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False Dilemma and Mind Control

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False Dilemma and Mind Control

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Today, I’m still preoccupied with YFZ spokesman Willie Jessop’s complaint that FLDS women called to testify before the Texas Grand Jury were being forced to choose between their children and their husbands, their freedom and their faith. I keep mulling his statement over, wondering about faith at the price of freedom. And freedom at the price of faith.

What kind of choice is that? It sounds suspiciously like an example of “my way or the highway” choices, which aren’t really choices at all, but imperatives. I remember hearing stories as a teenager about girls who dated guys who would drive them out in the sticks and tell them “cock or walk.” In other words, the girls either agreed to have sex or they had to walk home in the dark and risk being raped or murdered. “My way or the highway” doesn’t really present a choice; it imposes tyranny. So I keep thinking about Willie Jessop, who essentially has said that if these women appear before the Grand Jury and tell the truth about child abuse and underage marriage in the FLDS community, then they are betraying their husbands. If they keep their freedom they will sacrifice their faith.

I grew up in America with this peculiar religious orientation, and I always believed that I was entitled to my freedom as well as my faith. I believed that my mother could honor her husband and her children, and I think she believed it, too.

I remember the professor of my public speaking class saying that “false dilemma” is a rhetorical form intended to manipulate listeners. I didn’t understand way back then that posing a false dilemma could breed fear and confusion, so that people would be afraid to make their own choices and, in exchange, gladly surrender their freedom to someone who seems to know what to do. So I say this to Willie Jessop: “Manipulation through false dilemma is not faith. It’s mind control.”

What do you think?

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