Monday, 2 June 2014

Humbabella vs. Internet, 2-2

I've written before about arguments I've had with people in message boards. While others say, "Don't feed the trolls" I say, "Feed them until their stomachs burst."

Much of the time I manage to "win" arguments by getting in the last word. By responding reasonably to everything someone says and never letting them get a rise out of me, I eventually make it feel unfun to continue to reply. I hope by doing so I change their calculus for whether it is worth being antagonistic on a message board. For most people, one bad experience can outweigh many good ones.

Sometimes, though I am eventually forced to concede that I have lost. I've done that twice recently. On one occasion, I tried to argue that our current notion of intellectual property is not doing its job and frankly I just did a bad job of approaching my opponent's central arguments. Part of it was that I was specifically engaging on his terms - I didn't bring up the idea that we'd be better off if we didn't drastically enrich small numbers of people, nor did I question the assumption that all progress is essentially the result of individuals rather than a gradual accumulation in society.  I feel like I should have been able to weave his various threads of discussion together to make a really devastating point, but I just couldn't do it, I left too many gaps for him to duck through.

Anyway, he stuck to his guns quite well and the message board closed the post for comments after five days without me getting at him. Sure, my posts get lots of likes and his don't, but that's a popularity contest, not a victory by knockout.

Second, I was arguing with someone about whether or not, in the face of faster growth by Google+ than by facebook or twitter, it was reasonable to call Google+'s growth "glacial." I was actually just taking exception to that word and the hyperbole being employed against people who were trying to be reasonable. The discussion culminated in this:
Me: To the extent that Google fabricated user numbers their growth was bogus.
Other: You just made no sense there.
That first bit was me conceding their point that the Google+ numbers may have been largely fabricated by counting every youtube user who was automatically added. I'll admit my sentence isn't exactly a masterpiece, but I think the meaning isn't very obscure, especially in the context of the paragraph surrounding it. This line of arguing, the "I can't understand the words you are saying" argument is an interesting new one that I really didn't have a defense for.  There was little else I could do but promise myself never to engage with him again. Point goes to him.

I have, however, recently redeemed myself by calling out one guy on his accusations of emotionality and by absolutely embarrassing another person with facts.

In one case the discussion was about things that men in court mandated anti-abuse programs said about reasons for hitting their partners. The discussion started with I and others saying that in a program like this talking about why you do things is an important part of stopping doing them. Someone interjected about how it wouldn't help psychopaths. A few people responded saying that wasn't a big concern, variously because there wouldn't be a lot of psychopaths in programs like this or because not much helps with psychopaths anyway. The guy who raised the psychopath issue said that he had upset those who disagreed with him, somewhat apologetically.

Accusing your opponents of being upset is pretty awful in an argument.  It basically translates to, "I'm going to stop arguing because I didn't mean to upset you and it's not a good idea to argue with emotional people," with a side of "Obviously I'm the one who is right and rational."

After checking that there was nothing in anyone else's language that would make someone reasonably believe they were upset, I called him on it.  This prompted him to send me a private message which I responded to explaining that I don't think accusing other people of being upset is a good thing for discourse and that I read the other replies and didn't see any evidence that anyone was upset.  He brushed that off, and then replied in the thread to me, noting that he was replying in part to my private message in which I said he was trying to cut off the conversation and retreat from it.

Calling other people upset is pretty low.  Drawing someone into a private conversation so that you can paraphrase them to your advantage in the public discussion is straight up sleazy.  It's also really stupid since I can just go and quote myself from the chain of private messages to show exactly what I said.  No more posts from him before comments closed.  Victory for team good.

In the second case, there was a discussion about whether or not you should vote.  You may know that I don't think a lot of voting.  One side of the discussion was fervently pro-voting and thinks that refusing to choose the lesser of two evils has done terrible things to America since the greater of the two evils has been in power half the time.  Anyway, I didn't get into that because the primary pro-voting argument was coming from Mr. "You just made no sense there," above and frankly he's got an impenetrable shield.

Besides which, why argue with someone you disagree with when you can argue with someone who thinks the same way you do but for the wrong reasons? Particularly when those wrong reasons are completely insane.

The anti-voting stance was held up by a person who argued that voting was always an immoral act. That's the kind of impressive stance you don't usually find outside of a university philosophy department. Here's his argument:
If we accept the concept that all persons are created equal, "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" or if you prefer the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights "Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world ... All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." then we must accept that people have the liberty of self determination.
In this state of being we should be able to generally agree that I cannot and should not impose my will on an unwilling person. To do so by threat of force or loss of liberty would be doubly immoral under this premise. In other words, no human being has the right to rule over another. Yet voting is the very process of ruling others. Therefore, voting violates our fundamental human rights.
Now, there's definitely a leap to unpack there - most of us probably don't agree that voting is imposing our wills on others, we have an idea that there is such a thing as a collective decision making process where more than one person gets input and not everyone is necessarily happy with the result, but everyone has their fair say. Obviously this guy wasn't going to be particularly vulnerable to things like reasonable ideas, though. He was a lot more interested in strict and absolute ideals of liberty.

However, a very quick check of the very U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights reveals that there are many rights listed, one of which is:
The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
So it turns out that using it as a document to base your "voting violated my rights" argument on is a bit of a non-starter. He had a pretty good board position with his explicit refusal to consider evidence, but I top-decked an embarrassing fact and he had to scoop.  At least it's been a few days now without a reply, so I'm going to assume he scooped.  If he tries to make a comeback, I've got my next move all planned out.

1 comment:

  1. "Jenkins is all in... AND THE DRAGON HAS HIM!!"