It has got to be the most popular rhetorical trick in the bag these days!
It goes something like this: Someone criticizes you (accusing you of, say, “X”), but you don’t want to have to answer the charge. You don’t want to even have to think about whether the charge is accurate. What do you do? Remember that the best defense is a good offense, and turn it around! Say: “Nuh-uh! I’m not X — you’re the one that’s X!”
This works great because it deflects the criticism off of you and onto your opponent. A reasonable, ethical opponent will typically respond by analyzing how X applies (or does not apply) to him/herself. Whew, crisis (and any possible introspection) averted!
But what if the accusation of X doesn’t make any sense when pinned on your opponent? All the better! The more random the counter-charge, the more likely it is to infuriate your opponents (in addition to merely distracting them). Polarization follows, and the danger of any real two-way communication is thus totally obliterated.
It’s amazingly effective. Just say “We’re not taking away your civil rights — by using your political speech to criticize our political actions, you’re taking away our civil rights!” And then look at how quickly blogspace has gone into overdrive spinning their wheels answering the question “Are peaceful political protests of the LDS church’s political actions very much like racists lynching black people over civil rights? Why or why not?”
A few provided some pretty extensive analysis: Deconstructing Elder Oaks’ Prop 8 Devotional, Oaks Speaks Out, Gays and the Church: Whose Ox is Being Gored?, The Hypocrisy of Dallin H. Oaks. Others went with simpler reporting and commentary: Dude?!? Wrong Side!!, Persecution Complex, From The Frying Pan Into The Fire, All Well and Good Except…, WTF?, Analogy Fail — inlcuding Monica Bielanko who got a call from the church for reporting on the story. (Oaks even made Olbermann’s “Worst Person” list, as reported here and here.) Many of these put some satirical effort into deciding what to call it: Is Mormon the new black?, Dallin Oaks Reaches a New Low in His Crusade Against Teh Gays, and Satan, and Reality, Irony, thy name is Dallin H. Oaks, Mormon Leader Calls Kettle Black, and especially Moroni’s Trumpet: We Shall Overcome.
I think Harry Reid said it best (regarding the CoJCoL-dS prop-8 political involvement): “it was a waste of church resources and good will.”
The LDS church squandered quite a lot of public good will on that political contest. Then they squandered even more by icing that cake with juvenile complaints about how unfair it is when people base opinions about you on your actions.