Monday, August 07, 2006

How to Successfully Ignore a Topic

Denial: a strong defense mechanism used by people who are unwilling to face reality.

We've all witnessed it - the artful dodging of discussing actual topics on a blog which may cause personal distress as a function of holding one's opinion as truth, regardless of new information provided by others.

Witness such a dialogue.

Now, if you are not skilled in effectively veering away from the topic at hand because you hold the wacky belief that one must deal with what is dealt to you, you may find these tips on how to use faulty logic handy should you ever decide that you would rather avoid awareness and keep yourself comfortable in a faux cloak of security.

Remember, thou shalt not disturb the comfortable!

You don't need to be formally schooled in logical fallacies in order to use them. In fact, I'd guess that many people on blogs don't even know that they're quite adept at composing arguments based on twisting the rules of logic. For some, it just comes naturally! For others, however, using faulty arguments is an acquired skill. So, here are some worth learning.

1. Use ad hominems. If someone writes something you don't like (such as the blog entry cited above), just call them names ie. 'you're a doo doo head' or 'that guy's obviously anti-semitic' or say that what they wrote is 'stupid' or 'cowardly'. That's an easy one and you'll find that others will be willing to pile on as well, especially when said 'doo doo head' is unpopular or their position is not that of the majority. And, if that technique fails, just attack the person's country!

2. Note the slipperly slope. We're all capable of standing on the edge while pointing to the bottom of the hill when someone presents us with a dilemma that we can't really argue with without stating something like, 'If you criticize Israel's aggression, you are ensuring the destruction of all Jews everywhere for all time'. See how easy that was?

3. 'No True Scotsman'. This one is quite popular. It goes something like this: Doo doo head speaks out against Americans. No true American speaks out against Americans. Therefore, Doo doo head is anti-American, UnAmerican or is not an American. Simple!

4. Insert a red herring. The author of the topic isn't speaking out against actions in Iraq. Therefore, he has no right/authority to speak on any other conflict. Yes, that actually makes sense to some people.

5. Throw in a weak analogy. Like comparing a person's reaction to the Israel/Lebanon war to some crazed driver.

Yes, these methods along with so many others can help you too when you just can't handle the topic at hand. So the next time you're tired or angry or just plain fed up, throw all logical caution to the wind and jump right in with both feet. You see, there will always be at least one person out there who will back you up and cheer you on because, when it comes to denying reality, one is never alone.

Further reading: Why smart people defend bad ideas

27 comments:

catnip said...

And, let me be the first to say that I am not averse to actually falling into these illogical traps. Note how I call some people "wankers" at times.

Nobody's perfect, but we'd sure have better debates on issues if we'd try to be more logical and rational.

(I also crossposted this at my blog, which will most likely piss off the big guy at BT sonce he doesn't like anyone criticizing anything on his site. Oh well! Afaic, if it's posted anywhere on the internets, it's fair game for criticism - just as my writings are.)

Raging Hippie said...

I'm one of those rare unfortunate souls who loved law school--and especially loved those cursed professors who pushed and prodded until logic or something close to it came to light. Shouting contests in which contestants try to out-nasty each other just make me tired.

If these so-called debates were urine-tested to determine their testosterone-to-reason ratio, none of them would be allowed to ride in the Tour de France.

Raging Hippie said...

Ooops, am I guilty of throwing in a weak analogy?

Regarding the linked-to article, it caused me to reflect a little on the "competitive smarts" game. There's a whole lot of stupid in the world, and that's depressing enough. But to watch so much of the intelligence that does exist become weaponized and used to bolster empire-sized egos, well, that sends me scurrying away from the computer in search of comfort food.

Another random note: Mr. Berkun recommends leaving the cloister and seeking out diverse ideas, and in theory I agree. But the theory falls apart in practice when too many "ideas" are grounded in hate and wielded like a billy club. Ideas need a little safe ground for growing.

DuctapeFatwa said...

I think anything pertaining to Israel's activities, especially at the moment, will be a difficult issue to even think about, much less discuss, for some westerners, Americans especially, who may be having some conflict about the reality of the situation versus their deeply held belief that as Americans (and/or Democrats), they must always cleave to unconditional support of Israel, that not to do so will mark them as an anti-Semite, or anti-Jewish, for those who cringe at the semantic absurdity of that use of "Semite," and in recent years, either "soft on terror" at best, or a "terrorist sympathizer" at worst.

Especially when one is talking about websites who claim an affinity, if not an affiliation, with the Democratic Party, it is an especially sensitive matter, since the policy of the Democratic party is identical to the policy of the US: unconditional support for Israel.

Some sites, Democratic Underground is maybe the best example, go to absurd lengths, essentially forbidding discussion of the subject by confining it to one forum set up sort of like a "colored waiting room" of apartheid days, and even then, every post must link to a current news story, which must be from a source approved by the site's owner, and several other megabytes of rules and regulations, designed to make posting anything on the subject bear more resemblance to a text-based role-playing game than a forum for the expression of ideas and exchange of information.

Lately, this has been impossible to enforce, despite the best efforts of the site's administrators, and to their credit, one sees quite a few posts there from folks who appear to be giving some serious thought to the issue, despite the fact that it puts them at odds with their political organization of choice, as well as their nation.

And I see the same thing on BooMan Tribune, which is, to its credit, much more "moderate" than DU, and which has allowed expression of a variety of views, despite all the factors mentioned above. Sirocco is only one of the writers there who have posted articles that are unarguably critical of Israel's activities, and even the site owner has had the courage to refer to the recent ethnic cleansing operations in Lebanon as ethnic cleansing, an act which may be enough to disqualify him from even the most lowly precinct captain position in the Democratic party, if he ever seeks such, and anyone ever looks up that article and shows it to whoever will decide whether or not to confer such a position on him.

Under the current circumstances, it is hard for me to condemn anyone who finds it easier to ignore what is happening in the Middle East, if they have indeed considered the reality of the Situation, a very good argument can be mounted that a healthy reaction is to spend as much time as possible with the people and activities that one loves most.

DuctapeFatwa said...

oh and catnip, I am happy to see you ensconced in the Rantstarters' pillowpile, and I think I have fixed it so you should be able to add links to the categories now. "holler at me" if this is not the case.

catnip said...

Thanks, DTF. I'll check out my newly-ordained powers. :)

I agree that it's uncomfortable for some to discuss Israel but, if they're going to jump in, I'd hope they'd at least try to address things rationally. I know. I'm an idealist. What can I say?

Note this comment as well on my blog where I crossposted this post. I hadn't realized that MWW was a member of BT. Her blog is dedicated to aboriginal issues - another one of those "uncomfortable" topics. The problem with ignoring these discussions is that, sooner or later, they come back to bite us in a big way and if we've not lent our voice to the topic before and have preconceived notions based on so-called conventional wisdom, some may be in for a rude awakening when their so-called truths are exposed to be bogus talking points (which is why many avoid the topic in the first place).

I don't hang out at DU. I'm sure that if I did I'd have lots more to rant about! :)

Oh, and if some BTers were disturbed by what Sirocco posted, their heads would definitely explode if they read this.

DuctapeFatwa said...

LOL I don't hang out there either, I posted there a few years ago, and one day I will tell all about that!

I have, however, watched it go through some of the same transitions as some of the other sites that style themselves as "moderate" as opposed to "extreme" right wing.

I have yet to see any left wing American sites, I thing progressiveindependent may be about as close to that as it would be possible to get, but for that very reason, it is very small, and not nearly as active as the "moderates"

Nanette said...

I came to the conclusion long ago that, once you strip away all the religious stuff (which I don't believe in anyway) and all the Exodus stuff, Israel was yet another European settler/colonizing state and thus it wasn't so much that I didn't support its existence, but that I couldn't figure out *how* it could continue to exist, in its current form. Anymore than a place like South Africa could.

As far as I know, the only way countries that have been colonized have been able to stand is by the complete annihilation/subjugation of the people who were there before... I can't think of one that hasn't done that over the centuries. Thing is, others know this, and that is why there is the acceptance of the humiliation and attempted subjugation (and frequent killings) of the Palestinians. And the acceptance of the killings of the Lebanese as well.

And it is acceptance of just that sort of "ethnic cleansing", no matter if the words are couched in terms such as "Israel has a right to defend herself" or whatever.

There is more conflict among Jews themselves than we ever hear in the US media, I know. Even if they nominally support a Jewish state (which I can well understand, as I know the feeling of "no safe place". Jews are very unsafe in many countries, at this moment. As are Muslims, ironically.) But even so, they don't necessarily support the one that is there, in its current form.

I knew a couple of Israeli young men (online) a few years ago... both absolutely hated the militarized society... they wanted to start their own business and do tech work do this and that ... which they could do still, but always with a shadow hanging over them.

Anyway, I don't think that the plan going in to this current mess was for Hezbollah to come out as the 'scrappy little country going against more powerful ones... and winning', but that's what seems to be happening. And that's why it's so important for politicians and others to drum 'terrorists, terrorists, terrorists!' into the minds of people who would be far more inclined to root for the underdog in regular situations.

DuctapeFatwa said...

Yes, Nanette, it used to be called the last bastion of western colonialism, till recent years when the US began giving it some competition.

But you are correct that the plan is essentially to exterminate the Arabs, and this is acceptable to the US mainstream.

I don't think, however, that the target population will go quietly. I believe that Hezbollah may set a trend. It is beginning to smart a bit in certain places that Hezbollah shall be the only entity in the entire world who is willing to stand up to the Zionists, especially with all the talk of jihad and willingness to become martyrs and with our blood and our soul, as it shakes out only Hezbollah is walking the walk, and young men being young men, I believe, and I will not deny that I also pray, that some of those young men will begin to hesitantly take those first shaky steps...

catnip said...

No doubt you all know what response this comment spawned. How pathetically predictable. But then, I keep forgetting that soldiers died to only ensure that some people ie. the right people had free speech. Silly me.

DuctapeFatwa said...

I'm sure that if you or anyone made a comment on there that was critical either of US or Israeli gunmen, that it caused great outrage.

Even when I could still load it up, I had stopped posting there a long time ago, it is another site where my presence is inappropriate.

I am, after all, on the other side. ;)

catnip said...

It all came down to someone criticizing the military and being called anti-American.

o/t: someone's been busy deleting comments at the scotchtape blog.

supersoling said...

Catnip,
I deleted my comments there three weeks ago. I don't know about anyone else. The whole premise of the site is offensive and some of my comments were offensive. I didn't want to be associated with it anymore.

catnip said...

Aha! Mystery solved. Thanks, super. :)

That site sure had a short shelf-life. I wonder who their next target will be: Sirocco?

Nanette said...

It won't be Sirocco. He is Norwegian, you see... there was that one guy who was going after Norway's past, but that was in relation to his (or rather that other author's) views on the current Israeli/Lebanon situation.

You'll not see any of the vitriol that was spewed against Ductape (including "anti-american!") used against Sirocco, I don't think, even though he is actually way more blunt in his views of the culpability, apathy and general stupidity of many Americans - because he is European, not Muslim, not from one of those countries, and in general is most likely considered to have more right to speak.

Mind you, some of the worst offenders are not posting there any longer, but the very lack of reaction from anyone to Sirocco just sort cements my view that the entire brouhaha was mainly a result of racism, xenophobia and nationalism arising out of militarism.

DuctapeFatwa said...

Nanette, thank you for recognizing the effort I have always made posting on US sites to say things as politely and gently an euphemistically as possible. :)

When I first heard about the scotchtape blog, I thought it was funny, I even told people about it, and then I forgot about it, a few days later, someone again pointed me to it, and it was beyond repulsive. Not so much what anyone was saying about me, but as on the BT site, what people were saying to others who had maybe said a kind word to me, or even just had a conversation with me that went beyond "you are a doo doo head," and some were even getting angry at people simply because they didn't think they were outraged enough by me.

Although I realized that this was a phenomenon that had nothing to do with me, in the reality based universe, nevertheless that my name could be used as any sort of hook to hang that kind of thing on, to say these things to other people, was so distressing to me that I seriously considered whether I should continue to maintain a presence on the internets at all.

I was and still am a bit ashamed of myself for participating on the BT site in the first place, and I suppose one could argue that I should leave alone any US site, even blogs of individual Americans, that is certainly the opinion of many in the east.

However, I am a stubborn, selfish, and crabby old man, and I have come to enjoy chatting with my American friends on the internets. I enjoy the company of Americans offline, why should I treat them as untouchables online? Granted, I have no business on the pro-crusader, pro-zionist, islamophobic sites, nor have I ever had any business there, and for me to be there at all was both discourteous and unproductive. And it would, in my opinion, be equally or more discourteous and unproductive for me to decide to shun all western, even American internet friends simply because they are western or American, that would be no different from the islamophobes!

As old folks are wont to do, I suppose that aside from sheer whimsy, I had some hare-brained notion that perhaps if I would allow people to become acquainted with me, that it might make them think, and maybe they would wish to become acquainted with Others offline, maybe they would - I don't know what I thought, but whatever it was, it was inexcusably naive for someone who has lived so long, and knows better. The internets have been a disappointment to me, I confess to having had hopes that I realize now were beyond unrealistic, in terms of the effect this technology would have on human interaction.

But why should I let that deprive myself of the things, rather the people, who have surpassed my expectations, bright spots in the universe of humanity for whom I have come to feel real affection, and real admiration?

Especially considering the Situation, if my advice to others is that they do what they enjoy, and spend time with loved ones and loved activities, if the greatest gift I have received from the internets is the gift of becoming acquainted with those bright spots of humanity, should I not take my own advice and use my online time reading their words, and placing my own for them to see?

So I cannot condemn my experiment unqualifiedly, did I not meet many of you through it?

supersoling said...

Well, it looks like I might be getting into it soon with a couple of people in my diary at BT about the non existant coverage of the anniversarry of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Can't critisize the front pagers apparently, though the two that I kinda singled out, Boo and Steven, both recommended the diary. But Chris and Diane are disagreeing with me, which is a little unexpected, and CG is disagreeing through a recommend of Chris's comments to me.

Otherwise, plenty of people recommended and commented favorably. Plus, anytime I can give Janet some props for her passion is a good thing.

catnip said...

As old folks are wont to do, I suppose that aside from sheer whimsy, I had some hare-brained notion that perhaps if I would allow people to become acquainted with me, that it might make them think, and maybe they would wish to become acquainted with Others offline, maybe they would - I don't know what I thought, but whatever it was, it was inexcusably naive for someone who has lived so long, and knows better.

Well, it wasn't exactly a hare-brained notion afaic because my friendship with you has proved to be invaluable and you've definitely made me think and broaden my horizons for which I am extremely grateful. Thank you for your patience and time. It hasn't been wasted.

Add to that the fact that a group of like-minded people have now all "found" each other as we try to wade through the daily insanity and I think you'll agree that nothing really happens by accident.

catnip said...

super,
I must say that this comment by Chris disturbs me, but I also have to give him points for being honest about where he's at with the issue.

Chris wrote: "I'm not at a point in my life where I can get my head around 200,000 dead people."

Understandable. Many people simply can't or won't, so I'd rather read about Hiroshima, Nagasaki and nuclear obliteration by those who are able to get their heads around it, like you.

And I really wish people would stop referring to Lamont as being "antiwar". He's not. He's anti-the Iraq war. He's quite willing to stand up for Israel's right to defend itself in the current war and makes absolutely no reference to how Israel is conducting itself with the war crimes it is committing in the name of that so-called defence.

That irks me to no end - that so many people believe he is what he's not: antiwar.

supersoling said...

Guilty as charged, calling Lamont anti-war. I was thinking about just that a little while ago and should post a comment clarifying that.

Thanks for pointing it out. I fell victim to the media label.

dove said...

Sirocco was the first person I sort of got to know online, though our paths haven't crossed much for a while now. Which is by the by: I think you're right that he is read differently, Nanette (in ways not unrelated from how I think I was read differently there, though Sirocco and I ended up standing in quite different places on some topics, in particular, the cartoons) and that a goodly amount of that has to do with race. Though I don't think it impossible that his foreigness will eventually be used to discount his blunter words especially as November gets closer: that theme has no shortage of variations, I fear.

Ductape,
Speaking of placing your words for others to see ;) Hint. Prod. The same hints and prods might also be more broadly directed . . .

And no, I do not think you should condemn, regret, or feel shame for your experiment. Obviously I am glad you made it.

I've read bits of the scotchtape blog: I'll confess, having been reminded of its existence I even clicked on it tonight. Repulsive, yes and I can see why you had the reaction you did in terms of the way others were being targeted.

It may be a failure of imagination or observation on my part, but to me the whole thing -- right down to the accusations of 'cultism' and the attempts to use sexism as a wedge -- had an inescapable air of deja vu. I think the use of these tactics in tandom is quite common, though I'm still not sure whether it demonstrates a rich sense of irony or a lamentable lack of it.

catnip said...

Oops! I hadn't even paid attention to who had called Lamont antiwar at BT. I'd just written about that misnomer on my blog earlier today. Nothing personal super!

(You probably have the feeling I've been picking on you the last couple of days. It wasn't deliberate. It was pure coincidence. Sorry!)

supersoling said...

Picking on me?
Nope. The thought never crossed my mind. I didn't mean to imply that I thought you were accusing me of a crime against liberals or something. But if the shoe fits.....
Besides, I expect to be made aware of differing opinions or mistakes made. It's all good.

catnip said...

A crime against liberals? lol

Neocon philosophy is a crime against liberals. All else pales in comparison.

DuctapeFatwa said...

dove, thank you! After updating my blog today, I am doing good to write my name :)

One wonders what would happen should anyone post on one of these pro-Zionist sites the Forbidden Phrase:

Lebanon has the right to defend itself

Nanette said...

Ductape, I think you do a great service putting your views out there for others to see, even on the pro-crusader etc, blogs. The scotchtape site was really vile, but also hilarious and hilariously familiar. Outraged people scaring themselves silly over people (not even people like *us*!) who dared to speak to them without the proper deference and realization of how good a people they really were.

I was waiting for them to start accusing us of dancing around a fire with bones in our noses, practicing voodoo and worshipping the all powerful sticky silver tape god.

You don't realize how indoctrinated you are, though, until you meet others who are not. I remember one of my first conversations online was with a young man from Chile, and there was something in the news about Cuba. I said something that was no doubt the standard US "facts" about Cuba, and the guy said... "why do you say that?". So, of course I told him that everyone knew that, that's just the way things were. And, also of course, he proceeded to tell me that that was absolute nonsense.

I am less indoctrinated than many USAuns, but still I've had a few moments with people of many different countries of "why do you say that?", "why do you think that?" and "are you insane?"

It really is amazing how much we don't know that we don't know... and I don't think it's exclusive to USAuns, but we're certainly - I think! - one of the most relentlessly propagandized on many matters.

So, I welcome other insights, other ways of looking at things and starting points for finding out more about issues and situations.

James said...

I finally crawled out of my cave and found that scotchtape blog y'all mention - damn! Was sort of like driving past a car wreck - it's just too hard to drive by without slowing down and taking a look. Didn't take much to figure out who some of the playas was under different nom de plums.

I did find the Manson family references aimed at a number of us to be quite amusing. What occupies the minds of some in blogtopia is truly amazing.