Argument By Charles Taylor
Trump, by banning transgenders in the military is apparently on the path to Nazism, since one of the Nazi’s first victims was Magnus Hirschfield who was a leading advocate for transgender rights: http://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-1.809224
“The Nazis knew that most Germans had negative feelings about homosexuals. They realized that their conservative countrymen felt uncomfortable with the liberated sexuality of Weimar’s Berlin, which was, in many ways, the world’s first and foremost gay capital. The Nazis surmised that no one would protest the closing of gay bars and clubs in Berlin, the round up and questioning of suspected homosexuals or the dispatch of thousands to concentration camps. Whether they hated homosexuals on moral or religious grounds or simply felt uncomfortable in their presence or were afraid that speaking up for them would harm them, most Germans kept quiet, because they weren’t homosexual….
U.S. President Donald Trump is probably making similar calculations. Many people detest transgender people or fear them, as evidenced in the ongoing debate about so-called bathroom bills. Others who may not wish them harm and theoretically support giving them full equality might nonetheless feel uncomfortable with the very essence of transsexualism. Or they might rationalize that perhaps Trump has a point. After all, there are army commanders who claim that transgender people in the military are problematic. And there’s the issue of federal funding for their medical needs.
And even those who are critical of Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from the military probably won’t go out on a limb to fight it. They aren’t transgender, after all, and may not even know any transgender people. This is not the kind of do or die clash that one needs to go overboard with. The limited reaction so far and the fact that tens of thousands haven’t mobilized and taken to the streets already, as they did when Trump first announced the Muslim travel ban, could be the result of August vacations, or a sign of things to come.
There is no need to compare Trump to Hitler to assert that his decision sets a dangerous precedent. Single-handedly, with no immediate cause and only to satisfy his homophobic base, Trump stripped a group of people of a right they had only recently earned. He didn’t order them to don a pink star, but he marked them as outcasts nonetheless. He’s done so before with Muslims, illegal immigrants and journalists. Now he’s coming for transgender people.”
The problem with the Martin Niemöller argument, is that it is invalid. It is based on a slippery slope argument, a general logical fallacy where it is claimed that taking one step, or adopting one policy leads to yet another step or policy, that after a series of such steps or policies, results in disaster:
D. Walton, “The Basic slippery Slope Argument,” Informal Logic, vol. 35, 2015, pp. 273-311.
The argument could be applied as a counter like this. First allow one refugee into the country, then two, then three….and thus all refugees must be allowed in because there is no valid grounds for distinguishing between any, and hence no valid cut-off point. But, the same argument can then be applied to any migrant. Hence, all countries, including Israel, should have open borders. But, this leads to a reductio ad absurdum, because it would mean that advanced countries such as Israel would be swamped, which is something the Israeli people would not desire:
Notice the bias expressed in the first of these articles, compare to the second, where the expulsion thesis is equated to “ethnic cleansing,” the latter being usually associated with killing, not expulsion. This too, is an example of a fallacious slippery slope, and Leftist bias against Israel: http://markhumphrys.com/media.israel.html.
To take another example: while it is good to have free speech in an open and civilised society, there are still grounds for restricting foreigners from entering a country, to preach “hate,” and by hate I refer to something like this, quoted from Breitbart.com:
“A former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and current Imam of the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, who has a long history of anti-Semitic hate speech, is heading to Britain.
Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, who also serves as director of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem, will be in Britain from 11 to 15 September as part of a delegation organised by pro-Palestinian group EuroPal. France banned the sheikh from entry in 2012.
In the past he has flatly denied the Holocaust, stating: “Six million Jews dead? No way, they were much fewer. Let’s stop with this fairy tale exploited by Israel to capture international solidarity.”
He has also called for the destruction of America and Britain, adding Jews are “the most cowardly creatures Allah has ever created” and he is “filled with rage” towards them.”
If Britain banned this Sheikh, it would be a restriction of free speech in general, but one made on the basis of other considerations, such as the generation of ethno-racial tensions, virulent anti-Semitism, and possibly terrorism, since advocating the destruction of countries is presumably the paradigm case of terrorism. If it is not, what is? Yet I think even most free speech supporters would still support a ban on this preacher, and would do so whilst maintaining a robust support for free speech in general.
Therefore, in conclusion, the argument by Martin Niemöller, is unsound, and has numerous paradoxical consequences. It does not follow that Trump’s ban of transgenders in the military will lead to the evils that some anticipate. It is possible to draw meaningful distinctions and limits in such policies. As well, the end result of the Niemöller argument would be that anything goes. What couldn’t be supported by use of this argument? First they came for the cannibals…then the eaters of hamburgers…then they came for me.
Further, the same argument can be applied by critics, and in fact now is: first, they attacked the fascists, then…the Christians…then, finally they attacked me!
In all fairness, there can be legitimate expressions of concern about Right wing fascist-style groups, without thereby advocating an attack on all patriotic Christian people. But, of course, many from the Left, such as the antifa, do not follow the dictates of finer logical distinctions because it suits their ideological agenda. After all, the recent American eclipse was apparently “racist” because it was not seen by many Blacks:
and tossing a banana peel into a tree is “racist,” rather than just littering:
It is indeed, a mad, mad, mad world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sla845GW9YM