Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Arguing with a Crazy Person Makes You Look Crazy

On social media, it's easy to fall into the trap of responding to statements you disagree with. You feel like expressing yourself. You want to point out something the other person may not know or understand. You assert your point of view. Hopefully, you do this in a civil, polite manner.

An intelligent person, if they are totally opposed  to your viewpoint, will engage in a limited exchange of ideas with you. If you make an assertion, they will attempt to refute it. If they really want to drive home their point, they'll link to a reputable article that presents their idea forcefully or a news report that verifies what they claim.

This kind of online discussion can be enjoyable. You may learn a few things. You may gain a better understanding of different views and may become more adept at defending and advancing your ideas. You may even alter or abandon your opinion. Educated, decent people will appreciate the conversation and will not hate you for sharing your contrary views. They may even thank you for enriching their blog or social media page with your remarks.

Once in a while, however, you'll encounter someone who goes ballistic when you express a view that is opposed to theirs, or when you question their assertions. They may feel you are making them look stupid or uninformed. If so, they may then feel they need to punish you.

They might start calling you names, using filthy language, or warning you that they will not accept "biased remarks". You will probably find this rather bizarre. All you wanted to do was discuss a topic and learn why someone thinks something different from what you think. Perhaps you wished to put forth a fact or an angle they may have not considered.

Instead of welcoming your participation in a discussion, they get upset. Generally, if a person attacks you personally, it's because they can't reply adequately to your remarks. They avoid dealing with your statements and change the subject. Suddenly, the discussion is now focused on what a bad, ignorant, or "crazy" person you are.

A common ploy is to accuse you of things, based on their assumptions. If you question Candidate X, they'll claim you are a typical supporter of Candidate Y and you  listen to and are brainwashed by Blah Blah news channel. They may make more sweeping generalizations and come to unfair, ridiculous conclusions about you.

Childish. Some people regress and revert to infantile modes of behavior when they're not being patted on the head and praised all the time. They seek agreement only. They cannot handle critique of their own remarks. They cannot tolerate dissent regarding anything or anyone they support or identify with. They take it personally and cannot detach themselves to consider an issue objectively.

Some people, if you met them in the real offline world, would repulse you. You would not want to be seen with them. So why do you engage in heated conversations with them online? 

Think seriously about your motivations and what you think you're going to accomplish. Could it be that there are traces of cruelty or aggression in you? Are you lacking confidence and seek to bolster yourself by arguing with a questionable entity? Do you have unsuspected trollish characteristics lurking within you? Do you seek to inflame the person, expose his ignorance, or shame him? 

Or are you so incredibly unrealistic that you think you'll be able to convince the person to adopt your point of view? In most online debates, the best you can possibly hope for is to respectfully agree to disagree. 

Your debate opponent may say, "Thanks for sharing that. I understand why you feel  that way, but I just don't share your point of view. Your point is valid, but not weighty enough to make me change my mind about this." Or perhaps they'll say, "I'll look into this, and check out that link, but I doubt it will be sufficiently convincing."

Unfortunately, most of the time, a person with strong views will not appreciate being contradicted. They may seem intelligent and sane, but the minute you go against their opinion, they flip out. Black smoke starts pouring out of their ears. Their mouth is suddenly spewing forth hateful venom.

Online Debate Manual, Rule #3a, Section IV, paragraph 2 states: "The first debate participant to use swear words, expletives, filthy fulminations, scatological obscenities, vile vulgarities, juvenile profanity, salty language, foul mouth expressions, poopy talk, cussing, four letter words, F bombs, lewd scurrilities, or other unseemly imprecations -- loses the debate."

(NOTE: That paragraph above is great to copy and paste and post as a comment when someone starts uttering using bad language to intimidate you.)

If you wrestle with a pig, the pig loves it, but all you accomplish is getting dirty.

(See "Never Wrestle with a Pig" in relation to the ancient Chinese game called Go).

When you argue with an immature, hateful, or insane person, it makes you look bad. People will wonder why you have lowered yourself to get in the slime and fight with a vulgar person or a bitter troll. This means you may also want to block the person on Facebook, so you won't be tempted to keep responding to his nutty posts.

Online Debate Manual, Rule #1, Section III, paragragh 1 states: "If you argue with a crazy person, you'll look crazy."

Surely, you have better things to do, right? Go do them.


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