Sunday, February 5, 2012

My nominee for the dumbest argument ever

"As a free agent, it can do what it wants."

Invariably when you get into a tricky situation like the Susan G. Komen v. Planned Parenthood debacle last week, some really "smart" person will point out that the Susan G. Komen foundation is a "free agent," and "free agents" can do what they want.

I just want to know who out there is so stupid that they don't already understand that.

There is no need to talk down to people. I understand that Tyson and KFC and other chicken companies are "free agents," and they can stuff 20 chickens into a cage and throw chicks into dumpsters if they want. I also understand that I am a free agent (thanks for the heads up, political commentator, but I've understood that concept since the first grade) and I can choose to only buy free range meat if I want.

So when people yammer on about how Susan G. Komen is a "free agent," and other "free agents" can choose to support or not support them, I seriously have to wonder if that person just needed to fill airtime or column space.

Everyone understands that.

There is no one who does not understand that.

Can we please get a Universal Taboo Buzzer we can press whenever someone starts down the tired old "they're a free agent" line of thought?  OBJECTION, SILLY ARGUMENT.

In fact, because everyone understands that so acutely, and because of the power of social media, Susan G. Komen did a 170 (it wasn't quite a 180, I think we can all agree) on Friday and restored breast cancer screening funds to Planned Parenthood. Because breast cancer is still awful, even when a group that uses 3% of its time and resources to perform abortions is the group helping underprivileged women avoid it.

Because it's a free agent, and free agents can choose to fund breast cancer screenings (while giving their top executives $400,000 annual salaries) or not.  And free agents can choose to provide contraceptives, and advice on infertility, and STD screenings, and abortions, and referrals for mammograms (all in the same building!) if they want.

And free agents can choose to donate, or not, to the aforementioned groups.

Churches are free agents.

Companies are free agents.

Individuals are free agents.

Sports teams are free agents, and very often come courting other free agents.

Basically everyone is a free agent except a government entity

So from now on, whether we're talking about a theater banning a movie, or a chain restaurant supporting a political cause we disagree with, STOP POINTING OUT THAT IT'S A FREE AGENT. Because no one is sitting around thinking, "You know, here I am, all this time thinking I had personal control over PETA/the Catholic Church/The New York Times/the San Francisco 49ers--you mean to tell me that I don't?  What a world!"


  1. AMEN!

    I think this is the conversation that comes up literally every time there is a BYU controversy.

    Random BYU student or alum: "But BYU is a private school so they can do whatever they want to do. If people don't like it, they don't have to go there."

    Sane person: "Of course, but that misses the point entirely."

    1. I wish there was a recording of, "BYU is a private school so they can do whatever they want. If people don't like it, they don't have to go there" that I could put on my phone. Then I'd play it whenever a BYU controversy came up and say, "Your next point, if any, please?"

      It's such a waste of time, like kids in high school who try to fluff up a history paper by adding a paragraph in an essay that says, "America was founded on principles of liberty. Liberty means being free of government intrusion. Liberty can apply to our private and non-private lives alike. Without liberty, America would be just like the Soviet Union, which is what our Founding Fathers sought to break free of during the American Revolution. In fact, a group of revolutionaries at that time thought liberty was so important that they named themselves 'The Sons of Liberty.' The Sons of Liberty included many famous people like Paul Revere, John Adams, Samuel Adams (who was closely related to John Adams), George Washington" ...

      (I may have written that paper. And gotten an A. Oh education ...)

  2. Nice. You are so right.

    I won't even get into the dumb stuff some of my friends said on my FB when I posted in favour of Planned Parenthood. As far as I know, no one unfriended me, but I was close to shortening up my list. :/

  3. It does kind of seem that there are times when a lot of people are clamoring that such-and-such organization shouldn't be allowed to do x, and why isn't there a law against them doing x? I think there are a lot of people in favor of government mandates for whatever cause they thing is the right one. And in those instances it might be helpful for them to understand that not only are those groups "free agents", but that freedom is something that we tend to be of favor of here in America, even when we don't agree with someone's opinion. Right?

    1. Hi J, thanks for commenting. I have to disagree, while the PP v. SGK argument lit up my Twitter and facebook feeds all week, I didn't see a *single* person argue that Susan G. Komen should not be "allowed" to spend their money where they wanted. Nor have I ever heard someone argue that Coors Corporation should not be "allowed" to support anti-gay causes, or Catholic Charities to close adoption facilities in Illinois, or anything else. People advocating for a boycott know exactly what they are, and are not, advocating for. Frankly, I'm pretty sure I would remember someone using such an argument because it would really stand out.

      But even if I did know people making these arguments, I think that intelligent civil discourse requires ignoring people who would be that stupid -- and yes, I mean stupid. This is fifth grade level civics we're talking about. What I really suspect is that people, particularly in the media, *think* we're that stupid without any evidence and choose to engage with us on that level.

      And the fact is, Susan G. Komen understood perfectly that no one thought they HAD, as a matter of law, to fund breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood. They merely caved in the face of overwhelming public displeasure because they realized the loss in donations and good will was too much for their organization to bear.

    2. You may be right. I haven't followed the SGK situation very closely. I'll have to watch for specific examples of the vibe that came to mind (that I hear people complaining about "why can't the government mandate such-and-such", on both sides of many issues).

  4. Where have I been all week to have missed this? Oh, yeah. Wyoming.

  5. My nomination: "Prophet X said Y about this topic." In that case, it looks like I can just stop talking then since the person stating this is and forever will be absolutely correct. I'm getting tired of all my political debates ending in people asking me if I've read and prayed about Benson's "the proper role of government."

  6. And we are all free to tell SG Komen and their sponsors to go pee up a rope (actually, I did).

    Here's the thing. If I'm getting off the freeway, and there's a shabby looking guy holding a cardboard sign, "My kids are hungry, please help," I might give him a five. I might even give him a five if his sign just says, "Homeless, please help."

    But if I have been suckered in by the hungry kids sign, and then I see him walking out of a liquor store with a bottle of Thunderbird, I'm gonna be pissed. Yes, I freely gave him the money, and yes, as a free agent, he spent it as he liked. But am I going to give him more money if he holds up the "Hungry kids" sign again? Probably not.

    I think that's how a lot of people feel about the SGK thing, like they thought they were giving for a particular purpose, not for hefty exec salaries and suing smaller organizations and other interesting expenditures.