Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Annoying pattern III, split advocacy

I see this one all the time, and it makes me really angry. In essence, this tactic is a slash-and-burn operation. Argumentative techniques are employed, not to reflect what the person actually believes, but rather as a weapon against what they don't. You throw everything including the kitchen sink at your opponent, trusting that at least one of the mean, snarky, nasty things you've pointed out will cause a bystander to learn to hate what you yourself hate. For example:

Opponent: I hate D.
Me: why?
O: Well for one thing he/she is extremely E.
me: really? I don't see D as being that extreme.
O: Also, D is not nearly E enough.
me: Wait, what? How is it possible to be E and not E at the same time?
O: Whatever, you've just drunk the D kool-aid. You wouldn't understand.


Opponent: Hey look at this, I've found evidence from source F that D is horrible.
Me: Do you really trust source F?
O: Not at all. I think that F is an absurd source, actually.
me: So you don't even think that people who read source F should trust them?
O: No. Source F is normally full of lies.
me: Then the only reason you're citing them is that they agree with you in this case?
O: Is that bad?

In short, this style of argumentation is not only dishonest, it's the root cause of the general malaise of jadedness that exists in our society today. There IS room for debating from the other side ("even if you start from a position of G, you should still dislike D"), but such a tactic requires that you take apart the black box of the other argument. There is an internal logic to other points of view. Posting or citing mean, hateful, and often inaccurate sources of journalism, however, is not the answer.

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