Facts aren’t the real battleground
May 16, 2019 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Who wins from public debate? Liars, bullies and trolls. So the art of debating is one that rewards liars and bullies, is about beating the opponent rather than finding the truth, and is structurally biased in favour of conservative bromides rather than surprising new ideas. If that’s what debate is like, perhaps we shouldn’t aspire to be good at it.
posted by Panjandrum (84 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
I mean yeah. One of the defining features of public debates is that factual claims cannot be evaluated by the audience until later, if they remember to and want to.
posted by PMdixon at 9:34 AM on May 16 [12 favorites]


Laying down your weapons because the other side won't fight fair, and trying to cancel the concept of rhetoric itself, is definitely a winner.

Reflections on Debating The Right - Nathan J. Robinson
The debate confirmed a belief I have held for sometime, one I used to hold on faith but now think is quite justified: I think we on the left can and should debate people on the right, publicly, whenever and wherever we can. (And by “we” I mean “people who are better at debate than me.”) There is a very strong prevailing sentiment among leftists that debate is futile, that you do not beat the right politically by besting them in an argument. I have always thought that this misunderstands what a public debate is for: It is not so that you can convince the other person they are wrong, and it is not so you can meticulously list a slew of logical fallacies they have committed. It is a theatrical spectacle, and if you master it, it helps draw people to your cause.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:39 AM on May 16 [38 favorites]


Might it then be a cause for hope, rather than lamentation, that today’s teenagers apparently prefer texting one another to speaking on the phone? Maybe logocentrism is on the way out; and if so, good riddance.

really admire the writer going for the two-point conversion here by musing that perhaps 'talking in person' should be canceled
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:47 AM on May 16 [7 favorites]


Surely modern technology support would enable us to fact-check a debate while it happens and give us a running ticker tape at the bottom with the results?

And then again, who fact-checks the fact-checkers? Nobody believes a TV channel to be neutral any more...
posted by DreamerFi at 9:47 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


The problem with Robinson's argument there is that the "theatrical spectacle" is exactly why the right is there. When we enter into debate with those who hold hateful, bigoted beliefs, we grant those beliefs a measure of legitimacy by the very act - after all, if the beliefs weren't legitimate, then why were they given space in the debate? Charles Murray doesn't care if he wins or loses, because he's achieved his goal by just being on stage.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:49 AM on May 16 [35 favorites]


Or more to the point, refusing to debate the right is not laying down arms - it's refusing to allow them to choose the battlefield.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:52 AM on May 16 [50 favorites]


Deplatforming works. Time and again, what's helped sink the latest round of cranks and baby fascists is driving them off Patreon, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and every other platform that allows free dissemination of their bullshit. Appeasing these toolbags and their fans is not a good business practice; booting them is.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:56 AM on May 16 [26 favorites]


Even if we had a real-time automatic fact-checker feed to the debate moderator allowing them to follow up with lies and inaccuracies, the right would just play that into their invented oppression narrative. I'm not sure there's a way to win there.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:58 AM on May 16 [8 favorites]


The Jordan Peterson sub was in multi-day panic and despair after he was embarrassed so badly by Žižek. The summary in this article was really inadequate, Žižek beat him so badly by the end he was taunting him to just tell a joke. Deplatforming is often effective but think of the moral crowing if someone had just pulled a fire alarm and stopped the Peterson Žižek debate from happening at all. Diversity of tactics, etc.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:59 AM on May 16 [12 favorites]


prize bull octorok: "Might it then be a cause for hope, rather than lamentation, that today’s teenagers apparently prefer texting one another to speaking on the phone? Maybe logocentrism is on the way out; and if so, good riddance.

really admire the writer going for the two-point conversion here by musing that perhaps 'talking in person' should be canceled
"

I'm worried the writer excludes "teenagers texting" from "logocentrism" as if the logos were restricted to the spoken word.
posted by chavenet at 10:01 AM on May 16 [6 favorites]


It is a theatrical spectacle

To be honest, I probably would watch more debates if they featured dry ice, lasers, and elaborate costumes. And would it kill the debaters to rap or sing their talking points?
posted by FJT at 10:02 AM on May 16 [9 favorites]


ok you know what? I would love to see a presidential debate carried out over SMS
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:05 AM on May 16 [6 favorites]


Arguably, all information transmission favours liars, bullies, and trolls.
Gestures vaguely towards Conrad Black, Rebel Media, Fox, Facebook, Twitter etc…
posted by rodlymight at 10:10 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]


When we enter into debate with those who hold hateful, bigoted beliefs, we grant those beliefs a measure of legitimacy by the very act - after all, if the beliefs weren't legitimate, then why were they given space in the debate...Or more to the point, refusing to debate the right is not laying down arms - it's refusing to allow them to choose the battlefield.
NoxAeternum

No, this is completely wrong.

It's only true if you hold to the (wrong, naive) idea that debate is about a search for truth. As the article notes, this has been the approach the left has taken and has therefore gotten stomped. That's why the distinguished biology professor should not debate the Creationism crank, because the result is as you say.

What needs to be done instead is to embrace the "theatrical spectacle" as the right have done and take every public debate as a chance to demolish and humiliate the right:

The Jordan Peterson sub was in multi-day panic and despair after he was embarrassed so badly by Žižek. The summary in this article was really inadequate, Žižek beat him so badly by the end he was taunting him to just tell a joke.
Space Coyote

Or the Ben Shapiro interview a few days ago with BBC host Andrew Neil where he was so badly humiliated that he tried (and failed!) to storm off the set.

These bullies and clowns operate by projecting an aura of power and strength. This is what the right responds to and venerates. You beat them by making them look like impotent fools. This is easy to do because that's what they are, and because what they are saying is ridiculous. Don't try to fact check, don't try to change their mind, don't point out fallacies, just show them for the buffoons they are. Make them look weak and their aura is shattered, which will help break their followers away.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:16 AM on May 16 [26 favorites]


The Jordan Peterson sub was in multi-day panic and despair after he was embarrassed so badly by Žižek.

Huh. Most of the people I saw commenting on the matter gave me the impression the Peterson/Žižek debate was an embarassing spectacle for both sides.

(Then again, I move in the kind of leftist circles that aren't really big fans of Slavoj Žižek)
posted by jackbishop at 10:18 AM on May 16 [11 favorites]


Yet another post explaining why the left should avoid dialog. It's a bit depressing to read this so often these days.
posted by Edgewise at 10:19 AM on May 16 [6 favorites]


Most of the people I saw commenting on the matter gave me the impression the Peterson/Žižek debate was an embarassing spectacle for both sides.

The review I read said it was boring and they mostly talked past each other. This thread is the first place I have heard it said that anyone DESTROYED anyone.
posted by thelonius at 10:24 AM on May 16 [6 favorites]


It turns out that regressive grifting is more amenable to theatric spectacle than fact-based problem solving.

Citation: the world

also the music man
posted by PMdixon at 10:29 AM on May 16 [20 favorites]


Yet another post explaining why the left should avoid dialog

Yes literally the only format to engage in dialogue is in a prescheduled theatrical spectacle with a handpicked conversant operating in bad faith.

There is definitely no other rhetorical form available.
posted by PMdixon at 10:31 AM on May 16 [28 favorites]


Debate is not dialog.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:38 AM on May 16 [19 favorites]


I would love to stop seeing the accusation of "bad faith" in conversations on MeFi and elsewhere. It's a rhetorical power move with no substantive meaning. It's the equivalent of throwing up one's hands and storming out of the room. Which is fine, but let's not pretend we're doing something with more intellectual substance than that.

The other side disagrees with us and they're trying to win an argument. Charging someone with arguing in "bad faith" is just trying to delegitimize the other side without actually engaging in the disagreement. It changes no minds and wins no new supporters to our side - it contributes nothing to a dialog nor to a debate.
posted by PhineasGage at 10:44 AM on May 16 [5 favorites]


Debate? No. Debate is a contest of debate skills. I listen to Intelligence Squared US Debates podcast, and I have learned that many debates do not help me understand an issue better, or make decisions. They present me with a very thin slice of perspective and then ask me to agree or disagree. And these are incredibly high quality debates!

What we need is Deliberation
“Good citizens deliberate. By talking and listening to people who are different
from themselves, they enlarge their understanding, make themselves
accountable to their fellow citizens, and build a degree of consensus” (p. 3).
Peter Levine begins his recently published book with an emphasis on the
importance of diverse citizens engaging one another through discussion and
deliberation. In an opening chapter entitled “Overview: The Public and Our
Problems,” Levine quickly makes the point that deliberation alone, however,
is not enough: “People who merely listen and talk usually lack sufficient
knowledge and experience to add much insight to their conversations, and
talk rarely improves the world” (p. 3). Deliberation is most valuable when
connected to work—the work of active and engaged citizens. It is the
combination of deliberation, collaboration, and civic relationships, Levine
argues, that offers the best alternative to a politics that is shaped strongly by
institutions and ideologies that marginalize the voice and agency of citizens.
- Review of "We are the ones we've been waiting for" by Peter Levine

Presentation by Peter Levine on the topic
(15 minute YT)
posted by rebent at 10:46 AM on May 16 [14 favorites]


Telling bald-faced, easily confirmed lies, denying provable actions, and moving the goalposts all over the field is arguing in 'bad faith'.
posted by kokaku at 10:47 AM on May 16 [34 favorites]


Yet another post explaining why the left should avoid dialog. It's a bit depressing to read this so often these days.

No one's arguing that we should forego dialog. We're saying that publicly arguing about facts is irrelevant when one side doesn't believe in facts.

Look, I get it: the rhetorical act is powerful, and acknowledging the obsolescence of a millenia-old tradition is painful. I majored in rhetoric, once upon a time, and ran the debate team for the four years I was at my alma mater. It is with a heavy heart that I say this, but it must be said: you cannot win an argument with the contemporary right in a "debate," as the term is generally understood. You can use the podium to embarrass them publicly, you can deplatform them, or you can be sucked into a vortex of argument over principles with people have none. It is not possible to convince an audience peppered with people who have no respect for logic or truth that your arguments are superior to those of your opponent.

You don't argue with Nazis. You punch them in the goddamn face.
posted by Mayor West at 10:48 AM on May 16 [40 favorites]


The only thing debate has going for it is that it doesn't require good faith in disputing ideas. Adversarial engagement is a bad way to find truth or consensus or inform people of ideas, so for most purposes its pointless sport, but in a political campaign where all the involved parties are going to get attention and spread their message anyway it offers a chance to directly confront one's opponent and try to make them look bad in the public eye. It's idiotic that we have to rely on that, but unfortunately that is the structure we have and trying to avoid it in those political instances may not be a help. This isn't like giving time and voice to nazis when you have the option not to, the other party will be given time whether there is a debate or not, this just gives a chance to frame their argument and them as faulty and weak.

Candidates can spread the messages they hope people will engage with, which will win the more ardent support to their sides before the debates begin and may win some few who haven't decided between like candidates in a primary where debate has to follow some basic party norms of truth to work, but in a regular election the truth aspect is of far lesser value as anyone who hasn't decided on a candidate by that point likely isn't well informed enough to judge such things anyway, instead they tend to rely on a sense of who is stronger, who controls the stage, who "looks" and "acts" more presidential and who looks weak. Since that's the level they of their awareness, that's the level they'll judge success or failure and having the chance to show up one's opponent face to face in that fashion has value, even if not in any intellectual or truth sense.

It's a gamble though, as being the few times people see both candidates together, those few meetings can frame the way the public and media will treat the candidate from then on. Obama established himself as viable in the debates, Gore gutted himself. It's a risk each candidate needs to weigh.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:08 AM on May 16 [6 favorites]


I agree with you completely, kokaku, but instead of saying "you're arguing in bad faith" it's better to be precise and clear and factual: "you have changed the subject" or "that's not what I said" or "that's not true."
posted by PhineasGage at 11:09 AM on May 16 [4 favorites]


but instead of saying "you're arguing in bad faith" it's better to be precise and clear and factual: "you have changed the subject" or "that's not what I said" or "that's not true."

No, it's important to do both. We should explain why an argument is in bad faith, but we should also acknowledge that the argument is done in bad faith, because if we don't, then there is no penalty for acting in such.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:13 AM on May 16 [7 favorites]


No, it's important to do both. We should explain why an argument is in bad faith, but we should also acknowledge that the argument is done in bad faith, because if we don't, then there is no penalty for acting in such.

Arent' debates timed? I mean, that's the issue with arguing about another person's bad faith, that you don't have enough time to refute and present your own arguments.

I agree they should have real-time fact-checking and penalties (lost time I guess?) for statements that aren't factual. I mean, if they are all about 'heart and sophistry' then why allow lies? A talented debater can make an emotional argument without lying.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:34 AM on May 16


The left has access to an extraordinary tradition of political rhetoric, but I don't see many signs that people are drawing on this tradition in contemporary debates. Fact-checking, I think, has almost nothing to do with it.

I don't think that Jordan Peterson could have stood up to, say, Eugene V. Debs. Or Marx and Engels, for that matter. The Communist Manifesto is a masterpiece of rhetoric. It's so good that now, a hundred and seventy years later, reactionaries are still trying to argue with this pamphlet.
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich at 11:39 AM on May 16 [10 favorites]


I had left the the Zizek Peterson debate video halfway and intend to finish it, but the author's portrayal doesn't match my impression. Yes they both "agree" regulated capitalism but such vague agreement is ultimately trivial and if you paid attention at all was by no means either Zizek or Peterson's thesis or conclusion in their speeches.

I've seen a lot of Zizek's talks so what he did at the debate was literally give one of his talks. And I don't know if that's a debate move or whatever but the way I took that was the author's point: you don't debate something you think is not worthy of debate. And Zizek demonstrated that: he gave a good 35 minute talk by prior standards.

But again I don't know what happens in the second half.
posted by polymodus at 11:41 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


The thing about the Ben Shapiro / BBC incident is it wasn’t a debate.

BBC: Mr. Shapiro, can you explain this comment you made?
Shapiro: What!? I have to explain myself?
BBC: Yes, please.
Shapiro: What blatant liberal bullying! I refuse!
posted by Big Al 8000 at 11:45 AM on May 16 [21 favorites]


If only the alt right bullies would actually let themselves be constrained by a formal debate format, rather than calling carefully set up fora for them to piss on others with little chance or opportunity for pushback a "debate". Like, they don't try to "debate" their ideas in leftist or even many centrist spaces. The rare times that does happen by accident, and the utter bankruptcy of their ideas consequently becomes evident, they start making a big stink telling fables about rigged this or censorship that.
posted by eviemath at 12:40 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]


The thing about the Ben Shapiro / BBC incident is it wasn’t a debate.

That's why it's so funny. Shapiro has been built up as the Ultimate Rational Debater, Mr. "Facts Don't Care About Your Feelings" who wrote a book called How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them. Yet when confronted by the teensiest bit of pushback in an interview about a book he wrote, he completely collapses.

This is why it's worthwhile publicly engaging and humiliating these people. They posture as being intellectual giants and, whatever you think about them, large swathes of people swallow their bullshit. Their messages spread. That can be stopped by destroying these false images they maintain.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:41 PM on May 16 [21 favorites]


acknowledging the obsolescence of a millenia-old tradition is painful

Ha, hardly. Decrying public debates as mere manipulative tools instead of instruments for finding truth is as old as the idea of debate itself. See, .e.g., Socrates railing against the tactics of the Sophists. Nothing is new under the sun.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:44 PM on May 16 [7 favorites]


This is why it's worthwhile publicly engaging and humiliating these people.

The forum in which that is attempted is relevant, though. And often they won't engage when they can't do so on their turf or in a forum that favors them.
posted by eviemath at 12:46 PM on May 16 [9 favorites]


In other words, we need a spate of articles on "why won't alt righters engage with leftists?" Because they won't. Not only do they avoid fora that are not favorable to themselves, but they avoid debating actual leftists like the plague.
posted by eviemath at 12:51 PM on May 16 [11 favorites]


One more thought, apropos of rhetoric:
You don't argue with Nazis. You punch them in the goddamn face.
There are, unfortunately, occasions where this isn't possible. For example, you may happen to be on trial in Nazi Germany in 1933, where you stand accused of setting fire to the Reichstag. If you are, say, a Bulgarian communist, you might think that your odds of survival are pretty low in this situation, but that a public show trial might also be as good an opportunity as any to give voice to your principles, even if you are personally doomed. So you might elect to represent yourself and your fellow defendants. And it's possible, if you're Georgi Dimitrov, that your performance in debating Hermann Göring is so impressive that you and most of your communist co-defendants get acquitted by the legal system of Nazi Germany.

Rhetoric does not become less important when the stakes get higher.
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich at 12:54 PM on May 16 [18 favorites]


That can be stopped by destroying these false images they maintain.
No it can't. One slinks away and the message is repackaged, but slightly different, eq: southern strategy. If they were defeated and went away, then that'd be great. But we are talking people whose ideas weren't stopped by a literal (world) war (II).
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:12 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone can accuse Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, or Laurie Penny of failing to discuss conservative ideas. (Or another person who's been dragged on these grounds lately, Brie Larson.) They have clearly and eloquently stated their opinions. What they have also done is refuse to be personally provoked by conservatives into participating in a performance that is more like professional wrestling than dialog or debate. Their presence is even optional, as Clint Eastwood demonstrated. (He's only the most famous to debate an empty chair in recent history.)

This is about whether women (and I think the article is on point there) are obligated to step up to be hit with a chair every time a macho man in stage makeup and shiny shorts takes a microphone to issue a personal challenge. The idea that being called "yellow" is sufficient goad to accept a bully's challenge on a bully's terms is a bully's logic, and it's also one of the running jokes of the Back to the Future trilogy. It is entirely reasonable to walk away from the bully's bluster.

Women online are also not obligated to take up challenges from social media randos either. Doing so is a never-ending and thankless job, and probably doesn't really do much good in the end.

Is it really shutting down dialog or rhetoric? There's plenty of prior art with dialog and disagreement mediated by the written word, including the Federalist Papers and the Talmud. It's not obvious to me that a format that's built around selling entertainment to audiences and audiences to advertisers is essential to democracy. Liberals have been bending over backwards to create norms for respectful disagreement in classrooms, churches, break rooms, and kitchens, and been thoroughly demonized for "political correctness" as a result.

Meanwhile, Trump prefers to avoid any forum where he might be seriously questioned or ridiculed, preferring instead to tweet out his invective. Conservatives balkanized academia grousing that mainstream scholarship isn't sufficiently differential to their values and feels. So it's not just AOC, Warren, Penny, and Larson who pick their preferred formats and venues.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:18 PM on May 16 [25 favorites]


Since not all of my examples were discussed in the article:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Rejected challenge from Shapiro.
Elizabeth Warren: Rejected town-hall set up by Fox News.
Laurie Penny: Rejected doing a MeToo panel immediately followed by a solo Bannon event.
Brie Larson: Gave preferential PR interviews to women in media journalism.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:35 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]


They posture as being intellectual giants and, whatever you think about them, large swathes of people swallow their bullshit.

I like to say he knows how to hit the “Fuck yeah, bro!” portion of the amygdala. Beyond that, he is lacking. I tried listening to his podcasts a couple years back and decided that he had nothing serious to offer when he “explained” fascism as “bad - like communism, but not quite”.

People mistake rhetorical facility for debate skill. Sean Illing with Vox talked with Shapiro recently and did a pretty good job (I think) of exposing the weaknesses in his philosophy.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:58 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]


This is why it's worthwhile publicly engaging and humiliating these people. They posture as being intellectual giants and, whatever you think about them, large swathes of people swallow their bullshit. Their messages spread. That can be stopped by destroying these false images they maintain.

There are two problems with this, though.

First, are you actually achieving your goals with this? For a counterpoint, Ian Danskin makes a strong argument that, no, we aren't with his videos on controlling the conversation and never playing defense. The second one in particular is worth looking at here, as he specifically addresses your scenario, points out why it actually doesn't work, and that we kinda mythologize it to a degree that's probably not healthy, at least from the position of being able to look at this honestly. Or to put it another way - has Shapiro's "humiliation" had an actual effect on his clout or reach? Has it diminished his star? Or has it been more or less a bust?

The second problem is a question of if we're sending bad messages. Let me use an example I've used before - debating a TERF. If I debate one, I'm sending a very dangerous message - specifically, I'm saying that the rights and acceptance of transgender individuals is up for debate. This is a Bad Thing, even if my whole point for the debate is to dismantle the argument.

I like to say he knows how to hit the “Fuck yeah, bro!” portion of the amygdala. Beyond that, he is lacking.

As Danskin points out, that's all he needs. The fact that his "philosophy" has more holes than a block of Emmentaler doesn't matter, because his position isn't based on that.

I'm not sure there's a way to win there.

As a wise computer once said, the only winning move is not to play. At least, not by their rules.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:04 PM on May 16 [11 favorites]


I'm really digging the dialogue here about whether dialogue with the right works. It does kind of baffle me that people continue to insist on the value of public "debate" as a hypothetical. As if its a hypothetical? I don't know what further convincing one would need beyond the 2016 primaries and GE debates? Trump said nothing that approached a logically coherent worldview, but with each passing minute of camera time his likelihood of winning the presidency approached 1. Countless people believed he won each debate. There is no reason in that conclusion. The evidence points to the platform unequivocally harming rational discourse. Trump's media exposure was a net negative for biological life.

On to smaller idiots, Shapiro and Peterson can get rhetorically rekt (or "rhekt" as the kids say - ok they dont) up and down these here interwebs, they're still gonna have a new post in their all time top 10 posts on the reddits of the world every week (exhibit A, their subreddits now where each has top all times from the last 10 days). The only people I can think whose platform actually shrunk are Milo and Richard Spencer. Milo was banned from twitter and Spencer was punched in the fucking face (not angry typing, I just have to put the fucking there because fuck yea). Both methods from my vantage point appear miles ahead of discourse with similar terrible people.
posted by avalonian at 3:18 PM on May 16 [9 favorites]


The left loses because all the average American hears when they speak is Zoidbergian "You are bad and you should feel bad" zealotry with a side order of "You're also don't know any better, so just do what I say." Inspiring stuff. Inspires me to stop listening.

Before he surrendered to his amygdala without a fight, Dennis Miller also wryly observed of the Left, "I don't know if I trust someone who tells me I'm [a bad person] and then turns around and demands forty-one percent of my [badness] under force of law." (quoting from memory)

The right, by comparison, starts off with "You're great, you just got a raw deal. You keep doing you and we'll just burn down the system. Bring marshmallows." How do you beat that by appealing to guilt or shame?

How about using the Right's own technique against them: "Why do you hate poor people?" "Why do you hate pregnant women? Do you hate your own mother?" "How would you feel about what you just said if Jeff Bezos said it in public about your child?" "If that bomber praised Jesus and killed Muslims, it would be okay because he'd be doing God's will instead of Allah's, amirite?... Hangonaminnit, aren't they the same guy?"

Until the day they pass a 'no woke, no vote' law, the Left will have to win with the audience they have, not the one they want.
posted by zaixfeep at 4:05 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]


I think the nub of the thing is we need to be playing offence and not just defence.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:15 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]


By coincidence, just today I ran across this short exchange between Galileo and Kepler. (They were discovering the laws that govern the solar system at the time, with considerable danger involved in how they got the facts out.)

Kepler says "Be of good cheer, Galileo, and come out publicly." Easy for him to say.

Well, he did, and paid for it. But then, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

And then there's: "Only the madman is absolutely sure." (Robert Anton Wilson) When arguing with the mad, give them every chance to reveal their condition.
posted by Twang at 5:40 PM on May 16


While I'm remembering quotes, here's one from Chomsky on the Overton window. (Watch out for who's doing the framing.)

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate."
posted by Twang at 6:01 PM on May 16 [10 favorites]


Deplatforming works, but at a cost. When I get deplatformed, I don't want to have my own reasons for doing it to them quoted back at me as justification.

I wish Rod Serling was still alive, I'd watch the hell out of whatever he'd have wtitten about our world today.

For now, I'm following Mel Brooks' lead: Mock them three ways: broadly, accessibly and constantly. No leftist-inside-jokes like "Boy, I wouldn't want to be Milo when he gets home and stands in front of Pat Buchanan and the Politburo."

If you have a stain on your shirt, show it to a white supremacist and ask (in your best Ryan Reynolds voice), "Hmm, is this blood or soil? I can't tell." Talk to white supremacists about hybrid vigor and the dangers of a large population with a small gene pool. "Do you want Amish defects? Cause tjat's how you get Amish defects." They're gonna really need socialist Obamacare then. Point out how creepy it is that Patrick Stewart, Julian Sands and Timothy Dalton look alike when you remove the hair. Now that's a gene wading pool.

Serve your immigrant-fearful friends home-grown lettuce. "Yep I grew and picked it myself. Organically. By the way, I had to go potty real bad a few times while I was out working in the garden, so you're tasting big, healthy Grade A American night soil, no cheap illegal immigrant droppings here." PoC-fearful friends? At parties, play "Cardi B Lyric or Trump Speech?"
posted by zaixfeep at 6:04 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Deplatforming works, but at a cost. When I get deplatformed, I don't want to have my own reasons for doing it to them quoted back at me as justification.

Your mistake is in thinking that you bind their hands by binding yours. That is simply not the case. They will happily deplatform you regardless of whether or not you do it to them.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:37 PM on May 16 [10 favorites]


Good debating is a martial art. If you can body slam a rightist again and again, by all means debate.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:41 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Your mistake is in thinking that you bind their hands by binding yours. That is simply not the case. They will happily deplatform you regardless of whether or not you do it to the

At least I will have the small satisfaction of knowing I didn't stoop to their level. And being right despite losing is pretty standard for the Left so I'll be in good company.
posted by zaixfeep at 7:42 PM on May 16


zaixfeep: The left loses because all the average American hears when they speak is Zoidbergian "You are bad and you should feel bad" zealotry with a side order of "You're also don't know any better, so just do what I say." Inspiring stuff. Inspires me to stop listening.

[...]

The right, by comparison, starts off with "You're great, you just got a raw deal. You keep doing you and we'll just burn down the system. Bring marshmallows." How do you beat that by appealing to guilt or shame?


If I'm reading this correctly, this appears to be equating the "average American" with the people that the right are saying "you're great, you just got a raw deal" to and not, say, the people that the right is saying "you're the reason America is no longer great" or "you have should not have equal rights in this society".
posted by mhum at 8:17 PM on May 16 [9 favorites]


"Why do you hate poor people?" "Why do you hate pregnant women? Do you hate your own mother?"

Lou Reed's version (NSFW)

"How would you feel about what you just said if Jeff Bezos said it in public about your child?" "If that bomber praised Jesus and killed Muslims, it would be okay because he'd be doing God's will instead of Allah's, amirite?... Hangonaminnit, aren't they the same guy?"

Yeah, see, because they don't care about logical or rhetorical or temporal consistency in their arguments, the answer to the first question, in the moment, is going to be some version of "I wouldn't be bothered by it at all." Yes, if Jeff Bezos did actually say whatever it was in public about their actual child, they would get super upset, and accuse Jeff Bezos of hypocrisy, and whatnot. And either deny that they said something different previously, or deny that the situations have any resemblance - but mostly, they'll go on the attack in response, with something about Liberal Elites and their imagined superiority, or virtue signalling (tm), or your own hypocrisy in trying to move the goalposts instead of sticking to the debate at hand. And it would absolutely be okay with them if that bomber praised Jesus and killed Muslims, because (they would say) Muslims and Christians are different and (they would say) the Muslims are terrorists and deserve it, and you are anti-American for trying to make an equivalency between the two, with your postmodernism and moral relativity. Oh, and a heretic or blasphemer for that last bit... but mostly un-American, because being anti-Christian (and yes, it would slide from non-Christian to anti-Christian without any justification or comment) is un-American, because America is a Christian nation... etc. And they wouldn't tend to ask a question unless it was one that implied something negative about you by it's very framing - a "when did you stop beating your wife?" type question, or sea lioning. Mostly (as the Danskin videos that NoxAeternum linked point out) they make assertions and go on the offensive.

In other words, even when they do ask questions, the questions themselves are not the main idea behind the Right's "debating" technique. It's the bad faith behind them that is the Right's technique. And while many Liberals are comfortable with ends justifying means and view the end as minimizing harm and maximizing happiness, the Left(*) is specifically opposed to manipulation, view the end as a society free from coercive interactions, and believe that the means inextricably shape the ends. So the Left would cease to be the Left if they used the Right's technique.

(* US political discourse often confuses Liberals and Left. The description above applies more perhaps to the anti-authoritarian or anarchist-inclined or -inflected Left rather than the statist Left, who would have yet a different viewpoint. But in general this sort of philosophical/political difference is one of the things that distinguishes Liberal from Left.)
posted by eviemath at 9:14 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]


If I'm reading this correctly, this appears to be equating the "average American" with the people that the right are saying "you're great, you just got a raw deal" to and not, say, the people that the right is saying "you're the reason America is no longer great" or "you have should not have equal rights in this society".

Yes, sorry, I sounded a bit bigoted there, after reading it I'm uncomfortable with it too.

To clarify, I mean the undecideds, the ones trying to make up their minds by listening to the debates. The people deplatforming would protect most. I don't expect many of them to be the folks you are talking about, so yes they are folks the Left and Right would approach as I described. They may no longer be representative of modern America but I believe they look at themselves as being typical average Americans. At least the way Pauline Kael referenced her crowd when she famously declared she couldn't understand how Nixon won because nobody she knew voted for him :-) .

It bothers me that the Left, which used to have the strongest faith in the goodness of humanity, is now convinced that they can't win the debate without silencing the opposition. And they are convinced that it's because the opposition is cheating and refuse to believe that they might just be lousy salespeople. The 'not woke no vote' thing was a joke, but I do wonder how many out there would go for it for real.
posted by zaixfeep at 9:59 PM on May 16


It bothers me that the Left, which used to have the strongest faith in the goodness of humanity, is now convinced that they can't win the debate without silencing the opposition.

But we're not silencing the opposition. We're silencing hate. You're basically making the same argument that Jack Dorsey did when he said that he couldn't take more aggressive action against white supremacy on Twitter because doing so would potentially catch Republican politicians, and its just as flawed here. Steve King doesn't get a pass for being a bigot and a white supremacist just because he's a Representative.

Furthermore, some things aren't up for debate. Again as an example, we shouldn't debate TERFs because the personhood of transgender individuals is not up for debate, and putting it up for debate will harm transgender individuals in a real and serious way.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:24 PM on May 16 [11 favorites]


...the Left(*) is specifically opposed to manipulation, view the end as a society free from coercive interactions, and believe that the means inextricably shape the ends. So the Left would cease to be the Left if they used the Right's technique.

Very well said eviemath. Your counter-argument has merit. All I can offer in response is that compromising principles rhetorically now would be far less damaging and easier to recover from politically than compromising in more extreme and physical ways (if they get their way and it should ever come to that, let's hope not).

If Joe McCarthy could be taken down, and if Gore Vidal could take down William F. Buckley in '68, surely there is a way these summer-school intellectuals can be put in their place.
posted by zaixfeep at 11:17 PM on May 16


If Joe McCarthy could be taken down, and if Gore Vidal could take down William F. Buckley in '68, surely there is a way these summer-school intellectuals can be put in their place.

There has to be a base of agreement over some fundamental values for any discourse to work. The problem is one of asymmetry, where one side is saying I disagree and the other is saying I want you dead. There is no base of agreement to work from there because the desire from the latter group is the end to all rights for the former group. Free speech has already gone out the window and pretending it hasn't is to provide kindling for the fire they wish to spread.

The issue of free speech only works when both sides are committed to upholding the values that give it meaning. When you deny the humanity of another, you have already made it clear you don't see them as worthy of any rights for not being fully human. The issue of freedom of speech then becomes moot as it can't possibly hold in that kind of imbalance. When someone says something like "Immigrants are animals" saying "I disagree" is to validate the notion of there being a point of possible disagreement instead of it being a notion fundamentally unacceptable to even toy with. The end result of allowing the framing of "others" as lesser denies the very possibility of any equality of freedom and makes absolutely clear the stakes involved.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:26 AM on May 17 [6 favorites]


A key mistake here I think is in seeing debate as a form of discourse designed to find the truth of a situation when that is not the case. Debate is adversarial, presenting "truth" as existing on one side of a set of diametrically opposed propositions, this idea vs that one. That is an inherently flaed way to pursue understanding or find consensus for relying on the idea that truth is an either/or idea. You find understanding through exploring the extenuation of shared values and knowledge to see where those facts and concepts lead. If you aren't starting from a position of shared belief, then debate can further derange and distort the frame of inquiry.

There are times where debate may be necessary, such as in the US political system, for it being one designed around two parties opposing each other. That very design leads to some of the issues that cause strife as parties push differences and seek to "win" instead of looking for truth and shared values, but as it is the system that the US operates under one sometimes must work within it to even attempt to effect to change that system or the legitimacy of the whole can fail and systemic upheaval occurs. That doesn't mean, however, that one must then accept the terms for all discourse as being defined by the system in the same manner. One challenges the system from the outside in mass appeals even as one must abide by it at the top levels. That's the goal of protests, to reframe the understanding of the upper levels of the system by challenging it from below.

As long as the acceptance of some base value in the system itself holds, that can work, if belief in the shared values of the system completely falter, then systemic failure and violence occurs. Denying values that seek to disrupt a shared understanding means denying those that promote such values any grounds for their legitimacy as a way to maintain a working system of any sort that all can live with. The denial of equality, of shared rights, of the intrinsic worth of all for the sake of expanded rights and wealth for the few is an unacceptable starting point from which to engage in discourse other than in the attempt to restore the values claimed by system itself lest it crumble.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:56 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


But we're not silencing the opposition. We're silencing hate. You're basically making the same argument that Jack Dorsey did when he said that he couldn't take more aggressive action against white supremacy on Twitter

Is there any opposition left that isn't hate-filled toward left-of-them? Maybe George Will, but he doesn't count, he's a COBOL program made flesh.

Jack Dorsey is a wimp speaking from his pocketbook. He should have either said Twitter's the Wild West, get used to it, or he should have had a non-political, effect/harm-driven suspension policy, with schedued periodic updates - and enforced it, politician or not. He did neither.

I've always been a fan of free speech -- i've even demanded to be offended on occasion. I draw my line using the First Amendment rulings. But I guess this really is a brave new world. I assumed exposing ideas to sunlight destroyed the bad ones, but it seems now it makes them grow.
posted by zaixfeep at 3:03 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


If your fandom of free speech accommodates intellectual property—unimaginably immense tracts of owned speech protected by a system of government-enforced monopolies accompanied by an international enforcement regime such that, for example, participants in a "free speech rally" couldn't legally play Song of the South because Disney doesn't license it in North America—I don't think you should mourn too hard if white supremacist and other deplorable propaganda is ever really that thoroughly sanctioned on private platforms.

Platforms where you won't be able to quote too much of Brave New World next to your lamentations about what a brave new world that is.
posted by XMLicious at 3:58 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


I assumed exposing ideas to sunlight destroyed the bad ones, but it seems now it makes them grow.

The essence of what happened to, well, the world after Oliver Stone made and released "Wall Street". Or Hitler's rise, for that matter. "Hey, I kind of dig this murdery, racist stuff. Makes sense!".
posted by Chitownfats at 5:52 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Coming in late to this and I need to go to sleep so hopefully I don't read to crazy but it seems that a major point is being missed here. The point of a debate is that the audience is equipped to judge the speakers and their points. The audience needs to some equipped with the ability and desire to apply their full critical faculties. They should have at least a basic knowledge of the topic and be able to assess any new information with an ear to detect distortion and questionable sources. A well educated and informed audience may very easily split over who has, 'won,' a debate but they should be able to leave having at least been challenged in their position and thinking. This is not what we have. Debate too often serves a position verification theater, whereby two folks spout bromides and the intended listeners absorb said bromides like psychic pap. We have a system that is broken because to work the ability to self-question needed to be nurtured and encouraged long before the debate happened. The idea that, "I might be wrong," needs to be ever present. It needs to be part of an OODA loop that everyone is using. The idea of constant reassessment should be taught early and reinforced throughout one's life.

Without a competent audience most debates are not actually debates. The Peterson-Žižek debate was not over an actual resolution or point and neither one of them really had a grasp of what it was they were contesting. It was a discussion with very little actual structure. Most candidate debates in the USA are ways for the speakers to restate talking points and stump speech bits without actually answering questions. This is because the voters do not reward good debate presentations, they punish gaffes. What should happen is that debaters who engage in these kinds of behaviors should be derided and called out. Esp. by their own supporters. That kind of social and intellectual honesty runs counter to the interests of established parties and institutions so it becomes incumbent on society at large to exercise standards. We do not do so now and I foresee little chance in us doing so in the near future. Rhetoric is a tool which can be of great value, in a population that lacks the ability to understand how to manage it as an audience we can expect to see it abused well into the future.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 6:06 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]


I've always been a fan of free speech -- i've even demanded to be offended on occasion. I draw my line using the First Amendment rulings.

There is more to free speech than the First Amendment - a fact that I find many people struggle with, for a number of reasons. If you have individuals and groups fearful of speaking up out of concern for their safety because of their race, creed, gender, etc. - it is hard to argue that you actually have freedom of speech. To argue that the right of bigots to spew hate targeted at groups with the intent to marginalize and terrify them is more important than those groups being secure and able to join in the conversation of society is not a principled position - it is an indolent one, ignorant of the harm that is actually being done.

It's interesting that you use "the Wild West" as a metaphor as well, because our frontier myth is a powerful one, and one that has been burnished by the tech community to justify their unwillingness to confront hate and bigotry in their ranks. But the thing about the frontier myth is that it's exactly that - a myth. The reality has been that frontier life is hard and dangerous, with the lack of enforcement weighing on people - and that those people saw the expansion of society and the rule of law as actually being freeing. We're seeing all this play out again online, as people have begun to push more for protection online as we live our lives out more and more there.

But I guess this really is a brave new world. I assumed exposing ideas to sunlight destroyed the bad ones, but it seems now it makes them grow.

It has always been such. As I pointed out in another thread, the function of the academy - to educate and further knowledge - doesn't work without engaging in the suppression of false knowledge. The academy is not in the business of defending the indefensible out of a notion of "free speech", which is why cranks are shown the door.

Hate is a weed. Sunlight makes it grow - the way you get rid of it is by excising it.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:35 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]


It's kind of unfortunate that this turned into a free speech argument, which I don't think was explicitly raised when Trump declined to participate in Teacher of the Year ceremonies and the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner.

To what degree was Shapiro actually harmed by AOC refusing to play his game? Does he have fewer book deals or talking-head opportunities? Does he have fewer media channels? Is News Corp substantially harmed by Warren refusing to do a town hall on their terms? Will they magically exercise a degree of restraint in talking about Warren that they've refused to demonstrate so far? I'm really skeptical on the claim that Shapiro, Fox News, and Bannon need the active participation of AOC, Warren, and Penny to express their opinions.

Maybe there's value in exposing actions and opinions to withering rhetorical ridicule. But given the limited efficacy of rhetorical duels as vehicle for changing opinion, is it really a moral imperative to participate in them when challenged by pundits and trolls? This FPP isn't really about deplatforming from Patreon or Twitter. It's about choosing to participate in collaborative political theater. And I'm extremely skeptical that anyone is obligated to do so for the health of American politics.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:54 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


It seems the OP is especially not about deplatforming from Patreon or Twitter because by the end he seems to be categorizing written interaction between people as something entirely different from the type of debate he's talking about.
posted by XMLicious at 7:17 AM on May 17


I'm not going to get into the online-free-speech debate; I think it's been largely settled at this point. Nice idea in theory, terrible in practice, anyplace without strong moderation is a cesspit.

What I do find interesting is the difference between debate-as-spectacle and debate-as-contest. Traditionally, debate is a contest. The audience is there to observe the players, who are essentially competing with each other. In very traditional debates there's literal point-scoring and judges keeping track of it all.

That's the kind of "debate" that I think of when I hear the word, because that's the kind of debate that took place in highschool and college when I was there. (I don't know if it's still as popular in secondary schools as it used to be. I feel like stuff like Model UN started to take its place?) And as a pedagogical tool it probably has its place; the people I know who were on the Debate Team are quite good at thinking on their feet and constructing logically-valid (if ridiculous) arguments. A lot of people on my alma mater's debate team (which was quite good, like nationally ranked) went to law school, and I don't think that's accidental.

But those type of debates are all about proving your skill at debating. There's no underlying truth being uncovered. Because that's not the point. It's just a contest of technical skill between two people; the topic of the debate hardly matters.

Why this was ever seen as a good format for politics, I'm not sure. It's pretty clearly not. There's not much of a connection between being good at debate, and being good at governance.

OTOH, if you view the debate as a spectacle, as a performance for the audience, that has somewhat more redeeming value. There's still not any truth-uncovering or fact-finding going on, and viewers should be aware of that, but there's something to be said for giving two candidates an opportunity to each present their case for themselves in an equal-footing format. This is, IMO, rather egalitarian; one candidate can't somehow look better because they have a lot more money to spend on TV spots. If they're a moron, hopefully it'll show.

But we should drop the pretense of "debating" each other, and accept that it is basically a multiplayer campaign ad. And if you want to do well, getting involved in tit-for-tat logical debates with other candidates—particularly if the other candidate comes from an intellectual tradition of debating, which is true of many conservatives—is a tarpit.

The debates are performative, so focus on making the case to the audience, not scoring points with the moderator on the other guy/girl.

My suspicion is that if you start ignoring the technicalities of the 'debate' and use it just as an opportunity to get in front of an audience with the other candidate also standing right there, the candidate who would do really well isn't a lawyer or college debate champion, but a standup comedian. Someone who has a sense of humor and knows how to work a crowd and also knows how to deal with hostility and heckling. Instead of going for logical points on the other person, make them look ridiculous. Go for the fuckin' throat. If they're a bully, put them in their place.

The game/set/match victory in a public debate isn't racking up a lot of logical points, it's if you can get the audience to laugh with you, and at the other candidate.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:39 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Related to the question of what makes for the most effective debating, the great novelist Elena Ferrante (earlier) has an op-ed in today's NYT saying the way women can and should exercise more power is through storytelling.
posted by PhineasGage at 7:48 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


The other day, Seth Myers gave a master class on engaging with someone who argues in bad faith.

Leading into that part of the segment, he made it a point to commiserate with her on things they agreed on (SNL was fun, Trump hates your dad), but then he pivoted to topics that she took exception to (you are pushing talking right-wing talking points about Ilhan Omar) and was graceful but assertive. Incredibly difficult, amazing to watch.
posted by ishmael at 8:03 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


That Seth Myers/Meghan McCain conversation (thanks for linking to it) is an example of why accusing someone of "bad faith" is rarely a good or useful move. They disagree on a range of issues. They each communicated their views. No one watching that conversation in good faith could accuse either of them of lying or not sincerely engaging the other. The many of us here who feel "she's wrong!" serve our own cause much better by NOT throwing up our hands and charging bad faith but rather, like Seth Myers did, pointing out the areas where we disagree and trying to persuade those who are watching.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:20 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


They each communicated their views. No one watching that conversation in good faith could accuse either of them of lying or not sincerely engaging the other.

McCain was pushing right wing talking points about Representative Omar - or in other words, she was advocating lies. That is the very definition of bad faith argumentation. You're falling into the "difference of opinion" fallacy, where more weight is put on the mere existence of a difference, and the exact details of that difference are pushed away. Just because someone is on the opposite side of an argument as you doesn't mean they get to lie and deceive.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:59 AM on May 17 [17 favorites]


zaixfreep: I assumed exposing ideas to sunlight destroyed the bad ones, but it seems now it makes them grow.

This is your periodic reminder that the saying "sunlight is the best disinfectant" was coined/popularized in reference to corruption, particularly in public service, which generally requires secrecy in order to be effective. Bad ideas -- e.g.: the Jewish blood libel, young Earth creationism, anti-vaxx, etc... -- are the opposite. They require sunlight/exposure in order to thrive. Yes, not all exposure is equal, but a universal "sunlight is the best disinfectant" treatment of bad ideas is rather misleading.
posted by mhum at 10:47 AM on May 17 [12 favorites]


Yes, not all exposure is equal, but a universal "sunlight is the best disinfectant" treatment of bad ideas is rather misleading.

This is why I've started to add the corollary: "but we put piss and shit in an underground sewer where no one will step in it". It's not as punchy though.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:53 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


But I guess this really is a brave new world. I assumed exposing ideas to sunlight destroyed the bad ones, but it seems now it makes them grow.

No, it's the same old world it's ever been. It's just that the bad ideas have grown enough for you to notice.
posted by PMdixon at 3:48 PM on May 17 [5 favorites]


I don't know enough about debating, but I don't even really understand the problem. Is the question that debates are basically harmful, or that society as it exists is bad at debate? Debate causes/produces liars, or debate can be exploited by ill intentions are very different claims. Debate is a tool and tools can be misused or are inappropriate. It doesn't logically follow, given how badly informal debate works in practice, that we should find fault with debate. For example, if healthy democracy is a necessary precondition for public debate, and public debates are terrible, then by contrapositive the real problem is an unhealthy democracy. That I cannot think of a good example of public debate (mayyybe Chomsky vs Foucault?), that there isn't one in the public consciousness, says a lot about the state of actually existing debate.
posted by polymodus at 4:09 PM on May 17


Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment
...Other terms that have been updated, including the use of “wildlife” rather than “biodiversity”, “fish populations” instead of “fish stocks” and “climate science denier” rather than “climate sceptic”. In September, the BBC accepted it gets coverage of climate change “wrong too often” and told staff: “You do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate.”
posted by XMLicious at 10:52 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Came across a relevant quote by philosopher and social anthropologist Ernest Gellner:
A collectivity united in a belief is a culture. That is what the term means. More particularly, a collectivity united in a false belief is a culture. Truths, especially demonstrable truths, are available to all and sundry, and do not define any continuity of faith. But errors, especially dramatic errors, are culture-specific. They do tend to be the badges of community and loyalty. Assent to an absurdity is an intellectual rite de passage, a gateway to the community defined by that commitment to that conviction.
I haven't figured out the specific source but found it quoted in the Iran IX episode of the Safe for Democracy podcast by MeFi's own TheProfessor.
posted by XMLicious at 4:15 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


McCain was pushing right wing talking points about Representative Omar - or in other words, she was advocating lies. That is the very definition of bad faith argumentation.

Someone be may be parroting talking points, but that, in and of itself, is not bad faith. I would submit Megan McCain genuinely believes the bullshit she says, which makes her more dangerous than someone arguing in bad faith.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 4:04 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Someone be may be parroting talking points, but that, in and of itself, is not bad faith. I would submit Megan McCain genuinely believes the bullshit she says, which makes her more dangerous than someone arguing in bad faith.

I genuinely believe anyone who repeats right wing points about Ilhan Omar needs to be deplatformed for arguing in bad faith.

I formed this opinion after I watched the Seth Myers thing. Not before.

Megan McCain needs to go find a cave and stay there. She will repeat more right wing talking points, in fact all of them, until she gets fired, forgotten, and put in purgatory for a lil bit.
posted by saysthis at 3:47 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


The right, by comparison, starts off with "You're great, you just got a raw deal.

Warren does this constantly. Obama did this! All Dems constantly pander to voters, telling Americans they're good people that deserve better. I wish someone would have the guts to tell us all we're selfish dicks, honestly.

If people "hear" something that is the exact opposite of what Democrats are saying, despite each candidate having different communications people, then maybe at least some of that fault should fall on the listener.

If by "the left", you mean random leftists on Facebook arguing with Uncle Dennis, then yeah, idk.
posted by pelvicsorcery at 9:11 AM on May 19 [5 favorites]


polymodus: I don't know enough about debating, but I don't even really understand the problem. Is the question that debates are basically harmful, or that society as it exists is bad at debate? Debate causes/produces liars, or debate can be exploited by ill intentions are very different claims. Debate is a tool and tools can be misused or are inappropriate. It doesn't logically follow, given how badly informal debate works in practice, that we should find fault with debate.

My take on this is that debate -- not the abstract notion of back-and-forth discussion but rather the formalized, two-lecterns-and-often-a-moderator format favored by the current crop of "debate me, you coward" cranks -- is indeed a tool but one that can really only function in an extremely specific environment where everyone was more or less already on the same page and really shouldn't be used to decide anything more serious than the theme of the senior prom or whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich. The fact that this is the format that we've all somehow agreed on to be a component of deciding on presidential (as well as lower office) candidates is kind of a problem.
posted by mhum at 9:46 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I'm a minority and my life experience is a narrative of difference, in encounters of diversity as well as discrimination. The idea that a public debate opponent or adversary is "too different" in values may be worth deconstructing.
The presidential debates don't fail because the sides are too different. They fail because of sophistry and charisma, factors which are antithetical to the premise of debate. But that has less to do with people being similar or not, and more to do with the culture and sociology overall, the fact that the audience accepts this, etc. That's how it feels like having seen bits of the last few American debates.
posted by polymodus at 5:47 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]


Where is this mythical, utopian democracy with debates that are entirely high-minded and intellectually pristine, and where supporters of each candidate graciously acknowledge the good faith and obvious-but-reasonably-calibrated personal magnetism of the others? I'd emigrate there in a heartbeat...
posted by PhineasGage at 7:44 PM on May 20


Sneaking back in here to say thank you for arguing with me. Everyone needs their views challenged and the weak ones weeded out and replaced with hardier ones.

Alas, some of you, dear lord, even when you're right you make it sound even more depressing than it is.

I will concede that my life is a bit better since Fox banned BillO. The world definitely needs fewer loud, arrogant, bombastic, confrontational jerks of all stripes sucking the oxygen out of the room.
posted by zaixfeep at 3:13 AM on May 21


Something that is kind of touched on in the article but not really explored: Demands that women drop what they're doing and prep for a debate is the political equivalent of "fake geek girl" gatekeeping, where women are expected to prove to any challenger that, yes, they are qualified.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:40 AM on May 27 [5 favorites]


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