1332: Slippery Slope

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Slippery Slope
Sure, taking a few seconds to be respectful toward someone about something they care about doesn't sound hard. But if you talk to hundreds of people every day and they all start expecting that same consideration, it could potentially add up to MINUTES wasted. And for WHAT?
Title text: Sure, taking a few seconds to be respectful toward someone about something they care about doesn't sound hard. But if you talk to hundreds of people every day and they all start expecting that same consideration, it could potentially add up to MINUTES wasted. And for WHAT?


The "Slippery slope" argument hinges on the idea that if A happens, then B will follow as a minor but expected consequence. B will lead on to C, C leads onto D, and so on. Each consequence gets progressively worse until you reach an undesirable situation. A slippery slope argument propagates that A should not be allowed, because if it is, then the resulting chain of consequences will lead to the undesirable situation. A contemporary and logically flawed example of this is gay marriage, which has had a largely very similar response. In the 60's interracial marriage was illegal, and people suggested that if allowed it would lead to pedophiles marrying children, men marrying men, people marrying their pets, sisters, etc. Another example of the slippery slope argument is the issue of illegal immigration, where if we allow people into the country illegally and give them citizenship, then they will steal jobs and then take over the United States. These arguments are largely made out of baseless fear and prejudice.

In the comic, White Hat uses a slippery slope argument to Cueball, to justify being inconsiderate to people . He argues that if he expends minor effort being considerate to one person, he will be expected to be considerate to everyone he meets, which - he wishes to argue - is an undesirable situation. Thus, he justifies being inconsiderate as avoiding the slippery slope. This idea is extended in the title text, where he continues extrapolating the train of thought to come to the conclusion that minutes of time would be "wasted". Randall is exposing the greater issue that makes these arguments absurd because Cueball is saying that if he has to be considerate to one person, he will have to extend that courtesy to everyone.

This could be a reference to many arguments in which the slippery slope argument is used to deny people rights.

In the title text, the same idea is added to include that seconds is not a terribly large amount of time to be nice to a few people, but those few seconds multiplied by tens (he says hundreds) of people could mean that a person would waste several minutes per day, as if several minutes were a big amount of time.


[White Hat talking to Cueball.]
White Hat: Yeah, but if I'm considerate toward one person about one thing, what's next?
White Hat: Being nice to other people about other things?
White Hat: Where does it end?

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Wow, and I used to think White Hat was well-meaning but stupid; the inverse of Black Hat. I never knew he was such an asshole... 09:11, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

My own first thought was "That's a Black Hat Voice...". Then I started wondering what White Beret would have said, in his stead, and that sufficiently distracted me... 13:49, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Maybe he's being sarcastic? 23:19, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
I read that as more of an introverted perspective (though to an extreme) than him being an asshole. 16:20, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, I don't really understand what Randall's trying to say by making him a White Hat.--Ricketybridge (talk) 23:43, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
I always assume Randal made a mistake and forget to color in the hat, because this is obviously a BlackHat argument. 18:25, 17 May 2016 (UTC)
Remember that it is this page that has put Cueball and White Hat tags on these persons. Randall does not follow this page... Hence he can change them at will, and especially the Cueball character behaves quite different from comic to comic - sometimes there are more than one Cueball in the same comic. On the other hand, I do believe that Randall uses White Hat as "the same person" every time. However, where White Hat may not wish to go out of his way to be nice - this has nothing in comparison to Black Hat who will go out of his way (a long way) to be mean to everyone. So this is not a typical Black Hat discussion in the comic. Kynde (talk) 10:54, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
I also wonder what the deal is here with White Hat. I usually think of him as the proponent of "conventional wisdom," which is often misguided,smug, and self-righteous... but not usually malicious. Black Hat obviously has that one cornered. And yes, I do understand that Randall "doesn't read this site," but that doesn't mean that he isn't saying something by using White Hat here. He's obviously put a sign out there. It's up to us to decode the signifier. Orazor (talk) 06:50, 6 October 2014 (UTC)
Malice is active and/or deliberate harmful behavior, not the absence of kindness. So his attitude isn't malicious, it's selfish because he's putting his time far ahead of the wellbeing of others. -Pennpenn 06:07, 11 December 2015 (UTC)

"Where does it end"? - Marriage, obviously. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:29, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

Reminds me of a scene in 3
10 to Yuma (2007) with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) speaking to Dan Evans (Christian Bale): "Yeah, that's why I don't mess around with doing anything good, Dan. You do one good deed for somebody... I imagine it's habit-forming. Something decent. See that grateful look in their eyes, imagine it makes you feel like Christ Hisself." 20:24, 19 February 2014 (UTC)CAM

In the U.S., the satellite company DirectTV has a series of humorous commercials using the Slippery Slope argument as part of their "Get Rid of Cable" campaign. They all start with a person using cable tv, having problems of some sort, and then ending up in a dire situation such as waking up in a roadside ditch, selling your hair to a wig shop, etc. 22:43, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

Am I the only one thinking maybe we might take the literal meaning out of this, too? Seems like every day someone else gets fed up with being a douche. 23:19, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

The classical "slippery slope" argument against cannabis legalization is that if we legalize cannabis, we must also legalize other drugs, eventually leading to legalizing heroin. This also mirrors the slippery slope argument in the comic. 11:44, 20 February 2014 (UTC)

Updated and expanded explanation. Is it sufficient now? 23:49, 29 June 2014 (UTC)