A Philosopher’s Blog 2020 is now on Amazon. It collects the blog posts from 2020 into one convenient book.
In the Cyberpunk genre (and others) people upload their minds to machines and, perhaps, gain a form of technological immortality. Because of the obvious analogy to the way computer memory works, it is appealing to take uploading the mind to be uploading memories. In fiction, the author simply decides whether it is the same person or not—but philosophers need to argue this matter.
While the idea of mind uploads might seem like a recent thing, philosophers have been considering this possibility seriously for a long time. On excellent example is John Locke. On his view, a person is their consciousness, and he considered the possibility that this consciousness could be transferred from one soul to another. Locke’s terminology can get a bit confusing since he distinguishes between person, body, soul, and consciousness. But suffice it to say that on his view, you are not your soul or body. But you are your consciousness. Crudely put, this consciousness can be considered to be your memory. As far back as your memory goes, you go. This is rather important: for you to achieve technological immortality (or as close as possible) it needs to be you that continues and not just someone like you.
Locke anticipates the science fiction idea of uploading your mind and considers the problems that arise if consciousness makes personal identity and it could be transferred or copied. His solution seems to be a cheat: he claims that God, in His goodness, would not allow this to happen. But if Locke is right about consciousness being the basis of personal identity and wrong about God not allowing it to be copied, then it would be at least metaphysically possible to upload your mind by copying your memories.
David Hume, an empiricist like Locke, presented an argument by intuition against Locke’s account: people believe that they can extend their identity beyond their memory. That is, I do not suppose that it was not me just because I forgot something. Rather, I suppose that it was me and that I merely forgot. Hume took the view that memory is used to discover personal identity—and then went off the rails and declared the matter of personal identity to be all about grammar rather than philosophy. But even if the memory approach to personal identity fails, there are other options. One simple approach is to cheat a lot and just talk about the mind (whatever it is) being uploaded. The mind would, of course, also need to be the person—otherwise it would not be you getting immortality.
Assuming the mind is the person, there are two possibilities: it can be copied/transferred or it cannot. If it cannot, then this sort of technological immortality is impossible.
Suppose that the mind can be copied. If it can be copied once, then there seems to be no reason why it cannot be copied multiple times. The problem is that what serves as the basis of personal identity is supposed to be what makes me who I am and makes me distinct from everyone else. If what is supposed to provide my distinct identity can be duplicated, then it cannot be the basis of my distinct identity. Locke, as noted above, “solves” this problem by divine intervention. However, without this there seems to be no reason why my mind could not be copied many times if it could be copied once. As such, a being might have a copy of my mind, just as it might have a copy of the files stored on the phone I own now. There seems to be a paradox here: to have technological immortality, then the mind must be copyable. But if it can be copied, then it is not the basis of personal identity—it is not what makes you the person you are, distinct from all other things. So, if your mind can be copied, you are not your mind and the copy will not be you. It will just be someone like you; a technological doppelganger. If your mind cannot be copied, then there is no technological immortality in the strict sense. So, for the copy to be you, it would need to possess whatever it is that made you the person you are and what distinguished you from all other things—that is, your personness and your distinctness. But perhaps this could be transferred.
One interesting possibility is that the mind could be transferred from a biological system to a new technological one. In this case, you would be transferred rather than copied—it would be like handing off a unique item as opposed to creating a copy. In this case you could achieve technological immortality. Your original body might keep living, but if you are transferred whatever that entity is it would no longer be you. It would be like a house you once occupied. This, of course, is analogous to possession: an entity takes over a new body by transferring into it.
As a final possibility, it is worth considering that the Buddha is right: there is no self. In this case, you can never upload yourself because there is no self to upload.
Gabriel Sterling, a Georgia election official, gave an impassioned speech against the death threats and intimidation aimed at election workers. He also noted the threats of violence against Chris Krebs, who was fired from his position as the head of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Krebs was fired for not backing Trump’s election fraud lies. Sterling himself is now under police protection and the wife of Georgia’s Secretary of State has been receiving calls making threats of sexual violence. Sterling called on Trump to stop inspiring people to make threats and commit acts of violence. Trump’s response was to tweet that the election is rigged and to ask “ What is Secretary of State and
@BrianKempGA afraid of. They know what we’ll find!!!” That is, Trump doubled down on his lies about election fraud and used the rhetorical style he uses against his enemies when asking what the Georgia officials were afraid of. This is exactly as one would expect from Trump.
While Trump only occasionally directly advocates violence (and purports that he is only joking), he routinely encourages hate groups and political violence. When asked to speak out against violence and hate, Trump remains silent, offers a vague and lukewarm condemnation, or doubles down (as he has done in the case of Sterling’s speech). His followers get the message: in 2016 counties that hosted a Trump rally experienced a 226% increase in hate crimes. While Sterling is rightfully angry about what Trump has done (and not done) it seems that some Republicans are reaping the Trump whirlwind they helped sow.
While many establishment Republicans mocked and dismissed Trump before he won in 2016, they have aided and abetted him in transforming the GOP into Trump’s party. While the Republican party was obviously well prepared for authoritarianism, fascism, and autocracy, Trump proved to be the “charismatic” leader who was able to make this happen. Some even argue that Trump has not only captured the GOP but has created a cult with himself as the leader. In any case, Trump presents the world in terms of loyal servants and enemies. He does not, as noted above, shy away from harming and encouraging others to harm his enemies—even when they are fellow Americans or even fellow Republicans. Out of fear of Trump and his supporters, most Republicans are backing his lies about widespread voter fraud—just as they aided and abetted his misdeeds over the past four years. What is happening in Georgia and elsewhere shows that this fear is warranted.
Trump has supporters who are loyal to him and are willing to threaten fellow Americans and even fellow Republicans when they do not serve the will and whims of Trump. As such, we are seeing violence and the threat of violence being used as political tools to support Trump—and Trump is encouraging this. Since the Republican party aided and abetted him, they are now reaping the whirlwind: Trump supporters are now threatening Republicans with violence because when they follow the law and refuse to obey the will of Trump without question.
The use of violence and the threat of violence as a political tool is obvious nothing new in the United States. Violence has been used (and is still used) as a political tool against minorities, workers, women, the poor and others who are not among the ruling classes. As others have noted, Sterling taking a stand against Trump is at least four years late: Trump has been encouraging violence and getting the results he desires since he took office. He has also been busy committing crimes and misdeeds with the aid of the Republicans. His lies and cruel indifference in the face of the pandemic also demanded criticism. But the Republicans remained silent. It is only now that Trump supporters are threatening to kill Republicans that these Republicans are speaking out against him—which will presumably result in more threats. As such, they do deserve proper credit for taking a stand now, especially knowing that doing so will cause Trump to attack them more, thus leading to his followers escalating their response.
To some Republicans, these threats must be shocking. As noted above, political violence and threats of violence are generally used by the ruling classes against minorities, the poor, and others outside the upper classes. Trump supporters are violating the “natural order” by threatening members of the ruling class, that is, white Republicans holding high offices. While such threats are to be condemned, they are to be expected—they are the natural outcome of what Trump has done to the Republican party with the aid of the Republican leadership. Some of them realize that they must obey the will of Trump or face the wrath of his followers—and these Republicans are taking the coward’s path and appeasing Trump. Others have made the mistake of thinking that they would somehow be exempt from the consequences of feeding the monsters and they are shocked when the beasts now howl threats at them. But those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind.
Trump is infamous for spewing lies and his supporters are known for believing his claims. As noted in previous essays, one of the many things that is striking about supporters professing belief in Trump’s claims is that they accept claims that are logically inconsistent (even contradictory in some cases). Two claims are inconsistent when they both cannot be true but they both could be false. This is different from two claims being contradictory: if one claims contradicts another, one must be true and the other false.
The pandemic provides a horrific example of the ability of Trump supporters to profess belief in inconsistent claims. Many Trump supporters claim to believe that the virus is a hoax, that it is no worse than the flu, that it is a Chinese bioweapon, that Trump has been doing a great job with the pandemic and that Trump should get credit for the vaccine. When Bob Woodward released tapes proving that Trump acknowledged the danger of the virus in February, many Trump supporters accepted Trump’s claim that he wanted to play down the virus to avoid a panic. His supporters defended him, claiming that great leaders have and should lie to prevent panic in the face of terrible danger. If Trump was right to lie to play down the deadly danger of the virus, then this is inconsistent with the claim that it is like the flu and also inconsistent with the claim that it is a hoax. If he was right to lie because of the danger, then it is not like the flu nor is it a hoax. But if it is like the flu or a hoax, then he would not need to lie about the danger. One way to explain Trump supporters professing inconsistent beliefs is that some of them are accomplices. Another is that they are victims. I will begin with the accomplice explanation.
It is possible, even likely, that some of Trump’s supporters are aware when he is lying and perhaps even recognize when they make inconsistent claims. In this case, the inconsistency can easily be explained: they are accomplices to his lies and are simply repeating them. There is no inconsistency here in their beliefs because they do not believe what they are claiming. There are various reasons for people to serve as his accomplices in this matter. They might want to express their allegiance to him, they might find his lies advantageous in their own grifting, they might be trolls, or they might gain some other advantage by professing belief in his lies. Not believing the inconsistent claims does not make the claims consistent; it is just that the accomplices do not have inconsistent beliefs in this context.
As would be suspected, it can be rather difficult to prove that a supporter is an accomplice of Trump rather than a victim. While Trump sometimes pulls the curtain back and reveals things (like how Republicans want to make it harder to vote), it is unlikely that one of his accomplices would end a social media post professing belief in Trump’s claims by revealing that they do not believe the lies they just professed to believe. Sorting out the accomplices would require access to such things as private emails and recordings—things that would be difficult and often illegal to acquire. We can, of course, also wait for the inevitable flood of tell all books after Trump leaves the White House. In general, the accomplices are not very interesting from an epistemic standpoint: they are simply lying. About the only thing interesting is the epistemic problem of discerning the accomplices from the victims. Now, on to the victims.
In this context, the victims of Trump are supporters who believe his lies. These victims can be further divided into those who would change their view of Trump if they realized he was lying and those who would still support him (that is, would become accomplices). Given that Trump lies so badly and so blatantly even when his lies are easily exposed, my main explanation as to why these victims believe him is that they are often basing their beliefs on an appeal to authoritarian. This fallacious reasoning has the following form:
Premise 1: Authoritarian leader L makes claim c.
Conclusion: Claim C is true.
The fact that an authoritarian leader makes a claim does not provide evidence or a logical reason that supports the claim. It also does not disprove the claim—accepting or rejecting a claim because it comes from an authoritarian would both be errors. The authoritarian could be right about the claim but, as with any fallacy, the error lies in the reasoning.
A silly math example illustrates why this is bad logic:
Premise 1: The dear leader claims that 2+2 =7.
Conclusion: The dear leader is right.
Since this is bad logic, it gets its power from psychological rather than logical factors. In this case, these factors are the psychological features of authoritarian personalities. An authoritarian leader is characterized by the belief that they have a special status as a leader. At the greatest extreme, the authoritarian leader believes that they are the voice of their followers and that they alone can lead. Or, as Trump put it, “I alone can fix it.” Underlying this is the (false) belief that they possess exceptional skills, knowledge and ability. This causes them to make false claims and mistakes.
Since the authoritarian leader is reluctant to admit errors and limits, they must be dishonest to the degree they are not delusional and delusional to the degree they are not dishonest. Trump exemplifies this with his constant barrage of untruths and incessant bragging. These claims are embraced as true by his supporters who are victims.
An authoritarian leader like Trump desires followers and fortunately for him, there are those of the authoritarian follower type. While Trump’s accomplices make use of him and assist him, they know he is lying. The authoritarian follower believes that their leader is special, that the leader alone can fix things. Thus, the followers must buy into the leaders’ delusions and lies, convincing themselves despite the evidence to the contrary. Trump’s most devoted supporters incorrectly believe him to be honest and competent.
Since Trump has failed often and catastrophically, his victims must accept the deceitful explanations put forth to account for them. This requires rejecting facts and logic. These victims embrace lies and conspiracy theories—whatever supports the narrative of Trump’s greatness and success Those who do not agree with Trump are not merely wrong but are enemies. The claims of those who disagree are rejected out of hand, and often with hostility and insults. Thus, the followers tend to isolate themselves epistemically—which is a fancy way of saying that nothing that goes against their view of the leader ever gets in. While this explains, in part, their belief in Trump’s lies it also helps explain how they can believe inconsistent (even contradictory) claims.
Someone who forms certain beliefs based on the appeal to authoritarian will accept that what the authoritarian tells them is true. What justifies these beliefs in the minds of the victims is that the authoritarian made them. As such, they have no reason to consider any other evidence and are effectively immune to arguments against these beliefs. After all, if the justification of a belief is a matter of it being a claim made by the authoritarian, then any evidence or argument against that claim cannot impact its justification. The only things that could undermine the belief would be if the authoritarian told their followers to accept a new belief in place of the old (for example, the authoritarian saying that a once trusted ally is now an enemy) or if the victim stopped accepting the authoritarian for some reason. So how does this enable inconsistent beliefs?
The answer is that it does so quite easily. If the victim believes a claim because the authoritarian makes the claim and other factors are irrelevant, then consistency will not matter to that victim. These beliefs are not accepted because they are backed by evidence and they are not subject to critical assessment. As such, it would not even occur to the victim to check the claims made by the authoritarian against each other to see if they are consistent or not: these claims are simply believed and they are believed because the authoritarian makes them. In the case of Trump supporters who are victims, this seems to be what they are doing: they believe what Trump says because Trump says it—and that is good enough. It has to be; if they engaged in a honest assessment and search for the truth, they would not believe Trump’s lies. While they might bring up “evidence” and “argue” when responding to critics of Trump, these are not good faith efforts—they do not believe based on evidence (because there is none) and they will refuse all evidence and arguments that go against these beliefs. Trump’s victims believing his lies about the election and insisting there is evidence of widespread fraud is an excellent example of this. The utter lack of evidence has no impact on their beliefs nor does the inconsistency of some of their Trump originated beliefs—all that matters is what Trump says. This, of course, is a terrible epistemic system—although it is the foundation of authoritarianism (which is what Trumpism is, at least in part).
Power holders in the United States tend to be white, male, straight, and (profess to be) Christian. Membership in these groups also seems to confer a degree of advantage relative to people outside of these groups. Yet, as been noted in the previous essays, some claim that the people in these groups are the “real victims” today. In this essay I will look at how a version of the fallacy of anecdotal evidence can be used to “argue” about who is “the real victim.”
The fallacy of anecdotal evidence is committed when a person draws a conclusion about a population based on an anecdote (a story) about one or a small number of cases. The fallacy is also committed when someone rejects reasonable statistical data supporting a claim in favor of a single example or small number of examples that go against the claim. The fallacy is considered by some to be a variation of the hasty generalization fallacy (drawing a conclusion from a sample that is too small to adequately support that conclusion). The main difference between hasty generalization and anecdotal evidence is that the fallacy anecdotal evidence involves using a story (anecdote) as the sample.
Here is the form of the anecdotal evidence variation often used to “argue” that an advantaged group is not advantaged:
Premise 1: It is claimed that statistical evidence shows that Group A is advantaged relative to Group B
Premise 2: A member of Group A was disadvantaged relative to a member of Group B.
Conclusion: Group A is not advantaged relative to Group B (or Group B is not disadvantaged relative to Group A).
Premise 1: It is claimed that statistical evidence shows that white Americas are advantaged relative to black Americans.
Premise 2: Chad, a white American, was unable to get into his first choice of colleges because affirmative action allowed Anthony, a black American, to displace him.
Conclusion: White Americans are not advantaged relative to black Americans.
The problem with the logic is that an anecdote does not suffice to establish a general claim—an adequate sample would be needed to make a strong generalization.
But one must also be on guard against another sort of fallacy:
Premise 1: It is claimed that statistical evidence shows that Group A is advantaged relative to Group B.
Premise 2: Member M of Group A is disadvantaged relative to Member N of Group B.
Conclusion: The disadvantage of M is morally acceptable, or M is not really disadvantaged.
Premise 1: It is claimed that statistical evidence shows that men are advantaged relative to women.
Premise 2: Andy was disadvantaged relative to his boss Sally when she used her position to sexually harass him.
Conclusion: The disadvantage of Andy is morally acceptable, or Andy was not really disadvantaged.
While individual cases do not disprove a body of statistical evidence they should not be dismissed. As in the illustration given above, while men generally have the workplace advantage over women, this does not entail that individual men are never at a disadvantage relative to individual women. It also does not entail that, for example, men cannot be the victims of sexual harassment by women. As another illustration, while white men dominate academics, business, and politics, this does not entail that there are not injustices against specific white men in such things as admission, hiring and promotions. These sorts of situations can lead to considerable moral debates about harm.
One excellent example is the debate over affirmative action. The oversimplified justification is that groups that have been historically disadvantaged are given a degree of preference in the selection process. For example, a minority woman might be given preference over a white woman in the case of college admission. The usual moral counter is that the white woman is wronged by this: if she is better qualified, then she should be admitted—even if this entails that the college population will remain almost entirely white. The usual counter is that the white woman is most likely better qualified because she has enjoyed the advantages conferred from being white. For example, her ancestors might have built wealth by owning the ancestors of the black woman who was admitted over her and this inherited wealth meant that her family has been attending college for generations, she was able to attend excellent schools and her family could pay for tutoring and test preparation. This can be countered by other arguments, such as how the woman did not own slaves herself, so it is unfair for her to not be admitted on the “merit” arising from her advantages. One can, of course, consider scenarios such as cases in which the black woman is from a wealthy family and the white woman is from a poor family. Such cases can, of course, be considered in terms of economic class—one could argue that this should also be a factor. This obviously all leads to the moral issue of whether it is acceptable to inflict some harms on specific members of advantaged groups to address systematic disadvantages, which goes way beyond the scope of this work. Fortunately, I do not need to settle this issue here. This is because even if such anecdotes are examples of morally wrong actions, they do not disprove the general statistical claims about relative advantage and disadvantage between groups. For example, even if a few white students are wronged by affirmative action when they cannot attend their first pick of schools, these anecdotes do not disprove the statistical evidence of the relative advantage conferred by being white in America. After all, the claim of advantage is not that each white person is always advantaged over everyone else on an individual by individual basis. Rather it is about the overall advantages that appear in statistics such as wealth and treatment by the police. As such, using anecdotes to “refute” statistical data is, as always, a fallacy. But what about cases in which members of an advantaged group do suffer a statistically meaningful disadvantage in one or more areas?
While falling victim to the fallacy of anecdotal evidence is bad logic, it is not an error to consider that members of an advantaged group might face a significant disadvantage (or harm) because of their membership in that advantaged group. As would be expected, any example used here will be controversial—I will use the Fathers’ Rights movement as the example. The central claim behind this movement is that fathers are systematically disadvantaged relative to mothers. While there are liberal and conservative versions, the general claim is that fathers and mothers should have parity in the legal system on this matter. Critics, as would be expected, claim that men tend to already enjoy a relative advantage here. But if the Fathers’ Rights movement is correct about fathers being systematically disadvantaged relative to mothers, then this would not be mere anecdotal reasoning. That is, it would not just be a few cases in which individual fathers were disadvantaged relative to a few individual mothers—it would be systematic injustice. But would this area of relative disadvantage disprove the claim of general advantage? Let us look at the reasoning:
Premise 1: It is claimed that statistical evidence shows that Group A is advantaged relative to Group B.
Premise 2: But Group A is disadvantaged relative to Group B in specific area C.
Conclusion: Group A is not advantaged relative to Group B.
As presented, this would be an error in reasoning—Group A being disadvantaged in one area would not prove that the group is not advantaged relative to Group B when all areas are considered. To use an analogy, the fact that Team B outscored Team A in the fifth inning of a baseball game does not entail that B is leading. It must be noted that a similar argument with multiple premises like Premise 2 could show that Group A is not advantaged relative to Group B—after all, establishing adequate statistical evidence would obviously be adequate. There are, of course, questions about how to determine relative advantage and these can be debated in good faith. One obvious point of dispute would be the matter of weighting. For example, if fathers are disadvantaged relative to mothers, how would this count relative to the pay gap between men and women? And so on for all areas of comparison. This does show the need to consider each area as well as a need for assessing value—but this is not unique to the situation at hand and one could, as is often done, assign crude dollar values to do the math.
In closing, while individual wrongs and wrongs done to members of advantaged groups as members of that group can occur, they do not automatically disprove the statistical data.
When it is claimed that the “real victims” are white, male, straight or Christian, there is the obvious problems of explaining how this occurs. It cannot be that white, male, straight and Christian people are systematically excluded from power in the United States—these are the people who currently hold the White House, the Senate and so on. But there is certainly a feeling among white, straight, male, and Christian people that they are suffering. This is a reasonable feeling because it is true. But what is the explanation?
A “left” explanation would be that while being white, male, straight or Christian yields relative advantages, the greatest advantages are held by those who possess the greatest wealth and power. That is, class is a dominant factor in the United States. Take, for example, the claim that migrants are stealing jobs. Put this way, white workers are victims of minorities. While there are cases in which jobs are lost to migrants, the job woes of Americans are not caused by migrants stealing jobs. While the causes of job losses and underemployment are complicated, a major factor is that those with the power to make decisions make decisions that result in these harms. As a specific example, my hometown relied on a paper mill as its primary employer. Migrants did not come to Old Town to steal the jobs, ownership of the mill changed and eventually those in charge decided to shut the mill down. My hometown suffered from this and suffers to this day. One could spend endless hours going through similar explanations of the real woes faced by white, male, straight, and Christian Americans. But this sort of explanation is obviously not going to be presented by those who hold power and those who support them. But they still need to provide an explanation for the suffering.
One “non-left” explanation is that the “real victims” are “losing” to the other groups because they are inferior. To use an analogy, back in the day my friends and I placed well in the local road races—we were the ruling class of running. This is no longer the case. The explanation is easy: we are now decades older and are inferior to the new young athletes who rule the racing world. One could argue that the same sort of thing is happening to the groups in question: they once ruled America but are now losing to superior groups because they are inferior. But this explanation would clearly be unacceptable to the conservatives who claim that these groups are the real victims.
One reason for this is the common conservative notion of merit and their claims about pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. If the groups in question are “losing” because they are inferior, then this would be acceptable to a commonly professed aspect of conservative ideology. Conservatives do not typically say that white, straight, Christian men are losing because they are inferior, and this is morally fine.
A second reason conservatives will not accept the inferiority explanation is that it would not be good propaganda or rhetoric. Telling these groups that they are losing because they are inferior will hardly yield the desired results. As such, an explanation is still wanting.
Conservatives do tend to present the “opponents” of these groups as being strong. This allows the “defeat” to be blamed on the strength of the opposing groups rather than on the weak inferiority of the groups who are the “real victims.” An obvious problem is that if these opposing groups are presented as strong, this would entail that their “victims” are weaker and thus inferior. This creates quite a challenge: the “victim” groups must be victims, but they must also be mighty—they must be mighty victims. The reasons given that the groups are might can vary considerably and fall along a vast spectrum.
In the case of being white, the notion of whites being mighty can range from pride in being white to full white supremacy. Moderate examples of this would be people to argue for the superiority of Western (white) culture and point to the accomplishments of white people. Approaching the extreme end would be assertions of fundamental white supremacy and the inferiority of all others. Nazis would be in this area. I must, of course, state the obvious to pre-empt a likely attack: being fine with being white is fine. I’m fine with looking white; but I do not think I am thus superior to others.
In the case of being male, the notion that men are superior to women can range from pride in being a male to complete misogyny. Moderate examples would be those who argue that men and women have different qualities—but men are generally better at most things. Near the extreme end would be full misogyny—the idea that men are vastly superior to women and women are horrible, evil things out to destroy men. One can be fine with being a man; that can be healthy. I am fine with being a man; but I do not think this makes me superior.
In the case of being straight, the notion that being straight is superior to having another sexuality can range from the idea that being straight is more natural to the notion that non-straight people are abominations that should be destroyed. Moderate examples would be those who say that being straight is generally better than not being straight and non-straight people probably have some minor mental illness. The extreme end would involve regarding those other than straight people as perverted abominations that should be cured, locked away or even killed. One can be fine with being straight—I am. But I do not think that other orientations must be perverted or inferior. I do, of course, recognize that there can be evil connected to one’s sexuality—pedophiles and rapists are morally wrong.
In the case of Christianity, the idea that it is better than other religions can range from the notion that it is somewhat better to the view that other faiths are not only inferior but wicked and horrible. Moderate examples would be people who think their faith is better because of Christ, but who think that other monotheistic faiths are close to being right (if only they would accept Jesus). Extreme examples would include a fanatical loathing and hatred of other faiths, regarding those people as not only wrong but monstrous in their beliefs. This is not to deny that some people are monstrous in their beliefs. Christians should obviously be fine with being Christian—I am fine with my Episcopalian background. But I do not think I am thus superior to others. Once it has been “argued” that these groups are superior, then an explanation must be given as to why they are the “real victims.”
As noted above, the opposing groups that make whites, men, straight people, and Christians into the “real victims” must be strong enough to “win” yet also inferior. These requires that the opposing groups have the traits needed to “win” while also having the traits that make them inferior. The “real victim” groups must have the traits needed to “lose” while also having the traits that make them superior. This seems to create the paradox of the mighty victims: the inferior victimizers must win consistently to explain why these superior groups are the “real victims” but the “victory” must also be somehow unearned.
One way to try to do this is by a sports analogy in which the best athletes are consistently bested by inferior athletes. The inferior athletes could win by cheating or through some conspiracy, thus the inferiors consistently and unfairly best their betters. This would, of course, require that the best athletes can never overcome the cheating or do anything to prevent it—that is, they are powerless to be anything but mighty victims. But this would seem to require that although they are the best athletes, they are lacking in other ways that allow them to be so easily bested. For this analogy to work with the groups in question, it would need to be shown that these groups are cheating in some manner that cannot be addressed by the alleged superiority of the “real victims.” It is not clear how this would work: that the “real victims” would be superior yet still unable to overcome the cheating of the alleged inferiors.
A second way is to use the ally hypothesis—the victimizing groups are aided and abetted by traitors in the victimized groups. On this narrative, the traitors are able to best their betrayed fellows because they are also among the superior and they are aiding the other groups to best their own kind. For example, one might allege that there are white race traitors helping other groups to victimize whites. This would, of course, require that the traitors be superior to those who are loyal—otherwise the group loyalists should be able to “win.” So if whites being the real victims is explained in terms of white traitors, the problem is that this would seem to entail that the “best” whites are the traitors since they are “beating” their inferior fellow whites. So, the ally hypothesis does not work well.
A third way is to use the number hypothesis; the inferior victimizing groups have superior numbers, so the superior victims are “losing.” While it is true that numbers can offset ability, the “real victim” groups are generally not outnumbered. Men and women are roughly equal in numbers, straight people seem to vastly outnumber other orientations, Christians dominate American religion, and white people still have a numerical advantage in America—though they might be a majority minority (that is, not 50+% of the population but still more than any other group). As such, the numbers argument fails. But there is an explanation that does reconcile the fact that these groups are both “superior” and victims.
It is true that white people, men, straight people, and Christians are victims. But it is also true that people from these groups hold the overwhelming power in the United States. Thus, these groups both hold superior power and contain victims. The victims are, ironically, most often victims of their fellows who hold superior power. So how do the powerful few convince the many in these groups that they are the “real victims” of the out groups?
A main strategy seems to involve pointing to losses in relative advantages between groups and convincing people that these losses are both unfair and caused by the other group. For example, men have lost some of their relative advantages over women in both the law and social norms and one might say that nothing stings like losing an undeserved advantage. It is natural to blame women for this. As another example, whites have lost many relative advantages over the years—to use an extreme example, people who are not white can no longer be owned as property. It is natural to blame people who are not white for this. Straight people have also seen same-sex marriage legalized, which clearly some people see as a loss. It is natural to blame the people with other orientations for this. Christianity has had to share more space with other religions and this loss of advantage no doubt strikes some as being victimized. It is natural to blame people of other faiths for this.
Another strategy involves getting people in these groups to believe (or at least feel) that most of their woes are the fault of the other groups—even when there is no connection between the two. For example, the poverty and underemployment that white, straight, Christian men face is blamed on minorities—although the economic decisions in the United States are mostly made by a few white, straight, Christian men. White, straight, Christian men who are concerned that men die disproportionately in dangerous jobs might blame the feminists—but it is obviously not the feminist who exclude women from dangerous jobs and it is certainly not the feminists who control working conditions or when we take military action. There are also cases in which the harms are entirely fictional—for example Fox’s eternal make-believe war on Christmas.
We thus have a working explanation of mighty victims. A tiny fraction of the members of the group are mighty in that they hold overwhelming power. The other members of these groups are victims—but they are mostly victimized by members of their own groups. Which makes sense: the idea that those with less power are somehow victimizing the powerful is as absurd as the idea that the poor are victimizing the rich.