Fallacy of Equality

There is a little misunderstanding in advocacy groups. I made this mistake myself for about a decade.

I like to call it the Fallacy of Equality. Basically it states that if you are advocating for an alternative, you must give equal time to all sides including your opponents.

This is complete nonsense. When has anyone who has tried to sell us inferior, dangerous, and unnecessary products had to point out that there were inexpensive or free alternatives by their competitors?

About never. So why should advocates be “fair”?

I am both a Linux and a bicycling advocate. For years, I believed that I had to give equal time to Microsoft products. Then it occurred to me that Microsoft spends billions of dollars a year in advertising (that’s corporate for advocacy). Do they ever mention that you can download a bootable alternative that runs circles around their software? No. They mock Linux.

In the Linux community, I try to be positive and to welcome everyone with equal arms. This means being kind to MS Windows users as they might not have realized that there are alternatives. However, this does not mean that I am going to accept that every expenditure for the government, corporate, or otherwise should take Windows into account? Again, see above. Microsoft does not do this why should I?

Similarly with bicycles. I was recently told that I should give equal time to automobiles because no form of transportation should be privileged. Again, this is nonsense. There is only so much money for transportation. Every cent spent promoting automobiles detracts from cycling. In fact the number one reason that people don’t cycle is because they fear getting hit by a car.

Need I mention the yearly automobile company spending in advertising? Need I point out the countless free advertising that auto companies get every time a cyclist is the butt of a joke in a movie? Should I mention the millions spent in pushing autos with public money with driver’s education programs across the country? Why should I give up the pennies for bicycles to give “equal time”.

When are the big guys going to have to give “equal time” to my views? Imagine Microsoft spending a few billion in Linux promotion? Linux would “eat their lunch” in a level playing field. Imagine a true cost comparison of a lifetime of either cycling and driving including the 40,000 victims of driving a year, countless cases of diabetes, heart disease, and childhood asthma that our car crazy legacy. Again, there would be no comparison and bicycles would win every time.

So the next time you want to advocate X and someone asks you to be “fair and balanced” or give equal time, ask to split the total cost in promotion down the middle. I’d gladly take half the transportation budget in dedicated bicycle paths. Never happen? Then don’t bother me with equal time. Now excuse me while I chase some more funding crumbs from the table of crappy, mass produced products.

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