“There are three things that Black people need to tell the truth about. Number one: Rodney King should've gotten his ass beat for being drunk in a Honda a white part of Los Angeles.” Eddie in “Barbershop.”
Steve Sailer asked a month or more ago why causes seem to choose the morally ambiguous examples to go to the mat over. In that instance, he was referring to the Trayvon Martin case, in which it rapidly became clear that Martin was not turning out to be a poster child for clear innocence, nor Zimmerman for clear guilt.
I thought of that again last night when attending a program about Grace Metalious at the local library. Both her defenders and her critics painted themselves into ridiculous corners to make their points, and in the end, she was neither a particularly worthy target for the moralisers nor an especially innocent martyr for early feminist consciousness. See also Sylvia Plath.
Similarly, I have long wondered why fundamentalists picked evolution versus Six-Day Creation as the hill to die on. How is that in your top ten doctrines we need to follow Jesus? All causes, all groups, seem to hit these moments when the faithful look up to the top of the battle-standard and say “Wait. Is that the best example we could find?”
I think Sponge-Headed Scienceman hits it when discussing the Nigerian email scams. The mistakes are intentional, built in, in order to identify only the most gullible readers. They don’t want to waste their time on the one-in-a-hundred who might get fooled into considering it with a good sales pitch. They are looking for the one in a hundred thousand they can wrap up quickly and get some money out of. They don’t want to make the appeal any more believable.
Sometimes, causes are not looking for a sense of the broad support they might be able to count on if they play their cards right. They are looking for the fanatics, the people who will man the ramparts even when they’re dead wrong. I suspect there is some survival value for people in this, for it echoes the tribal, nepotistic cultures which will defend their own even when their own are criminals. But even more, there is survival value in this for those who would be leaders. Leaders want a head count of the fanatics following them, the folks who will die on every hill, as this might be a better measure of what they can get accomplished - than a count of supporters who will only come out when the cause is really clear.
I suspect dictators understand this intuitively.