Attack points, not person

On Nov. 7, an editorial published in the Concordia Link criticized the charitable initiative of Movember. The opinion piece, by Link copy editor Alex Manley, was based on unsubstantiated facts and demeaning rhetoric.

Manley received hundreds of virulent comments and the response was so overwhelmingly negative that both he and the Link issued separate apologies on Nov. 15.

Manley’s piece was indefensible, claiming prostate cancer is a hallmark of privilege, affecting men in developed countries significantly more than elsewhere. Manley even went so far as to say that it “isn’t much of a cancer” and if someone has prostate cancer they should simply “deal with it.” The editorial creates a hierarchy of suffering, and makes prostate cancer out to be relatively insignificant. It’s a position that has little ground to stand on. One death can’t be measured as worse than another because of its cause.

Manley’s arguments are so rife with problems that it would be easy to debunk his claims point by point, but an overwhelming number of comments were knee-jerk ad hominem attacks. The merit of Manley’s argument should have been attacked, instead of making him out to be an insufferable asshole and tacking on veiled personal threats.

An informed discussion can’t happen when people let anger overcome logic, and a personal attack simply destroys the validity of the criticism. Manley’s editorial brings up some interesting discussion points, but these were lost in the backlash.

Charities aren’t exempt from criticism. An organization that claims to work for the public good has to be closely scrutinized. Charities need to be held accountable for how they spend donated funds. Criticizing Movember wasn’t Manley’s mistake but his delivery and argument were flawed.

Though issuing a personal apology is up to the author’s discretion, the Link shouldn’t have apologized for the editorial piece. Instead, the Link should have issued a correction.

The facts, or lack thereof, in Manley’s piece needed to be addressed. To apologize for an opinion because it’s unpopular isn’t legitimate. Expressing an opinion isn’t shameful but publishing a piece so devoid of fact is.

An opinion piece has every right to stir up controversy and be unpopular, as long as it uses substantiated evidence.

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