Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts

Mar 26, 2018

It's Not What You Think, It's How You Present It



I was a debater back in the day. Our high school team was very successful, thanks in large part to a coach who knew argumentation and demanded we learn to do it correctly. I went on to college debate and more coaches who taught me how logical argument must go. In its most basic form a point of debate should:
1. State your position clearly
2. Explain your position
3. Support your position with evidence
4. Restate your position in a brief, easily remembered form

That's why Facebook makes me crazy.

Today's social media allows for arguments so weak they'd be laughable if our society weren't in peril because of them. These arguments are tossed into the public forum from the highest levels of our government down to the lowest levels of education, people who can't even spell the word argue.
Not only are pathetically weak arguments presented, but when someone responds, that weak argument usually descends into name calling and insults. Here are a few examples of bad technique.

Generalization: When someone says "You liberals" or "All Republicans," they're assuming the groups are completely in agreement. If you're paying the slightest attention to what people say, that obviously isn't true. Every group has a range of opinions within its membership. Still, it's convenient to dismiss a whole group at once. Wrong, but convenient.

Simplification: Taking an argument down to This or That is almost always wrong. The abortion issue, for example, has lots of facets, different ways we could go about solving the problem of unwanted pregnancies, but it almost always gets down to "Baby Killers" vs "Abusers of Women's Rights." Though we don't like to admit it, most problems aren't black and white. They're complicated, and the answers don't come from screaming at each other across picket lines or media posts.

Whataboutism: Arguments about current behavior of a public figure often go off the rails when someone says, "Well, what about when X did Y?" That's the technique you used as a kid to deflect Mom's anger when you broke her vase. "Well, Bobby kicked the dog yesterday." I'm guessing it didn't work then either, but we love to point the finger at someone else when we're wrong.

Iknewsomebodyism: Everyone who argues for or against welfare cites examples to "prove" that welfare recipients are either saved by or abuse the system. Now there are real figures that show precisely what welfare does and doesn't do, and how it affects the nation. We'd rather look at the two families we know personally who live off the government or that one little old lady who'd have died without Meals on Wheels. Similarly, whenever a new shooter kills a bunch of people, arguers (including news media) rush to "prove" he demonstrates their favorite theory: Muslims are violent, white men are all repressed nuts, etc. On any topic, one example doesn't prove anything.

Namecalling: When all else fails, you win the argument by attacking your opponent, right? Wrong. You might see respondents fall away from your posts (except the bots who get paid to keep things going) but it's because they, unlike you, recognize that the last defense of a defeated debater is personal attack, and BTW, the more obscene your terminology, the weaker your argument was in the first place. No matter how much you despise a person or group, your feelings don't make their evidence incorrect, and no matter how much you admire someone, he or she can be wrong.

There are more bad ways to argue, and I'm aware that I won't convince people to stop using these techniques. Please recognize that the arguments above are amateurish and ineffective with those of us who think. In an actual debate, an opponent would smash them to bits, no matter what the topic was.

Then again, I'm reminded of what the secretly taped guy from Cambridge Analytica said: Truthfulness doesn't matter. You should go for people's feelings, not logic. In that case, today's online arguments are all exactly where those who hate America want them to be.


Mar 28, 2016

Diseases and Syndromes and Help--Oh My!

(Author's Note: I have a great deal of sympathy for those who struggle with disease and infirmity. This post is in no way meant to belittle the trauma of actual disease. It's tongue-in-cheek, because the current state of the media, both public and social, makes me crazy, and because some of us are just plain smart-alecks.)

Here are some things I could get behind if there were a drive, a telethon, or a campaign to abolish them.

The Meme-a-Thon: Do you or have you suffered from people saying things that make you want to punch them in the face? Research has discovered a contributor to this syndrome, and we now know that it comes from meme saturation. Useless and unprovable, memes invade every aspect of our lives, with a meme for every situation that does absolutely no good for the listener but makes the speaker think he's said something wise.
With your help, we can educate people on the hurtfulness of repeating memes that often exacerbate feelings of sorrow and worthlessness. Here are just a few of the trite, useless phrases your donated dollars will be used to eradicate:
    God never gives you more than you can handle.
    He's in a better place.
    When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
    Guns don't kill people. People kill people.
   
Drive to Defeat Inaccuracy and Redundancy:  Today's 24-hour availability of news, sports, weather, and whatever means that someone is always talking. While such people were once hired for their ability to speak well, the widened field has allowed uneducated, unskilled, and downright unpalatable talkers to assail our ears with grammatical errors, extended, unfounded opinion, and repeated inanity.
Citizens for Better Speech will lead the way in helping these people think while they speak--maybe even before they speak. No longer will sports announcers use inaccurate descriptors like, "The golf course is ruthless today."  No more commercials with mixed idioms like, "My bill was lowered in half." And this year's special focus: eliminating those whose best advice is, "If our guys are going to win this game, they're going to have to score some points."

The Campaign for Quiet: In many American homes today, there is no such thing as quiet. Our three-pronged approach will first address consumers themselves, reminding them that they do not need to have the TV on for "background noise." As sound-dominated minds experience silence for longer and longer periods of time, researchers believe thought will result, creating a sense of peace, a lessening of fear of the unknown, and perhaps even original ideas.
Our organization's second focus is letting TVs talking heads and their handlers know that silence isn't necessarily a bad thing on the air, either. For almost anyone who loves a sport, silence beats listening to repeated reports on the legal scrape a player got into three years ago or the fact that an athlete's dad died just before the big game last year and he played in it anyway.
Finally, funds for this campaign will educate weather people, who should understand that we don't need to be told to take an umbrella, turn on our headlights, or "get out and enjoy that sunshine." Anyone who can't figure those things out should just stay home.  Try that silence thing. It might help.

How Doth She Bigotry? Let Me Count the Ways

    I left a conversation yesterday wondering how many ways one person can offend another in three minutes. I was outside sweeping my si...