The Sins of Others do not Absolve You

The Sins of Others

I consume a fairly large amount of news, videos, and comments on the internet and something I see often from people who are accused of misbehavior is bringing up the sins of others. The idea is if you accuse me or some famous personality I like of wrongdoing, the basic defense is to bring up the sins of others to excuse, exonerate, or muddle the conversation about the behavior.

If you claim I did something wrong I’ll mention all the things you’ve done wrong in your life as a way to discredit you without having to defend myself. If you accuse someone I like of something, then I’ll bring up the behavior of people that you like to defend that person. The argument is the sins of others absolve me of my poor behavior or at least excuse it.

I most recently witnessed a truly horrific example of this while watching a marathon session of an atheist I follow on YouTube named Jaclyn Glenn. She has a long running feud with a deranged fellow whose YouTube personality name is Onision. This fellow has come to prominence recently because Chris Hansen began an investigation involving him grooming underage girls for eventual sexual abuse.

The fellow in question has been posting many videos trying to explain his side of the story. Glenn watched eight hours of these videos and Livestreamed herself and her fiancé doing so. I certainly didn’t watch the entire thing but from the first seconds, the methodology of Onision became apparent.

Meanwhile, of course, I’ve been following various political and news events and many of my Facebook friends have strong opinions on subjects. When a commenter comes on defending against one accusation or the other their methods follow the exact same pattern: the sins of others.

I wrote a post about Lance Armstrong some time ago that sums up my opinion on this tactic. I don’t really care about what other people have done, I’m here to examine your behavior or the actions of some politician or celebrity. What mistakes the accuser has made in the past are largely irrelevant.

Let’s take the most extreme example possible. Let’s imagine the accuser lied about someone else regarding the same sort of thing they are now accusing you of doing. Even something this blatant doesn’t absolve you of guilt. The sins of the others never absolve you. Certainly, other people are guilty of misbehavior in their lives. I’m guilty, you’re guilty, everyone has acted in regrettable fashion, no one is innocent of past crimes and that is what makes the arguments of Onision and others like him such a ready option.

Such people are aware accusing others is a great way to deflect the conversation away from their own sins. If the politician I like did something heinous then I can point to something the politician you like has done as a way to excuse it.

The bottom line is quite simple, the sins of others have no bearing on your behavior or that of the celebrity or politician you choose to support. Wrong is wrong.

Tom Liberman