America’s mid-terms are just around the corner, and at a time where political and social upheavals are rampant, there are so many issues through which the battle lines are drawn. You just need to log into social media to see the topics that people are posting about on their Facebook timelines and earnestly tweeting about to see that times have moved on from the era of people Rick-rolling each other and posting cat memes.
Social media has become a vehicle for ideological wars, and through the smoke of the rhetorical artillery shells, there’s a disturbing and perhaps even surprising reality that is emerging.
The art of debate is dying.
Since the last US presidential campaign, people have shown a preference to un-friend and block those who don’t agree with them, forming echo chambers of homogeneous opinion in the new era of ideological apartheid. Those who do remain in contact lob the most absurd insults and accusations at each other, all in a bid to win the ideological war.
But a difference of opinion is not cause for warfare, but rather, debate. The intellectual martial art that was once valued for its ability to share perspectives civilly. And while you may not change your opponent’s mind, you might give them a few things to look into about their own positions.
Regardless of the outcome, you could generally respect the other person and, maybe even remain friends with them afterwards (I know!).
I’ll delve into how this new state of mind where disagreement automatically equals an impasse in a friendship another day, but for now, I’d like to present some key warnings that I have noticed that are consistently found in people who are not worth debating.
They lack the ability to recognize the other side’s intention is probably for good (or at least not evil)
Abortion is probably the most controversial topic that you could bring up with most people, and also a great example of both sides falling short when debating this topic. It’s a deep and emotional issue for a lot of people, and so it is easy to see why people are quick to label their ideological opponents evil, rather than debate from a sound, logical basis.
I’ll keep my personal opinion on the topic to myself, as it’s not important in the context of this example. And as I’ll explain, most people find it difficult to recognize the perspective of the other side in this argument completely.
What you see is pro-lifers calling pro-choicers heartless monsters for trying to control a women’s reproductive rights, and the pro-choicers calling the pro-lifers heartless monsters for ending a human life.
The funny thing is (yes, I’ll find humor anywhere – even the abortion debate), both sides see themselves as heroic defenders of liberty, whether for women or babies, which, by default, makes their opponents the evil oppressors of women or babies.
But neither side’s view of the other is true. I don’t think pro-choicers rub their hands together with glee at the prospect of killing babies, and I don’t think pro-lifers relish taking agency away from women.
The reality is that pro-lifers believe that it is wrong to kill a human, or potential human, and consider this to be murder, while pro choicers believe that until it is born, a fetus is not a human and therefore, not murder.
The actual argument actually has nothing to do with rights, but has to do with when life begins – at conception, at birth, or somewhere in between. If this could be debated without the vitriol spewed about baby-killers or woman-haters on the opposite side, a lot of headway might be made in reaching more of a consensus.
Although the abortion debate is just one example of a topic where this occurs, it happens in every contentious political or social topic that I can think of – and often comes from people who you would expect to know better.
Unless the other side is willing to humanize your intentions, it is a waste of time to debate them.
They lack the ability to reason logically
When I became a born-again atheist a decade ago, I relished the prospect of posing difficult questions to Christians. Since seeing the light, which was that organized religion is an archaic means of controlling people that was very useful in the era prior to the rule of law and police but has little substance beyond that, and that the Bible is a book rife with contradictions and inconsistencies, I looked forward to showing others where the logical holes in the ideology existed.
I expected that it would be a fun experience, and I challenged anyone who followed a religion to debate me. Not just so that I could lead them away from their mental prison or seem intellectually superior, but also to test my own reasoning that had lead me to the decision I had made. I almost hoped that someone would show me what aspects I had overlooked, and return to the comfort of my childhood religion, but that never happened.
Yes, I ended up becoming “that guy” at university parties, who would end up in drunken debates with anyone who followed a religion.
It surprised me at the time that whenever I dropped a logical nuke on their religion, I wasn’t met with a counter-argument. I was instead fed a “biblical band-aid”, as I called it.
“Well, the lord works in mysterious ways…”
“God’s reasoning isn’t bound by our logical constraints.”
“If it could be proven as fact, there would be no need for faith.”
Or as I have seen more recently on Twitter…
“Of course, diversity is our strength. (Although I can’t provide a solid reason to back that statement up).”
If someone starts down this road, you are either arguing with someone who lacks the mental capacity to compete in the arena of logic and reason, or someone who lacks the maturity to consider that their beliefs may contain flaws, and will spout the most unbelievable nonsense to cover the holes that you are poking in their precious delusions.
Neither of these are winnable situations, so save your time.
They reject a reasonable standard of evidence
The next time that you have a spare 5 minutes, go on YouTube and watch some flat-earth conspiracy videos. You will experience a level of cringe that you did not think was humanly possible. In short, they believe that the earth is shaped like a hockey puck, with the sun, moon and stars all revolving around us.
If you show them photographs of the earth from satellites which clearly show the earth to be a sphere, they will dismiss the photos as being manipulated.
Similarly for photos from aircraft, which show a curving horizon, they will dismiss this as either an illusion or the result of photoshop.
According to them, airline pilots are all in on the ruse too, and will fly a great-circle path (the shortest path between two points on a sphere, which is represented as a curved line on a 2-dimensional map), simply to perpetuate the myth of the earth being round.
Like all ideologues, their stance is completely immune to being falsified.
And yet, if you showed any reasonable person a photo of the edge of the world, where everything falls away into the abyss, most would be forced to reconsider their stance on the earth being a sphere.
But of course, like religious ideologues, they feel that they do not need to prove anything.
And as with Christians, or anyone whose core argument boils down to “because I / god said so”, run.
They depend on emotion and feelings, rather than evidence and facts (they are idiotlogues)
If I had a dollar for every time I have read and heard people calling Donald Trump a racist or a nazi over the past 2 years, I’d nearly be as rich as him.
And yet, any time I ask what evidence or reason people have for making that allegation, I am not met with a single statement that he has made that suggests that he is either.
Rather, I am told that he simply is. Furthermore, if I disagree that Donald Trump is a racist or a nazi, I am also a racist or a nazi.
When the substance of someone’s argument is an assertion of a fact that is supported by no basic evidence, you are again dealing with an ideologue. If they then become enraged and turn the debate into an ad-hominem attack on you for not accepting their absurd assertion, rather than finding something to support their statement, you are dealing with an ideologue and an idiot. An idiotlogue.
So don’t crawl into the mid-pit and wrestle with the pigs. You will get covered in shit and the pig will enjoy it.