15 replies [Last post]
expatriate's picture
Offline
Location: Arizona
Joined: 10/26/2002
Posts: 3207
Lost art?

Have we as a society lost the ability to debate? Not arguing -- debating. It seems like whenever you attempt to engage someone on political debate anymore, they immediately do one or more of the following:

- Attack your integrity. They'll brand you a liar without providing any evidence, references, or proof.

- Attack your intellect. Obviously, if you disagree with them you're an idiot.. They'll deny your capacity for independent thought by saying you've been brainwashed or are as stooge of some person or organization. While they're at it they'll probably accuse you of being poorly educated or cursed with a low IQ.

- Attack your motivation. If all else fails they'll accuse you of having no interest in debate and say that you're bent on a mission of personal destruction for some external political agenda.

- Label you. This is where the names ar e introduced to try to diminish your credibility by trying to pigeonhole you as someone whose voice shouldn't count because you're a troll, bigot, whatever.

- Blame it all on Bush or global warming (which, by the way, is Bush's fault) and connect it to the war in Iraq. Ever notice that arguing with some people is like playing six degrees of separation?

What they WON"T do is actually construct a syllogism to refute the points you raise. They flat out won't/can't answer the mail. I once asked a guy what, in his opinion, constituted a "just" war that would justify use of military force. We went back and forth forever as he dodged and launched into every form of personal attack possible -- but absolutely would not form or express his own opinion on a simple topic at hand.

I know it's not just me, because you see the same tactics employed on the news all the time. Rather than answer the mail, they'll attack the mailman in an attempt to nullify it. Is this just intellectual laziness, or have we as a society become too shallow to be able to actually debate issues at hand?

Offline
Location: Colorado
Joined: 11/09/2005
Posts: 166
Lost art?

Yes, it seems we have. I think there are a number of causes, but the main ones are the focus of the media on the most extreme and hysterical positions (which, I guess, they think sells more newspapers, airtime, whatever), and the fact that we have only two viable political parties.

The effect of the media focusing on the extremes is pretty obvious. Everyone gets the idea that the way to "win" an argument is to just be more rude and shout louder than your opponent. That, at least, seems to be how all those Sunday morning political shows work.

The control over the political system that the Democrats and Republicans have is a less obvious cause. I had occasion, not too long ago, to spend quite a bit of time in France. Due to the differences over the war in Iraq I expected to run into a significant amount of anti-American sentiment. I did not. In fact, I was surprised--given the portrait that the media paints--how friendly, helpful, and polite everyone was.

I started asking myself why this was. Then I started asking them. The answer is pretty simple. They may despise the things that our government is doing, but they see no reason at all why that should affect the relationships between people. In other words, they just don't take politics anywhere NEARLY as personal as we do. To them it's just politics. When I asked if they hate George Bush they were universally surprised that I would even think such a thing. Their response was, why would they hate a man they don't even know? And yet MANY American Democrats will tell you straight out that they hate George Bush.

So then I got to wondering why that was. Why do we take politics so personally, and why don't the people of other countries? I am now pretty firmly of the belief that it is because of our two party system, as opposed to most nations of the world who have three, four, or even more viable parties.

So, here in the U.S. every issue comes down to Democrats vs. Republicans. It translates into an us vs. them attitude; right vs. wrong, black vs. white, good vs. bad. We end up being very polarized over every little thing, and that turns every little thing into a shouting match completely devoid of rational debate.

In countries with three or four viable parties things rarely devolve to that level, because the only way to get things done is through coalitions with other parties. They can't afford to see things as "us vs. them" because on the next issue that comes up they are going to have to find common ground with "them" in order to form the kind of coalition that is needed to accomplish their goals. The result being that they spend at least as much time looking for the common ground between parties as they do being confrontational.

At least, that's my 2¢ on the matter.

Offline
Location: Palisade, Colorado
Joined: 10/10/2005
Posts: 134
Lost art?

I agree with you guys on this. I don't know what the root cause is, but we as a society have lost the ability to say "I respectively disagree with you". Unfortunate that many people do not accept differing opinions and beliefs.

bitmasher's picture
Offline
Moderator
Location: Colorado
Joined: 02/27/2002
Posts: 2973
Lost art?

I don't think its a lost art, rather an art that few master or (like math) feel a need to understand.

I think the media's move from prose to sound bites marginalizes important venues for critical thought. In general written media is a stronger venue for building critical thought than TV or Radio. Well formed and written editorials usually can show readers what good debate skills involve. Rarely do you see an op-ed pieces on local or national tv news... Furthermore, high quality written journalism can show all or as many sides of an issue without taking a side. Good journalism lays out the facts of a issue, op-ed pieces form opinions or directions based on those facts.

Ad hominem attacks are the bread and butter of internet forums. They are a crutch of the weak minded and I tend to ignore posters that use them frequently. A little blustering is normal and human, to use it all the time is childish and pointless.

I also think the presidental "debates" are a bad joke and re-enforce the idea that hard problems can be solved by snappy comments and trivial answers.

expatriate's picture
Offline
Location: Arizona
Joined: 10/26/2002
Posts: 3207
Lost art?

I once conducted an experiment by going involved in a left-wing forum. I set rules for myself that I strictly followed: 1) always be polite no matter what; 2) never label people or make ad hominem attacks; and 3) back everything I said with facts and references. In short, I became Mr. Spock.

I lasted six days before the moderators shut me down. During those six days I received every abuse imaginable from the posters, even though I made it a point to be respectful to a fault and always identified common ground if possible. It seemed to drive them absolutely bonkers that I didn't fit their view of a rabid vitriol-spitting troll. The more civil I acted, the more unwound they became. Ironically, they dropped the hammer and told me I couldn't post anymore during a debate on free speech and censorship in a Ward Churchill thread.

I agree that television and short sound bite news seems to feed this. There are a lot of people out there who go around collecting intellectual bumper stickers -- empty rhetoric that they spout off to sound intelligent, yet has absolutely no depth of understanding. They're a one-layered onion -- peel that back and there's nothing behind it. That may be why they go for the personal attacks; they've got nothing else.

Interesting perspective, Denver -- I hadn't thought about the effects of a bipolar political system vs one that has a more multi-faceted composition. But that does seem pretty obvious when you think about it.

Offline
Location: Colorado
Joined: 11/09/2005
Posts: 166
Lost art?

I'm not surprised, expatriate, that you got a lot of personal attacks from liberals. Of course, conservatives do the same thing, but I honestly don't think to quite the same extent. Liberals just seem to take politics much more personally than most.

As an example, when Bill Clinton was in office you, of course, heard a lot of conservatives saying that he was a terrible president, he was completely wrong on most of the issues, and such like that. You did not, however, hear all that many talking about how they "hated" him. Some said that sort of thing, naturally, but not all that many.

Compare that to nowadays when it seems that most of the liberals have a real, personal hatred of George Bush, and they are quite willing to express it. The left just seems to make everything much more personal.

Offline
Location: Missouri/Arkansas
Joined: 08/21/2003
Posts: 891
Lost art?

There are certain rules you follow in order to survive this type of situation. Assuming you posess the desire and the willpower to do battle with one or more of the countless internet denizens lacking in any semblence of a social life, here are some pointers:

1. (very important) NEVER defend your own points. All the more grizzled internet debators know not to defend the validity of their own points, but to stay on the offensive.

2. (equally important) Claim you work in whatever field you're arguing about. If the argument happens to involve the Christian suppression of the Pagans in ancient times, declare that you are the President of Europe. There is nothing that you, the professional, does not know about your given field.

3. If you are losing badly, feign frustration and then declare you're blocking the other person. Since all heated internet debates revolve around getting the last word in, this is a definite key to golden victory.

4. At some point, refer to the other person as a Nazi. EVERY internet debate must contain at least one comparison between one of the debators and a Nazi, it's as important to the integrity of the argument as threats, profanity, and declaring the other person to be an emotional masturbator.

Please, ladies and gentlemen: friends don't let friends argue on the Internet. But if you discover the irresistible urge to strike back against somebody who insulted your intelligence on the Internet, a medium which rewards those with insulting intelligence, please use this guide to your advantage and thoroughly decimate anybody foolhardy enough to challenge your online prowess.

Offline
Location: Aleknagik Alaska / Ozello Keys Florida
Joined: 07/05/2004
Posts: 186
Lost art?

Are you sure you’re not a politician ?

Offline
Location: Missouri/Arkansas
Joined: 08/21/2003
Posts: 891
Lost art?

The rules are similar, aren't they!

Offline
Location: Missouri/Arkansas
Joined: 08/21/2003
Posts: 891
Lost art?

''- Attack your integrity. They'll brand you a liar without providing any evidence, references, or proof.

- Attack your intellect. Obviously, if you disagree with them you're an idiot.. They'll deny your capacity for independent thought by saying you've been brainwashed or are as stooge of some person or organization. While they're at it they'll probably accuse you of being poorly educated or cursed with a low IQ.

- Attack your motivation. If all else fails they'll accuse you of having no interest in debate and say that you're bent on a mission of personal destruction for some external political agenda.

- Label you. This is where the names ar e introduced to try to diminish your credibility by trying to pigeonhole you as someone whose voice shouldn't count because you're a troll, bigot, whatever.

- Blame it all on Bush or global warming (which, by the way, is Bush's fault) and connect it to the war in Iraq. Ever notice that arguing with some people is like playing six degrees of separation?''

Most of the non-join news columns are like that, I previously posted a rant based on my experiences on those sites. On some that I have previously been hammered at, I've gone back and pranked, there is nothing funnier than a bunch of dogmatic idiots trying to aggressively dispute someone who continually makes up bogus scriptures, words, people, places, things, and conspiracies.

With regard to calling someone brainwashed, that sounds like our friend Keeoit saying we had all been brainwashed by evil Christian Nazi guys. He seemed completely oblivious to the fact that I repeatedly stated that I wasn't even a Christian, in the midst of my unrelenting satire of his nonsense.

I just love when a complete stranger purports to know of some secret agenda that I might have. That's almost as good as being referred to as an emotionally desperate, emotionally masturbating troll. I don't care if such people think I'm a troll because I generally pummel them with sarcasm and satire, rather than dignify their garbage with an honest argument of my own.

Blaming, for example, 2005's very active hurricane season on global warming is the ultimate absurdity. It is as though these people believe extreme weather is a new concept. It seems like the U.S. got hit with extremely violent hurricanes in the 1920's and 1930's more often than nowadays. Nobody seems capable of acknowledging the possibility that weather is cyclical. We also had serious natural disasters before George W. Bush was elected for president. Hurricane Katrina would have come along even if we had elected Kerry in 2004.

Offline
Joined: 07/10/2005
Posts: 22
Lost art?

neener!

War is necessary first of all for the
Great Britain, got used to live using colonies.
Made fool the English society has turned
into democratic zombi, representing value of
democracy above freedom.

The USA is supporting corruption in Iraq
because corruption supports their
authority.

The USA will not arm Iraq, because
there is a risk of freeing Iraq.

The future of Iraq depends on
aspiration of its people
to freedom and from their struggle with modern
English colonialism and slavery.

Democracies in the world exist on
degradation of the person and replacement of
ideological values by
material culture.

Colonization of the countries is covered by
democratic and antiterrorist propagation.

Yes

Related Forum Threads You Might Like