The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Thoughts on socialism and leftism generally

The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Elliott » 25 Mar 2012, 19:13

Perhaps I am not the only one here who has got into spars with lefties and liberals on the Internet. I thought it might be interesting to discuss the various tricks they use in debates. This may help to outline the ways in which reason has been consistently "defeated" over the last 100 years.

Granted, the techniques listed below could be used by people of any ideological persuasion, but I think they are most frequently used by liberal leftists.

I do not pretend that any of the ideas in this essay are original. What I've tried to create here is an "all in one place" anatomy of leftist psychology. I examine tricks they use in debating (on Internet fora and elsewhere) and speculate as to what those tricks say about the person using them. A few of the entries are purely about psychology, not debating: their inclusion should be self-explanatory.

If anyone wants to add techniques I have omitted, please do so. Otherwise, I hope that somebody recognises things below from their own run-ins with leftists.


Insistence that 'twas ever thus

This is employed to deny the Golden Age, but also to rubbish ideas for improvement by suggesting that there really is no need for improvement. TD has spoken of this trick with reference to Hogarth and Gin Lane, saying that intellectuals choose the comparison that suits their purposes.

It works like this: something that is currently bad was always bad, so you should stop trying to improve it - even if it has been shown to be improvable in the past. So the British are a nation of boorish drunks because in the 18th century they were boorish drunks, conveniently ignoring the example of what they can achieve when galvanised, as in the 19th century.


Insistence that the Left is the underdog

Perhaps this is more pronounced in Britain and America because we've always had a fondness for the underdog. In practice, it amounts to an inability to see that the Left are in charge. They are determined to be the rebel, the voice of dissent, the voice of the alternative, the innovator, the spanner in the works, the one who just won't conform. Suggest to a leftie that we are living in a left-wing age and they will refuse to countenance the idea. For them, it is essential that they are the rebel - perhaps because they want to identify with the Victim, who cannot be the victimising powers-that-be (itself a fallacy; people often victimise themselves).

Convinced they are underdogs, lefties constantly feel that they are being ignored by the elite (which is never left-wing) and no matter what achievements they make, the "fight" must continue, and there is always "a long way to go yet". As conservatives have noted, lefties will not be satisfied until they have you shivering in a cave, sipping thin gruel.

The effect is to make left-wingers sound like spoilt children, always demanding more. I don't know what it would take to convince them that they have the reins of cultural power - probably nothing short of the abolition of private property, for, as long as that remains, somebody will have a bigger cardboard box than someone else.

This desire to be the underdog may not derive from a desire to change society so much as a desire to remain in adolescence. Just as the adolescent can always blame his parents, the leftie can blame conservatives for problems in the world as long as he thinks himself powerless to solve them. No matter what goes on, it's always daddy's (capitalism's) fault.


Excessive logic

This is best illustrated by a revolting example from Harriet Harman.

In a Commons debate on whether the welfare state should promote single teenage motherhood, the main objection was that children benefit most from the traditional nuclear family. (All the empirical evidence, and common sense, backs this up.) Harman replied that if we frown on single mothers having babies, we are logically also frowning on widows and widowers, since they also raise kids single-handedly. I think this is a grotesque, and knowing, distortion of the truth. Widows and widowers did not choose to be single parents; it happened to them by way of bereavement. They deserve our sympathy, but we should not condone deliberately creating single-parent households, which is what Harman with her hatred of men was advocating. Using excessive, point-missing logic, she was able to co-opt the misfortune of bereaved spouses to her anti-man, anti-family crusade. I don't know how she is not ashamed of herself.

There's another example of excessive logic from the same debate. The argument was that since the traditional nuclear family is the ideal for children, homosexual couples should not be allowed to adopt. Harman disputed this, saying that some traditional nuclear families are flawed (lovelessness, abuse, etc.). Essentially, since there are imperfect normal families, the abnormal is suddenly okay. Another way to look at it: since imperfection can occur by accident, we should create it by design.


Denial of a trivial thing to deny a serious thing

Theories are often hierarchical, with one "level" relying on the integrity of the levels below it. The highest level will be most abstract, and the bottom level will comprise circumstantial evidence. If you can deny that evidence, you can discredit the grand idea at the top (even if you secretly think it is true).

For example, I think most people would agree that Western culture has been moving leftward for the last 100 years. However, if you say that, the leftie will accuse you of making a sweeping generalisation. So you cite little facts, and you may well choose the fact that The Guardian (an avowedly left-wing newspaper) is the in-house magazine at the BBC (a supposedly impartial broadcaster). The leftie denies this ultimately quite trivial fact. When this happened to me, I quoted BBC insiders saying that The Guardian was a staple of life at the BBC, but these insiders were simply dismissed as liars. Thus, there has been no broad leftward sweep in Western culture over the last 100 years!

Say anything that a leftie doesn't like, and they will soon have you tied in knots quibbling over trinkets like that - anything to avoid the main point, especially if they know it to be true. This is a distraction technique.


The appeal to authority

For people who claim to be free-thinkers, anti-establishment, radical, etc., lefties are amazingly reliant on authority to sanctify opinions before they are prepared to hold them or even respect them. In practice, it happens like this: you make a statement and the leftie demands that you back it up with an official, peer-reviewed study otherwise they will simply disregard it.

This trick involves the dismissal of anecdotes as useless ("the plural of anecdote is not data"). Now clearly there are good reasons for this. In the age of the Internet, and especially when the discussion is actually taking place on the Internet, the pub chat of old no longer need occur in a bubble; you can link directly to a wealth of scientifically-gathered evidence. There is no need to be constrained to the bias of one's personal experience, or the hearsay one has picked up from people who may have been lying, exaggerating etc. Why do so when you can have real, hard, unbiased data?

Because to do so is inhuman. What about data that bears no relation to the reality you have seen with your own eyes? What about data that hasn't been gathered yet? What about data that, for political reasons, will never be gathered? What about data that occupies 20, 50, 100 pages of text? Are we meant to disregard the anomalies and the omissions and laboriously read through hundreds of pages of authorised data before we form an opinion on anything?

The way lefties have it, nothing would be sayable until a government body had said it. This implies an unquestioning trust of government bodies and an unbending mistrust of normal people. Leftists are not friends of the everyman, but of the faceless state bureaucrat. They are not interested in the truth, but in power, control and orderliness - an orderliness even in the opinions we're allowed to have.

However, let us say that you do have an official, peer-reviewed study that supports your seditiously un-leftist opinion. You are then subject to another trick...


Denial of evidence

Any evidence that the leftie disagrees with is never good enough, or never comprehensive enough. (See also Relativism.) There is always doubt as to the integrity of the evidence, or the intentions of the people who gathered it. When it comes to evidence that they like, they are not nearly as sceptical. (The most sceptical people are, in my experience, conservative intellectuals. And probably the least sceptical are low-brow conservatives, who simply believe whatever makes them feel safe, a la Christian fundamentalists etc.)

This brings us back to my own objection to "hard data" - it is never really "hard", because either you or your opponent can find problems with it. Two people agreeing on the quality of a piece of evidence relies on them having common sense, a perspective in common. When a leftie rejects perfectly good evidence, the evidence is merely a proxy for something deeper. He is denying that you and he have anything in common. He is saying "we are different, and I am better than you". He is trying to make you feel dirty, dishonest and guilty.


Denial of common sense

In my experience, lefties love to say that "common sense is a most uncommon thing", implying that people rarely accord when presented with the same thing and asked to give their layman's opinion of it. This is blatantly contra to life in the real world, which is only possible and bearable because most individuals agree on most things.

Common sense is an extremely common thing. People have to consciously think their way out of having common sense - and this is something intelligent lefties do at an early age in order to prove to themselves how intelligent they are.

Lefties often cast "common sense" as a feature of people less sophisticated than them. They suggest that common sense opinions are ignorant and knee-jerk, whereas their opinions have always been arrived at through a process of rational thought, analysis and learning. But of course, they haven't been. Their opinions are as knee-jerk as those of any conservative, but they are protected by safety in numbers and the authority of a left-liberal culture.

Again, we come to the fact that lefties are intensely reliant on authority and safety in numbers, even though the latter contradicts their dismissal of common sense (or would, if there was any common sense in left-wing groups).

Denying common sense is a way to legitimise the state (see relativism) and to sanctify the Other. The former was more important when leftists were fighting for a Communist society. Now that they are fighting for cultural Marxism, the latter is more important. (And gets to the heart of what leftists are really about. See fascination with the Other.)


Demanding impossible evidence

An example:

R: I knew a few rastafarians at college. They were pretty difficult to talk to because they were stoned a lot of the time.

L: Please either provide proof that rastafarians are difficult to talk to when they are stoned, and that they are stoned a lot of the time, or retract that offensive statement.

The leftie demands evidence you can't possibly have. This is really a way of circumscribing debate and letting you know that certain ideas are "out of bounds". Let a leftie continue doing this and eventually he will have circumscribed all opinions except his own.


Feigning offence

I hardly need describe this one. Lefties fall over themselves to feel offence on behalf of other people, usually the Victim or the Other. It has the effect not only of making you feel guilty, but of painting the leftie himself as a victim, the victim of your nastiness. The leftie sees himself, or paints himself, as an angel, an observer blessed with honesty and innocence, being stained by a horrible idea. It is sheer self-aggrandisement, as unhealthy as it is insincere.

Last year, I was suggesting that the regulars on a liberal forum were enmeshed in groupthink, that they had convinced themselves there was no other legitimate way to view the world because they were always encouraging each other's opinions. One of them replied "that sounds quite offensive". Of course he wasn't offended; he just wanted me to be quiet. It's significant that he didn't even claim to fully understand what I had said: that it sounded offensive was enough for him to take offence (and to doubt the statement's truth, because of course, all true statements are lovely).


Denial of significance

Lefties often pretend that they cannot see the significance of something that you consider significant. This could be an event, a behaviour, a TV show, etc. They will admit the thing has happened, that it's real and true, but deny that it has any meaning (or at least, the meaning you suggest). The effect of this trick is to make the conservative appear paranoid, imagining meanings and hidden links that aren't there. To be fair, sometimes the leftie is correct, but often they are simply refusing to lift the stone and see the termites beneath. This trick is closely related to...


Relativism

In short: every situation is unique and every person is unique, therefore you can't draw conclusions about them or lump two people/situations together. After all, how can Jack be certain of what's going on in Jill's head? He can't, therefore he should not claim to understand her and therefore he should not presume to guide her. End result: everyone stewing in their own confusion, never rescued by the common sense of other people.

I have seen lefties (including Stephen Fry) claim that moral relativism is simply "thinking" - intelligently seeing that moral laws are never absolutely applicable, so we must be flexible and respond to each situation individually. But this is insincere. It lampoons conservatives as people who don't think, which is just nonsense. But it is insincere in another way: the relativist does not actually desire relativism, still less for people to "think": what he desires is for the state to be all-powerful.

Relativism leads to a critical need for the state to arbitrate in the chaos that relativism creates. If Jack can't rely on Jill's wisdom, and Jill can't rely on Jack's, they must both rely on the state's. And this is where the relativism ends, suddenly, because the state will brook no dissent. It is always correct. Relativism is really just a vehicle for absolutism - though even when the state is absolutely powerful, normal people will be kept in their relativistic confusion so that they remain malleable.

The Relativism ploy usually relies on the next one, which I consider absolutely central to the Socialist mindset...


Flattery of the victim

In any situation, a victim is to be pitied. But the leftie extends that to the following: in any situation, the victim is to be worshipped. The victim alone feels and understands his suffering, and the rest of us can only watch in awe as he continually faces renewed hardship.

I am convinced that lefties develop a fascination about "the Victim", in the abstract. "The Victim" is to them a kind of modern Jesus, suffering because he is good enough to suffer, whereas we mere mortals are too selfish to suffer. Therefore, the Victim should be given every assistance in perpetuating his victimhood.

I suspect that this idea underlies all leftie notions of helping "the Victim". They are hero worshippers, essentially, desperately looking for the most heroic sufferer of life, who will in turn provide the most solid evidence of the need for the State. (I think the Victim comes first in the leftie's mind, not the need for the State. Their advocating of the State is a consequence of their obsession with the Victim, which they dearly wish they could themselves be.) At a guess, I'd say this victim worship comes from an assumption that life is unspeakably hard; a good way to excuse any failings in the leftie's own life.

As TD has said, casting people as pure victims dehumanises them. It makes them incapable of solving their own problems. But worse, it reduces them in the leftie's mind to people who must fulfil a role. If one victim fails to fulfil the role satisfactorily, or another victim comes along whose performance is more convincing or creates more opportunities for the leftie to feel good about himself, the original victim will be dismissed - left to deal with his victimhood himself. There is an almost psychopathic element to this: suffering is actually of little interest to the leftie unless it makes him feel important and generous. If you accept the Left's help with a problem, you must be prepared for the problem to never be solved, and you must compete with other victims who may distract the leftie by being more helpless than you. The Left is like a shallow teen-aged girl looking for the guy with the biggest car.

In debate, lefties are incapable of being fair and sensible about any victim because they are obsessed with him being nothing but a victim, and remaining so. Any opinion which casts doubt on this must be defused, jeered and denied. The more determined among them will look for any way to blame "society" and cast the victim as a blameless, helpless and well-meaning innocent who has been wronged by capitalism, prejudice, religion or elitism. What the leftie really likes is not finding people to blame, but structures (institutional racism, patriarchal oppression, capitalist greed, religious hypocrisy and so on). This takes responsibility out of the meagre everyday realm and into the grand historical realm, which only people as intelligent as them can understand. In this way, they cast everyone on Earth as a victim, for we are all subject to history.


Guilt

Since Western civilisation - especially the Anglosphere - was to a large extent built on conquest and subordination, there is plenty of guilt floating around that can be used to kill debate and even change social mores. I don't think I need cite examples of this as they are so obvious and plentiful. But it is clear that the Victim has switched from the working-class white labourer to the scion of the African slave, the Indian ayah, the Victorian cripple, the Edwardian homosexual and the 1930s housewife. Any group of people who were once oppressed or ignored: their modern-day successor is seen to carry their victimhood, like DNA. This means that every homosexual, every woman, every disabled person, and every person of colour, must be compensated for the treatment given to their forebears.

Of course, this links with Flattery of the victim, in that it produces many millions of victims, a massive number of clients requiring a massive welfare state.

But it is used for much more than that. It is used to cast doubt on the idea that our very civilisation has a right to exist. If it was built on the backs of African slaves, who can defend it? Every grand Victorian building in England comes then to symbolise an age not of grandeur, achievement and ambition, but of cruelty and exploitation. Thus, there never was a golden age, as we'll get to later.

The invoking of guilt in debate can be remarkably opportunistic. I was recently debating the state of Britain's education system on a liberal forum. I said that in the 1950s we taught children much more effectively than we do today. A teenager piped up: "But not disabled kids!" I inquired what he meant, and he said that, "in the past", disabled kids were ignored. I asked if he thought this was a good enough reason to dismiss the education system of "the past", to disregard its effectiveness for the majority. He said "yes", and elaborated: "It's just the thing to say about it, just like when someone says 'people were much more respectful in the 19th century', the thing to say is 'not if you were gay'." For this boy (who turned out to be harbouring a grudge against the teachers who had failed to diagnose his dyslexia) it was more important that everyone had equal treatment than that the majority had good treatment. Indeed, it was so much more important that it made the majority good treatment irrelevant. Consider an achievement, and "the thing to say" is that it is not total. He used guilt in one respect to discredit achievement in all other respects - even (as I specifically asked him) if the ratio were 99 good to 1 bad. For him, nothing is celebratable unless it is perfect - and thus he will always be disappointed because nothing will ever be good enough.

And what's more, all the other liberals backed him up. When I suggested to him that he was using his own misfortune as a vendetta, that he was stewing in resentment, I was rounded on by people accusing me of "bullying" the boy and speaking out of turn because I couldn't possibly understand his pain (see relativism, flattery of the victim and fascination with the Other).

Guilt, however misplaced, shuts people up.


Fascination with the Other

This often causes flattery of the victim, but it is not the same thing. Or rather, it is the layer beneath the victim fascination. Lefties are not really interested in victims. They are interested in anything which differs from their society's standard. And they are determined that the Other must be in some way more virtuous and more authentic than that which their society nominally stands for.

The ancestor of the modern leftie is not the 1860s coal-miner, but the aristocrat who feigned sympathy with the coal-miner. While the aristocrat was no doubt motivated by genuine concern, he was also motivated by a fascination with a creature so very different from him. And this latter motivation is the one that has survived down the years, because there are so many more "others" than "victims". To retain the centuries-old modus operandi, the leftie has tried to cast the "other" as a "victim" time after time, because that is how his creed works. It requires victims. But it is not actually about victims. It is about anything which is different from the leftie's own kith and kin (this helps the leftie to believe there is no common sense, because the very existence of the Other implies that the Self is fallible, or mistaken, or at any rate not the definitive way to be).

At every time, the leftie has used the other as a way to hammer his own society. This suggests a deep-seated hatred/mistrust of "the status quo". Since nothing is more "status quo" than the self one lives with every day, we are probably really talking about profound self-hate/mistrust.

Let's look at some examples of modern leftism and see why, in each case, the Other is useful to the self-hating leftie...

LEFTIE: aristocratic socialist
VICTIM: the working-class
ENEMY: capitalism, class, elitism, aristocracy
WHY: the aristocrat knows these things created him

LEFTIE: feminist
VICTIM: women
ENEMY: patriarchy, society, nature, history, tradition, men, family
WHY: daddy issues, identity issues, hatred of being female (and of women who are happy being female)

LEFTIE: eco-warrior
VICTIM: the environment
ENEMY: capitalism, normal life
WHY: the leftie knows that smashing capitalism (in the name of Gaia) would destroy the civilisation which made him

LEFTIE: egalitarian
VICTIM: any disadvantaged person
ENEMY: nature, elitism, progress
WHY: the leftie doesn't trust himself, or his kin, not to despise those less fortunate than him

LEFTIE: anti-theist
VICTIM: everyone
ENEMY: religion, history, tradition, identity
WHY: it's an easy way to claim Western civilisation is flawed

LEFTIE: advocate of PC
VICTIM: anyone
ENEMY: common sense, identity, tradition, independent thought
WHY: the leftie doesn't trust himself, or his kin, to be decent

LEFTIE: pro-mass immigrationist
VICTIM: the Third World immigrant
ENEMY: the First World native
WHY: the leftie feels guilt about his deep sense of superiority to an African tribesman

LEFTIE: multiculturalist
VICTIM: Third World culture
ENEMY: Western civilisation
WHY: the leftie, riven with self-hate, wants to destroy the civilisation which made him

There is probably a lot of truth in the theory that leftists had to find new victims after the working-class failed to do their Marxist duty in the Great War. In any case, by abandoning the working-class, they revealed what their true motivation had been all along: it has nothing to do with "the workers" and everything to do with self-hate, and they will latch on to anything which feeds their self-hate.

Nothing is more "other", and therefore conducive to self-hate, for the white middle-class liberal than the Muslim. It started off with black people, because they were ideal victims thanks to the slave trade and an extremely backward culture in Africa. But while black people may languish on welfare in huge numbers, their grievance against the West is purely historical. Muslims, by contrast, have both historical and present grievances against civilisation and they stoke their grievances constantly. Their religion is radically different from anything the West has ever known, and they frequently have an attachment to it (if not a belief in it) which makes it extremely difficult for them to integrate into Western culture. This is precisely why lefties find it so easy to approve of mass Islamic immigration, and why they are so eager to put down any objections to it. Lefties entertain black people, Chinese, etc., but their real heroes are Muslims because they know Muslims are the best bet if Western civilisation is to be destroyed.

It is simply easier for the leftist to say "I hate my society" than "I hate myself". It is easier still for him to say "I merely want to improve my society". How ironic that the changes he advocates usually strike at some fundamental aspect of his society, and are sure to damage it. He seeks societal destruction as a proxy for self-destruction. Of course, if destruction ever seemed on the cards, the leftist would be the first to sing the praises of the status quo. All of this is a tease, a game, a pastime for the bored or the insincere or (in rare cases) the genuinely maladjusted.


Denial of the Golden Age

Human nature being as it is, a desired thing is often felt by the desirer to be a return to a previous situation. Old-fashioned school discipline, Victorian family values, 1950s work ethic. Defending it, the conservative says "it worked before, why not now?" so the leftie says "it didn't work before" and comes up with evidence (sometimes valid) that the idea was actually a disgrace and would be again if reinstated.

Now clearly there is a place for this. Nostalgia, and long-term recycling in the media, can ensure that a bad idea becomes cherished. We need experts of all persuasions who can remind us of the reality of a long-gone situation.

But "denial of the Golden Age" also serves a sinister psychological function. People, especially in times of strife, need a "golden age" concept to cherish, otherwise there is only the here and now, and nothing to look forward to or build towards. It also helps us to appraise our society, by comparing it with itself in previous eras. How often in American discourse do the words "founding fathers" inspire love, patriotism, duty in people? It is for the Founding Fathers, and the golden age they represent, that Americans must accept hardship and continue building. For people without (and even people with) families to look after, this abstract idea can be precious.

What happens when you deny the golden age? Anybody cherishing it is disoriented, and becomes dependent on whatever alternative golden age you can offer them.

The golden age in Britain is, of course, the Victorian era. This is true even after 50 years of it being vilified. Why? Because it was the time when to be British really meant something. And why has it been vilified? Why is the adjective "Victorian" now used pejoratively? Precisely because it is so important to people. By blackening the thing they cherish, you make them doubt the cultural history that led to them being born, that led to the world of their youth which nurtured and moulded them. Culturally bereft, they are disoriented and hesitate to judge their current society. Who can say that Britain is in a bad state today if, in its best state, it had an evil empire? And, as a product of that horrible history, who am I to judge anybody?

For the same reason, radicals devote energy to rubbishing the Founding Fathers of America. In terms of the long march through the institutions, this is like poisoning the roots of the tree instead of attacking its trunk. It is a new version of Original Sin, really. The nation's roots are war, blood, exploitation, racism, greed and hate - dare to defend any good that may have come of it.

In the context of rational debate, denying the golden age also serves to make your opponent look irrational, and you rational. Who but a zealot could believe that things were ever "golden"?! (Yet, if you become a Marxist like me...)


Refusal to recognise subtleties of argument

This is perhaps best illustrated with an example which happened to me last year:

L: Cutting welfare for long-term unemployed people would punish children for their parents' mistakes.

R: Look at it this way. The parents are punishing their children by being irresponsible. If I rob a bank and my child suffers from me going to jail, do you blame the system for putting me in jail? No. It was me who robbed the bank.

L: So failing to find a job is a criminal offence on the level of bank robbery now?

I have seen this many times. It achieves several things. It puts the conservative on the defensive, worrying that he has said something outrageous. More usually, it lets the conservative know that the leftie is not going to engage seriously in the debate, but will, wherever possible, translate the conservative's views into childish black and white.

If the conservative perseveres, he will quickly find himself exhausted with self-defence. In doing so, he will break the back of his own argument by peppering it with caveats demanded by the leftie (in a sensible debate, such caveats would be taken for granted) until his original point has been neutered. At this point, the leftie will proudly say that the conservative's original point was a "sweeping generalisation" which shouldn't have been made in the first place because it was, you guessed it, "offensive".

See also demanding impossible evidence, excessive logic, guilt, relativism, feigning offence, denial of significance and denial of a trivial thing to deny a serious thing.


Safety in numbers / humiliation

Conservatives tend not to use "the group" as a threat. They'll insult a left-winger one-to-one, mock his arguments, etc., but they rarely say things like "everyone thinks you look very stupid". That exact phrase was used by Roy Hattersley on Question Time to make an opponent be quiet. I was amazed that he got away with it. If it had been me he was talking to, I fear I'd have been very rude to him in reply. I think it is a disgusting tactic to use. It's like playground bullying. It takes the person's mind off the debate and on to the many eyes watching him, all the people possibly judging him, and who can think rationally under that pressure?

I have seen the same tactic used on liberal forums online, and indeed it's been used against me once or twice. The threat of "the group" operates on an instinctual, primitive level and so is very effective. I actually think it should be banned in any formal debating situation.

Again with Question Time, "the group" was used to great effect when they invited Nick Griffin on. I am no fan of Nick Griffin, but it was pretty revolting to see him being systematically mauled by the debaters, the audience, and even the "moderator" David Dimbleby, who interjected with random, irrelevant accusations to throw Griffin off-course. (That episode, and Dimbleby's conduct especially, should have sealed the fate of Question Time, but of course the BBC are still producing it.)

Another example of humiliation, if not safety in numbers, is the disgusting phrase "climate change denier". Aside from its echoing of the phrase "Holocaust denier" (an obvious, and appalling, cheap shot), it suggests that the person is mindlessly denying something they know, deep down, to be true. With that image of them in mind, it is hard to take them seriously. They are a denier, in the way that a parrot is an imitator, or a sheep is a baaaa'er, or a bird is a chirper.


Godwin's Law

I have left this to the end because it is so incredibly moronic. It is a theory derived from examining online discussion threads. Apparently, the longer any discussion continues, the more likely it is that somebody will eventually mention Nazism. That is Godwin's Law.

However, it has been twisted by the Left to mean the following: as soon as somebody mentions Nazism, they've "lost" the debate. I don't know how they got from one thing to the other, but they did and it is now generally accepted that if somebody has to mention Nazism, they must have run out of all credible ideas. (This doesn't even make internal sense. Nazism is credible: it happened, just 70 years ago.)

Godwin's Law would be invoked even in this situation:

L: I think genocide is a good idea.

R: You know, that's what the Nazis did.

L: Godwin's Law!

(Ergo, genocide must be a good idea.)

In practice it is simply used to shut down debate. It's an arbitrary statement that the person invoking it has "won" the argument, simply because the other person mentioned Nazis. It's sad that people who purport to enjoy debating are prepared to cheapen it with such a fatuous trick, but they are. I've seen it many times.


CONCLUSION

It is important to note that all of these tactics strengthen, and are justified by, the idea that the Left is good and the Right is bad. Therefore, any tactic used to unmask the conservative is fair game. For a hundred years and more, conservativism has been steadily buried by the growing confidence of liberalism. We have been defeated on issue after issue - in 2012 it is difficult to think of a single thing on which conservatives can plant their flag. In Britain, even our conservative Prime Minister seems unwilling to conserve the identity of what is, or was, one of the greatest nations on Earth. Everything is being thrown away, from our aircraft carriers and our rolling hills to our genetic identity and even the very bedrock of our society: marriage between a man and woman.

We are now at a state where the effects of all of this liberalism are causing people to wake up. Soon, the tricks used to further liberalism will be noticed and recognised. Eventually the liberals will be naked. Nobody is going to care about clever argumentation when their community is a wasteland, their business in flames, their family at constant risk, etc. Reality will intervene and show these tricks, however clever, for the tricks they are.

And people are going to feel really quite used: the woman who happily welcomed Muslims into her town 30 years ago, the middle-class guy who thought he was being nice by being modern, the teacher who dived into egalitarianism, and the author who thought he was being responsible by denegrating the family. All of these people will come to despise the Left for what it has done to them and their society.

It may be that, centuries from now, people put large amounts of effort into understanding the tricks that brought Western society to its knees in our time. I hope they know to be wary of these tricks should they appear again - as they will in any society that can afford the luxury of self-doubt. And really, self-doubt is all that this whole thing is about.

It is self-doubt not of the sensible kind but of the pathological, and on a scale not personal but civilisational. Though of a massive and cloud-like form, it is carried by the little tricks listed above. Each little trick, having delivered its little burst of pleasurable destruction, leads easily to the next little trick. What started as an idle experiment, or a naive self-examination, soon becomes a way of life, the daily destruction feeling sensible and logical and inevitable, until there is no way out but rock-bottom. This is the logic of despair.
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Caleb » 26 Mar 2012, 00:36

That was a very good piece. I'm glad you mentioned this:

(The most sceptical people are, in my experience, conservative intellectuals. And probably the least sceptical are low-brow conservatives, who simply believe whatever makes them feel safe, a la Christian fundamentalists etc.)


I find there seems to be quite a significant difference between American conservatism and conservatism in other English-speaking countries. I put it down to the fact that in other countries, liberalism has such a hold on the entire culture that to be conservative often requires a person to be completely outside the mainstream. Such a person has to really know what he is on about and why simply because he'll have absolutely no back up and will come under sustained attack.

On the other hand, I simply can't listen to the vast majority of American conservatives (P.J.O'Rouke being an exception), and most of the conservatives in America I do like were not born or raised there. There's a certain crass idiocy in mainstream American conservatism that is equally as bad (and often employs the same tactics) as what you describe above. Interestingly, I find that I can't really listen to Mark Steyn when he is speaking to most American audiences because he taps into this also, though there are exceptions (off the top of my head, I'm thinking of Conversations with History).
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Elliott » 26 Mar 2012, 01:12

I think Steyn sees himself primarily as an entertainer (and personally I do find him entertaining; I think he's a fantastic storyteller, for example). He does have a serious message but he dispenses it with humour and bombast - he's about to host an event called Steynamite, for heaven's sake.

Anyway, I know what you mean about American conservatives. It's amazing what people over there are prepared to accept by way of sociopolitical debate. I listened to something recently where it seemed like the presenter saw his job as being to whip his audience into a frenzy of indignation. He was repeating things over and over again, getting angrier and angrier, as if he was hammering nails into a block of cement.

But on the other hand, there are good bits to American conservatism - Conversations with History, Uncommon Knowledge, the New Criterion, etc. Not much, but enough to show that America, for all its crass popular culture, does have time for high-brow, contemplative media.

As for why UK/Aus/NZ conservatism is generally so much better than in America, I really don't know. The obvious explanation would be that the education systems in America are abysmal, but I don't know if that is true. Talk to Americans online, or in person, and they seem as intelligent as anyone else (intelligent Americans often embarrass me with their breadth of learning). My hunch is that American culture simply doesn't know how to handle, still less how to sell, high-brow things. I think that, en masse, they just don't have much time for it. They want solutions, now, yesterday - not talk.

Another thing is that America has a history of religious fervour. That talk show host I mentioned was very much like a preacher in his manner and his technique. As such, complex and subtle argument is just not going to happen. Religion is fine but only when it's tempered by the "ironic detachment" of the educated. Leave it in the hands of boors and it becomes an engine of hate - we can see that all over the world. Maybe that is why American conservatism is, on the whole, so hysterical. They're used to hysteria!

Out of interest, which American conservatives do you like, Caleb?
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Caleb » 26 Mar 2012, 01:53

I agree with your assessment of American culture. I didn't mean to imply that Americans are, on the whole, idiots. In general, I don't have a lot of time for their public political discourse, but as you mentioned, those who are intelligent are really intelligent. Fortunately, I know a few such people, though few are really conservative.

As for American conservatives I like, I don't actually know that many outside of the Fox realm.

As I mentioned earlier, I like P.J.O'Rouke a lot. I haven't read/heard much of Thomas Sowell, but I like him also. A lot of people mention William Buckley Jr, but the little I've seen of him hasn't particularly excited me, although it was so long ago that I can't really remember much about him. Maybe I need to review him.

Perhaps you could offer some suggestions?
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Elliott » 26 Mar 2012, 14:32

You could try Victor Davis Hanson, starting with this article which Damo kindly linked to a few months ago.

I would also recommend Jared Taylor. But I should warn you of his views in advance. He thinks diversity is a weakness, and multiculturalism a threat to white identity. Nevertheless I find it hard to disagree with anything he says. One of his main points is that we accept, effortlessly, the need for "black identity" and "Hispanic identity" and so on, but "white identity" sounds racist and we recoil, thinking it even worse than national identity.

I listen to the mp3 discussions and read the essays on Alternative Right, where I'm often pleasantly surprised by the knowledge and interest these Americans have in international affairs, contrary to the insular American stereotype. (I just had a look at the site and they have an Australian-written essay up titled The Cult of the Other - rather apt given my OP.) A warning, though: be aware that there is an anti-Semitic strain running through the Alternative Right website.
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Gavin » 27 Mar 2012, 18:27

I thought this was an excellent contribution, Elliott. I recognise all of the "tricks" you mention. They seem to me devious and nasty (unless the lefties concerned are just plain stupid). They are the result of arguing from emotion and/or ego instead of from evidence. I remember saying to one leftie once "Isn't that a bit idealistic?" (meaning, of course, naive and unworkable). "Yes!", he declared proudly.

Many of the conceits you identify are indeed, as you opened by saying, recognised logical fallacies - for example:


I would strongly suggest every reader to look through these (although examples on the Wikipedia are ironically often of the left wing variety - perhaps to be expected). In fact I do suggest this in the terms of this site :) There is a full list here.

We never once covered any of these fallacies in my three years of Philosophy study, but this is the kind of crucial reasoning that should be taught in schools. Often arguments from the left seem to be nothing more than a sustained combination of all of these fallacies, mixed with dubious statistics which nobody can disprove on the spot. These will be stated with great confidence by the likes of Johann Hari, whilst at the same time they would not hesitate to dismiss statistics which weaken their position. Myself, I prefer the evidence of my eyes and ears and my own experiences living in London and elsewhere. You can't refute that with any amount of sophism or statistics. The left know this, surely, but still they continue.

The last fallacy I cited there is interesting by the way in that it is essentially the application of inductive reasoning. I apply it to some degree to Dalrymple: if he has a particular view then I'll be inclined to give it a lot of time and even assume it is right, given how very many other sound things he has said. Nonetheless it is not a logical necessity that it is right. Ultimately a statement should be judged on its own merits, regardless of who says it. It just so happens TD very often is right. (It's a shame lefties apply this particular fallacy to people like Fry, with no caveats.)

A few more observations on your article:

On flattery of the victim, it occurred to me immediately that the standard leftie in fact has no sympathy at all for victims, and instead always sides with perpetrators of crimes. So as you later point out, it is "perceived" victims with whom they side. Specifically, people who are not victims at all are ascribed victim status as a ploy for their own unfair advantage. I believe it is truly disgusting the lack of sympathy that lefties usually have for real victims, so much so that I will probably start a thread on this soon.

On guilt, this is probably a recognised fallacy too, but I often think how ludicrous it is that some particular people are supposed to apologise for what other individuals, say their ancestors hundreds of years ago, did. It is as absurd as them claiming merit for their actions. It is also as invalid as claiming discrimination now because there may have been discrimination against different individuals of one's ethnicity in the past.

I also agree with you about "Godwin's Law". I had this levelled at me once actually when my mention of the Nazis (cf. Islam) was actually appropriate. Apparently the "law" was not supposed to be disparaging, so what we have here (even if the law is true) is actually it being used as an argument from ridicule (see Appeal to emotion).

I think your thread here is very useful and you may even have added one or two fallacies. This kind of bad reasoning is extremely widespread, and as I say it seems to be almost the only means the left use. It's underhand and bullying and should be called for what it is. Every leftie should be pointed to that list or to specific arguments in it, so that they can see, and see that we can see, where they have erred.

By the way, a couple more things, like most people on here I guess, I don't always have the time to reply to posts. If I don't reply then I probably agree (there have been some great posts on here) but then there is a slim possibility I might not - see Argument from silence! I'm sure this applies to most people here. Also, see this rare book - it's been on my wishlist for a while and looks good.
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Elliott » 27 Mar 2012, 23:11

Gavin wrote:I thought this was an excellent contribution, Elliott.


Thank you very much, Gavin.

I recognise all of the "tricks" you mention.


Good. I was worried it was just me!

They seem to me devious and nasty (unless the lefties concerned are just plain stupid).


Well, I really don't think they are stupid. Apart from anything else, it takes brains to be so devious. It takes brains to hear an idea which rings true and make it seem untrue. This is why intelligent people can be so deluded: it's a stimulating challenge for the intelligent mind.

They are the result of arguing from emotion and/or ego instead of from evidence. I remember saying to one leftie once "Isn't that a bit idealistic?" (meaning, of course, naive and unworkable). "Yes!", he declared proudly.


It's interesting how one's ideas evolve. When I was 20, I thought being idealistic was stupid. I had an idea for what to do after art college and explained it to my (rather posh) tutor, saying "I know it's idealistic". He said "well yes it is but why shouldn't it be?" That statement completely transformed my view of posh people. I realised they had something I didn't: an optimism that things could get done. Furthermore they were not embarrassed, not ashamed, about having hopes for their own personal future. From then on I was much less disparaging of the upper classes.

Then, when I graduated from art college and my idea fell to pieces, I realised that being idealistic is a) not enough and b) leaves you wide open for disappointment. Of course I'd known that already, but just hadn't been prepared for failure.

But I still think it is necessary to be idealistic. I think when somebody stops being idealistic about something, they have given up on life in some sense.

I don't think idealism is, of itself, dangerous. You just have to know what to do with it. You have to be sensible, and decide what you want to achieve then work out how to do it, taking special note of all possible obstacles. This is simply being realistic.

The trouble is, everyone thinks of himself as a realist - even the most extreme Marxist.

Many of the conceits you identify are indeed, as you opened by saying, recognised logical fallacies


Yes, I thought they would be. I was aware of the straw man and the appeal to authority. But there were several reasons I decided to "reinvent the wheel".

I wanted to specifically show how and why lefties use these tricks. I suppose this was cathartic, given the beatings I've had from lefties over the years.

The other reason was that I find it much easier to understand things based on my own experience than by reading about them. This is an area where informality can be very useful (see blogs vs. newspaper articles).

Come to think of it, I still have archived a 7-page thread from the liberal forum which I got banned from just before this forum started up. In the thread, an army of lefty-liberals refused to countenance the idea that we should cut welfare for delinquents. I could have reviewed that thread in preparation for this essay - perhaps some more stuff would have occurred to me.

This essay was very much a distillation based on my own experience.

(Roger Scruton's book The Uses of Pessimism is an excellent examination of fallacies. He pulls off a wonderful trick towards the end, but I won't go into it here.)

We never once covered any of these fallacies in my three years of Philosophy study, but this is the kind of crucial reasoning that should be taught in schools.


That is terrible. I did a higher (A-level) in RME at school, and though I loved it, it wasn't nearly challenging enough. It was really aimed at the lowest common denominator, the disinterested kid who couldn't care less, so stuff like "logical fallacies" were not entered into. But as you say, these are crucial things, and intelligent people should be taught about them.

This is a great example of why children should be streamed into different educational establishments. It's not enough to stream them into separate classes: the low-brow mentality pervades, because the teachers are worn out. (Not that this excuses your university lecturers, who surely had no such complaint.)

Often arguments from the left seem to be nothing more than a sustained combination of all of these fallacies, mixed with dubious statistics which nobody can disprove on the spot.


Exactly! Lefties place far too much (insincere, I think) emphasis on the use of statistics.

Statistics must be valid to some degree, otherwise life is completely random and unpredictable, which it clearly isn't. But we must always be skeptical. Each set of statistics opens up questions about how it was gathered, who did the gathering, under what circumstances, with what limitations, etc. Ultimately statistics are just dignified anecdotes.

These will be stated with great confidence by the likes of Johann Hari, whilst at the same time they would not hesitate to dismiss statistics which weaken their position. Myself, I prefer the evidence of my eyes and ears and my own experiences living in London and elsewhere. You can't refute that with any amount of sophism or statistics. The left know this, surely, but still they continue.


I agree, very much. This is why I quoted the standard leftie catchphrase "the plural of anecdote is not data" - I think that statement raises problems. Once somebody has spent 10 years working in drug rehab and seen countless reformed addicts go straight back into it when they return to their old lives, it is pretty futile to quote them some statistic about drug rehab. They know, and they have a more precise understanding of their local situation than somebody in an ivory tower.

(It's a shame lefties apply this particular fallacy to people like Fry, with no caveats.)


Well, everyone needs heroes!

On flattery of the victim, it occurred to me immediately that the standard leftie in fact has no sympathy at all for victims, and instead always sides with perpetrators of crimes. So as you later point out, it is "perceived" victims with whom they side.


I think this is really about the leftie elevating himself above the crowd who would denounce the criminal. The leftie is saying "I can see farther and clearer than the everyman", and proves this by looking for ways to justify the criminal's behaviour.

Another thing is that the leftie simply loves to disapprove of society. If he can twist a personal problem into a societal problem, he always will. Thus, a thief steals a handbag because of capitalism or some such, not because he is a selfish and amoral loser.

What the leftie has on his side is the fact that these ideas are more interesting than the obvious truth. There is more to them. If I say "I did it because I'm amoral", that doesn't lead to much conversation, except of the very personal and specific kind. But if I say "I did it because of society", that leads to a lot of conversation, and of a very general kind in which any and all aspects of society can be attacked.

Perhaps the bugbear for intellectuals is how simple a lot of life is; how much they, as intellectuals, are unnecessary or even damaging (by muddying the simple truth).

There may well be sociological reasons why a thief steals a handbag - difficulty getting a job, class-based jealousy, wealth-based jealousy, despair at a meaningless life, need to impress friends or face ostracisation, urgent need for money, etc... but ultimately, if you approve of private property, it is incumbent upon you to condemn theft, no matter the mitigating factors.

Funnily enough I was just watching this video where John Pilger (and Greg Philo, a sociology professor) impress a lefty audience by demanding that more "investigative journalism" is done into the causes of the London riots. This is a good example of what I mean. They are determined that the obvious causes (selfishness, welfare-based nihilism, hooliganism, loss of Christian morality, loss of industry) must not be true, and are hoping that some other cause can be found - hopefully one that justifies their own grudge against Western society.

On guilt, this is probably a recognised fallacy too, but I often think how ludicrous it is that some particular people are supposed to apologise for what other individuals, say their ancestors hundreds of years ago, did. It is as absurd as them claiming merit for their actions. It is also as invalid as claiming discrimination now because there may have been discrimination against different individuals of one's ethnicity in the past.


I'm never quite sure about this. When I was talking to an Indian guy last year about the British Empire, I felt it was necessary for me to apologise for certain aspects of it. But at the same time, I'm glad that I am descended from people who had the ingenuity and intelligence to achieve something like the Empire. The argument you're putting forward seems to preclude the possibility of national pride. What would you say about that?

I think your thread here is very useful and you may even have added one or two fallacies. This kind of bad reasoning is extremely widespread, and as I say it seems to be almost the only means the left use. It's underhand and bullying and should be called for what it is. Every leftie should be pointed to that list or to specific arguments in it, so that they can see, and see that we can see, where they have erred.


Well, thank you, and I hope that this thread remains here into the future. I will expand it when/if I think of anything that should be there.

One other thing... your Wikipedia links led me to this fallacy: Bulverism. I'd never heard of it before. It amounts to explaining why an opponent disagrees with you by analysing his character rather than his argument.

To be honest, I have quite a lot of time for that. Beliefs are dependent on character. When arguing against them, you can get lost in the details, the trivia, the circumstantial evidence, the theories, etc... which all boil away when you realise that, no matter what you say, your opponent will still hold on to his beliefs because of his character. It is his character that you should address, not his arguments, which are merely symptoms of his character.

If that is not the case, then this thread is actually quite pointless!
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Caleb » 28 Mar 2012, 01:58

Elliott wrote:You could try Victor Davis Hanson, starting with this article which Damo kindly linked to a few months ago.

I would also recommend Jared Taylor. But I should warn you of his views in advance. He thinks diversity is a weakness, and multiculturalism a threat to white identity. Nevertheless I find it hard to disagree with anything he says. One of his main points is that we accept, effortlessly, the need for "black identity" and "Hispanic identity" and so on, but "white identity" sounds racist and we recoil, thinking it even worse than national identity.

I listen to the mp3 discussions and read the essays on Alternative Right, where I'm often pleasantly surprised by the knowledge and interest these Americans have in international affairs, contrary to the insular American stereotype. (I just had a look at the site and they have an Australian-written essay up titled The Cult of the Other - rather apt given my OP.) A warning, though: be aware that there is an anti-Semitic strain running through the Alternative Right website.



Thanks for that, Elliott. I read that Victor Davis Hanson article. What a depressing read. I actually read a similar piece of journalism (which was fairly non-judgemental) a few months ago. California seems to be in really dire circumstances now. Grief!

I started listening to Jared Taylor, but to be honest, I just couldn't get very far into it. Perhaps I'll have another look at some point. I didn't have time to look at Alternative Right, though I am wary of any anti-Semitic strain. What's with that kind of thing? Anti-semitism is like an old standby for quite a lot of people.
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Gavin » 30 Mar 2012, 10:04

Re. idealism, I should be careful here: I am all for optimism, trying to make the best of any situation, and so on. It's crucial to have a positive attitude to life, I think, against all odds, otherwise life is not worth living. This doesn't mean one needs to live in a fantasy world or delude oneself. I used "idealistic" only in the sense of naive.

Lefties often like to indulge in playing devil's advocate etc., but as you suggest, the consequences of that may be becoming too great now.

I often wonder where they find themselves when a rioter for example says "I'm not ****ed off about nuffing. I just wanted the trainers so I robbed them". I suppose this must be explained by the rioter having been "failed" by society thus he (or often she) has formed this attitude. Because to the leftie there can be no capacity for evil, and really no personal responsibility, in human nature - the behaviour must have been caused by good people not being good enough. They think their analysis is more sophisticated, as you say, and for that reason it gets more airtime, when the truth is more simple. Such people have been let down by inadequate discipline, not by "not enough caring", and they still retain ultimate personal responsibility.

About the patriotism argument, I don't think what I said undermines it: we can have a respect for the principles of our country and an admiration of what others achieved before us, without taking personal credit for these things.

That Bulverism is a good one - "Oh you say that because you are a man." . These kinds of "arguments" are so devious and so often encountered. I think it is true that people look to support certain things because of their character though, yes. For example, the liberal often simply cannot bear to live in a world where there are people who are, for instance, bone idle, so they will find excuses for them. It is necessary for the liberal to find excuses for them, otherwise they cannot enjoy their life.

Regarding Jews, Jared Taylor is not anti-semitic. Our Jewish debate continues here.
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Elliott » 10 Apr 2012, 09:17

Among the comments of this Guardian article, I found some examples of the tricks I mentioned in the OP.

Strummered wrote:Your 'point' is a rose tinted pathe news vision of Britain that never existed.

Denial of the Golden Age

whitesteps wrote:What is this "British national identity" that you speak of? Because I've lived here all my life, and I've never found a single set of values/customs/social views that are clearly specifically and peculiarly British, or which would be undermined by immigration to any notable degree.

Excessive logic
Denial of a trivial thing to deny a serious thing
Denial of common sense
Demanding impossible evidence
Relativism
Refusal to recognise subtleties of argument
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Caleb » 24 May 2012, 04:07

These don't necessarily relate to the leftist mentality in particular, though they do seem somewhat more common when dealing with a particular kind of person who tends to be left. Over the past week or two, I've had what I can only describe as a number of quite infuriating online debates with people.

I've actually always been extremely reluctant to put anyone on my ignore list for a whole lot of reasons. It seems like a bit of a cop out to me because it gives them the last (irrational) word and only encourages such tactics in the future. Regardless, one person finally succeeded in making it onto my list. His standard procedure is to take a new forum member and humiliate him (sometimes, people are having a bit of a whinge, but his way of responding to them is a bit over the top). He rarely actually addresses the issue they've brought up, preferring instead to create complete strawmen. On the rare occasions when he does actually address the issue, he always completely denies what the other person wrote (regardless of whether it's anecdotal or actually grounded in a wider, verifiable experience). For this poster, no one else is ever as cool, smart, experienced, worldly, etc. as him. Likewise, this poster has friends, colleagues, etc. who are all just as brilliant as him. In fact, it wouldn't even surprise me if his local tramp was actually more brilliant than everyone else! It's pretty much the case that this poster will automatically take not just an opposing, but a completely antagonistic, view to anyone who is new. I can't imagine how many new members to the site have left just because of him.

When called upon any of this, he either responds with snarkiness at the person who has chimed in, or he has one of two further strategies. One is to claim that the person commenting doesn't know him in real life and that this is his persona and shouldn't be taken seriously. This is, of course, extremely disingenous. The second is, even after engaging the third poster several times, he will then claim that he doesn't care what that person has written because he was only engaging the original poster. Again, completely disingenuous.

The mods are fairly useless, though they do call him on it at times if he really rips into people. The site used to have an additional owner (who the snarky guy is good friends with in real life), but that guy started his own site instead. You can imagine what it was like before the split. Since the split, some people have been posting at both sites (including the snarky guy, unfortunately), but there's been a real split. After a number of annoying arguments yesterday (well, me trying to debate, him being snarky), this poster has earnt the dubious honour of being the first person I've "ignored" in probably over a decade, and maybe ever.

The second and third instances have basically involved people continually rehashing the same debate and flatly denying that anyone has addressed certain questions of theirs when several other posters have, and several of those posters have even quoted themselves or each other responding to those questions.

The second case is fairly run of the mill in this regard. The third case involves a guy trying to discuss what having a discussion is when I've actually responded to his questions. It's surreal. In the thread in question, I referred him to the theories of Niall Ferguson and he claimed that I hadn't made an argument. The first interesting point is that he was very concerned about me (not) having new ideas of my own. As though that's a pre-requisite for a discussion! The second is that he complained because I didn't outline those ideas enough. I went as far as to post a video of a twenty minute TED talk of Niall Ferguson explaining his own ideas because that would be more effective and efficient than me typing for an hour and then my opponent having to wade through that for another hour. Plus, of course, Niall Ferguson is a lot smarter and more interesting than me.

At some point in the debate, I asked him (and another poster recently who was doing the same thing in the same thread) if he were trolling in deliberately ignoring the dozens of posts by several posters responding to questions put to them. Then, I got the "I wasn't aware that disagreeing with you was trolling" line. I don't care if a person disagrees with me, but I wasn't being disagreed with!

Yet this kind of thing seems to happen so much on the internet. It's like a war of attrition sometimes where you don't have to be smart or make a well reasoned argument, you just have to be able to wear your opponent down into either giving up or getting annoyed, then you can play "Gotcha!" It's like the last man standing in a war of snarkiness, idiocy and avoiding the issue.

Obviously, this is a bit of a rant since it's still on my mind, but I think it's true still.
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Gavin » 24 May 2012, 06:40

It is a really nasty thing indeed. I wrote a post on it some time ago on my own site and might find it and repost it here. It was about the dilemma of whether to ignore such people or continue arguing with them. I think in most cases you can just leave it, as other readers can see that you could have replied if you wanted to, but just couldn't be bothered. It is annoying though.

I remember when I first had a look at Usenet forums (before web based forums had really taken off). I had a question about something about BBC Radio 4, so I thought I would ask on the appropriate group. I met with a rather stupid clique-ish mentality, whereby people, because they were anonymous, thought it was fine to ridicule a new comer who didn't even intend to hang around for long but just had an innocent question. I picked the coward who I thought had taken the most advantage, hiding behind his keyboard, and had a look at his I.P. address. I found he was somewhere like Manchester, at the university. I e-mailed him and told him this and that I would go up there, locate his computer and we could discuss this thing in person.

I received a very contrite reply in which he really seemed to be a bit worried. These people are pathetic. They think they are so hard because they are anonymous. When push comes to shove they are not anonymous. If someone starts making snide remarks or just playing stupid straw men rather than engaging in genuine polite discussion on this site, it's the quickest way to get themselves banned. I suppose that message gets though as I haven't had to do it yet! (I really enjoy reading everyone's posts.)
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Elliott » 24 May 2012, 10:07

I can see that ignore lists could be useful, but I have never actually used the feature. If I want to ignore someone, I can.

But I don't disapprove of people using ignore lists. What really annoys me is when people proudly announce that they have put someone on their ignore list, or when they smugly tell the person they are about to do so (then, interestingly, don't). There is only one reason they would do this, which is to embarrass or insult the person. It's a way of talking down to them, saying "I'm going to ignore you now, I'm going to eliminate your presence from my life".

Obviously I am not saying that anyone who ever uses an ignore list is like that, only those people who feel the need to say they're doing it.

And so many times, people say it not to people who are trolling or insulting them, but simply to people whom they disagree with. "I don't like your views, so you join the multitudes on my ignore list".

There is just so much stupidity in online forums.

I definitely think there is a large number of (intelligent) people who use the forum format not for the purposes of debate but for some psychosocial purpose - namely to wind other people up, ruin the debates they're having, and generally feel superior to everyone else.

Invoking Godwin's Law is a great example. Why would anyone do that if they actually enjoyed debating? It's just such a cheap trick, and it doesn't advance the debate at all.

I really hate falling out with people on the Internet. It's exactly as if I'd fallen out with them in real life: I worry about it, worry I've hurt them, worry I was in the wrong or have made a fool of myself, etc. With trolls, or indeed with anyone who doesn't like your views, I've found the best approach is to stay very calm, and respond to everything with an almost scientific precision, and always be diplomatic and, when they concede a point, don't use it as a chance to embarrass them. Be nice to them, in other words.

Of course there are some people who just throw that back in your face.

One guy I was arguing with last year... it was only 5 pages into the thread that I realised that I had assumed his position on the issue, because he had never once stated it, but only mocked everything I wrote. It was quite natural for me to assume that if he disagreed with all of my views, then he must have opposing ones. But he declared: "how dare you assume what my opinion is" etc. But after 5 pages, if you haven't stated your opinion, you really are just playing games.

And of course, that's what this whole thing amounts to. Debating often has very little to do with uncovering the truth. And it's not just on web forums. Look at PMQs!
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Gavin » 24 May 2012, 10:29

Yes, I wrote a long post once called "Argument from Ego", because that's all a lot of Internet discussions seem to be. And indeed discussions in real life. I think it is important to keep ego out of it as much as possible if one is really interested in trying to uncover truths.

I agree, PMQs are an embarrassment, especially all the stupid braying MPs who behave like children. To think those people are running the country! Another very obvious thing is the way that they are so partisan - they will immediately side against anything their opposition is doing, and this is transparent to the electorate. There just needs to be more truth in politics, which I why I would like to see someone like Paul Weston in there.
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Re: The Leftist mentality (as seen in debates)

Postby Caleb » 25 May 2012, 00:54

Yes, some very good points there.
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