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The just world fallacy and why we should always examine out own minds
First of all welcome back regular readers, it's been a while since my last post but I haven't been inspired to write much recently. I know some of you still keep up with the RSS feed hoping I'll eventually come out of hibernation, and while I can't promise to update the site regularly again, rest assured I'm not done with life and ranting about life so who knows what will happen in the future?

Recently a few items have been in the (inter-)national news that have really set me thinking. They all have something to do with what's called the Just-World Fallacy. In this thought provoking post (I hope) I'll be tying together rape, a dutch kick-boxer (I think) who can't seem to stop hitting people, even when he's on a night out and the Greeks' supposed responsibility for the Euro crisis.
An eclectic mix, to be sure and you may wonder where it's all going and so do I as I'm writing this off the cuff so to speak, rest assured I do have a point to make and I'm sure I'll get there, eventually.

First of all anyone who's followed the news over the last few days will have noticed that Republican politician Todd Akin got in deep trouble for stating "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down" when defending his anti-abortian stand, even for victims of rape. A remarkably stupid thing to say and counter to basic biology. The media would have you think statements like this are controversial, I would like to posit statements such as this are counter to Reality. A subtle distinction maybe, but I feel compelled to make it. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of news articles right now discussing the issue and the statement has been widely decried even by Republicans, though I'd like to point to the following opinion blog from CNN which states that this is might not be a simple foot-in-mouth problem, but representative of a deeper underlying issue that Republicans have with the issue of abortion and rape and which they just don't like to have pointed out in public (especially just before a presidential election): GOP policy is the scandal, not just Akin's comments.

Clearly victims of rape have only themselves to blame. The fact they got pregnant proves that.

Then we have a Dutch professional kick-boxer who's been in the national news lately because he's accused of assaulting people in nightclubs and in VIP lounges. He's also sleeping with the ex-wife of national football icon Ruud Gullit (he of the dreadlocks), she is also a daughter of famous football legend Johan Cruijff which adds some spice. I generally don't follow the rich and famous but a recent article I saw on Google news in right wing opinion magazine Elsevier defended the kick-boxer Charmante Badr Hari verdient dit niet (links to Dutch language article, no English version available, use Google translate or just take it as read, title translates to 'Charming Badr Hari doesn't deserve this'. 'This' being the accusations and subsequent criminal investigation). In this blogpost right wing commentator Leon de Winter defends Badr Hari because he's met him once and apparently felt him to be a nice bloke. De Winter blames the victims of the attacks because (roughly translated and only slightly paraphrased) 'his [Badr's] appearance unsettles alpha males', and that means 'they confront him especially if they have been drinking and snorting (what was victim Koen, a married man, doing at 4 o'clock in a club, and what the heck was in his blood?').

Clearly the victim had himself to blame. A respectable married man has no reason for being in that place at that time, apparently. And the victim(s) were probably high on drugs anyway.

The third case I'd like to point out has to do with the Euro crisis and the role of the Greeks in this. The crisis has been going on for 2 years now so I'm not going to link to any news articles (my guess is we'll be seeing them for another year at least) but a common theme in them is that the Greeks have only themselves to blame for their woes and enforced austerity regime because they all refuse to pay taxes. Greek society has been struggling to raise taxes, reduce government spending and reduce debt by writing off unsustainable debt. While it is a matter of fact that many Greeks hardly paid any taxes and the country should probably never have been admitted to the Eurozone, pointing this out constantly does nothing to help them out at this point in time. Nevertheless the narrative in The Netherlands (one of the bigger net-payers of these loans) is such that every time Greek austerity and the possibility of further loans get mentioned people instinctively react with the thought 'why throw good money after bad, have them pay taxes for once, what do they think pays their new loans for fuck's sake?'.

Clearly the Greeks have themselves to blame for their woes and we're forgiven for not caring about people begging in the street and not being able to get medicines even when desperately ill and in hospital.

All of these sentiments can be understood if we understand what's called the just-world fallacy, an excellent article on the blog Psysociety called Sure, women cannot get pregnant from rape. Also, all mean people are ugly and puppies are immortal. explains this fallacy in detail and should set all of us thinking.

You see, while I would never espouse sentiments such as those by Leon de Winter or Todd Akin I must admit that I have fallen into the trap of blaming the Greeks for their woes and by extension our own national economic problems stemming from the euro crisis. I also blame spineless politicians for speaking with two tongues and not having the guts to present real solutions, but that's beside the point here.

The just-world fallacy is a powerful method human beings employ to make sense of the world and our place in it. It's a natural method to make sense of the world we live in where horrible things happen and we are not always in control or able to change things. Therefore putting a portion of blame on the victim makes us feel more in control than we really are and therefore makes life easier. You can understand this is a powerful evolutionary advantage. Crazy people standing around drooling in the rain suffering from the weltschmerz don't reproduce as much. (Oooh, a crappy evolutionary socio-biological statement with zero evidence, I hate myself so much right now, you have no idea.)

But that doesn't make these thoughts right. After all, that's why it's called a fallacy!
Understanding that our minds are imperfect vehicles with which we somehow have to live makes us understand that we should regularly check our internal moral compass, to see whether what we think is really so or if maybe we're representing the external world in overly simplistic terms.

Please read the Psysociety blogpost as this should change the way you view the world and your own place in it. I know it affected me profoundly and I've been thinking about it all day.

Ooh, one final thought. Many commenters on the Akin 'controversy' ask themselves why any woman would ever vote for such a misogynistic ass. I would go further and ask "why would any human being vote for such a dickhead?" Are only women allowed to be incensed by rape?

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