February 2015



 Argumentation:

1.   Why Arguing with Fundys Doesn’t Get Us Anywhere

by Lloyd Harrison Whitling

Despite the nasty nature of most of them, arguments are good events for humanity. By ‘good’, for the moralists among us, it means they are of overall benefit to us (wherein ‘bad’, of course, would mean they are detractive of benefits. Nobody ever mentions that there is neutral ground between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ that ought to be considered and defended as often and diligently as any of the rest of it). It is because we have been encultured to see anything that requires actual thought and knowledge as evils (or, ‘bads’) that we fail to appreciate argumentation enough to seek out the best ways to go about it. Here, for your enlightenment, is page one of The Mad Poet’s approved process for argumentation along with many insights as to why arguing is so often a counterproductive process. Page two is here.

Let me set the record straight right at the start: I am not a college-educated “expert” on much of anything, and do not hide that fact, but on this subject I am an expert with experience. I do not know what professors teach their students about proper procedures for argumentation, if anything. If there are classes about it, they are either forgotten by the students, or the materials offered are about counterproductive methods that fail to work. If there are not classes about it, or those classes were not (as they ought to be) required, then college students are left to learn their lessons in the same place as the average most of us: on the streets and backwaters of the world. Good luck with that!  Get your lessons right here!

Your goal is never to win, but to incite a thinking process. Your Fundy opponent’s goal is to take and keep control. Whose aims do you think are going to dominate?

RULE: Never let your opponent choose your topics. She will choose them with her comments, wherein she will play the role of temptress whose aim is to lure you away from all you know to be right and good and have her way with you. Never respond to the temptation to go astray, be she Lilith or Satan.

RULE: Gather up your facts and keep them in mind or your argument will get derailed. Any discussion will proceed along certain paths. Those paths have one beginning point, but can stray in many directions. Those directions will depend on the goals (overt and covert) of the participants more often than they will of anything to do with rectitude and relevant acumen on either side. They may also depend upon the laying down of ad hominems, red herrings and strawmen, whether or not intentional, that serve to lead the opponents off their courses. All in all, whether they get anywhere depends on if either side has an idea of a destination. Your Fundy opponent has a goal. Yours must be firm in your mind. Without that, you will never retain control, your necessary primary focus in any discussion. Sometimes, the destination ought to be what gets incorporated into the first statements of an argument. When that does not get acknowledged, it is all downhill from there.

Principled Assertion: Your Fundy opponent has her principles, as do you, but hers are weak from absence of real support. Realize that she will compete with you for control, and if you relinquish that you will have given away the prize. Know your evidence, how it supports your assertions, and why hers depends on opinions and hearsay (secondhand information) to even exist. Your goal is not to shred her views. Your only goal is to assert yours. You are not there to debate her views. You are there to assert to her and educate her about the principles by which you live. You will fail at that by talking about her beliefs. You will maintain control only by continuously asserting your own.

To accomplish that, you will have to actually know what you do believe. You will need to know why you believe that rather than something else. If you are an atheist, you will have to acknowledge that, yes, there are factual aspects of life that objective evidence leads you to accept as true, and other things that absence of supporting evidence requires you to conclude are false or irrelevant. So, make a list and put OBECTIVE EVIDENCE at the top. Everything else will arrive from there.

Rule: Think as you go: “What did I start off talking about? Am I still talking (or writing) about that? Am I still following my list/plan/agenda? Am I still on target?” Derailment of any argument occurs when someone makes a comment, statement or assertion with which someone else disagrees enough to make a countering assertion or negative comment. Any countering assertion determines the direction (or misdirection) of all that follows (and all statements made by either sides (or, all sides)) from this point on fall under the headings “Countering Assertion”, “Manipulation”, or “Agreement”.

Since agreement is not conducive to argument (but offers a laudable goal seldom achieved), we will stick with “Countering Assertion” from this point on, under the heading, “Manipulation”.

Manipulation

Countering assertions possess certain recognizable characteristics, the intent of which is to lead the opponent(s) astray. We will recognize those characteristics as belonging to tactics used by those with goals that do not always portray a high level of integrity. We could give those tactics names to increase their tangibility to our minds. Tactics that do not support the materials being discussed, that are counterproductive to such support, can be found in any list of logical fallacies. They are called ‘fallacies’ not so much because they are untrue, but because they lead arguers astray and prevent them from accomplishment by derailing the discussion, or because they are illogical. While the intentions of those who resort to them might be innocent due to ignorance, they get oftentimes used as tools for purposeful manipulation. The effect is the same in all cases, to lead the discussion astray and into areas where the manipulator feels safe.

A short list of countering tactics would include Digression, Principled Assertion, Avoidance, Deflection, Personal Attack, Feel-Good, Power-Play and Revenge. All are as apt as not to have overlapping characteristics.

The most common form of countering assertion, which could serve as a sub-heading for all the rest, is Digression. Digression gets applied by several means, all of which serve covert purposes (so covert, in fact, their proponents are sometimes not aware of them) by derailing the discussion process. We cannot deal with others’ hidden agendas here, as there are as many of them as there are people. We can deal with how to recognize the tactics of Digression.

Personal Attack may be the second most common form of Countering Assertion. It occurs when the Countering Participant fails to stick with the subject matter and, instead, makes a statement about his/her opponent. Such statements may often be of a mild nature that will go unnoticed as ad hominems (directed to the man rather than the discussion’s subject), but their emotion-stirring digressive nature places Personal Attack as an important subheading under Digression.

The format for Personal Attack is made recognizable by its nature: It is about the opposing person or group, or opposing statements themselves rather than their contents. Many statements may be directed to “you” instead of dealing with anything relevant to the materials. It may be about an opponent’s poor spelling or grammar. Any statement that attempts to show an opponent in a less than attractive light is a Personal Attack, including derogatory statements about what an opponent has said, and despite any laudatory statements that might also have been made, since they are also about the opponent and not the content.

Vying for third place prominence is the Feel-Good assertion, a form of ad hominem. Most often a result of a glandular discharge, such assertions may be entirely irrelevant in any manner, as they result from an emotional outburst without much involvement of actual intellect. If responded to at all, Feel-Good assertions will almost always lead the discussion into personal attacks and flaming. The best response, if one must be made, is with mirth absent of insults. Agree with the assertion if you can do so without losing face, and allow your good humor to backfire on your opponent by maintaining control.

Assertion: “Ahh, you’re such a sweet, nice person, your ugly mother must have gone to another neighborhood to conceive you.” Rejoinder: “Well, I’m glad you think I’m so nice. I worried for a long time that we might be related.” See how the discussion has already veered so far away from the original subject that neither side can remember what it had been about. A quick “Thank you,” followed by an immediate response to his previous argument, or addition to or restatement of your response to it, is required here to get things back on track. This is likely the most effective path to take, and deserves repeating whenever your opponent attempts to derail you, even where it does not make sense.

Avoidance may well be the third most common tactic. In argumentation, it is not a synonym for Digression, but is yet another subheading. It refers to common tactics that yield the same effect as would simply overlooking an opponent’s assertion. The avoiding person may actually agree with the assertion that had been made, but has gotten so involved in some minor point that agreement went unexpressed. More likely, and always suspect, avoidance is a covert attempt at derailment. Be aware, however, of how avoidance could be a signal from your opponent that you are the one slipping away from the topic, as you must do the same to steer her back on track

Deflection might be a close cousin to feel-good and avoidance, since it refers to any response that directs thought and attention away from a worrisome statement. The feel-good example also represents deflection.

Power-Play is a close synonym for One-Upmanship. Any attempt to hornswoggle or pull a scam belongs under this heading, as do any attempts to assert authority over an opponent, as in any attempt at gas-lighting or Gish-galloping. Such attempts are not only unfair, they act as detractive devices that are counterproductive to any good argumentation goals. They show an absence of honest intentions. A rewarding effort would be to learn how to spot this in others’ arguments, to learn how it might be used against yourself.

Revenge operates as a “get-even” tactic and is a favorite modus operandi for Internet Trolls. Standers-by will most often be unaware of what is going on unless they are informed about the specifics. Since trolls are often secretive and keep their true identities hidden, their opponents may also be unaware of this element in their agenda because it, too, may be kept covert.

Persons bent on employing Revenge may also be inspired to do so as a result of having lost a previous encounter against the opponent (or, an apparent member of the opponent’s group), or as an effect of blaming the opponent (or someone seen as being “of his group”) for some real or imagined evil.

Principled Assertion (Focus), on the other hand, refers to a tendency to develop real alternatives to an assertion. It is an attempt to show why the assertion is wrong or how it can be improved, or why it is irrelevant. To apply Focus may appear to incorporate digression, but that is because the digression is actually away from fallacious statements a participant has made, in order to keep a discussion on track. (See Page Two about this) Such statements are avoided because their counterproductive nature has been recognized by the focused participant, who also recognizes that any attempts to explain that will also serve to derail the discussion. Focused participants realize that if a discussion is to be worth their time and energy, prevention of derailment must be given a high priority by them.

So, to summarize, our incomplete list recognizes these as fallacious and counterproductive:

  • MANIPULATION:
    • DIGRESSION:
      • DEFLECTION:
        • Deflection
        • Countering Assertions
        • Personal Attack
        • Feel-Good
        • Avoidance
        • One-Upmanship (Power-Play)
        • Revenge

Those seven items (including Deflection as a sub-heading of itself) all serve to detract from Focus, which can only be maintained by Principled Assertions. Focus is, regrettably, the least-often employed tactic in argumentation, making avoidance of focus the most common tactic. Focus maintains the purpose of argument, whereas any other tactic serves only to detract from that purpose.

Focus can be employed by keeping simple procedures in mind, and diligently applying them. Those procedures involve questions, such as:

  1. What is the actual subject of this discussion? Do you know an answer?

_______________________________________________________

 

  1. Is the assertion to which I am considering a response pertinent to that subject?

Y__ N__

 

  1. If not, can I respond in such a way as to keep on track?

Y__ N__  How?____________________________

 

  1. Is that assertion about me?__ about my own statement?__ or germane to the subject?__

 

  1. If it is not germane, should I avoid it? Y__ N__ (if it cannot be made germane, choose Y).

 

  1. How can I assert my own views in the most germane manner without reinforcing my opponent’s position, without resorting to personal attack, and in the most persuasive way possible? (See Page Two)

________________________________________________________

 

  1. Can I learn anything from my opponent’s statements?

Y__ N__

 

  1. Am I, or is my opponent, making positive assertions intended to impart information, rather than negative assertions that do nothing but tell what is wrong with statements that have been made and/or the person who made them?

 

  1. Am I wasting valuable time and energy with this opponent now?

Y__ N__

 

  1. Can I find any way to turn this discussion toward a positive result?

Y__ N__

 

  1. If not, then why am I involved with it? ____________________________

Those may not be all the questions, and the list of digressive assertions may be far from complete, but keeping them in mind will serve yourself—and humanity in general—by maintaining a sense of wellbeing that results from an increased understanding of all the kinds of events in which we get involved, and in which we see others involved, at all levels of society. Honest goals ought to be to impart information, to inspire thought, to learn from others, and to seek and portray tangible truth so it can be made recognizable. The goals should never be to attack or degrade others, nor to foster the spread of misinformation. Leave that for the nasty people.

 

Go to page 2

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Fundy Fundamentals: How They Gain and Retain Control–
Rules for Fallacious Argumentation

by Lloyd Harrison Whitling

This page presents actual in-use rules of engagement used by the Radical Religious Right, by conservatives in general, and by many atheists as gleaned from an assessment of their practices, statements and methods. Use it as a warning: they do not put up the fair, honest fight expected of you by all parties on both sides.

So, why would any sensible person want to depend on dishonest, frivolous, error-laden tactics to win arguments? The answer is, because it works, and does so for several reasons:

  • Sleight of hand: They understand their audience and their beliefs. They know most people are intellectually lazy, and thus ignorant about their tactics, the materials under discussion, and their own beliefs. By making themselves appear to side in with such people, they can claim and gain the advantage.
  • They know what their audience wants to hear and say that, whether or not they mean it.
  • They eschew logic and objective evidence and favor opinions, fables, myths and apologia. The resultant freedom from controls enables them to say what they want without much fear.
  • Their opponents, however, are still required to offer proof, and then to prove their proof is valid.
  • They are memes-driven, and so seem more alive, excited and interesting than their stuffy-acting opponents.
  • Being memes-driven makes them more eager to learn how to promote their ideas, which (being memes) occupies a high priority in their lives—so high, in fact, that they often act against their own interests to favor the memes. This often noted fact deserves research funds.
  • Their materials seem easier to understand and remember than the technicalities-laden, seemingly irrelevant mysteries from science.
  • That typical opponents and audiences are ignorant about critical thinking and logic gives Fundys a vast array of fallacies and techniques, such as the Gish gallop or gas-lighting, to use with little fear of reprisal. If their opponent calls them on one, the discussion gets derailed and control gets ceded to the Fundy, which is what she wanted.
  • There are more, but you surely get the idea about what is behind the dangerous rise of religiopolitical fundamentalism.

A rule about the religious right you may consider valid in times of conflict with them is this: Always pay attention to the true purpose behind whatever battle they have lured you into; it will never be the one expressed. Ask yourself, “What is it that they have chosen this argument to distract me from?” Discover that, and you will have enabled yourself to uncover one of their weaknesses (and they have many). Attack that weakness, and forget the argument they brought you; it is unimportant and, actually, irrelevant. (see list of Fundy strategies in Section Two)

Is it necessary to be an honest, decent and humane person to be a rightwinger? See for yourself!   See again. This paragraph is an example of one of their tactics. See of you can recognize it as you read.

 

SECTION TWO: As paraphrased from actual practices:

This view from the Fundy side will help you understand their tactics and reasoning. Read this as though you have traded sides.

The following outline contains the complete Rules of Engagement for fascists doing battle with any and all heretical opponents of God’s Capital Truth. They will serve well in any frays that may engage you as a member of the Forces for God. The end of the Earth is nigh, and judicious application of these glorious procedures will help us bring it nigher.

 

The primary rule is “Criticize, criticize, criticize: Always attack the messengers and anybody associated with them; never acknowledge the message except to misquote it or remove it from context to change its apparent meaning.”

Always attack, never respond.

Remember: it feels good to win; it does not feel good to be right or honest and lose.

Winning is the sole aim of all battles, whether you are a soldier in man’s army or God’s.

Never address or repeat the contents of a countering argument.

Limit your scope to one single line.

You cannot aim at more than one object at a time and expect to hit anything.

Any two lines can be exploited, however, by claiming they contradict each other.

When you can, give them multiple targets in your replies to confuse and overwhelm them.

Context does not matter, nor does it matter if their contents are unrelated.

Failing that, quote some irrelevant portion out of context and bend the discussion toward arguments against that.

Since readers very seldom follow up on any references given, to worry about getting caught red-handed seems ludicrous.

Few readers of a discussion thread or observers of a dispute will review it or remember verbatim all that got written, and so will take your honesty for granted.

Even those on your opponent’s side will accept your presentation without question.

New readers or listeners will also take for granted the accuracy of all your quotes and your statements of what the context was about will be accepted.

Make sure all references agree only with your position; never offer links that may be construed to support your opponent.

Failing that, if you cannot find anything in the message to play your own message against, find a line you can restate so that it will sound and look like its original version.

Make your opponent look as ridiculous as possible so your audience will automatically take your side.

Act in a manner that will be perceived as helpful and friendly by your audience.

The air of authority and confidence that results will negate any attempts to question your ploy.

Forcing your opponent to deal with your ruse, or to point it out, puts him on the defensive and he will be unable to present his own case.

Failing that, question the message itself, as to its:

Value

Right to exist

Credentials or veracity of its author

The disrespect shown in the fact of its existence

Failing even that, attack the messenger and/or the author.

Call him/her a “liberal”.

A “liberal” is anyone who disagrees with you or that you do not like.

Brandish words like ‘unpatriotic’, ‘communist’, ‘gay’ ‘hedonist’ or ‘atheist’ against your opponents.

Mention words like ‘evil’, ‘wicked’, ‘Satanic’, as often as possible in reference to your opponents.

Put all the burden of proof, references, a perfect accounting, etc. onto your opponents.

Refuse to budge or give any kind of acknowledgement to their demands that you do your own work.

If they do happen to put up a good argument, find a way to work it against them or to make it appear meaningless.

Accuse them of lying, dogmatism, prejudice, immorality or any other negative charge you can contrive and make it stick in people’s minds.

Take advantage of any dual-meaning words you can interpret wrongly, if doing so will aid your attack.

Take on the role of victim at every opportunity.

Put your opponent into the role of oppressor and make him the culprit.

Whenever possible, hide your own agenda by accusing your opponents of it.

Always be first to accuse, being careful to assure yourself of circumstances wherein it will not backfire on you.

If it does backfire, find a way to blame it on your opponents.

If you make a mistake of any kind, find some way to attribute it to your opponents.

They will usually get so flustered they will lose track of who did what.

Always view and express your concepts as polarities and never give recognition to so-called “gray areas”.

Examples:

Morality: Right and wrong do not offer any room for neutrality.

If something is not right it is wrong and must be condemned.

If it is right and helps them more than you, find a way to make it look wrong and condemn it while accusing them of it.

Religion: People either believe in Jesus or they are atheists (unbelievers).

All other religions are wrong and therefore evil that must be banished.

Politics: People are either conservatives or liberals.

There are no true moderates

You are on our side; if not, you are on theirs

If you do not support the complete Forces for God agenda stated as God’s Capital Truth, you are a traitor no matter what if you follow your own ideals.

Science and reality: Things are either natural or supernatural.

Reality is an illusion.

If it cannot be explained in natural terms, it is supernatural.

It matters not if science later unveils an explanation that works and yields great benefits or exposes grave dangers, it is a lie, an illusion, and it is immoral and wrong.

If it can be explained in both natural terms and religious terms, the natural explanation is wrong because it comes from an illusion.

Wrong explanations are works of Satan that must be condemned

If you cannot win with facts, bury them under bullshit.

Find some organization or doctrine you can attack, and then associate your opponents with that at every opportunity.

Put your opponent on the defensive, and then use their responses to accuse them of aggression.

Limit all your arguments to just a few positions you can easily learn to aggressively defend.

Learn to manipulate all discussions until they become about one of those positions and the related arguments.

Never respond to any arguments your opponents make. Never repeat them.

They are meaningless, of course, so only read their materials to look for ways to destroy them.

You have nothing to learn from them.

Never show interest in anything they say.

Your goal must always remain to win at any cost.

To deal with an actual argument raises the aura of acceptance.

It then looks like you deemed it a worthy challenge.

Don’t risk losing face when winning is the only goal.

Complain all the while about how such an asinine discussion is beneath your dignity and not worth your valuable time.

Never hesitate to jump on any opportunity to support your godly views.

It allows readers more time in which they may, themselves, reconsider it.

You must maintain the appearance of quick and skillful wit.

Most people do not actually grasp very much of what they read or hear.

Stick with this process and stay on the offensive to maintain your momentum

You must maintain the appearance of sharp and incisive intelligence and authority.

You cannot do that while manipulating ponderous facts.

If something bad can be said about your opponent that he might say about you, be sure to be the first to say it.

Then, when he says it, he will have the appearance of retaliation, or of trying to get even by mudslinging.

Quickly accuse him of mudslinging

NEVER stray from the course set by your agenda.

Repeat the drill you have learned until you can say it without pause.

Repeat even untruths if they support your aims.

Lies heard often enough become truths.

Never allow yourself be seen pausing to think, it makes you appear weak and uncertain.

Creative use of the full array of logical fallacies will often enough so disorient your opponent that they are worth learning about and practicing.

Never resort to factual information in any way.

Salting your arguments with facts that can be made to look like they support you, however, will help your overall appearance.

Create your own set of fallacies to accuse your opponents with.

They need not be valid or logical at all.

Restating actual fallacies so they support your agenda works well.

These rules and their subsets are all you need to know.

Anything else is frivolous and meaningless.

 

 

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