As a death penalty opponent, when I make arguments like this to supporters I’m trying to do two things: first I’m hoping that they’ll agree that that killing an innocent person is so terrible that even a small risk of it gives us reason to abolish capital punishment. I’m hoping to convince them that even if it was good to kill the worst criminals, it’s not worth killing the innocent to achieve it. But I’m also trying to do something a bit less straightforward. By inviting the person I’m talking to to think about the irreversibility, the terrible finality of death in the case of an innocent person, I’m hoping to make them less comfortable about imposing the death penalty even on the guilty.
If you’re part of a movement that people have negative impressions of, these impressions can be quite difficult to dispel. This is sometimes what it’s like trying to convince people feminism isn’t some hypocritical, self-centred movement for rich western women. It’s also what it can be like for pro-life feminists trying to win over our pro-choice counter parts – there are some pretty common ideas that people will believe about you without necessarily having any good reason to do so. Here are some ideas and tactics I think could help counter that.