Created By: Xzenu on August 16, 2011 Last Edited By: randomtroper89 on July 11, 2014

Delusions Of Neutrality

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Trope
Rolling Updates * Needs More Examples * Early Development Phase


Hobo: Broccoli is part of an evil plot to put a lawn gnome in the white house!
Man: No it isn't.
Woman: Both those views have been expressed with a straight face; Therefore, I have to treat them as equally valid!

It is so easy to say that Both Sides Have a Point and that we should simply remain neutral. No matter what the "controversy" is about, no matter what the sides really are. Is one side a obvious Windmill Crusader who think that all Jews are aliens invaders from another Time Cube who should all be exterminated? And the other side is the rest of mankind, simply going "uhhh... nope?" Well, lets just sit back and relax, treating both sides as equally valid!

This trope is often played for Rule of Funny: Highlighting an amusing Windmill Political by giving it credit that it so obviously does not deserve, or letting the local Jerk Ass mistake himself for the Only Sane Man. Other times it's Played for Drama, as the Only Sane Man or innocent victim is subjected to the uncaring hordes of people who wrongly believe themselves to take a "neutral" and "unbiased" standpoint.

Closely related to Golden Mean Fallacy, but also very different from it. A person who is doing Golden Mean Fallacy takes a position claiming that the truth must be somewhere in the middle - between the two alternatives. One side want to exterminate the Jews, and the other side is against genocide? We should only kill half of the Jews, or put them in concentration camps without killing them. Both sides should be happy with that compromise. A person with a Delusions Of Neutrality doesn't take sides at all. In the extreme example above, he doesn't advocate having a little bit of a holocaust. Instead, he's bragging that he's neutral and unbiased. Willing to listen politely to both sides without giving preferential treatment to either side. Not like one of those biased anti-genocide fanatics who treat Those Wacky Nazis as if their opinions wasn't as vali as everyone else's.

A person who take this standpoint may also hide behind the claim that Culture Justifies Anything.

Real Life examples are restricted to people using this trope in speeches and such - whether they are right or not is too much YMMV.


Examples

Literature
  • George Orwell wrote about this in his essay Looking Back on the Spanish War: 'When one thinks of the cruelty, squalor, and futility of War—and in this particular case of the intrigues, the persecutions, the lies and the misunderstandings—there is always the temptation to say: 'One side is as bad as the other. I am neutral'. In practice, however, one cannot be neutral, and there is hardly such a thing as a war in which it makes no difference who wins. Nearly always one stands more or less for progress, the other side more or less for reaction.'

Web Comics
  • In this strip of I Drew This, the public give the protagonist a headache by taking this standpoint in "controversies" between insulting insanity and common sense. See page quote.

Web Original
  • The "Ban Left Marriage" episode of Radio Inside Scoop (pretend to) appeal to this attitude in the audience.
  • The Onion had one particularly creepy article where politicians took this position on massive child sex abuse, out of fear of alienating pedophile voters.

Real Life
  • Invoked by Ronald Reagan in one of his speeches: I urge you to beware the temptation of blithely declaring yourself above it all and labeling both sides equally at fault.
Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • August 16, 2011
    Xzenu
    I'm pretty sure I have seen this in Dykes To Watch Out For and Bitchy Bitch, but I can't remember where.
  • August 16, 2011
    Deboss
    A person who do Golden Mean Fallacy take the position that the truth must be somewhere in the middle, between the two alternatives.

    Is odd. I think you need to modify the grammar.
  • August 16, 2011
    AmyJade
    Can be related to Culture Justifies Anything.
  • August 16, 2011
    Xzenu
    @Deboss: Changed to "A person who is doing Golden Mean Fallacy takes a position claiming that the truth must be somewhere in the middle - between the two alternatives." Still a bit clumsy I guess, bt at least better?

    @Amy Jade: Added!
  • August 16, 2011
    MidnightRambler
    George Orwell wrote about this in his essay Looking Back on the Spanish War: 'When one thinks of the cruelty, squalor, and futility of War--and in this particular case of the intrigues, the persecutions, the lies and the misunderstandings--there is always the temptation to say: 'One side is as bad as the other. I am neutral'. In practice, however, one cannot be neutral, and there is hardly such a thing as a war in which it makes no difference who wins. Nearly always one stands more or less for progress, the other side more or less for reaction.'
  • August 16, 2011
    Deboss
    I think your second to last paragraph is focusing too much on describing the two different things, rather than just focusing on the difference between two related things. I also think you should lengthen your first paragraphs defining the tropes. That's the first priority of the description.

    Related trope: With Us Or Against Us (I think that should be blue).
  • August 16, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    In order to better distinguish this from Golden Mean Fallacy, I'd suggest the following for a page quotation.
    I urge you to beware the temptation of blithely declaring yourself above it all and labelling both sides equally at fault.

    (I'm not sure if that's the exact wording, as I recall reading it in a history book in high school; if someone is familiar with the context please feel free to double-check the wording.)
  • August 17, 2011
    Fanra
    Jon Stewart, among many others, has accused many of the honest media of this trope. Rather then point out that one side of an argument is clearly wrong ("the facts say otherwise"), indeed the person is actually lying, instead the media just reports, "he said, she said". In addition, some of the media itself lies and the other outlets don't report, "xxx News Network reported something that was totally false and they lied." Instead, they just try to pass it off as a "difference of opinion".
  • August 17, 2011
    TBTabby
    Desmond Tutu had this to say: "If you are neutral towards injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If you see an elephant sitting on a mouse's tail and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."
  • August 17, 2011
    TBeholder
  • August 17, 2011
    Topazan
  • August 17, 2011
    Frank75
    @T Beholder: It definitely is, just in different words. Do we need this?
  • August 17, 2011
    Topazan
    I don't understand how this is With Us Or Against Us. That trope is Exactly What It Says On The Tin, where someone thinks that there is no neutral position in between two sides of a conflict. This is about choosing to remain neutral, treating both sides of a conflict as equally valid and possible, even when one argument clearly has more merit than the other.

    The only relation I could see is the possibility that people with a With Us Or Against Us mindset might accuse neutrals of this fallacy, but that doesn't make it the same trope.
  • August 17, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    As I see it this is actually the inverse of With Us Or Against Us:

    Let's say The Empire is preparing an invasion force against The Kingdom. The Empire's motivation is to capture The Kingdom's resources and enslave its people so that they can be better positioned to defend themselves against The Federation. The Federation has yet to take a position on the issue.
    • With Us Or Against Us would be if The Kingdom's ambassador says, "by not openly supporting us, you're helping them!"
    • If The Federation replied, "We want to help, but we would violate international law if we did.", that would be Law before Good.
    • This would be if The Federation said, "both the invader and the invaded are equal, and so we must remain neutral", even though it's clearly in their interest to oppose The Empire.
  • August 17, 2011
    halfmillennium
    I'd suggest it doesn't do real life examples and restricts fictional examples to those where it's brought up in the work itself. Could do with a better title, as well.
  • August 17, 2011
    Tzintzuntzan
    Obligatory Homer Simpson quote:

    "Please, please, kids, stop fighting. Maybe Lisa's right about America being the land of opportunity, and maybe Adil's got a point about the machinery of capitalism being oiled with the blood of the workers."
  • August 17, 2011
    halfmillennium
    Not sure if that's an example; looks like Both Sides Have A Point.

    Can it be restricted to examples where it's pointed out within the work, or would that not be compatible with the idea?
  • August 22, 2011
    Xzenu
    I agree that the Simpsons example sounds more like BSHAP.

    As for real life, I think we can have invoked examples and similar, such as the quote where Reagan used the trope in a speech. I agree that we should not allow any "examples" of politicians or other public individuals actually having delusions of neutrality. That would be YMMV, invite natter, and also be needlessly mean.
  • August 25, 2011
    Hadashi
    Actually it is VERY hard to take an opposing point of view seriously when it contradicts your own. Often both sides DO have a point but one or both refuse to acknowledge the other does. Often because they are either completely terrified that the other side is right and that their world view is wrong, or they are so completely blinded to any other opinion that they refuse to acknowledge its validity.

    Don't forget, there was a time when theories that propositioned things like germs and meteorites were considered to be 'self-demonstratively wrong'. In the latter case it took the annihilation of an entire town before 'rocks that fall from the sky' were seen as a real thing.

  • August 25, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^ This. Golden Mean Fallacy may be overused, but the same can be said for accusations thereof. I hate being strawmanned as using the fallacy whenever I point out that the other side of a debate also has a point, or that I'm not sure who to believe.

    ^^ Well said.
  • August 25, 2011
    Xzenu
    Interesting points, both of you. Maybe we could work it into the analysis tab.

    It also make me think of a related trope, one we could call something like Misunderstanding Stalemate: When arguing is pointless because people refuse to understand each other. I also have another related trope in mind since yesterday: Taking The Wrong Things Personally.
  • November 4, 2011
    Xzenu
    Meh. I can think of countless Real Life examples for Misunderstanding Stalemate, but no media examples come to mind. Won't start it before I think of some. I am quite sure I have seen it in several movies. :-/
  • November 4, 2011
    bulmabriefs144
    I'm sure I have this. Religiously, I'm Taoist, but I seldom stay properly neutral.

    Also, I don't think the Kingdom, Empire, and Federation example is this trope. That would more be Neutrality At All Costs.

    Delusions of Neutrality, would be helping both sides, because if you're helping everyone, you're being neutral, right? Sorry, no, you're playing both sides.

    Switzerland has the closest thing to actual neutrality, they don't get involved in affairs, but you invade their country, well, they're armed. Compare this to our action in WWII, where we were ostensibly staying neutral, while sending goods overseas.
  • November 4, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    The George Orwell example is Real Life. He was talking about his views on Real Life, not making up a fictional story.
  • November 4, 2011
    Recon5
  • July 10, 2014
    DAN004
    I guess Golden Mean Fallacy aims at the middle, while this aims at the whole thing?
  • July 11, 2014
    Folamh3
    • Reagan may have been echoing JFK, who once observed: "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality."
  • July 11, 2014
    KyleJacobs
    • This is a common criticism of American news media's reporting on global warming.

    Film
    • Airplane has the "I say let 'em crash!" guy from the Point/Counterpoint gag.
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