The title of my turnitin post was "honest students have nothing to worry about" - it's a phrase the company actually uses in their marketing material. I'd like to discuss it because it's very similar to another you see used a lot these days:
This phrase is a masterpiece. It's a show-stopper. Worried about domestic spying, about loss of privacy, about the gradual erosion of your personal freedoms, the arming of police, the Christian-right, neo-fascism, dollars and cents, pounds and pence, press dishonesty, and the sucking of young blood? Well, if you're not doing anything wrong....
I was, today, trying to pinpoint the source of this phrase's illegitimate magical power. I think that it's a case of unexpressed premises, as many of these things are. But the amount of compression here is stunning. Here's what I consider to be the fully expressed argument:
- X only affects people that have done something wrong
- If something doesn't affect you, then you shouldn't worry about it
- You haven't done something wrong
- You have nothing to worry about
1 and 2 are unexpressed. Both are terribly controversial, for pretty much any value, X, selected from the list two paragraphs above.
There's another criticism of the above argument, offered by Bruce Schneider. His response to the phrase itself is, paraphrastically, 'but that depends on your definition of wrong'. His argument, I would say, differs in the following respect:
- X only affects people that have done Y (where Y is some arbitrary value of wrong)
- You haven't done Y
Bruce is making it clear that the fact that the people who should be worried are people who have done wrong is of very little value to the argument. Pointing out that wrong might be a relative concept, in a way, abstracts it out of the argument - removing the appeal to emotion (it is good thing that bad people are worried).
Any comments on my analysis?