Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Perspective - It’s not the Absence of Thinking

I didn’t plan on pointing this out, but a number of recent articles calling for events (i.e. the Mullins incident) to be "put in perspective" (the one by Equidaily, to which I responded here, being the culprit) make it painfully obvious a clarification is needed.

The notion of "putting something in perspective" is routinely abused in our society as an indirect shut-up argument. It's a rhetorical device political campaigns have come to love because it allows them to defend an utter lie and even take the high road by painting their opposition as hatemongers for calling the lie a lie.

The fact remains that "putting things into perspective" doesn't imply that any point-of-view is equally valid. What it does mean is that commentators should evaluate any argument before drawing conclusions. In the case of the Mullins incident this means that commentators should seriously consider Mullins' response that he wasn't aware of detention barn rules, and that as a human he can make mistakes. I have. Among the other points I considered were that his career spans well over 20 years; that he has regularly fielded stakes contenders in and outside of California for a large portion of that time; that he has a long list of prior offenses, that a lot of them are excusable, but some aren't; the extent to which professional trainers can be required to know the rules; the extent to which it's believable they don't; and how believable a veteran trainer is in claiming he wasn't aware that different states have different rules on raceday medication (although in this case it turned out the rules were pretty much in place in his home state, too). I observed how a lot was made of the substance being "all-natural" (which is true of opium and cocaine, too) and "above-the-counter" (as are numerous steroids), all digressing from the actual issue at hand: that the use of the substance administered was illegal.

If the facts make it clear that Mullins' defense has the merit of a marathon runner claiming he didn’t know that taking a scooter was illegal, then it is "in perspective" to call it preposterous. Treating an obvious lie as a valid argument isn’t.

1 comment: