An Amusing Example of Hypocrisy

I comment on a lot of videos, but I feel particularly compelled to comment when someone states something that is misinformed, is illogical, is a bad example, et cetera. That was the case yesterday when I responded to a video by MrHerrIQ (Why Leftists do not debate rightwingers even when they attempt to?).

He seems like he might have the capacity for making a good argument, but he wasn’t making one in this video (to be fair, he does admit that he is ranting). I pointed out some problems with his argument. For example, he said that leftists just repeat themselves (which he bases on his claim of having debated a thousand leftists and having won all of these debates in recent years). I pointed out my own experience that, yes, I do often repeat myself in arguments with rightwingers (I’m not talking about the average conservative) because it often seems they don’t understand or acknowledge anything only stated once. I also pointed out that the data shows that liberals (the same as his ‘leftist’?) are the most educated demographic and that most scientists identify as liberals… by which I was implying that there might be an intellectual inequality between liberals and rightwingers which might explain communication difficulties.

By the way, if I sound condescending, please realize I’m responding to a video that was condescending to all leftists. Take note that I usually don’t generalize about all conservatives. Instead, I try to speak about specific demographics such as ‘rightwingers’ (to be more specific, US ‘rightwingers’)… which I often define in the context of the psychological research about Right-Wing Authoritarians (RWAs) or, in other contexts, as the far right which in the US population usually means the social conservatives and fundamentalists (anyway, the research shows a correlation in the US population between RWAs and social conservatives), although the label ‘rightwingers’ can sometimes be used to more loosely apply to the radical right such as anarcho-capitalists, objectivists, and militant libertarians (these latter groups often don’t identify as conservatives). However, it would appear MrHerrIQ is using the ‘rightwinger’ more generally to refer to all right-leaning people (in all countries?) which isn’t how it’s typically used in the US. Also, his use of ‘leftist’ leaves me uncertain since to me that implies someone on the far left. So, I don’t know if he means all people who lean left or if he means the far left (Communists? Marxists? Anarchists?). My sense is he means the former because he is speaking very generally, but some of his comments could be interpreted as specifically referring to just social liberals (which isn’t how I would define ‘leftist’). I think in one of his videos he mentioned English isn’t his first language and so maybe he doesn’t understand the US context for these words… which might explain some of his frustration considering the YouTube viewership is a largely American audience.

Another commenter pointed out an even more obvious flaw to the argument: It was just a straw man from start to finish, although it’s hard to know if he was making a straw man argument as I’m not sure exactly that he was presenting a false argument or just a false portrayal (he seemed to conflate his idea of a liberal with his perception of the behavior and arguments of liberals; and, so, his dismissive portrayal of how liberals supposedly argue was seemingly being presented as a disproving of the argument of liberalism in general)… to put it simply, I was confused by what he was even trying to communicate. He presented his argument using only his personal experience which he didn’t even go into detail about… and then using these vague references he made a generalized portrayal of all leftists (Are these self-identified ‘leftists’ or his he assuming to know who is and isn’t a ‘leftist’?). To put it in simpler terms, his argument was that leftists suck at argument because he doesn’t like leftists and they’re stupid losers.

If the straw man fallacy doesn’t apply, there are potentially many other fallacies that could be applied to various aspects of the presentation of his argument (as well to my interaction with him in comments and private messages): appeal to ridicule, fallacy of distribution, psychologist’s fallacy, reification fallacy, accident fallacy, cherry picking, fallacy of composition, hasty generalization, association fallacy, sampling bias, ad hominem, appeal to emotion, weasel words, poisoning the well, et cetera. I don’t know. It would be difficult trying to analyze in detail (sentence by sentence) the precise logic or lack thereof within his argument… and I don’t feel that motivated.

He is free to have his opinion, but I was hoping he would expand on his argument using more objective evidence (and, of course, a more clear presentation). In particular, a simple definition of terms would’ve been helpful along with maybe some demographic data to clarify exactly the group of people he is talking about (I’m assuming the demographic labeled as ‘leftist’ would be different depending on the cultural context of different regions of the world… and I don’t know the country this guy lives in or what his personal experience has been with so-called ‘leftists’).

I was wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. I realized he might only be referring to leftists from his own country, although he seemed to be generalizing about some hypothetical ‘leftist’ that exists beyond any specific context (which I might accept if he was speaking about liberals in more psychological terms in reference to scientific research). I’m fairly sure that what he thinks of as ‘leftist’ isn’t how most US liberals think of themselves. So, I was prepared to have a debate about possible cultural differences of how we perceive labels and how we interact with those who are different.

Alas, that wasn’t to happen. I noticed today he had left a response to me:

@MarmaladeINFP
“I don’t exactly follow the argument being made,”
1)This is my experience with leftists in debates, 2) What is yours? 3) Why do you think this is?
“I know that the research shows that liberals are on average higher IQ and higher educated.”
Since the 1960’s cultural-revolution, education has gotten liberal so this could be a chicken and the egg scenario with a-political high IQ individual being influenced by leftists. However if high IQ select against itself, it lacking in value.

So, I clicked on the link to the comments page. He had removed all of my comments along with all of the comments of those who disagreed with him. I just had to laugh. I hadn’t seen such blatant hypocrisy in a long while. He was making an argument about why leftists don’t debate rightwingers. And, when leftists try to debate him, he removes their comments. I wonder if he has enough self-awareness to even realize the hypocrisy of this.

After laughing, it did make me feel a bit sad. He obviously is frustrated about not being able to communicate to those who are different than him. But, because of this frustration, he has given up trying to communicate those who are different than him. So, he has resigned to find comfort in his preferred reality tunnel and block out all the voices that disturb him.

If he just seemed mean-spirited or uneducated, I could dismiss him. But he seems intelligent. I always find it sad when I meet someone (even a stranger) with potential for intelligence who is afraid of intelligent debate. I’m not sure why it makes me sad, but it does. Maybe it’s just a matter of seeing yet another example of wasted human potential. We humans have so much potential and yet look at the world we collectively create with all of its conflict and suffering.

I’m included in this. I too waste potential. I wish I was a better person. I wish I knew how to debate rightwingers, how to communicate to communicate well to people in general. But I fail at this as most people fail.

– – –

I would share my comments to him on his video, but he deleted them. In order to add some more context, here is a message he sent me:

Put yourself in my situation.
I’ve debated a thousend leftists and the last 300 has not impressed me enough for me to find that it’s a netgain for me. If you want to debate me, you have to somehow ensure to me, you’re legitt.
You wont lose your face, your facade wont break.
You will be honest and admitt your shortcommings.
You will not repeat youself and reconstruct your argument.
You will abide by the rules of logic.
No red herrings.
You will not be passive aggressive, sarcism could be argued to be appealing to ridicule and it’s just mere autosuggestion at most.
Make your own points, I shouldn’t have to dragg them out of you or ask of you what assumptions you are basing your argument on.

If you can do this, I will have a yellow card, red card system. I tolerate 1, possibly 2 fuck ups. Nothing more. I used to but not anymore.

What is it that you would like to argue about?
Leave a PM on youtube and I will get into contact with you when Im available.

Perhaps you’re the one, who knows.
From where Im standing I doubt it, but if the shoe was on the other foot, you wouldn’t blame me.

My response:

You’ve debated many people. So what? I’ve debated many people. Many people all over the web have debated many other people. It happens all the time. You aren’t special.

I have to ensure you? (By the way, you probably mean ‘assure’. I think I heard you say that English isn’t your first language.) Why don’t you assure me? You are the one who deleted my comments. I didn’t delete your comments. As an outside observer, your actions look like hypocrisy. But you claim you aren’t a hypocrite. Why should I trust your words when your actions imply otherwise? How do you accidentally delete that many comments (something like 10 or 20 of them)? It doesn’t seem possible. So, unless you can explain that to me I don’t feel assured.

Yet, your tone here is that of condescension. You will condescend to allow me to debate you if I follow your rules. So, should I condescend to overlook your apparent act of hypocrisy?

Anyway, your rules seem to only serve the purpose of your trying to avoid debate. Why are you afraid of open and fair discussion?

For example, one of your rules is: “You will not repeat youself and reconstruct your argument.” This would be a difficult rule to follow. English isn’t your first language. So, there might be many miscommunications. Also, does it count as repeating if I state again comments you’ve deleted?

Another example of one of your rules is: “You will not be passive aggressive, sarcism could be argued to be appealing to ridicule and it’s just mere autosuggestion at most.” This is purely subjective. Do you have to prove I’m being passive aggressive or sarcastic? Or is it merely your personal perception? Why do I have to conform my behavior to your subjective biases? Also, once again, what about miscommunications? I assume you come from a different culture than I do. How am I supposed to know what is considered passive aggressive or sarcastic in your culture?

And yet another example is your last rule: “Make your own points, I shouldn’t have to dragg them out of you or ask of you what assumptions you are basing your argument on.” This rule is utter nonsense. Every single comment any person makes has an infinite number of assumptions it’s based on. This also comes back to the issue of culture and language. How am I supposed to know what assumptions you care about or what assumptions you are or aren’t aware of? Do you hold yourself to this same standard? How am I supposed to know all the assumptions you are holding in the context of all your rules?

All in all, your rules are unrealistic and unfair expectations. I suspect that is their purpose. No one could follow all those rules. Or, rather, one could only follow all those rules to your satisfaction if they happened to share all your assumptions, all your values, all your beliefs, and all your cultural biases. Have you considered that this might be at the bottom of your frustration with interacting with those who are different from you? You seem to want others to conform to your expectations and your worldview. Have you considered that it might be more fruitful if you were willing to meet people in the middle, willing to compromise, willing to understand new perspectives?

I have no doubt that, from where you’re standing, you doubt it. You’re frustrated because you’ve set yourself up for frustration. And then you blame others for your frustration. It seems like a no-win situation. From where I’m standing, I have plenty of doubts about both your actions and your words. I don’t know you and so I don’t really care who is to blame. I’m not blaming you for anything, but you do seem to be blaming others. Why do you keep telling me to see things from your perspective? Why don’t you try to see things from the perspective of others? If you actually understood the liberal view, you wouldn’t be blaming liberals. So, why are you blaming liberals for your lack of understanding of the liberal view?

I’m being honest with you here. I’m not attacking you. I’m just calling them as I see them. I’d love to try to have a fair and rational discussion with you (I’ve never liked to ‘debate’ per se), but you’ve so far given me no assurance that you’re even interested in trying. All your comments seems to show that you see everything in terms of being about you. That isn’t a helpful attitude. Even so, if you’re willing to seek a middle ground of understanding, I’m all game. But if you just want a battle of egos, a pissing match, a game of rhetoric, then no thanks.

On a side note, I suspect your real frustration has nothing to do with liberal vs conservative, nothing to do with politics or ideology of any kind. I’ve studied psychology for years, specifically personality types. I’ve seen these kinds of communication difficulties many times. If I had to make a quick (and, of course, rather superficial) guess, I’d say you are probably what is called in MBTI an NT (iNtuition Thinking) or to be more exact I’d guess an INTJ (Introverted iNtuition Thinking Judging). I’ve found most conflicts of communication are at least partly if not mostly grounded in psychological issues. I learned a lot about myself and about others by studying personality types and trait research. It’s easy to blame others. It’s much more difficult to come to self-awareness and self-understanding.

After that, he sent me a message that was pages long and so I won’t quote it here, but it was just a continuation of what he had already said. Basically, he was saying that going by his own experience he knew that he was intellectually superior to most people and that he had grown tired of debating the lowly leftist masses. Here is my response to that long message:

Reading this new message, I feel even less assured. You believe you are right and you believe you are intellectually superior to almost everyone. I don’t hold such arrogant assumptions about myself. And I tend to not like to interact with people who are that arrogant.

Also, your arrogance seems naive. You say you’ve won all these debates. But how do you know? Did you declare your own victory? Maybe those you debated also had the exact same opinion about themselves. Maybe even others told them that they had won.

The only thing that you’ve made clear is this. No matter what I say, you will claim I broke one of your rules. No matter how well I argue, you will simply claim you won. It’s not that you’re tired of debating. It seems you’re tired of even trying to debate.

Why not drop the arrogance? Just relax. You seem to be taking everything too seriously. The reason I don’t like debate is because I’ve found closed-minded people love debate. I like people who enjoy learning. In particular, I like people who like learning new perspectives. But you’ve given no inkling that you actually understand others or want to understand others. In such a situation, how can useful or pleasant communication even be possible?

Just the fact that you generalize about all ‘leftists’ shows a lazy intellect. It also demonstrates that you are unlikely to treat respectfully anything I present. You assume you’ve already got my type figured out, but going by your own words I’m not sure you understand leftists at all. If I tried to discuss/debate anything with you, I’d probably just end up being more fodder for your self-fulfilling prophecies. Think about it. Who will decide who wins the debate? You will, of course. And, since you haven’t admitted to losing a debate in years, why would you admit any such thing now? In your eyes, I can’t win for losing.

You seem intelligent, but there is something about you that seems self-enclosed almost to the point of narcissism or something. I don’t know if I’d be able to break through the protective barrier you are hiding behind. Honestly, I don’t at the moment see it’s worth the effort.

You say I came to you. Yes, I did. And then you deleted my comments. You responded that it was an accident and that it was only 8 comments. I still don’t see how 8 comments could be deleted accidentally. It just doesn’t seem logically possible. I could understand accidentally deleting 1 comment, but 8 comments is no accident. My allegation of hypocrisy still stands and you have yet to refute it. From my perspective, such hypocrisy is a sign of your character. I can only assume that if I were to discuss/debate with you that I’d expect more of the same underhanded behavior.

If you hadn’t deleted my comments, we could already be having a discussion/debate. I offered you evidence in those comments. You dismissed that evidence and you didn’t even offer any evidence in return. I just don’t know. meh


Controlling the Narrative: Part 2

I just posted about a discussion I’m involved with. In the post, I shared some of my comments from the discussion and explained some introductory thoughts about controlling the narrative.

Controlling the Narrative: Part 1

I had no clear intentions when I first posted in that discussion, but once I was engaged I wanted to follow it to the end. I don’t easily give up on a discussion or a topic when something catches my curiosity, when something gets caught in my craw.

The discussion thread is interesting for a number of reasons. It’s a textbook example of how to deal with different kinds of commenters. I’ve been in online discussions for years now and I know how to play any game anyone wants to play. I know how to handle the trolls, the ideologues, the apologists, the ranters, the nitpickers, the name-callers or what ever else. I’m not above anything. If I deem it necessary (or if I’m just irritated), I’ll call names and be rude, I’ll ridicule and cajole. But I’ll also provide data and make extensive arguments, be objective or share personal anecdotes. It’s important to always be ready to shift gears and meet any person on their terms or else force them to meet you on your terms.

  • One of my strengths is that I have stamina. Few people can outlast me in a discussion, few will do more research than I will. That isn’t a boast. It’s a fact.
  • Another important ability is to be clever (if only to keep the discussion lively and entertaining). I almost always can turn around any personal attack or intellectual argument. No mercy! Take nothing personal.
  • Last but not least, try to gain control of the rules of the game, try to enforce your own narrative. Don’t necessarily hijack a thread, but don’t be afraid of hijacking a thread if it serves some purpose.

The rules are very much different if you have regular discussions with the same people (assuming you want to remain friends), but dealing with random strangers on the internet demands guerilla warfare. I’m not in that discussion to make friends. I fully realized the people in that discussion were a mix. Some more smart, some less so. Some willing to play fair, some not. I was mostly just attacked and called names. My arguments were mostly just dismissed. But I did finally force a couple of people to take my view seriously once they realized I couldn’t be scared away or ridiculed into silence.

I had my ducks in a row and not even those arguing against me could deny that. I usually begin a discussion with by listening respectfully and gaging the atmosphere. I then present my view fairly and hopefully I get a fair response. If that fails…

I pull out the big guns and I bludgeon my opponent. I will offer fact after fact, source after source, argument after argument. As long as I’m dealing with someone above the level of idiot, I will persist. And if they start treating me fairly…

I’m more than happy respond in kind. Depending on my mood, I might even apologize. If I read negative intentions that weren’t there or that they claim weren’t there, then I’ll let it go and try to seek civil discussion. I’d always rather look for common ground just as long as the other person is willing to cooperate in this endeavor.

The problem with the discussion in question is that apparently no one wanted to seek common ground with me. I entered the disucssion in the middle of it. Another commenter had linked my blog and so I went to check it out, but already my views were being attacked. So, I immediately felt on the defensive. It didn’t seem that anyone actually wanted to have a rational debate of ideas and facts. Instead, it was an ideological attack-fest with most of the people on the opposite side of my own view.

Since I couldn’t force anyone to take my view seriously, the main thing I decided to do was to seek control of the narrative and so shift the power imbalance.  I pointed out this issue of narrative in my post about the movie Avatar (Avatar: Imagination & Culture). Conservatives have in the past been very good at controlling the narrative. Even now, Fox News has dominated political discourse by various means (Fox News Channel controversies). They don’t just report the news but actively create it. They promoted the Tea Party movement by (besides Beck’s 9/12) having Fox employees cheer on crowds as they filmed or even by using footage from entirely different events to make the crowd look larger. They’ve also been so devious as to alter pictures of Democrats and liberals by, for example, yellowing teeth or broadening the nose (to make the person look like a minority).

Fox News best strategy is latching onto a story and repeating it relentlessly until the rest of the media picks it up. For example, ACORN was given the Fox News treatment and by doing so they destroyed ACORN. Later on, it was investigated and it turned out to have been a fake scandal made up out of thin air, but ACORN was still destroyed and so mission accomplished. Even now, if you ask many people, they still think the ACORN scandal was real because innocence doesn’t make for as exciting of news as does scandal.

It’s all about controlling the story. I personally prefer truth, but I respect the power of story. Truth is great and story is powerful. Combined, they can lead to new visions of society.

This is where liberals come in. Conservatives are starting to lose control of the narrative. The culture wars have lost clarity and momentum. The faux patriotism from the Bush years has soured. This is why there has been a mass exodus from the Republican party. This past year Republicans have become the party of No and nothing else. Obama’s relentless preaching of bipartisanship (even if fruitless on the practical level) led to his controlling the narrative.

Liberals have an opening here. There are many narratives that can be chosen. In the discussion I’m involved with, I was using the narrative of shifting demographics and of generational cycles. Strauss and Howe are the guys who first told this story which they’ve titled The Fourth Turning and it has gained a fair amount of traction in the media and culture. Another narrative I like to use is that of Spiral Dynamics which presents an evolutionary view of human culture and it’s a very potent vision of what society can become (Bill Clinton was familiar with it).  George Lakoff has spent a lot of time putting forth his ideas about framing and politics which are insightful, but I don’t know that they’re ultimately compelling. Michael Moore has been one of the greatest proponents of the story about working class progressivism which has struck a major blow to the self-identity of the conservative movement.

Another area of liberal narrative is the New Age (which has incorporated many narratives into its own meta-narrative). I was raised in New Thought Christianity (which was a precursor of the New Age) and I’ve been delighted to see how New Thought theology has slipped into both evangelical Christianity and even into the mainstream culture in general by way of the New Age. Oprah has been a great proponent of the New Age vision (and I suppose she can be seen as a manifestation of the feminist narrative). A bit earlier than Oprah, Joseph Campbell helped introduce a new vision of religion and culture (his Hero’s Journey having inspired Star Wars).

Avatar is, of course, a great narrative and goes along with liberal narrative of many other movies (Star Wars, The Matrix, etc). In this time of burgeoning technology (3-d, internet, etc), movies are becoming more powerful and more widespread. Some other liberal narratives come from the comic book tradition (which was oppressed by the rightwing comic books code for decades). Some notable examples are X-Men and Watchmen. The greatest narrative of any entertainment might very well be Star Trek: The Next Generation which portrayed a future liberal utopian society.

Liberals have an opening here. The conservative narrative has been slowly waning and the liberal narrative has been slowly waxing. With Obama’s message of hope and change and his vision of bipartisanship (which the Millennials resonate with), liberals finally have the upper hand. The story that gets heard now will be the story that dominates for the next few decades (as the culture war narrative dominate the last few decades). I base that prediction on the narrative of The Fourth Turning. In a 1997 interview (Strauss’ Prophetic Words), Strauss forecast that:

“What could happen right at the start of the Fourth Turning is whichever dominant cultural view is in power when the emergency strikes that group could be out of power for a whole generation.”

Controlling the Narrative: Part 1

Below are some comments from a discussion thread I’m involved in at the moment. I thought it interesting because my purpose in participating has two parts.

On the surface, I’m just having a debate. I’m not all that concerned about winning the debate per se, but I am trying to make a good argument and clear up misinformation. My original purpose was merely to defend the research I had done since someone linked to my blog in the discussion (which is what made me notice the discussion).

However, once fully invested, my central motive switched to gaining control of the narrative. The whole discussion is an experiment of sorts. Those involved don’t quite grasp my real agenda and so they don’t know how to counter it. The reason I chose to seek control of the narrative is because, at first, no one wanted to fully engage the facts of my argument.

In more recent comments, one commenter in particular is trying to persuade me to play the opinion game. That is a fair game to play, but it isn’t the game I want to play. The reason I don’t want to play it is because it generally is a fruitless game which sometimes is the point. This commenter isn’t presenting any compelling narrative and so his best strategy is to distract me from my narrative… not that I think he is consciously strategizing. 

The opinion game is not too dissimilar from how Republicans have been playing the obstructionist game. This past year, Republicans were obsessing over and complaining about every little nitpicking detail. It’s the game one plays when one is out of power, when one isn’t in control of the narrative.

If you’re simply interested to read more about my views on controlling the narrative and how it relates to public/political discourse, here is the link:

Controlling the Narrative: Part 2

And below are my comments from the discussion:

http://www.topix.net/forum/source/kdvr/TA3MUPB6NGSBEJ7QK/post195

cjrian wrote:
Media Matters as an unbiased reference?
NPR ?
Air America (now defunct)??
Media Matters recieves its funding indirectly from George Soros via the Tides Foundation, the Arca Foundation, the Peninsula Community Foundation, and the San Francisco Foundation. MM is a total tool of the Left, willing to push-poll, lie, and consults OganizingforAmerica (Obamas info site) for so-called “truth”.
NPR has a VERY Left leaning bent and always has. Garrison Keillor, “All Things Considered”, Daniel Schorr.
Air America was ONLY formed to counter Rightwing talk radio. It was so far Left, it was falling off the edge of the Earth.
These are not unbiased sources!!

Still with the liberal bias? I showed you the study about NPR. You just deny the study based on no counter evidence. Show me a study that shows NPR has a strong liberal bias. NPR may once have been liberal because it used to do real investigative reporting, but ever since it began to get large corporate funding it hasn’t been liberal beyond a few minor exceptions of moderate liberals.

Air America was a response to rightwing media. That was part of my argument. Rightwing media is very powerful. Air America and other liberal radio have shown high ratings in certain markets, but radio stations are mostly now owned by large conservative corporations rather than by local people and community groups. I’m surprised you didn’t notice this explanation as it was in the blog post I linked earler.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010…

Part of the problem is definition of terms. What conservatives call “liberal” would be considered moderate, centrist or even slightly conservative in European countries. I’m willing to concede that, according to your conservative definition of liberal, most of the media migth be liberal, but that doesn’t really mean much of anything. It’s similar when conservatives call Obama a progressive, a socialist and/or a communist. Sure, according to the conservative worldview, almost everything is to the left. However, real progressives, socialists and communists are probably more critical of Obama than most conservatives.

Some of the media has a liberal bias and some of the media has a conservative bias. According to mainstream US political ideologies, I don’t think mainstream media overall is biased in any particular direction. But, relative to Europe, US media probably has a conservative bias. More importantly, I’d look at the biases in different markets. I don’t know about tv and cable, but Fox News has been very successful in controlling the narrative. Radio of course is dominated by conservatives and one study shows op-ed columns are dominated by conservatives.

The only place where liberals have a clear and strong dominance is on the internet. Liberals use the internet for news more than any other demographic and so you find liberal news sources online. A favorite “liberal” news source of mine is The Young Turks which is hosted by Cenk Uygur who is a former Republican who voted for Obama and yet is constantly critical of Obama for not being progressive enough. Cenk started his independent news company online and has remained online. His show is one of the most popular on the web. He doesn’t accept advertising money and relies entirely on subscribers.

It’s true that reporters and journalists lean left, but not radically left. On the other hand, editors, management and owners of news organizations lean right. The reporters and journalists are employees who are hired and fired by those who lean right. Pew shows the most strong Republican demographic has the highest rates of business ownership and highest rates of those who trade stocks and bonds.

http://www.topix.net/forum/source/kdvr/TA3MUPB6NGSBEJ7QK/post197

cjrian wrote:
Now, if Conservatives dominate newspapers how was their reporting so sympatheric towards Obama/Biden and negative towards McCain/Palin?

Why did the media focus on Obama? Many reasons. He was young, photogenic, energetic, charismatic, inspiring, great speaker, first black candiate, etc. Most importantly, the American public liked him more which was demonstrated by his winning the popular vote. I was just looking at poll data that shows that at the time even Libertarians liked Obama.

So, the media focuses on what happens to be popular. During Bush’s administration, when patriotism and war-mongering was popular, the media focused on that. Initially, the media didn’t strongly questione or criticize the reasons for the war in Iraq or the constitutionality of the Patriot Act. Any liberal who stepped out of line, such as Bill Maher, was attacked and vilified. This is just the way mainstream media operates.

http://www.topix.net/forum/source/kdvr/TA3MUPB6NGSBEJ7QK/post209

raysmom wrote:
Crier, that was a good one about the “Madoff numbers”, hehehe. But I think when you take the number of registered voters, the Dem & Republican numbers, and weigh them with certain variables it comes out pretty even in undergraduate education, the Dems having more advanced degrees.
But frankly, I don’t even think that formal education means more politically knowledgable. Take my neighbors (please, lol). A nice cross section of educated people. The liberal Christian psychologist, the liberal “spiritualist” MBA, the moderate IV specialist nurse, the liberal ex-Catholic pharmacist married to an ex-Army doc who now works for Kaiser, the uneducated King Soopers lifer. They all have strong opinions about Obama and ObamaCare, two for and three against. But NONE of them read the local paper in it’s entirety, let alone the WSJ or any diversity of publications, and none of them know the first thing about the bill or about any political issues, really, just stuff they pick up along the way, mostly from their peers who are equally ignorant! This is for both sides of the issue, remember. I think most people vote the way they do more from basic ideology, party politics, and personal experience/situation than from knowledge of the issues, no matter how educated they are.
The whole “I’m smarter than you are” thing is way overblown in estimating who the “better” party is. And there is no real way to prove it. Just as there is no real way to prove that someone’s intentions are bad becuase of ideology. A useless and divisive endeavor, in my mind.

There are several reasons why I think it matters. Conservatives have attacked climatology scientists because 97% of them support anthropogenic global warming. It’s rather meaningless considering only 6% of scientists are Republican. Since Republicans lack higher education and professional experience in the scienes, then who cares what most Republicans think about science.

Most professors and most with graduate degrees are liberal. So, liberals and Democrats are generally more well-educated. That is important. Some counter with, “But they don’t have real world experience.” Pew shows Liberals as having the second highest rate (after Enterprisers who are approximately equivalent to Neocons) of business ownership and second highest rate of trading stocks and bonds. Liberals are well educated and they’re well informed in that they follow the news closely.

Even though Democrats include the poorest and least well educated, they still on average have higher IQs than Republicans. That is important considering that during the Reagan years Republicans had the highest average IQ, but that was the only period that Republicans have ever shown a higher average IQ. It was the high point of the GOP. No wonder conservatives like to reminisce about the glory of the Reagan era. So, why did a majority of the most intelligent and well educated people stop joining the GOP and instead became Democrats?

If I were a Republican or independent conservative, I’d be a bit concerned. This isn’t just an abstract idea. Polls show that Fox News viewers are the least well informed about health reform. Maybe there is a connection here. Also, the Millennials are the most liberal, most well educated and largest generation in US history. When you look at the Millennials, you’re looking at the future.

http://www.topix.net/forum/source/kdvr/TA3MUPB6NGSBEJ7QK/post210

cjrian wrote:
<quoted text>
Undoubtedly, some of that is true, but that doesn’t explain the chills up their leg(s). One of the PRIMARY tenets to good reporting to to remain objective. The Press behaved in more of a rah-rah squad fashion. This also does not explain the uproarious cheering when Obama was nominated and when he won the election. The Press was highly Partisan.

There was a brief period earlier last century when the Fairness Doctrine forced the news business to be fair and ethical. Over the decades, newsrooms lost independent control of their reporting. Upper management and ownership began meddling in the news business. Advertisers started to have great influence and news became more about entertainment and telling people what they want to hear. Straight news reporting never made much money and so the financing of it was cut which led to reporters doing less investigative journalism.

Obama was popular. At the time, everyone loved Obama, loved to hear him speak, loved the very idea of him. News corporations are primarily concerned about making money and reporting on what is popular is how money is made.

Everyone was swayed, the whole nation, including reporters. It’s no different than how the whole nation was swayed including reporters after 9/11. Humans are social animals. We’re like a school of fish who sway together in the same direction. Those working for news media (reporters, journalists, op-ed columnists, editors, management, owners, etc) are all just human like the rest of us.

Besides, the media is like an echo chamber. The story that becomes popular gets reported more and becomes more popular. News people listen to other news people. It goes across the ideological divide. It’s humorous to watch the back and forth between Fox News and those on the left (or what is considered the left in the US mainstream). Climategate, ACORN, Swiftboat… all of those started with a single report somewhere and then all the media jumped on the bandwagon. It turns out, for example, that the entire ACORN scandal was made up out of thin air.

This is why I don’t watch mainstream news to any great degree. I occasionally catch a video of mainstream news on Youtube or some other random site. But, like a good Liberal, I prefer sources outside the mainstream such as The Young Turnks. The young generation doesn’t watch mainstream news hardly at all. I suppose it’s older Democrats who watch the mainstream left-leaning media.

http://www.topix.net/forum/source/kdvr/TA3MUPB6NGSBEJ7QK/post212

Becky wrote:
Also I would not talk so much about the younger generation. I am a part of it and even I admit there is a lot of ignorance in the liberally brainwashed people of our younger generation.
Difference is I have lived on my own since I was 18, put myself through school, and don’t just blindly take whatever the news or some narcissistic presidential candidate said without looking beyond the smoke screens and crap.

I’m less interested in these ups and downs. Instead, what I try to understand are the larger trends. If you were familiar with the writings of Strauss and Howe (The Fourth Turning, Millennials Rising) or Spiral Dynamics as explained by the likes of Wilber, you’d understand what I’m talking about. It’s the broader context that matters the most when speaking about where the country (and society in general) is heading. This is why it’s a fairly safe bet to claim that Obama’s health reform and Millennials liberalism aren’t just flukes that will disappear.

During the last cycle of progressivism, there were paranoid pundits like Beck (Father Coughlin), communist fear-mongering, race-baiting, promotion of “white culture”, anti-immigrant sentiment (“Hyphenated Americans” which always makes me think of Palin’s opposite notion of “Real Americans”), patriotic fervor, Christian fundamentalism, preaching of family values, etc. It’s proof, when the rightwingers become loud, that a new progressive era has begun.

This is where my interest in health reform comes in. It is an important issue on its own terms, but it’s hard to understand it’s relevance in isolation. Only in the beginnings of a progressive era could a president spend a year fighting (using the 3d chess of bipartisandship) for health reform and get a bill passed. Obama may be fairly mild on the scale of progressivism, but he does understand the progressive vision and he knows how to preach it. In doing so, he has creating the ideological vision of an entire generation. All Obama has to do is pass a bill, any bill and there is no turning back. The first steps will be akward, but resistance will fade away.

During the Fourth Turning, the new institutions are implemented and established for the rest of the following cycle. This is why the New Deal programs are mostly still with us after all this time. Even Republicans won’t try to take away farm subsidies or medicare. You can later on bust the unions, but the victories of the unions remain (child labor laws, 40 hr week, minimum wage, overtime, safe working conditions, unemployment, disability, etc). Once put into place, all of society embraces the progressive policies and they then become the new status quo (which conservatives will defend in the next cycle).

So, the specifics of the health bill do matter, but not as much as the act of passing reform. One thing is clear is that if McCain had been elected no reform would’ve happened or even have been considered. By Obama being elected, the coming progressive era gets an early push.

First, the Republicans played hard ball by trying to obstruct all progress.

Second, when progress was becoming inevitable, Republicans started scrambling with their own hobbled together “proposals”.

Third, Republicans try to save face by pretending to still fight even when it’s clear that Obama will pass a bill.

Fourth, Republicans become resigned their loss and try to get some of what they want into the bill.

Fifth, Republicans accept Obama’s health reform and turn their attention elsewhere.

Online Debates: Ideology, Education & Psychology

Internet discussions more often than not drive me bonkers.  I’ll mention some data and immediately someone will question and criticize the data.  If they’re a more worthy opponent, they’ll ask for specific sources.  I usually comply and then add even more data just to further support my argument.  The other person may offer data too, but they rarely cite the data and it’s even more rare for them to offer multiple sources.  Most “debates” never get past mere opinionated nitpicking.

I mentioned one example in a previous post.  I gave specific data and quotes from specific sources and framed it within the larger context of scientific consensus… and the other person acted like it meant nothing at all.  As a person who respects facts, I find it odd that many adults (who are potential voters) have such a dubious relationship to facts.  If someone shares facts with me that prove I’m wrong, I accept my being wrong and I do further research to better inform myself.  This attitude of intellectual humility and curiosity seems not to be shared by many people… or at least not many people I meet online which may or may not be a representative example of the American public (but if I had to guess, I’d think that the average internet user is more intelligent and better informed than the average non-internet user).

I just experienced another example.  This one was on Youtube and it was also about the scientific consensus of climatology experts.  Youtube has very limited word count for comments which makes intelligent debate a bit constrained, but I was up for the challenge.  I first mentioned some facts withou citing them, partly because Youtube doesn’t allow comments with url addresses in them.  Some person questioned the validity of my data and offered some other data which they didn’t cite either.  I felt lazy and didn’t want to try to figure out where he was getting his data, and I wasn’t in a mood for debating to any great extent.  So, I just offered the url addresses (by replacing the “.” with “DOT” which Youtube allows) of several scientific articles and Wikipedia articles (and the Wikipedia articles cited many scientific articles). 

My “debate” partner responded by saying that what I was referring to wasn’t peer reviewed and I assumed he must be talking about the first set of data I mentioned.  I had been looking at this data recently and I knew it came from the University of Illinois, but I didn’t know if it was or wasn’t peer reviewed.  I did a quick websearch and found it had been peer reviewed.  This is so typical.  If you look at people’s nitpicking, it is often unfounded.  I suppose people like this just hope you won’t actually check it out for yourself.  Why would this person lie to me just to try to win a debate?  It only took me maybe a minute or so to disprove his claim.  Does this person normally get away with such lies?  Are most people unwilling to check the facts for themselves?  Do most people not know how to use a search engine to find information quickly?

The ironic part was this person said the media is always lying.  So, I pointed out to him that, whether or not the media was lying, it appeared that he was lying or else uninformed.  He never responded back to further challenge me nor to admit to being wrong.  His only objective was to “win” the debate at all costs.  When it became apparent he wasn’t going to “win”, he simply abandoned ship.

I have an online “debate” like this probably on average of once a week (sometimes less when I’m not in a commenting mood).  I don’t go looking for idiots.  It’s just that the idiots are often the ones most willing to brazenly challenge any opinion (no matter how factual) that disagrees with their opinion.  To be fair, there are also many reasonable people online.  My experience, though, that the line between idiotic and reasonable often becomes rather thin when it comes to political and religious ideology.  Even when faced with the facts, few people are willing (or able?) to change their mind.

Why is this?  I’ve studied psychology enough to realize that humans are mostly irrational creatures, but I’m constantly amazed by how irrational certain people can be.  I seem unwilling and unable to accept the fact that most people aren’t capable of intelligent debate.  Part of me thinks that if I present the facts in a fair manner and make a reasonable argument that I can expect the same in return.  Apparently, I’m the irrational one for feeling frustrated by the inevitable irrationality of human nature.

But I do have reason for my irrational hope for rationality.  I occasionally have very intelligent debates with people online and these people even sometimes change their minds when offered new information… I even change my mind sometimes when presented with new information by an intelligent person.  Most often these people seem to be more liberal, libertarian or independent-minded. 

I’ve found that the only subjects that regularly attract intelligent conservatives are economics and sometimes philosophy/theology, but these are subjects that aren’t as easily determined factually according to scientific research (including psychological research).  Conservatives tend to argue more from a perspective of principles that they support with historical examples.  To conservatives, the past is where they look to verify a theory or claim.  I guess that is fine as far as it goes, but it makes for difficult debating because the attempt to understand principles and history is easily swayed by subjective biases.

For example, many libertarians and fiscal conservatives like to talk about free markets.  The problem is that it’s almost impossible to ascertain what this means.  The idea of a “free market” is highly theoretical if not outright idealistic.  No free market has ever existed.  Furthermore, no free market could ever exist because it’s merely a relative label of a market being more free than some other market.  There is no ultimate freedom of markets.  So, these debates lead off in all kinds of directions such as referencing “experts”.  The issue I have with experts in fields such as economics is that expertise is much more subjective in that there is less hard data.  Many of the economic models that have been relied upon have been proven wrong.  It’s almost impossible to scientifically study markets in that confounding factors can’t be easily controlled.

But even intelligent libertarians sometimes are wary of actual scientific data.  Libertarians don’t trust government.  Since scientists sometimes get government grants, scientists can’t be entirely trusted either.  For some reason, libertarians think corporate sponsored scientists would be more trustworthy.

Conservatives in general are more mistrusting of objectivity.  I’m not quite sure what is the reasoning behind this.  Some intelligent conservatives I’ve met actually agree with me about humans being irrational and that seems to be their reason for mistrusting objectivity, but this is a more intelligent argument and probably doesn’t represent the opinion of average conservatives.

To be fair, the smartest people of all probably are independents.  From the data I’ve seen, independents (and the American public in general) are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  The question is which is the cause?  Do smart people tend to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative?  OR do social liberals and fiscal conservatives tend to be smart?  Or is there a third causal factor?  MBTI iNtuition and FFM “openness to experience” correlate with testing high on intelligence and correlate with high representation in college.  Also, these psychological functions/traits correlate to liberal attitudes, but I’m not sure how they may or may not correlate to fiscal conservatism.  (There is a nice site about politics and psychological types: http://www.politicaltypes.com.)

Some of the most intelligent debaters will be the MBTI NT types (iNtuition Thinking).  I know that INTPs tend to be self-identify as politically independent and I suspect the same would be true for INTJs.  NTs probably either vote with Democrats for reasons of social liberalism or with libertarians for reasons of it being a third party, but I some NTs might vote Republican for reasons of fiscal conservatism or else for reasons of principles.  I’m not sure how many NTs vote Republican, but polls I’ve seen show that ENTJs are more conservative (probably because TJ – Extraverted Thinking – is their primary function).

So, I can presume that most often, when I’m enjoying an intelligent discussion, I’m probably interacting with a socially liberal iNtuition type.  I don’t know what good this knowledge does for me.  Maybe it helps me to be more forgivng (this person sure is stupid… it’s too bad they were born that way). 

To be more optimistic, psychological research doesn’t show that most people fit in absolute categories.  Most people can learn non-preferred thinking styles and learn to develop weak traits.  Education should teach people how to use all parts of their mind.  The fact that so many people lack critical thinking skills is a failure of our education system and shouldn’t be blamed on individuals.  College favors iNtuition types.  Most professors and college-level teachers are iNtuition types and most of the coursework is more appealing to iNtuitive types.  It’s hard for a strong Sensation type to do well in traditional schooling.  Who can blame them that they don’t go to college or have bad experiences at college?  Who can blame them for falling prey to the notion that college is controlled by liberal elites?

Considering that the MBTI shows Sensation types represent the largest portion of the population, it is quite sad that our education system has the hardest time reaching this category of person.  Sensation types don’t have as much natural talent for abstract thinking and critical thinking.  Sensation types are better with concrete information and concrete learning.  Too much of higher education deals with abstractions and theories.  Dumbing down higher education isn’t the answer.  I think we should have more alternative routes of education. 

When I was in highschool, my best friend was very much a Sensation type who took many alternative classes involving technology.  He was good working with machines and with computers, but he wasn’t extremely smart in terms of intellectuality.  Alternative classes served him well in terms of preparing him for a job in the real world.  The potential criticism, though, is whether he was prepared for being a well-rounded and well-informed citizen.  I suspect not.  The highschool I went to didn’t require students take classes in logic and critical thinking.  The classes in general seemed rather dumbed down.  Unless you were taking college prep classes, you wouldn’t be intellectually challenged.

I feel frustrated.  I don’t want to blame the average person for not being well educated, but I do feel pissed off that our education system has failed these people and so created an intellectually inferior society.  Even news reporting seems dumbed down for the masses.  Shouldn’t the education system and the media, instead, serve the ideal of uplifting the masses by informing them?

Even with intelligent people, I think the education system has often failed.  College is less focused on providing a liberal education and created well informed citizens.  College has merely become a career path.  Many have talked about the problem of specialization of knowledge.  People go to college only to become isolated in some particular field and outside that field they may be largely ignorant. 

People, whether well educated or not, seem less capable of understanding the larger context.  Maybe it’s always been that way.  If so, I hope it’s changing.  I probably shouldn’t expect the education system to do anything more than create good workers… as that seems to be its primary purpose.  My hope is more in the realm of media technology.  The traditional media has been failing for a long time, but the new media has been very successful.  The most well informed people are those who use the new media to inform themselves.  And, because of the new media, the uninformed (be they the average public or the average politician) can no longer spout misinformation without being challenged.

So, to return to the original topic of online debates, maybe a purpose is served by all of the ideological conflict found in the forums and comments sections around the web.  The people who weren’t educated well in school get confronted, whether they like it or not, with new information and with actual critical thinking skills.  Some people might just become even more ideological in response, but many others will learn to be more intelligent debaters.  Even debates where people deny expert opinions may serve a purpose in that a discussion then ensues about the definition of ‘expert’.  The question about the new media is whether the positives will outweigh the negatives.  The uninformed have the opportunity to become even more polarized and entrenched in their views by isolating themselves in forums of the likeminded, but those who want to be informed have more opportunity than ever to do so… and there are many in the middle who are neither extremely ideological nor extremely motivated to learn.

My hope is that the internet remains an open resource and open platform for public debate.  My other hope is that the internet my force the education system to improve by offering both teachers and students to become more well informed.  Students now no longer have to solely rely on the information given by teachers, and teachers no longer have to solely rely on the information that was given to them when they were students.

Intelligence & Curiosity

I want to speak about intellectual ability.  Some of it’s inborn intelligence and some of it’s learned habits such as memory tricks or reading comprehension.  However, those aspects aren’t necessarily the most central or most important.  Without intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn, all the ability in the world is useless.

In online discussions, I’m surprised how often someone asks a question when a five second websearch would’ve given them an answer.  So much time gets spent on explaining (sometimes very basic ideas and facts) to people who lack any motivation to learn.

I’m surprised how often people don’t read a link when I post it explaining what it is and why it’s relevant.  I’ve even cited a link as a basis of an argument and the argument itself was straight from the article, but the other person disagrees with me demonstrating they didn’t even read the article.  If I’m citing an article by an expert or which quotes an expert, then any disagreement anyone has should be with the expert or the article.  But do they quote another expert or link another article?  No.  They just disagree with some magical power of intuition.  They just know your wrong.

It’s a rare person who goes to the effort of actually backing up their opinions with logic and facts.  And I really hate it when people pull the ‘experience’ card.  Someone may be a mother but it doesn’t mean they understand every mother.  Certainly, a survey or scientific research of thousands of people has at least equal or greater worth than the anecdotal experience of one person.  Another stupid tactic is when someone argues, for example, that since you take a liberal position that therefore you don’t know what it’s like to be fighting on the frontline… as if all soldiers are conservatives.

Then there are the nitpickers who either are trolls or simply lack inter-personal skills.  There comments can seem stupid as the person never adds anything of intelligence, but the person might actually have some hidden intelligence.  It really annoys me when I sense or suspect they’re intelligent because I keep waiting for an intelligent response which never comes.  What is the point of having intelligence if you don’t like using it?  I’d rather deal with a well-intentioned idiot than a halfway intelligent troll… a little bit of intelligence can be a dangerous thing.

The most typical variety of intellectually challenged debater is the person who simply repeats the same statement or belief or supposed fact.  They’ll rarely back up what they say with any cited source and if they offer a link it’s probably a ranting blog, a conspiracy website, apologetics or whatever.  If this person is also a nitpicker, they can be extremely annoying because they’ll demand that you cite sources for every minor statement.  This kind of person if they’re subtle enough (as some intelligent apologists are), they can lead you on for hours.  They make you think they actually care about the discussion, but they just want to make you run around.  They already have their mind made up before you wrote your first word.

It’s not that most people are stupid, but most definitely the average person tends to under-utilize their intelligence to an extreme degree.  What is lacking is curiosity.  How sad!  😦

I realize people are busy with more “important” things, but I still think it’s sad.

My Online Adventures

I became interested in the Internet through researching ideas which is what I do even without the Internet, but the Internet has made it much easier and more enjoyable.  The first topic I web-searched to a great degree (by which I mean obsessively) was Tarot which led me to MBTI.  I was only vaguely familiar with MBTI and was happy to learn more about it as I was already deeply interested in Carl Jung’s ideas. 

This search for info led me to an INFP discussion forum (INFP is my MBTI personality type).  It was utterly amazing because it was a large group of people who had a similar way of thinking and communicating, but it kind of spoiled me for more general forums I’d later join.  I had some truly awesome discussions there, but some of the members I interacted with on a regular basis ended up moving on.  I came to learn how informal web relationships are.  Most people don’t really want to connect.  I do want to connect, but when someone asked if I’d like to meet in person I realized I had my limits on how much I wanted to connect as well.  I’m somewhat of a loner and am contented with my few close real-world relationships.  However, I look for something different in my on-line friendships that my everyday relationships can’t satisfy.

Anyways, the INFP forum and other MBTI-related forums were just too specific.  My mind wanders and my intellectual hunger wasn’t being sated.  I went looking around.  I’ve since belonged to many forums: Beliefnet, Truth Be Known, some Integral Theory forums, and various Atheist/Agnostic forums.  I realized no single group would satisfy and groups took too much effort and time for what usually turned out to be too little benefit.  I started considering blogs as I really just wanted a format to express myself without constantly worrying about what others thought.  I first tried My Opera because the only blog I was following at the time (Quentin S. Crisp’s Directory of Lost Causes) happened to be there, but I quickly realized that it had too many foreign language blogs for my taste. 

I wanted to still be able to connect with people to an extent, and so I looked for places that offered blogging services along with social networking.  At first, I considered Ning because I already belonged to some groups there.  The problem I saw with Ning is that blogs seemed pretty isolated there.  There really weren’t too many other options that fit what I was looking for, but I kept looking and comparing.  I was also worried about newer start-ups that might not stick around and so I was trying to determine sites that had been around for years.  I finally settled on Gaia.com.  It had a good balance.  I was initially attracted to the fact that it had a very active Integral community.  I did enjoy it quite a bit and participated regularly in one of the groups.  I met some nice people and it was there that I developed my blogging abilities.  After awhile, though, it too felt confining.  It was really a site dedicated to people wanting to improve the world.  I have nothing against improving the world, but it really isn’t the reason I spend my time on-line and definitely not what I blog about for the most part.  Besides, the cynical side of my personality really grated with the large number of New Age types there.

So, I decided that I just wasn’t going to find a community of people who were similar to me.  My interests are just too diverse.  It was an amazing experience whenever I met a person who shared even a small percentage of the same interests, but that happened too rarely.  I was just tired of trying to connect with others.

I turned to sites that simply specialized in blogging.  I decided to instead use the blogging platforms themselves as the standard of my decision instead of anything to do with social networking.  I now was simply looking for an easy way to post my writings that gave me enough options to play around and personalize my blog.  I looked back at My Opera and checked out my old Live Journal account, but I mostly focused on Blogger and Word Press.  I posted the same thing on all of these blogs and compared their specific functions.  I did that for several months and Word Press won.  That is the story of how I ended up here.

However, I still crave discussion.  I wish more people would comment and I wish the people who comment would return a second time.  A single comment a discussion does not make.  I’m not trying to drive traffic to my blog because I’m not trying to make money or anything.  I just figure there has to be other people like me with similar interests, and at least a few of them would be interested in discussion.  I don’t know if such people are fewer than I imagine or if it’s that they’re unlikely to find my blog for whatever reason.  As far as I can tell, my posts often come up in search results and I definitely show up in Word Press listings.  People visit my blog on a daily basis, but why do so few leave a comment?

I suspect most people aren’t interested in discussion and especially not of the deep intellectual variety.  Even other deep intellectual types don’t seem all that interested in discussion.  Most people seem content to do their own thing in their own blog.  The people who seek out places to comment are often spammers and trolls.  It depresses me a bit.  I comment in other people’s blogs all of the time, but it doesn’t usually lead anywhere.  Most bloggers don’t respond back and certainly don’t try to connect in any way such as commenting in my blog in return.  This is partly explained by the statistics.  I was reading that 96% of bloggers haven’t posted in the last 4 months.

Partly to satisfy my need for discussion, I’ve been commenting in the online version of my local paper.  That is somewhat more satisfying as I actually know some of the people commenting and the subject matter is a bit more personally relevant.  However, I’m not much of a news junky and so I just enjoy the interaction and I even partially enjoy the stupid debate.  There are a couple of intelligent posters which comes close to offseting all of the opinionated ignorance.

I did recently connect with some fellow bloggers here on Word Press.  I’m feeling inspired to make my blog more interesting and new-person-friendly.  I wrote up an extensive ‘About’ page, a ‘Favorite Posts’ page, and finally got around to adding the blogs I visit to my blogroll.  I was thinking I should clean up my categories because they’re a bit of a jumble.  Also, my theme is rather mundane.  I picked it for practical reasons as I liked the way it was set up, but I should look at other options again.  If I ever feel extraordinarily motivated, I might add a picture to my banner.  It was only recently that I even got around to adding the icon of my kitty.  It sure is a lot of work.  If I was a motivated person, I’d probably be doing something in the real world rather than blogging.  lol

To further break out of my isolated slump, I joined Technorati and Blog Catalog.  I’ll see how that turns out.  I doubt it will make much difference.  Blog Catalog looks like it could potentially be a place to connect, but there is a lot of crap to wade through.

I’m happy to have a blog anyways with or without regular discussion.  I used to journal which got boring after a decade of being my own audience.  Blogging forces me to be more thorough and careful in my thinking process.  It’s good practice to have something that motivates me to write on a regular basis.  I enjoy writing and that is the important part.

Love of Truth: Discussing vs Arguing

It’s kind odd that I don’t like direct conflict but I enjoy debate.

I blame my parents.  Both my mom and dad taught me to idealize truth and honesty.  My dad gave me the debating skills to pick apart any argument and he taught me the love of wisdom.  My mom gave me an irritable disposition that leads me to being very upfront with my opinions.  Also, my mom gave me a non-intellectual interest in human nature.  Combined together, I have an equal ability to analyze both the argument and the person making the argument.  Furthermore, my mom gave me a stubborn streak that goes directly with an ability to obsessively think about something for endless hours.  To mix metaphors, when something gets caught in my craw I don’t let go until every stone is turned.

But I can’t entirely blame my parents.  The MBTI personality type that I am is INFP which is fairly different from my parents’ personalities.  INFPs are idealists to the extreme.  In a sense, I took too seriously the lessons my parents taught me.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I see every side to every argument, I could almost make a good zealot.  Sometimes when an INFP gets hold of an issue or idea that they consider of great value, they hold on like pitbulls.  We INFPs may look like fluffy teddy bears, but we often have sharp teeth.

My intellectual side is partly a genuine aspect of my identity and is partly learned behavior.  I have an inner sense of self that is sensitive and non-rational to an extreme.  I live more by imagination than by thought, but it’s thought that I often use to relate to the world.  Right or wrong, I tend to use my intellect to justify my existence.  I just want the world to make sense.  And because of this I’m hard on myself (and everyone else) for failing to make perfect sense.  It’s kinda sad, but it’s my life and that is just the way it is.

So, when I’m in an irritable mood or when a value of mine is challenged, I can be a tireless debating opponent.  However, I’m usually only aggressive to people who deserve it.  I call them like I see them.  If someone is being mean-spirited or if someone is flaunting their ignorance, then I’ve been known to clearly point it out to them.  As I see it, either discuss intelligently and politely or don’t say anything at all.  If you have nothing relevant to add but still feel you must throw in your baseless opinion, then I will tear your view apart until you either shut up or start crying like a little sissy girl.  But as long as your comments are minimally relevant and rational, I’m perfectly fine with disagreement.  In fact, I love disagreement of the intelligent variety because it means I can learn something new.  And when learning something new I’m in a very good mood.

I realize I should be nicer than I am sometimes.  But the fact of the matter is that I’ve always valued honesty above almost everything else.  I worship at the altar of truth.  And if you get in the way of my ideal of truth, I can’t be held responsible for my behavior.  Let me just say sorry in advance.  If you ever catch me in an irritable and defensive mood, just let me vent and afterwards I’ll quite likely be one of the most warm and understanding people you’ve ever met.  As long as you’re willing to be honest and considerate with me, I’ll do the same for you.  So, be open and upfront in how you express yourself and I’ll do my best to understand your view.  Talk straight with me and don’t play psychological games.  There is no point to it.  You’re wasting my time and your own.

If all you want to do is argue, I’ll sometimes concede to that way of relating… until I become too emotioanlly drained (which can take a long time as my obsessive persistence usually lasts longer than that of most people).  If you want conflict, I can be a worthy debate opponent.  Sadly, though, it seems to me that those who seek conflict the most are the very people who aren’t talented debaters.  Be argumentative if you must but at least be interesting rather than simply annoying.  In particular, I’d rather not deal with the condescending snarkiness of know-it-all intellectual wannabes.

I should add that what I love most in life is seeking and sharing knowledge.  When I get obsessed with some idea or topic, I can spend enormous amounts of time doing nothing but research. I dig deep to find every interesting connection and every significant detail.

If I don’t know something, I admit it.  But I’m not content to simply admit my ignorance.  If it’s important enough to voice an opinion about, then it’s important enough to inform myself about.  If you ever find yourself debating me, don’t pretend to know what you don’t actually know.  I will check every fact you claim and I will look up precise definitions.  I don’t care if you have a college degree and are an expert in your field, don’t try to bullshit me.

Most importantly, don’t present opinions as facts (and the same goes for beliefs).  That is just plain wrong in my book.  Opinions are fine.  I have plenty of my own.  Just be humble enough to admit that it’s just an opinion.  If you lie to me about a fact or simply talk ignorantly, I will throw it back in your face and will publicly humiliate you with glee.  Or if you try to hide your true intentions behind facts and logic, I’ll pick at them like scabs until your motives start to show.  Don’t mess with the truth and I won’t mess with you.

All that said, I’m a pretty easygoing guy.  You have to be trying hard to get me rattled.  Basically, I really really do enjoy a good discussion and I’d rather have a friendly exchange than a heated argument.  I get excited about exploring new possibilities and I’m happy as can be when I meet someone who knows something I don’t.  As I see it, the quest for truth is an endless quest because truth is a mystery best understood in terms of questions rather than conclusions.  If like me you are a lover of truth, then we shall get along like best pals.

Officer Shoots Homeless Man: Comments

My local “newspaper” has an active community of commenters, and I must admit I rarely read the paper version.  To tell you the truth, I find the comments online more interesting than most of the articles.  There was a homeless man shot by a police officer and it attracted many comments including my own.  Since the paper allows users to also blog, I wrote my first post about some of these comments.  Even though this is more local news, I’ll also post it here since it applies to humans in general.  If you follow the link, it will bring you to the post where there is discussion in the comments section.

Posted 7/29/2009 10:30 PM CDT on press-citizen.com

Recent events in Iowa City have got me thinking and so I’ll write my first blog post here. I normally blog on Word Press, but this topic directly relates to the articles and comments on the Press Citizen that are about the police shooting of a homeless person. Even though I don’t comment here that often, sometimes a topic captures my attention and some of the self-righteous comments annoy me so much that I feel compelled to respond. I just can’t let mean-spirited and ignorant statements to go unchallenged… although I realize I’m mostly just wasting my time. 

I’m not a liberal softy who believes judgments are never justified. I’m fine with a righteous attitude as long as it serves an empathetic sense of compassion, but righteousness serving it’s own purposes is serving no good purpose at all. Righteousness seems rather infantile when it’s used to exclude certain groups of people and make oneself feel superior. So, self-righteousness is one of the few things that makes me feel righteous in turn.

Certain topics really draw out some ugly comments. In the articles about the shooting, some people weren’t even trying to hide their gleeful joy that a less-than-worthless homeless person had been removed from the population. It’s just mean. I find it very strange how some people are incapable of comprehending that the homeless are people too and not rabid dogs to be shot down. Why is it wrong to care about people who’ve had difficult lives? Do these people want to dismiss the homeless because they don’t want to accept their common humanity, don’t want to accept that they could easily end up in the same situation? It’s easy to be righteous when you’re life is relatively easy and when you’ve been fortunate enough not to have hit rock-bottom, not experienced the extremes of suffering.

Also, there is all kinds of ignorance. Many want to portray all homeless people as mentally ill drunks invading from the Big City who come here simply to cause harm to people and property… . The homeless get lumped together with all of those black gangsters taking over Iowa City and incidents like this get lumped together with every criminal activity that happens downtown. It’s hard to take these kinds of opinions seriously, but sadly the people who voice them take them all too seriously. People were stating reactionary opinions with no basis in facts, and they’re ready to condemn the homeless guy even though he is conveniently dead and unable to give his own view. The homeless guy is automatically guilty and the police officer is automatically innocent. Oh yeah, and the bar patron is a good Samaritan by hassling the homeless to the point of starting a fight that ends in death. People were coming to conclusions about it before the police had even collected all of the witness testimony.

And then there are the people who always try to dismiss the views of others or make every discussion into black and white conflicts. Why can’t there be multiple perspectives? Why do we have to jump to ideological conclusions before the facts come in? Why if you question anything, you must hate America, the troops, and the cops? Why can’t I care about everyone and not pick sides? Why is the life or rights of one person worth more than another?

It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about genuinely caring about other people. I’m truly appreciative of the cop trying to do the right thing as is true of most people in the world. Still, that isn’t any reason that the public shouldn’t question the facts and the interpretation of the facts. Also, what is wrong with seeking to improve police procedure so that more lives can be saved in the future? The problem is that many of the commenters don’t want certain lives saved. Isn’t it a good thing to suggest that violence should be the very last option. Guns, of course, should still be an option for the police… but when dealing with a man with a knife who wasn’t near anyone at the moment a taser would probably be more appropriate. At least, let us have an open discussion about it.

This kind of issue is just another thing that depresses me about the world. I wish more people would stand up to such mean people. I know it’s tiring to respond to such comments, but it tires me more to think of people spreading their hatred and bigotry without being challenged.