Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tips for Arguing Like an Idiot

It's never a good idea to debate politics on the Internet--this brilliant modern form of media is really best for sharing recipes and arguing about whether New York Pizza is better than Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (which is a trick question, because Chicago Style is really a pot pie and not a pizza at all).  But there's no better way of finding out that discussions over the issues of the day can lead to straw man arguments, ad hominems, and reducti ad absurdem.  Here are some examples of how the Internet Idiot will argue politics with you:

1) When my guy does it, it's okay, when your guy does it, it's bad because it's different even if it really isn't.  Obama doing something playful and silly (like "slow jamming" the news)?  He's either a down to earth guy with a good sense of humor or he's denigrating his office, depending on who you're asking.  And quite likely that same person will see it the opposite way if it were George Bush doing the equivalently silly thing.

2) You want government more involved in some aspect of the economy?  Why not move to Soviet Russia, if it still existed?  You want less government?  How about lawless Somalia?  You want the police to have more leeway?  Too bad you couldn't live in Nazi Germany!  Clearly, those extremes are all that exist in the world of the Internet Idiot!  Never mind that the difference between Democrats and Republicans these days are pretty minor by world historical standards.

3) If you're not a woman, you're not entitled to an opinion on women's issues (abortion, etc.).  If you haven't served in the military, anything you have to say about war is invalid.  If you don't run a business, your opinion on economic matters is clearly out of your depth.  Never mind that all of these issues affect society at large as well as all individuals living in it.  NOTE: this is not the same as pointing out that as "X" person you have firsthand perspective on something (a soldier who has experienced war, a woman who has gone through pregnancy) which merits added consideration.  My objection is to the idea of arguing with who someone IS rather than the actual argument they're making.

4) Related to 3), the old ad hominem--"you must think that because you're a racist/commie/richperson/parasite".  Reduce the person you're arguing with to a person unworthy of an arguing partner, and you'll never have to deal with the actual point they're making.

5) Lastly, the idea that someone could disagree with you and at the same time not be (a) rotten or (b) stupid should be discarded immediately.  The Internet Idiot is incapable of acknowledging that there may be other perspectives that while incorrect are not stupid or evil.  After all, none of the above can work if you actually respect the points that you're arguing with.

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