Wednesday, September 5, 2012

An attempt to explain why I try to avoid political arguments

So, those of you who know me, know that a) I have a Facebook and b) when I post anything semi-political on it that I get arguments from Conservatives, mainly and c) I do not engage in these debates willingly but only when they're on my Facebook page. This is an attempt to answer why this is the case and to get real ranting out of my way. One of my Facebook friends posted on his status, one who was invaded my stati when I'm posting things about increasing tax revenue and cutting spending, that either he is not friends with a lot of Obama supporters or that they just are not as loud. There are other alternatives, such as, excluding him from status updates that have to do with their political opinion, getting damn (not the cuss word I want to use there) tired of him interjecting his political opinions on their updates, or just being (alliterative cuss word to the next word) frustrated, in general with people. Hopefully, this long rant will give you peace and allow you to have some satisfaction when not arguing.

I know that complaining about what people put on my stati is more or les my problem, and similar to an immature child being upset when his/her sibling gets a present on his/her birthday. Flawed analogy but it's 1am pacific time.

But to answer my question of why do I not try to participate in people's political arguments, I'm using it as a rhetorical device so deal with it, I have a number of reasons.

1. They are trolling me.

I am an opinionated person, by nature.  I am, somewhat, intelligent. When people post flawed arguments, baseless facts, conspiracy-esque statements, or attach -gate to a conceived scandal, I get upset. My girlfriend suggests that I do not look at Facebook and the news, really, when I want to try to sleep. ANYWAYS, people know this about me. I think sometimes they want to see the limit to which I'll burst. That limit is fairly high. People want to see me all worked up raving like a lunatic (hello, comforts of my blog) and sounding like a condescending ass. I have a hard time not replying to people without sounding like it. But, let's say I do bite and I do respond to their posts about how Obama was born in Indonesia and used his connections with his Muslim brethren to forge a birth certificate.

2. It's really hard to beat people's confirmation bias.

It doesn't matter what facts I provide to the contrary, the other person will filter out the information that disagrees with their preconceived notions and only look at the facts that correspond to their thoughts. Starting with a conclusion and building your premises is not a good way of conducting an investigation, which is what we're striving for, an investigation into what is true. When I point this out to people, they get really defensive which makes me look like an ass. But, it's true. You can imagine any number of plausible scenarios (possible worlds, damn metaphysics) whereby starting with the conclusion leads to an impracticality in the premises. In fact, you do not even have to imagine these scenarios, just visit your favorite birther's friend's feed and watch. How am I supposed to compete in a world where forged birth certificates are the norm and only Glenn Beck can spot the truth? In a world where the seemingly impossible occurs with frequency, the probable becomes implausible. But let's imagine, I can get through their thick wall of defensiveness.

3. Charges of bias against your sources.

If it's someone to the left of me arguing with me or to the right, whatever sources I cite are biased towards the other side. For example, I cited the Wall Street Journal about how Obama's spending inferno didn't happen and was told that the Wall Street Journal was run by Liberals. I really don't mean to pick on the Right here but they are much more liberal with their charges of bias. This whole calling sources biased, has to do with confirmation bias. Except in cases where bias legitimately occurs. Quoting Rush Limbaugh, Harry Reid, Glenn Beck, Rachel Maddow (haven't watched her show in awhile, so I could be off on that), etc., to me has no effect because, well, they're biased. Illegitimate charges of bias would be calling PolitiFact, Factcheck, or any number of reputable fact-checking sites biased because you disagree with their report. But anyways, now we're getting to the fun stuff.

4. We're not working with the same framework of facts.

If you tell me that the stimulus created zero jobs, I know that you are a) getting your facts from Fox News,  a Republican politician, or someone who opposes the stimulus b) not informed of the truth. But your argument is not a fact-based argument. I have to establish the fact that it did create jobs, how it did it, how many jobs, etc.  It required no work for you to blindly accept two arguments, but the arguments given from me require work. I have to work to get you to get over the original confirmation bias and the possibility of my sources being biased to get you to look at facts. My argument should only have to be fact-driven but yet I have to waste time to dispel the fictions, to address non-issues, to argue over platitudes. It's a waste of my time if you do not accept and with such a high wall to climb on confirmation bias, it's nearly impossible.

5. Fallacious arguments

I have a link on the blog about fallacies in arguments, explaining what each one is. What I want to do into provide examples for some of the more common ones. But frequently, people will make fallacious arguments and I know that they feel good about it. They probably tell their friends, I really told off this guy today or that they feel that they won the argument. Most times when approached by these arguments, I give up because there is no sense in continuing. I can only beat my head against a brick wall for so long before it hurts too much for me to continue. Yes, beating my head against a brick wall is an apt analogy.

6. Changing the argument

My favorite is when people bring up a point, I counter the point, and then they claim it is irrelevant. It's so much better online because there is a record of what you said! When these changes occur, I walk away because continually changing the argument doesn't make you right. I'm running out of steam and making this a Steadman, last one real quick.

7. The final problem with using facts

If I do not provide facts to an argument, I am bringing nothing to a gun fight. Not even a knife! If I do not bring up the facts right away, I am hiding from them. If I use too many, my facts are questioned because of the sources and confirmation bias. So if I get chastised for both bringing up facts and not bringing them up, I might as well stay out of the argument. Less work for me and I don't have to read/listen to ridiculous claims.

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