The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Arguments I Won't Read

Looking through my various news feeds, I have come to a decision. I will no longer waste time reading articles that begin with personal attacks on other people and groups. Name calling will be an immediate red flag for me that an article is not worth my time. As a reporter added a while back, anyone who brings the Nazis into an argument (accusing someone of acting like one) has lost the battle too.

The name calling tactic, which has become increasingly popular in adult circles (although it should have been abandoned when we left the elementary school playground behind), is used to both distract from facts (which may be few and far between) and to bludgeon a civilized opponent into shocked silence. This is nothing new. Socrates wrote long ago: "When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser." These days, however, many don't wait until they have lost and jump straight into slander as an opening gambit.

This tactic also flies in the face of several of the finer points of conducting a solid, civil argument in which either side might learn something new and see something from a different perspective. The most basic is that this tactic frequently hides the fact that the person launching this aggressive "offensive" is short on, well, facts. Also, in a civil argument, each side comes into the encounter admitting that there is a possibility they could be wrong on the matter and might have their minds changed. Additionally, in a good argument each party attempt to befriend the other so no harm is done. Finally, each side dedicates him or herself to listening to the other actively, taking in what that person has to say, and then responding with reason, fact by fact, perhaps even with questions. The idea is not to belittle the other person, slander them into silence, or anger them into violence, but to engage in an active discussion, fact for fact, detail for detail, and see if someone's mind is change and common ground is established.

I think I'll apply the same rule to any article that begins with gross generalizations tarring whole groups with undeserved accusations that do not fit the people/group as a whole. Most of all, I'll try to apply this standard to my own writing. We'll see where that goes.

Here's to a revival of civil argument leading to deep thinking and perhaps changed minds ... and new friendships. All of that has to beat the present alternative, I would imagine

For an article on arguments, see:

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