Friday, October 28, 2005

The State of Debate

And so, having reviewed Mr. Kirk's Principles or Conservatism, we've found that there's not a tremendous amount of difference between at least this progressive and conservative principles. Further, I'd posit that many conservatives may not have problems with actual progressive principles.

That is, I don't think many are actually opposed to peace, as a notion. Conservatives do think steps ought to be taken before engaging in war. They are concerned about the poor and the environment.

I came from conservative roots and know too many traditional-minded people to think them monsters.

Nonetheless, I worry about the state of politics in our country. The state of reasoning and debate. I'll give an example from a recent series of dialogs I've had at a conservative blog on the issue of the Iraq Invasion.

I tried to point out at this blog that the reasoning for the invasion is the same as the reasoning for the terrorist attacks. The similarities, as I suggested:

The terrorist says: "The Americans are evil/a threat and must be stopped. They must be killed, even if we must kill innocent people to do so."

Those who believe that the Iraq Invasion is Right say: "The terrorists are evil/a threat and must be stopped. They must be killed, even if we accidentally kill innocent people to do so."

Upon saying this, I was accused of calling a young blogger a terrorist. The commenters said, among other things:

Please don't compare me to terrorists.”

So let any NEW liberals who post here be warned: any more people calling people here Terrorists, or even comparing them to Terrorists gets the boot! “

I pointed out that I did NOT call anyone a terrorist, simply pointed out the reasoning was the same.

They responded:

Dan refused to apologize. I even explained to him why I wouldn't let the comment stand where he implied we have the same agenda as terrorists...”

I pointed out that I did not imply they have the same agenda as the terrorists, that I said they had the same reasoning. At first, they never responded to my actual comment, only got angry at my supposed comments or implications.

When they finally got around to responding to my actual assertion, they said:

No, that isn't what the terrorists say. They say: "The Americans are evil and must be killed. All of them. Muslims must be in control of the world. Anyone who isn't a Muslim is evil." That's the difference Dan. Why don't you get it?

Of course, in so saying, this blogger was simply repeating what I had said, that the terrorists think we're evil/a threat and must be killed. They added the part about “Muslims must be in control of the world. And anyone who isn't a Muslim is evil,” but that is merely an explanation of why they think we're evil and doesn't change the meat of the comment.

Not only that, but there was the vehemence with which they took objection to my comments. Let me point out that at this blog (and most others I go to) I was calm, polite and reasonable. I called people “brother,” “sister,” “Mr.,” “Miss,” and by their given names. Yes, I occasionally gave a sarcastic response, but even those were mild and good-natured.

For example, when one blogger accused me of being a shill, paid to visit blogs and cause trouble, he cited as a reason that my answers were “Professional, thought out...prose”. To which I responded by thanking this person, calling them a sweetheart. Sarcastic? Yes, but hardly a devastating criticism.

On the other hand, I was called a shill, a fool, a traitor and told I was on the side of evil. My Christianity was questioned and mocked, and I was told to “shut the f*** up” and to keep my vomitus to myself.

One of the host's final remarks was, “The reason why I think so is because they [me and another blogger] were extremely insulting.”

Not that I care at all about the insults, sticks and stones you know, but I'm just trying to honestly represent the tone of the blog (to be fair, the conservative host was trying to be reasonable and kind with me for a while, but eventually came to believe all of the above, it seems).

I bring this up because it concerns me that there seems to be a lack of an ability to logically debate based on what people have said in clear print. I was never rude, but they heard me being rude (again, to be fair, there was another liberal commenter whose points were more explosive than mine – perhaps they were confusing who said what).

I never called anyone a terrorist, nor implied that anyone was a terrorist or had the same agenda and tried multiple times to correct the misperception, but they heard me calling them terrorists or having terroristic agendas.

This is not the only occasion where I've had these sorts of conversations. I could go on and on, believe me. I've even had similar lack of understanding clear words with a conservative friend in a face to face conversation. Have we lost the ability to honestly debate and reason or are these merely isolated cases of a few poor debaters?

One final thought: These conservatives that I've talked to have been, in the main, religious conservatives, ones who are glad to invoke religion when the debate is on gays or abortion. I was just noticing that they had made several comments about me along the lines of, "I am tired of being preached to by Dan..." because I quote Jesus.

It seems oftentimes that they are fine with using religion in the political battlefield until you start actually quoting Jesus or other biblical verses which undermine their points. It's sort of amusing seeing the "Holier than thou..." crowd being annoyed by someone acting "holier than they."


madcapmum said...

Gosh, Dan, you're MEAN! How could you bring nasty ol' logic into anything?

I'd say definitely that the ability to rationally discuss is conspicuous in its absence. The majority of folks that I get into a "real" conversation with seem unable to create a logic trail more than three steps long, and are disinterested in the process.

What people want is what they want, and emotional manipulation to achieve that is an extremely effective tool with a Pavlovian populace. If you "hurt my feelings" by not agreeing with me, then we no longer have to discuss the issue, and you are the agreed-upon brute.

Isn't that an "ad hominem"? Tut-tut, Marjorie!

Good luck to us all - bread and circuses and pop-psychology win every time.

Eleutheros said...

MadCap, I'd throw junk science and pop-history in that mix as well.

Here, says I, Dan, is why debate is nearly nonexistent on blogs: In real debate we have rules of evidence, rules of logic, and we know and agree on the criteria to be used to judge whether a point wsa made or no.

One of the saws of debate is: "Anything gratuitously asserted can be gratuituously denied."

Debate used to be a furnace and a forge where one submitted one's ideas and by means of airing and debate, the dross was burned away. What you had at the end of the process was something worth having. People of that ilk assumed that their ideas would be assailed, looked forward to it, desired it, and prepared for it.

Now of days most blogs are of the strictly feel-good type. Say anything even remotely not in lockstep with the blogger, and you are an evil trouble maker. It's because the blogger fears to have therr ideas held up to scutiny.

Conservatives don't have a monopoly on this.

Wasp Jerky said...

Methinks things are only going to get nastier now that Scooter has been indicted. A trial is going to follow. That's not going to be good for anybody who backed this presidential administration.

Daniel Levesque said...

People do emotional and unreasonable at times. But you forgot mention the conservative blogs where you are treated with dignity and respect, like mine. Be careful not to charachterize us all with the examples you have given. How do you think people get striated, bigoted notions of people anyway?
Your friend,

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks all and yes, Daniel and Eleutheros, you are certainly correct that it's not a universal conservative trait.

I will say though, that, at least in the blogosphere, I run in to poor debating skills and lack of common courtesy more frequently than not on conservative sites (present company excluded) but perhaps that's because I'm often in agreement at the liberal ones and therefore they have no reason to blast me as the Cons do.

But I do list some of the more conservative blogs over on my Link Wall...the ones where there's at least a chance of a decent discussion (even though y'all are SO wrong SO much of the time...)

Rob Toney said...

Most folks "debating" politics these days, in any venue, are tragically not trying to learn anything, or even persuade, but are trying to win. Debate is mere competition, where too often the end justifies the means. The art of persuasion is what is lost in this society. So is the desire to move people in such a way that their lives are actually transformed. Their hearts are transformed. It's much easier to coerce and force or manipulate. Might makes right. To think otherwise may force one to realize they we all have some of the truth (Gandhi).

Sylvia said...

I'm afraid that for most people (throughout history) the only logic that makes any sense is Us vs. Them. Whatever strengthens that equation is nurtured, whatever questions it must be destroyed.

It's no accident that this is more of a problem among conservatives because they tend to be exclusive, while inclusivity is a core liberal/progressive value.

madcapmum said...

I'd disagree with that. I've found that some of the most disagreeable, nasty propoganda on the net is produced by liberals. And I'd probably plot further to the liberal side of the graph than conservative.

Inclusive... if you agree with us. If you don't, you're a pitiable redneck bonehead holding back the enlightenment of civilization.

Strictly anecdotal, of course.

Son of Lilith said...

I agree with Dan. Most of the fired-up bloggers are conservatives, but then again I have no reason to stray far from the pack on liberal blogs. I think that more often than not both sides are equally venomous towards the opposition. You can't tell me that liberals are treated as equals on Mike's America, even when they show civility and intellect.

Dan Trabue said...

Hey Rob! Thanks for stopping by and "speaking" up.

Good to hear from you all. Thanks.

And I do think I'd have to agree with Sylvia that since keeping an open mind is central to liberal dogma, there's more of a tendency to NOT be so argumentative and consider the "other side's" point.

That said, we all know plenty of liberals who are open-minded as long as you agree with them on a few key issues. But if not...

whollyman said...

The thing I find about labels, like conservative, liberal, and the like, is that they are so constricting. I think of them like underwear. They bunch up at inconvenient times, chaff in unpleasant places, constrict who we really are, and stink if worn too long. We are best off if we just don’t use them!

Dan Trabue said...

you liberal hippie!

NoTONoEagles said...

Help Mommy, there are Liberals! underneath my bed!!! (No, seriously, that's the name of the book...) Don't believe me? The dang thing's on Amazon, not some hippie-press bullcrap ;) Anyway, thought you might enjoy, pinko ;)

Robert said...

I want to leave the argument over tactics and courtesy to return to the comparison you drew between the terrorists and the Americans. I think you mischaracterize the terrorist's view to make your point. It's not that they are willing to accept innocent casualties in pursuit of their goal; it's that they don't believe there are any innocent Americans. I haven't heard anyone, even the Pats (Robertson and Buchanan), say there are no innocent Muslims/Iraqis/etc. That is a pretty major difference as I see it.