Anarchists, amirite

Every time another teenage male with a bandana on his face throws a Moltov cocktail at a Banana Republic, I hear the cries:

Anarchists are so incredibly annoying. Why does the left associate with them at all?

Ah yes, the classic how can you associate with these people moral test.

I could name quite a few capitalists who are incredibly annoying. But that doesn’t mean I think every capitalist is a horrible person and guilty by association.

I’m an anarchist. I don’t destroy anyone’s property. It just means I think that everyone collectively owns our natural resources, and I don’t think possession of a deed gives you moral claim to hurt people who want to use a resource.

But I understand that not everyone agrees, and I try to be kind to people who disagree with me. Why do you want the left to dissociate with me?

I think you’re making an incredibly common mistake, which is that if someone in a big category, like “men” or “capitalist” or “omnivore” does a horrible thing, you blame the person. But if someone in a small category, like “anarchist” or “vegan” or “muslim refugee” does something horrible, you blame the entire category and demand that everyone dissociate from it. It’s not logical.

Vegan food is a classic example. If someone cooks you a horrible plate of spaghetti and meatballs, you don’t disavow eating meat forever and go around talking about how horrible meat tastes. But if someone makes a vegan version and it’s horrible, people will take that as evidence that vegan food is worse than meat-based food.

Another classic example is open relationships. When a monogamous couple breaks up, no one thinks “monogamy is deeply flawed, look how many couples break up!” but when an open relationship ends, people think “see, non-monagamy is unsustainable!”

What you can do instead is when you start thinking “weird practice seems to cause bad results” just stop and ask yourself a few questions:

Have I seen a large sample? (how many anarchists have you observed?)

Is the sample representative? (do your news sources report on positive things anarchists do, or just the negative ones?)

Am I ignoring the opposite kind of data? (have you seen any news lately about non-anarchists doing horrible things?)

Now I send you off to the relevant XKCD. Shoo. Get off my web site.