When debating with a fool…

… make sure he isn’t similarly occupied!

The news that a convicted rapist won a case in the ECHR elicited a predictably furious story in the Daily Mail.  This prompted many people to post mis-placed anti-EU commentary, even though the EHCR is part of the Council of Europe and not the EU.

Anyway, silly me, I left two comments myself. One pointing out this little factual inaccuracy, and another one that’s more thoughtful and philosophical about how the difference between a regular law-abiding citizen, and the worst criminals ever is not a binary distinction but more of a sliding scale:

While I agree that people who have committed serious crimes should be disenfranchised, many of us break the law in small ways every day. Under your blanket rule anyone who drives at 33 mph in a 30 zone should be ineligible to vote.

Sure there are practical limitations as to who is prosecuted and who isn’t, to give both the general public and police equipment a reasonable margin for incompetence, but the fact remains that the dividing line between breaking the law and not breaking the law is not somewhere between doing something “a little bit wrong” and committing murder.

The message here is that while there are rapists and murderers, who can be legitimately described as “evil” they don’t make up even the majority of people who break the law by a long shot, and it’s a good idea to have a sense of perspective on these matters.

OK, it’s not Pulitzer prize-winning standard, but it’s a pretty good and intelligent piece, even if I do say so myself. It amused me to see how being sensible, level-headed, and thoughtful wins you no friends in Daily Mail land. My comment was one of the three on that article in negative appreciation figures, when I last checked it was minus 26.

I’m not sure about giving all prisoners voting rights; I think there is a case for withdrawing rights from serious offenders,.however the responses seem a little simplistic- it’s either all or none, and all prisoners are as bad as multiple rapists. This is plainly untrue.


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