On Winning Arguments

There’s been some recent discussion–most of it, I believe, ironic–about winning arguments.  It got me to thinking.  Those of us who pride ourselves on logic and rationality hate losing an argument; it damages our self-respect.  But that aside, none of us expect to actually win an argument of the sort we’re having here.  In fact, I can only remember winning an argument once in my life, when a better man than I said, “You haven’t convinced me, but I can’t answer you.”  I didn’t gloat about winning; rather my jaw dropped at his honesty.

But, you see, convincing someone isn’t the point of arguing.  At least, for me.  For me, the point is to sharpen and clarify my own ideas by testing them against others.  Sometimes, in fact, I only learn what I think about something when I hear myself making an argument.  When someone is so far from my position that arguing would be absurd; or says something so preposterous that nothing can be gained or clarified from the discussion, I will usually opt out.  Case in point: the discussion of Capital that was going on until I lost my copy: I was reading it to help me understand what are to me difficult concepts; and people who hold positions far, far from mine sometimes said things that were helpful in clarifying things.  There was no point in arguing with them.  If someone believes that the exchange of commodities is determined by pure ideas, I’m not going to change his mind, and he isn’t going to change mine.  Why argue?  But nevertheless, some of the “value is all the in the head” people said very, very useful things that helped me piece together concept I was having trouble with.

Another use of a good argument is to make subtle distinctions sharper and clearer.  If someone starts out saying, “We should do more to prevent voter fraud,” and, through the course of an argument, it becomes clear that his attitude is, “the poor should be disenfranchised,” then that argument was useful in showing anyone listening the basis of his original position.

To summarize: I will engage in argument to help me clarify my positions; to expose the logical conclusions of another’s positions, and that’s about it.

Well, no.  I’ll also do it because I’m pissed off, or because I thought of a clever way to trash someone who annoys me.  But I shouldn’t do that, and I try not to.

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0 thoughts on “On Winning Arguments”

  1. It’s an interesting area to examine and I think the internet is very helpful in opening it up for examination. I think like most matters of the mind, the reality ends up being wonderfully complex.

    In terms of my own behaviour, I cheat. As someone who uses sardonic humour and observation as a primary communication channel when arguing, much of my content is reflective in its initial state. I am parodying or satirising arguments I find objectionable, or that I actually like but feel are being employed clumsily or inappropriately.

    The up-front content therefore contains little obvious investment that can be ‘lost’ – it’s in the motivation and the choice of presentation that my *position* will be found.

    However, I am more than happy to admit an element of ego in this – since the purpose of posting is primarily my own entertainment with the odd salient point or didactic comment, it’s too easy to ‘win’ – especially when the kinds of people who oppose my arguments tend to be a bit mental :) Note that when I say *mental* I am referring to a certain kind of mental issue – not especially harmful to self and others, the kind of issue that makes you send your relatives chain emails explaining how George Soros and a global conspiracy of scientists are plotting to bring down brave and noble oil tycoons with fake climate change lies. That kind of mental issue.

    I find I very rarely argue against people with similar views (surprise!) and the vast majority of people who have differing views tend to be extremists – given that the areas of communication I *argue* in tend to be around political, spiritual or social issues, where opinions rapidly polarise.

    This just feeds into my habitual sardonicism, as when dealing with crazy behaviours you simply waste your time with *facts*. As can be seen from posts on here, when ideological axes are being ground, *facts* aren’t really important. So the only thing I feel like doing is taking the mickey out of the crazies, while underlying it with commentary on some pretty obvious and blatant issues they are displaying – not in the hopes that they will suddenly un-crazy and drop the years of conditioning that made them that way, but in the hopes that it may bypass their conscious defense mechanisms and one day contribute to a flashpoint situation where they are able to see that being an Authoritarian/Fascist/Racist/Misogynist/Religious Fanatic isn’t quite as *nice* a thing as they have been telling themselves.

    To summarise – I love nothing better than an argument where my opponent is actually (mostly) sane and reasonable and I am able to drop the sardonic commentary and actually engage in a valuable back and forth of ideas. In that case, I don’t care if I *win* or *lose*, as that’s not the point.

    I am yet to have this happen on the internet. So I must content myself with making fools look slightly more foolish. And no, that was not said without tongue planted firmly in cheek.

  2. “I find I very rarely argue against people with similar views”

    Actually, I’m just the opposite. I need a significant foundation of agreement before it’s worthwhile arguing.

  3. Hmm, I should probably refine that a bit. My background as a teacher/coach means that when encountering similar views you could say I am *arguing* in that I present counter positions or engage in Devil’s Advocacy, yet what I am generally doing is trying to derive the parameters of where our views coincide/diverge.

    If I feel that the person could do with some of my utterly awesome wisdom and knowledge I will ‘argue’ to draw out what I see the shortcomings in their knowledge (and I do love it when that is thrown back at me) and then work to have them come to their own conclusion. This tends to be similar to my own (see above for utter awesomeness) but if it’s not, then that’s a great opportunity to enrich my own perspective.

    On the rare occasion I meet someone who can’t benefit from my wisdom, since they agree with my views they are no doubt an amazing person I am happy to bask in their radiance and go all Grasshopper on them ;)

    To be serious for a minute, although by being sardonic/didactic/devil’s advocate I appear to have stringent views, in reality I tend to be very flexible (often too flexible in the opinion of my partner and friends).

    I only have a few key values – mostly of an egalitarian nature – and I delight folks of all persuasions by initially appearing to take what they say on board (I do) but then upset them by turning around and ‘arguing’ from an opposing perspective. I regularly break the hearts of racists and conservatives I meet. They start off thinking I’m their best buddy but a week later I’m the Great Satan.

    It makes my life difficult as people who either can’t, or don’t care to, understand my behaviour find my lack of fixed purpose unnerving and distrust it – my life has been a constant story 0f people wondering what I am ‘up to’ when in reality I’m up to very little at all.

    This comes down to the way a lot of people view arguments – they aren’t interested in the content but in the *result*, the ‘winning’ discussed above.

    I’ll take on panels of senior Executives in board meetings, blowing holes in their proposals one second and praising their choices in the next.

    Those smart enough to pay attention to the content and have a genuine investment in a positive outcome will advance the discussion.

    Those who only view the matter as ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ will just argue *at* me until they feel a sense of internal vindication, and then walk away feeling like I am an *enemy* they *defeated* (when the losing party tends to be business efficiency).

    At an Executive level, in my experience I’m afraid the latter outnumbers the former quite substantially.

    This all has a lot to do with internal/external locus of control and similar psychological principles. Although it’s lazy to do so, there’s a good case to draw a line between those people primarily interested in the external content of an argument (such as yourself) and those primarily fixated on dominating others by ‘winning’ an argument.

    I’d fall into the latter camp but clarify that my domination is the softer, gentler domination of taking the mickey out of those with a burning desire to get into the hard stuff :)

  4. It was a girl that sent me down this path. In my last year of high school, an attractive friend I had known since kindergarten took a passing interest in me, and we found in each other a foil to practice our debating. (She became a Lawyer.) Unfortunately, I took it too far in my early University days. I was arguing anything with anyone, from any side. But I overstepped, and I was forcing people into these discussions that didn’t want it, in real life and on Newsgroups. There was a BS rationalization permitting me to do that.

    And one day, I got annihilated. I made an off-the-cuff argument, and someone came in and completely destroyed me. In truth, I already was realizing I was doing something wrong, and it was the last straw that told me I needed to change. I wish I could have stopped arguing completely, but I enjoyed it too much. I had become a troll, and I didn’t want to be any more, but I enjoyed the challenge of mental conflict too much to abandon it entirely. So how could I continue what I enjoyed, but not make the world hate me for doing it? I said before I that look for solutions, not complaints…

    I became a troll slayer. Trolls start arguments for the Ego boost of getting a rise out of you, or embarrassing you. So, I took all the tricks I had learned, and I applied them to those people cruising the forums that were hated and considered undesirable by the masses that just didn’t want it. And I got THANKED for it! That’s where I get my Ego boost. When someone says, “Thank you for defending me!” it’s hard not to feel your sense of worth grow.

    The Trolls are all gone. I can’t slay anymore. So what do I do now? I go to where people argue. I linked CBC.ca. If I really want a “fix” I can just log in there and find some Leftwingnut to argue against. Too much volume on that forum to really see any result, but I get to make my arguments and get it out of my system. Fun and addicted.

    So why am I here? While I am perfectly capable of arguing from teh Left wig perspective, I am Right Wing. It’s clear that I am in enemy territory. I knew that coming in. I knew that I was going to get lambasted, and no one was ever going to take me seriously. No, I wasn’t looking for trolls to slay, nor to corrupt Steven’s Blog. I can argue against Left Wingers on CBC, so I could leave this Blog totally alone.

    It’s this simple. I wanted to learn what Steven Brust means when he says he is a Trotskyist. That’s all. I looked it up, and I simply find it hard to accept that Mr. Brust wants worldwide revolution and the massive piles of corpses that Trotsky envisioned. Trotsky lead an army, and was fine with violence, so Trotskyism is inherently a violent process. Is Steven sugar coating it, as if it is still Trotskyism if the revolution is non-violent? Gandskhyism? Trotsky himself would have laughed at the concept of non-violent revolution, with Gandhi yet to demonstrate it can work if your cause is righteous.

    And now I learn that I was never going to get there. It took forever to finally get Steven to engage me (in the Terrorism thread), and I couldn’t get him near the core I wanted to discuss. And now he’s actually telling me that he actively avoiding the discussion, because we are too far apart in philosophical viewpoints.

    Well, c’est ca. I was considering following this up with a list of the lessons learned from 20 years of trolling and slaying, but no need. On point, there is this: it’s not true that you can’t win. If your concept of winning is “Getting the other guy to admit you’re right”, no, you can’t. But there’s one simple fact: for every poster, there are 10 lurkers. Impress the lurkers, and you win respect. Impossible on this Blog because the lurkers are all book readers that hate me for arging with the author, so I never tried, but normally, I write in such a way that the lurker will be impressed, not my opponent. But when in troll slayer mode, I can win in two ways. First, I can drive the troll away by embarrassing him. That gets me kudos from the crowd for quieting the forum. Second, I can teach the troll that what he is doing is wrong, and see him stop. Usually, they skulk off and I never find out what happened, and only know that in general me and the other slayers have cleaned up a lot of that from the Internet, because we can’t find trolls to slay anymore. So, in that, we have won the larger victory, and we won it long ago.

  5. Kreistor, I just happily deleted my long response and will just offer a question for consideration, no answer required.

    Do you realise that your entire argument boils down to convincing yourself, with no actual evidence of such, that you are *winning* the *respect* of invisible people?

  6. “Do you realise that your entire argument boils down to convincing yourself, with no actual evidence of such, that you are *winning* the *respect* of invisible people?”

    First, they aren’t “invisible”. They just don’t participate… usually.

    Second, they can send respects via private messages on most forums. In the cases of the worst trolls, I would get a few messages from them.

    Third, it’s not hard. Trolls do not write to impress. They write to feed their own sense of self-worth at the expense of others. They are easy for anyone to figure out. So, you can make them say completely absurd things, and when that happens it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out he just lost respect. They gives you the opportunity to say “acceptable” things, because thye’ll say “unacceptable” things in trying to defeat a challenging target.

    Trolls care about their Ego, not how others perceive them. Trolls think like you… that if you can’t hear them, they don’t matter. In my experience, I can make them matter, because a lurker can become a poster by pressing “Post”.

  7. Hmm, so under what context do you ride your white steed in to *save* folks?

    Are you defending online communities of dying orphans from vicious bullies or are you ‘taking down’ ‘left wingnuts’ who *troll* the calm waters of your conservative hangouts?

    From your extremely grandiose post I assume the former, so I would be curious to know which vulnerable online communities have benefited from your *unique* posting style.

  8. “no answer required”

    Guess I “fell” into your little trap, little liar. Well, maybe not so much. Because I don’t have to say anything new. Just quote myself, and demonstrate that you’re creating Strawmen for me to burn.

    You: “so under what context do you ride your white steed in to *save* folks?”

    I already said: “So how could I continue what I enjoyed, but not make the world hate me for doing it?”

    No white steed. Pure selfishness, as I clearly stated.

    You: “are you ‘taking down’ ‘left wing”

    I already said: “I was arguing anything with anyone, from any side.”

    I’m an equal opportunity troll slayer. This just happens to be a Left Wing blog. But I also said I didn’t come here to troll or slay: I came looking to get a small piece of info, and knew I’d wind up in arguments trying to get the information out of Steven.

    You: “‘left wingnuts’ who *troll* the calm waters”

    I already said: “because we can’t find trolls to slay anymore.”

    There are no “‘left wingnuts’ who *troll*” anymore. The trolls are gone. And besides, I said that there are Leftwingnuts on the CBC.ca site. Never said there were any here. I’ve mentioned before that the Left Wing in Canada has gone off their rocker. I meant it. Started back in ’90, but that’s a long history involving a complete disinformation campaign that has completely backfired on the Left and put the Conservatives in power. They’re “nuts” because they, like you, thought they could twist words and the Center wouldn’t notice they were lying.

    Certainly fun to demonstrate that you haven’t read a word I said, though. Do you think your pathetic spin job is appreciated?

    But you know… maybe there is one more troll left. Feeding his ego. Trying his pathetic spin jobs. Creating the illusion in his mind that he has bested me in some twisted fashion. And embarrassing himself trying to put words in my mouth. But then, you’re easy, cegorach. You can’t even keep track of what I said, in your quest to vilify me. Maybe that trick works in real life, where people can forget what was already said, but here? My words are on record, and the demonstration that you’re just twisting words simple to achieve.

    And you know, I note that the Left Wing complains about the Right Wing hiding the truth… they have a desire for openness and truth. I wonder what they think about people that twist words and thoughts in order to create false truths? I don’t think they appreciate it at all, in fact. So keep trying. See what it gets you. Because when you go too far, you’ll find that the Left and the Right are not far apart on some things.

  9. Your last two paragraphs describe my own approach perfectly.

    “Winning” is almost never my goal in anything.* Back in the old days, when a lot of local folks played Risk and there were many variants, Jonathan said there should be a “CK variant,” meaning I was in the game, because my goal was to have an interesting game (yes, for MY values of “interesting”) rather than to win.

    *Unless there is a prize I need or desperately want. I mean, I certainly hope to win the lottery when I buy a ticket.

  10. Wow, did I sure open the can of Kreistor crazy there!

    So your grand posturing is all down to you ‘slaying all the trolls’ on a single Canadian news website, clearing out the awful socialists so the authoritarians could settle into a nice, comfortable unchallenged atmosphere?

    That’s it? Wow.

    Some people create castles in the sky but you seem to have put the whole Maginot Line up, with equivalent effectiveness.

    Nice trolling by the way buddy ;)

  11. Anyhow, back to the more interesting question at hand:

    ‘If someone believes that the exchange of commodities is determined by pure ideas, I’m not going to change his mind, and he isn’t going to change mine. Why argue?’

    I guess the answer would be that even the craziest people can come around to another way of thinking if both environmental factors and knowledge coincide – though not necessarily equally.

    The argument can be made that even your friendly neighbourhood fascist needs to have a counter argument to move to in order to leave a position of fanaticism.

    In fact that’s why you tend to see people switch between extremes, suddenly embodying all the things they used to argue against. The more their personality is predisposed towards absolutes the more likely I’d say they are to absolutely change direction.

    If you take the ‘why argue’ position, it’s *arguable* you are preventing them from having future access to the specific knowledge you can offer them in opposition to their current position.

    Then again, you save yourself the headache of listening to their crazytalk so I guess it’s a balancing act between your need to extend every option or maintain your own peace of mind.

  12. You: “you ‘slaying all the trolls’ on a single Canadian news website”

    Once again, I said the “Leftwingnuts” aren’t trolls. They aren’t getting an ego boost: they believe they are fighting fascism, dictatorship, or dystopia. They will say anything that they think will harm the evil enemy, regardless that it has no foundation (or is a flat out lie, which they have done) and the Center disrespects their lack of respect. And they just can’t stop, even when their leaders tell them they are harming their politicians by driving people into the Right. They need to be shushed like children when they demonstrate their disrespect on national television.

  13. This is out of left field because I have not read the thread you both mention. I recently ran accross a concept (while reading a manga of all things) about the usage/misusage of the word ‘discuss’. This was in the syntax of writing an essay. The Manga made the point that BOTH sides must be considered fully, and compared and contrasted for it to be a ‘discussion’. FAR TOO MANY people of ALL socio-political groups merely repeat like parrots rather than comparing and contrasting ideas at a point to point level. This is why I no longer watch MSM News programs (CNN/MSNBC/FOX). There is no discussion – only shouting of one set of OPINIONS – without comparison of actual facts.

  14. But, you see, convincing someone isn’t the point of arguing.

    I assume I’ve misunderstood something here. I can understand you like to argue for your own reasons, but I’m curious what you think is the better way to convince someone to change her mind if not by presenting a series of statements in support of your own position. If I were planning to vote for a law that effectively disenfranchises everyone living in poverty, wouldn’t you try to convince me not to? If not by arguing with me, then how?

    When someone is so far from my position that arguing would be absurd; or says something so preposterous that nothing can be gained or clarified from the discussion, I will usually opt out.

    To an extent I agree with you on this. When dealing with someone face to face I’m generally willing to go on with the discussion even if it seems pointless simply because it’s often a matter of figuring out the other person’s core belief and then addressing that. But online I will wash my hands of someone much more quickly since without the live feedback, too many people will fool themselves into thinking they’re scoring points with lurkers and will stick with their central point no matter how ridiculous it may be.

  15. @Robert – you’ve just opened another can of modern media worms there :)

    What you’re saying leads into the tactic of certain extreme conservative propaganda outlets (worldwide) is to claim that both sides of an argument require equal airing (although in every study I’ve seen they always bias in favour of conservative views).

    Now that sounds great, doesn’t it?

    Until you start to see the parade of neo-Nazi holocaust deniers, oil company-funded climate change naysayers and anti-Muslim activists they haul out from under their respective rocks.

    This aligns with the tactics of extreme Christian groups and their ‘teach the controversy’ catch cry (http://www.joeydevilla.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/teach_the_controversy_t-shirt_designs.jpg).

    Both these groups claim they are engaging in ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘facilitating discussion’ by presenting arguments severely (or completely) lacking factual evidence to ‘debunk’ progressive arguments that do have factual evidence (as we know, facts do indeed have a liberal bias).

    But I’d imagine this isn’t the discussion you’d like to see :)

    However, to play Devil’s Advocate for a second, here’s some thoughts –

    1) Is it OK to remove freedom of speech to prevent the airing of hateful or at least extremely prejudicial material that lacks competitive evidence? Or do you hope against all evidence that allowing it to continue won’t engender real world consequences?

    2) Assuming the MSM could be turned from its partisan nonsense, how would you propose a ‘fair and balanced’ discussion of controversial topics? Straight off the bat you are stacking the deck against conservatives and their lack of facts to support their primarily fear-based campaigning.

    3) Assuming the above, shouldn’t conservatives be allowed to consume their media that way? What if there ARE Reds under the bed? Balanced reporting wouldn’t show that and before you know it you’d have Trotskyites wading up Capitol Hill through a sea of blood…
    So is there a valid place for simply shouting opinions (which may have a basis in fact even though factual evidence is lacking)?

    Having said all of that, it’s obvious that the conservative dominance of media won’t be changing any time soon due to the inextricable ties with corporate interests.

    But I hold out hope that the internet could one day provide a way back to a more balanced perspective once up and coming generations get sick of the current paradigm.

  16. L. Raymond: Political positions come from and reflect (however idiosyncratically) class positions. A right wing position supports the ruling class; a liberal position the middle class, and a left wing the working class.

    Yes, it’s much more complex than that, and a person’s social class is not always indicative of his position, but that’s the heart of it. My stand is with the working class, and I don’t have a lot to say to the class enemy. Which side someone is on means infinitely more than what ideas he has that justify, rationalize, or advance that position.

    Anyone who would swing from the far Right to my position purely on the basis of arguments isn’t someone I want on my side.

  17. @SKZB I don’t think anyone could ever sway from a far Right position to yours unless they have a brain snap and ‘get religion’ :)

    What’s your take on someone who hears your argument, scoffs at it, but when they are faced with a real situation in their environment that shows them the truth of your words, uses your arguments as the lifeline to pull themselves out of their position?

    You’re a gentleman who is *relatively* good with words, do you think that maybe you could supply said wavering Rightwingnut with more convincing arguments than a less erudite or educated Lefty?

    I understand you would be happy for your point of view to be communicated outside the volatile atmosphere of an argument but given the fixation of the Right on displays of dominance (‘winning’ as it were), is there not something to be said for delivering the initial message in terms that will at least be read, as opposed to a non-invasive format they will immediately ignore?

    Please note this is purely light hypothetical conjecture and discussion and I am in no way advocating a quick trip to Stormfront or Free Republic to bring light to the unenlightened :)

  18. “A right wing position supports the ruling class; a liberal position the middle class, and a left wing the working class. ”

    Well that’s your spin on it. My spin is thus: A right wing wants to choose what he does with the money he earns. A left wing wants to tell others what to do with the money they earn. A centrist tries to find a balance of affordable social spending vs. maintaining the economy.

  19. @15: Assuming the MSM could be turned from its partisan nonsense…

    You don’t get to whine about “partisan nonsense” while suggesting only conservatives engage in same.

    But I hold out hope that the internet could one day provide a way back to a more balanced perspective once up and coming generations get sick of the current paradigm.

    With every new technology, there have been people who think it will solve all the world’s problems. TV will expose everyone to new ideas. Cars and good highways will make it possible for people to mix together so everyone will understand every else. The internet will teach everyone to think critically. One of the great truths of human behavior was articulated over 2000 years ago: “The beginning of philosophy is to know the condition of one’s own mind. If it is in a weakly state, it should not be applied to questions of the greatest moment. As it is, people who are not fit to swallow a morsel buy whole treatises and devour them. Accordingly, they either vomit them up again, or suffer from indigestion, whence come gripings, fluxions and fever, whereas they should have first stopped to consider their own capacity.” (Epictetus) The internet is simply another buffet. Making more food available doesn’t mean people will eat only the nutritious meals. Too many, like yourself and Kreistor, have pre-defined what you’ll sample, and if it doesn’t fall on either the left or the right side of the menu, you dismiss it without a thought.

    Wherever ideology of any sort has preeminence over thoughtful analysis of important questions, there will people like yourself, blithely equating adherence to the party line with independent thought, and we will all suffer for it.

  20. @16: Anyone who would swing from the far Right to my position purely on the basis of arguments isn’t someone I want on my side.

    The problem as I see it is that most people haven’t actually given much thought to their positions. Their parents, neighbors or lovers think X, therefore they do, too. They haven’t actually been exposed to any other viewpoint, and to persuade such a person to join you wouldn’t be demeaning to your position.

    Likewise, there are people who just need a little nudge in order to reconsider their own ideas. A new coworker of mine with whom I get along very well is a very young black woman, and she asked me once why I wasn’t racist. It took only a little discussion for her to realize her assumption about whites being racist by default was itself racist, and that lead to her examining some of her basic ideas about other people, a good outcome in my opinion, and well worth a little debate.

    This isn’t to say I don’t understand your wanting to avoid people who have committed time and thought to an extreme position, like joining the KKK, but since the vast majority of people seem to hold such views by default, I wonder at your preference not to argue with them at all without a “significant foundation of agreement”. Is it really more satisfying to debate the relative merits of trout vs. bass rather than whether meatless Fridays are actually a good thing?

  21. ‘You don’t get to whine about “partisan nonsense” while suggesting only conservatives engage in same. ‘

    I think you quite severely miss my point. The point is that the majority of media – which by the way is not just news – in Western society is driven by a conservative agenda to maintain a hyper-consumerist kleptocracy.

    Cable companies, news corporations, ISPs and other media corporations are overwhelmingly driven to promote that agenda for their own profit.

    You also might want to note that in no way did I suggest that only conservatives engage in partisan nonsense. The only suggestion is that in terms of media the conservative voice is dominant, purely because the means of production is under conservative control.

    That’s why you see ‘Jersey Shore’ and a thousand derivatives as the first line of media projection as opposed to some ‘leftwingnut’ show on living sustainably for example. The media industry under the current paradigm is all about money and conservative control of such – that won’t change any time soon.

    ‘The internet is simply another buffet. Making more food available doesn’t mean people will eat only the nutritious meals.’

    That’s a pretty spurious argument. The internet, television, the printing press – each of these inventions has represented an exponential move forward in human communication and each can factually demonstrate the effect this has had on the world. As to a renaissance in critical thinking – you miss my point again. I am not saying the internet will *cause* a change but it may just *enable* a change for digital native generations who are sick of being puppeted for the simple pursuit of $$$.

    ‘Too many, like yourself and Kreistor, have pre-defined what you’ll sample, and if it doesn’t fall on either the left or the right side of the menu, you dismiss it without a thought. ‘

    You might want to take on board that by criticising myself and Kreistor for our bias you are engaging in precisely the same thing. Your predefinition of me based on a small amount of online text is quite incorrect – yet you have already made the assumption on which you base your action. This of course applies to our individual views of Kreistor as well.

    You naturally believe your position to be centred, balanced and eminently reasonable – as does everyone else. But this ties into the questions raised above. Everyone has their own compass – just because other people may agree with you in parts, it still remains yours and yours alone.

    Are you the best person to judge for me or Kreistor? I am sure you think your ‘independent thought’ is superior to both of ours yet unless you happen to be that unicorn of humanity, the person without bias, at the end of the day your opinions and thoughts are just as shaped by your experiences as everyone else and open to the same criticism you level at others.

    And while you privilege your ability to rise ‘above’ those people allegedly dealing simply in ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, the question is what if one of their views is correct?

    What if Kreistor’s authoritarian rantings are indeed what keeps the wolf from humanity’s door?

    What if my crazed Lefty mumblings are indeed the keys to a fabled paradise of equality and plenty?

    You are suggesting that only your position is ‘thoughtful’. I can assure you that I have put plenty of thought into my views and I would put good money on the fact Kreistor has too. It’s simple intellectual arrogance to claim otherwise. While I find much of Kreistor’s commentary detestable and his inability to grasp notions of context terrifying, I would never assume for a second his position was any less considered and thoughtful than my own. It’s just that his thoughts and considerations are wrong :)

    Putting that aside, there are plenty of situations in which you will indeed make judgment calls that place your views on the ‘Left’ or ‘Right’ in given situations. Do you truly view it as a summative exercise where you constantly change your views to keep the ratio even? That you represent the ‘true zero’ position that is precisely based on nothing but concrete fact and contains no selfish subjective views?

    And if so, is this something you think the media (in all its forms) should also strive to do?

    And if that is so, how could the media manage to entertain and inform and generate $$$ while managing to remain in your privileged position of utter considered neutrality?

  22. ‘The problem as I see it is that most people haven’t actually given much thought to their positions. ‘

    Stripping out implications of superiority, I’d suggest you give a bit more thought to your position here.

    People are not *generally* that inherently different. Under a similar set of circumstances, a person of your age, gender, role and other likenesses could be assumed to have spent around the same amount of time ‘giving thought’ to their position.

    Of course differences in those environmental conditions means the *amount* of thought given to certain situations differs – global fiscal matters may be less relevant to certain demographics for example.

    So is it fair to judge the *amount* of thought given? To turn on someone younger, or of a different skin colour or creed and act judgmentally towards them as they have not been pushed to allocate the same *amount* of resources to certain issues as you have?

    Or is your comment in regards to the *processes* under which people give thought to things? Again, these are environmentally-derived. Is a Professor of Social Science to be lauded in talking down to a plumber who may not have as sophisticated an approach to considering social issues?

    Taking that one step further and returning to the points made by you and SKZB (and that I touched on above), what is the educational value of argument?

    If limitation due to environmental circumstance is a primary factor inhibiting the most informed of perspectives, is there not something to be said in providing that education in a format that certain people will be receptive to when they are not receptive to less volatile formats? And by avoiding argument, are you also denying yourself access to information that may be limiting your own ability to be informed?

  23. ‘Well that’s your spin on it. My spin is thus: A right wing wants to choose what he does with the money he earns. A left wing wants to tell others what to do with the money they earn. A centrist tries to find a balance of affordable social spending vs. maintaining the economy.’

    A sloppy talking point used by conservative pundits to normalise their viewpoints. A slightly less insanely biased (yet still incorrect) phrasing is that a Left winger wants to tell EVERYONE what to do with the money they earn.

    However it’s still awfully simplistic and wrong.

    From my POV, a Right wing position is the paradoxical confluence between individual selfish action (note not used pejoratively) and hierarchy-based herd conformity.

    A Left wing position is the paradoxical confluence between individual outward egalitarian intention (note not necessarily used positively) and hierarchy-based herd conformity.

    Centrism is a mythological position used to fallaciously assert moral, intellectual or spiritual superiority – Right and Left are not a continuum and there is no ‘middle’ to choose from.

    There is also no absolute knowledge to provide a factual basis for negation of both Left and Right positions and each holds substantial factual evidence to provide validity for their own assertions simultaneously, based on subjective interpretation – and there’s no other sort.

  24. Cegorach: “What’s your take on someone who hears your argument, scoffs at it, but when they are faced with a real situation in their environment that shows them the truth of your words, uses your arguments as the lifeline to pull themselves out of their position?”

    On an individual level, what you say can happen, especially to someone as stubborn as me. I’ve had the experience of someone making an argument, me blowing off the argument, and then having that argument hit home a week or a month or a year later. But the issues these transformations happen on tend to be relatively trivial–not world-view shaking or anything close to it.

    Circumstances affecting masses of people hit hard, and cause drastic changes in thinking. The classic case is a factory where “you can never build a union because the Muscows won’t have anything to do with the Polacks who won’t talk to the Negroes who hate the Jews who can’t stand the Litvaks…” All of which is true–until the day of the strike vote, when all of those distinctions vanish quite literally overnight; and remain gone for generations.

    To me, that is the lesson of Occupy Wall Street; whatever its weaknesses, and whether it will, in fact, accomplish anything, it is showing us transformations in the thinking of millions of people.

    So, yeah, I throw my views out there for whatever it’s worth, and I try to answer questions when asked politely. But engaging in argument with someone who is going to be on the other side of the barricades someday is, at best, pointless.

    Did I answer your question, or just get side-tracked?

  25. You did indeed, and that was a nice way to illustrate the movement from the individual to the collective.

    But it’s the barricade part that’s at the heart of my question.

    If all the guards are strong in their unquestioned fascism/authoritarianism then, ahem, you may have no choice but to wade Trotsky-like through tides of blood.

    Do you see a point in having planted the seeds of doubt in the minds of the guards, even if it means they are just slightly more likely to not beat someone to death?

    Taking it a step further, there’s plenty of evidence of *guards* who have turned their coats over time. In many cases this was no doubt purely due to environmental circumstance but I’d imagine quite a few of them were confronted with the solid evidence of arguments other people had put to them years before.

    Of course it would be ideal if these people could take the information on board in a non-argumentative fashion but at the point in time when they are accessible, that is often the only way they will be exposed.

  26. L. Chandler: “Too many, like yourself and Kreistor, have pre-defined what you’ll sample”

    Then what am I doing here? Have I not been speaking directly to the comments of others that disagree with me? Am I not reading all of their positions, and criticizing or agreeing in turn? I can’t *not* sample the thoughts of the Left on this forum, now can I? Whether I agree with it or not, I am being presented with the ideas of the Left Wing, and to debate it, do I not need to carefully consider it before presenting counter-evidence?

    To debate against something, you must understand it.

    Cegorach: “what is the educational value of argument?”

    Nothing. A good debater with poor knowledge will always beat a poor debater with superior knowledge. If you can’t phrase your knowledge such that others can understand it, you can’t convince someone you’re right. Which means that if the debate has a clear winner, no “truth” has been determined: only a superior debater has been crowned.

  27. I’m not clear about what you mean by “guards” in this context. Do you mean the armed might of the ruling class? That means the police, and the army. Historically, the police have never supported the insurgents; at best, they run away. Every successful revolution is characterized by the masses in the army supporting the revolution. That’s because the army is mostly made up of those from the exploited class. Whether or not the army goes over is usually what determines if the revolution is successful. I’m not sure what this has to do with the point we’re discussing. Can you clairify?

    And while we’re at it, what do you mean by “Trotsky-like through tides of blood”? That one has me stumped. Unless you’re suggesting that the Bolsheviks should have surrendered during the civil war and permitted the Russian working class to be butchered? I doubt you mean that.

  28. By ‘guards’ I was referring to those on the other side of the barricade – indeed those armed forces who support the ruling classes but also those parts of the community providing non-armed but still essential support.

    You mention the masses in the army supporting revolution. Now soldiers tend to be of an authoritarian bent for obvious reasons and winning their support is, as you say, key to determining the success of revolution.

    My questioning is along the lines of how you shift the perspective of say, a soldier, from being an exploited person who buys into the propaganda of their oppressors into someone who rejects that control and makes a move towards emancipation.

    By “Trotsky-like through tides of blood” I was having a laugh at Kreistor’s farcical view of Trotskyism as being an ‘inherently violent process’ that sets ‘massive piles of corpses’ as a primary goal. In terms of how I used it directly above I was inferring that the fewer members of those defending the ruling class who can be ‘peacefully converted’, the more that will be engaged in any ensuring bloodshed.

    My view is that the ideal transition is as bloodless as can possibly be – so removing enemies by making them your friends is preferable to writing them off as targets that need to be destroyed. Again, all hypothetical discussion.

  29. ‘Nothing. A good debater with poor knowledge will always beat a poor debater with superior knowledge. If you can’t phrase your knowledge such that others can understand it, you can’t convince someone you’re right. Which means that if the debate has a clear winner, no “truth” has been determined: only a superior debater has been crowned.’

    Kreistor, you DO realise the paragraph you posted above this one contradicts your prime assertion? You have allegedly been educated in the filthy views of the Left by posting here, so argument clearly has an educational value. That you choose to ignore it doesn’t invalidate the fact you have been educated in it. Hell, I ignore most of my education but it’s still in there if I want or need it.

    But again with the WINNING.

    Dude, why are you still here?

    – It’s not to slay trolls apparently.
    – You have *engaged* with SKZB and will get no reconciliation with his ‘Leftwingnut’ views as he’s not going to engage in crazytalk about it.
    – The place seems to have too many Leftwingnuts according to you, and your prized invisible ‘lurkers’ are likely to be majority Leftwingnut.

    Don’t you have somewhere else to be?

    I’m not asking in a ‘get lost’ tone here, but in terms of the pertinent question this thread is about.

    You can’t get past your need to ‘win’ on the internet, can you?

    You have for once clearly laid out your reasons for being here and explained they are no longer valid.

    So why are you still here?

    Is it that argument does indeed have an educational nature and rather than just ‘winning’ you believe the prime goal is to educate and share or…

    …is it just a big, rampant trolly ego thing?

  30. “My questioning is along the lines of how you shift the perspective of say, a soldier, from being an exploited person who buys into the propaganda of their oppressors into someone who rejects that control and makes a move towards emancipation.”

    Not that many soldiers are of an “authoritarian bent.” But building a mass movement within the army is done the same as it is outside of it. It’s just trickier.

    If I’m understanding what you’re asking correctly then the answer is I’d argue with a soldier the way I would with a worker. And avoid arguing with an officer the way I would with a capitalist.

    But if I run into a soldier or worker steeped in reactionary illusions and backwardness, I’m not going to waste time arguing with him. There will be time to talk to him when events change his attitudes.

    All of which is mostly beside the point. I’m not an active revolutionist any more. I’m a writer. I argue on blogs. 99% of the people I argue with are petit bourgeois (as, in fact, am I). To most people here, it’s just ideas. If anyone here finds himself defending the rights of the working class with a rifle in hand, it will have exactly zero to do with any political argument on this blog, and everything to do with how the revolution develops. So engaging with the most backward elements is silly. As the saying goes, it wastes your time and annoys the pig.

  31. “I was having a laugh at Kreistor’s farcical view of Trotskyism as being an ‘inherently violent process’ that sets ‘massive piles of corpses’ as a primary goal.”

    Wow. You just can’t understand a single thing I say, can you?

    The goal is not massive piles of corpses, but the establishment of a communist state. The process whereby that is achieved is revolution. Revolution is inherently a violent process, and so death and bloodshed are inherent in Trotsky’s concept of Permanent Revolution, which establishes a Communist State in a former feudal state, rather than a Capitalist state.

    “You have allegedly been educated in the filthy views of the Left by posting here, so argument clearly has an educational value.”

    Only if you have something valuable to teach. Considering your constant misrepresentation of my own views, the disingenuous spin jobs… I can’t trust a single word you say to be honest. If you are willing to do that to my words, then any words you present from any other source are potentially just as twisted out of intent. You are fundamentally untrustworthy and so can teach nothing, even when trying to be honest. Frankly, you have no honour. Thrashing my own honour the way you toss your own to the curb is not worth any Ego boost.

    Steven, on the other hand, has been very helpful. Communists are rare these days, and he has always treated me honourably, and never tried to twist my words and phrases. If there’s anyone that can learn a lesson on this site, it’s you from him. Steven treats others with respect, even those like me that strenuously oppose his politics. It is impossible to tell if he actually has rspect, or if he simply chooses to treat others with respect regardless of personal opinion, but either presents a front that others will in turn respect.

  32. @SKzb Indeed, it is just ideas. Though I do suggest that the revolutions of the future may not take place the same way they did a century ago – and blogs might play a bigger role than would be thought at first, OWS providing some consideration in that direction.

    I find it unusual you don’t think many soldiers trend authoritarian. Given the basic premise of most militaries is adherence to the strictest of social hierarchies with minimal grounds for questioning of the power vested in a small group of elites, I’d imagine the opposite.

    Not just imagine in fact – I grew up in the army and the vast majority of soldiers (from NCOs through to officers) had strong authoritarian streaks, as do serving soldiers I have met in my older years. This was in the UK though, so maybe cultural difference?

  33. Kreistor – pot, kettle? Go back and look at your own work for examples of a lack of respect Mr Rightwingnut. Again, the cognitive dissonance is earth-shattering.

    Revolution is not inherently violent unless it is opposed. It most certainly takes two to tango in this case. Although violence is indeed the most likely outcome, your attempts to continually link violence to ‘Leftwingnut’ philosophies is just simple bias – understandable but not ‘honourable’ or at all useful.

    Read your own words again, and look at all the fallacies and bias –

    ‘I simply find it hard to accept that Mr. Brust wants worldwide revolution and the massive piles of corpses that Trotsky envisioned. Trotsky lead an army, and was fine with violence, so Trotskyism is inherently a violent process.’

    So any leader who has ever lead an army instantly ensures their social/political/economic philosophies are inherently violent?

    Actually there’s a substantial grain of truth there though I somehow doubt you’d tar some of your heroes with that same brush ;)

    You’ve yet to answer the question though. If you’re not learning anything, slaying trolls or ‘winning’ to boost your ego, why are you here?

  34. Steven: “But if I run into a soldier or worker steeped in reactionary illusions and backwardness, I’m not going to waste time arguing with him. There will be time to talk to him when events change his attitudes.”

    That’s kind of hard to avoid. Soldiers are indoctrinated in tradition to save their lives. Survival on the battlefield requires reaction without thought in such a way that you save your own life. Experiment, in warfare, results in death. You need the traditional teachings because the traditional methods are proven to have saved lives.

    That fundamentally leads to a tendency towards reactionary thought patterns. The soldier seeks the predictable environment, because predictable is easier to survive. And that is generally why revolutions in the military start in the Officer corps, not the non-commissioned ranks. The Ranks are taught and selected for their capacity to obey orders, because obeying orders is their best chance to survive combat. Those with too much independence of thought do not complete basic training, because they are a danger to themselves and those under their command. So, while you may have some success with such a discussion, it will not last beyond the short term. The soldier must trust others to think for him, so he will agree with you… until he meets another authority to agree with.

  35. cegorach: Yes. From NCOs to officers. Drafted soldiers are the most resentful of authority; but enlisted come next. Get a soldier drunk and you’ll hear hatred for NCOs and contempt for officers. The live with authority every day, and grow to hate it more and more. That’s one reason why, when the dam finally bursts, mutinies are so bloody.

  36. “If you’re not learning anything, slaying trolls or ‘winning’ to boost your ego, why are you here?”

    When you’ve said something to deserve that answer, I’ll tell you why.

    “Go back and look at your own work for examples of a lack of respect Mr Rightwingnut. Again, the cognitive dissonance is earth-shattering. ”

    Wow… just… wow. I already explained EXACTLY who the Leftwingnuts are. Did you completely miss it? Or think that somehow you can make me forget what I wrote?

    They’re right here:

    Time 3:55, and 4:55.

    It’s funny how less that a minute later, the late Mr. Layton is talking about changing the tone in parliament to respectful, when his own party is the one booing the Conservatives.

    In contrast:;

    9:40. Conservatives cheer Mr. Layton, and Mr. Ignatieff.

    Sorry, you know not of what you speak.

  37. @SKZB That’s a good insight and one I’d not considered – most soldiers I have known have been early or late career, and either not yet tired of it or so tired they’ve been worn down.

    @Kreistor I seriously have no idea what you are on about mate, whatever it is has absolutely nothing to do with what I posted however.

  38. @Kreistor at 4. Applying the term “wingnut” in any form to hardcore lefties is imprecise at best and incorrect at worst. The proper term is “moonbat,” thank you.

  39. cegorach- feeding trolls never leads to a reduction in trollishness. That is because trolls do not speak in any human tongue, but rather in Trollspracht, a language that superficially resembles the signs of ordinary speech, but differs radically in what they signify. Reason is propaganda, facts are parroted opinion, truth is unmotivated personal attack. Nothing you say means to a troll what you intended, everything is grist for the troll mill grinding out yet more bland, inedible, half-baked trollbread (bit of a mixed metaphor there, but I don’t always have time to polish up these posts, you know?)

    In short, if we all just stop responding to the troll, who, of course, does not seem to realize the breathtaking perfection of his troll-nature, perhaps he will stop cutting-and-pasting arguments and “facts” from wikipedia and go off to bother someone else.

    If I get a break from laboring at this petit bourgeouis charity that employs me, maybe I’ll post something substantive to the actual and interesting discussion Steven started. ;)

  40. I like discussing or even arguing ( civilly) with people who have viewpoints I don’t agree with most of the time. However, to be honest, if their baseline value system so out of line with my own as to truly offend me to my core, it isn’t all that pleasurable and even feels pointless.

    An example is that a year or two ago my husband and I were seated at a table with 4 other couples, all of whom we knew and were friendly with. I’d always known that S. was a Republican and that didn’t bother me, party affiliation does not always tell you the whole picture about another persons political or social beliefs. All of our families have socialized for years, had recently been camping together, our kids were friends etc. S and I occasionally had sme good debates about different issues but I never thought I couldn’t talk to him.Until this dinner.

    I won’t take up space with the entire conversation, but at one point he said, without irony, without humor, without even hyperbole in order to make a point, that “poor” people needed to have ALL social support: healthcare, education, welfare, job training, HEad Start, etc removed so that they would get off their lazy asses and be useful. I honestly thought he was just being over the top to make some point that while I would disagree wouldn’t be so evil, I asked him how, even if one thought removing such supports from adults was ok, children and infants would survive and he said ” that’s the point, there’s too many of them- survival of the fittest”. After a few more questions to be sure he was serious, I looked at my husband and he nodded and I took the kids and we left. We don’t socialize with them and I don’t engage him in conversation if he comes by my place of work because there is no common ground at all. Both of us will only hear” blah.blah.blah” when the other speaks. To me he is truly evil and I suspect he finds my hideous left wing ways to be as evil, as he said at the time, all that all those supports do is take money out of his pocket.

    So, in person or online, I don’t mind disagreements or discussions with people who see things differently. I don’t even mind that at times we will never change each others mind, I agree that I can still learn something, even if my core views are unaltered. I just can’t socialize, irl or virtually once I know that the other person is, in my opinion, truly just so horrible that talking to them validates their very twisted beliefs. I get they may feel the same in reverse and accept that my beliefs as dear as they are to me might be too much for them. Either way, further interaction is pointless.

  41. @amysue you raise an interesting scenario there, and one I’ve experienced similarly. My thinking is not that these people are ‘evil’, more that they are (from my PoV at least) mentally ill.

    The conservative ‘me and mine first and &^%^& anyone else’ attitude as alluded to above is a spectrum, with your acquaintance quite far down it. But being on that spectrum at all demonstrates a pretty shocking lack of human empathy.

    Rather than just ignore these people, I genuinely want to know how they get to that point of selective empathy removal – to me, it’s the crux upon which much of humanity’s ills are balanced.

    It’s that ability to turn off basic empathy that allows atrocity to occur.

    It’s a switch in someone’s head that allows them to viciously and permanently hurt another because that other no longer is a person, but an ideologically-charged object.

    On a direct scale, it’s the active driver behind large scale politically-motivated atrocities under regimes such as Nazism and Stalinism.

    On a more diffuse scale it’s what I see in news sites this morning when I read story after story drumming up pity for the US soldier who murdered and mutilated Afghani children recently, with comment after conservative comment showering pity on him and contempt for Afghanis. After all, they’re only brown people and should be grateful for all the freedom they have received from the inva- liberation.

    I don’t think this is evil, per se, more psychological conditioning of susceptible individuals to induce a certain cognitive response.

    Rather than ignoring it, I try and find out how it operates in certain people and see if they can be reasoned out of it.

    For example, I am sure quite a few conservatives ‘supporting the troops’ by tacitly (or not so tacitly) endorsing this man’s actions would at least think twice if someone actually presented photos of the mutilated Afghan children and their grieving families.

    Unfortunately in the conservative-dominated media in my end of the world, all we see are smiling pictures of the killer, not the victims…which is how this conditioning is applied.

    Please note before OUTRAGE from certain parties that I am well aware that extreme ‘Leftwingnuts’ also have the same capacity (almost all people do) for selective empathy.

    It’s pretty clear that western progressives, (focused as they are on positive outcomes for others and all those mingy liberal positive things like racial, sexual and religious equality) tend to be somewhat harder to trigger into direct physical violence as unprovoked aggressors. It also helps that conservative interests own most of the guns.

    And no, neither Hitler nor Stalin were ‘Left wing’ before anyone trots that tired old chestnut out. Idiots who think Nazism trends left because it has ‘socialist’ in its name need to go have some personal quiet time away from furniture with sharp corners.

    However, I am perfectly accepting of conservative allegations that Leftwingnuts more easily engage in certain forms of non-physical conflict (economics, social) and have more elaborate systems of justification.

    To summarise all that, I think that once someone flips that ‘switch’ in their head, then clearly no argument is possible without providing substantial evidence to contradict their conditioning – and even then, the depth of their issues may cause them to ignore reality and carry on regardless. Pretty much the basis of the current media situation in western society.

  42. cegorach wrote, “Rather than just ignore these people, I genuinely want to know how they get to that point of selective empathy removal – to me, it’s the crux upon which much of humanity’s ills are balanced.”

    1. What the conservative above said is vile. I completely agree.

    2. I am on record on this site having said that I am for increased social spending as GDP increases so we can afford it.

    3. I feel wherever possible, social programs should be a trampoline, not a net, so people can get back into productive lives, because in my experience, people are happier when they feel they are wanted and useful

    But I can also answer Cegorach’s question.

    My mother volunteered at a program at our church for unwed mothers. They taught nutrition, money management, etc. The Christianity was optional. Some of these women were in great need. They came from abusive homes, had no self-esteem because it had been crushed out of them by family, husbands, mothers, whomever. They didn’t believe in themselves, and so couldn’t get jobs by shooting themselves in the foot. And in one case, the woman had gotten electroshock for some mental issue, and was barely able to take care of her four kids, much less hold a job.

    One day, I came home to find my mother in tears. The 14 year old daughter of the electroshocked woman women had told her:

    “I can’t wait until I’m 16, so I can get pregnant and start getting my welfare cheques.”

    I am not lying. The tragedy is obvious.

    Now, imagine someone that has never seen the people that truly need help. If all someone encounters is abuse of the Welfare system as embodied in that young girl, what conclusion will he draw?

    Wizards in White Towers have no concept of what it is like on the streets. You have to meet them in order to know what their lives are like.

  43. I completely agree with Amysue that the conservative’s opinion was vile.

    Sorry, left off the completeion of that sentence, and it might be misinterpreted, despite the tons of context that should tell you what I meant.

  44. I had a friend who would call me after getting his fix of right-wing TV. He’d call me and spew the party line and goad me to respond. I had a friend until one day I just fucking hung up on him. I haven’t heard from him in 10 years and I don’t miss the peace and quiet.

    Steve, you argue with people you are fundamentally in agreement with? Some would say that behavior is “preaching to the chior” or an exercise in self affirmation. Maybe it is those things … But I do recognize some wisdom in the refinement of ideology motive.

    Me? If someone asks me a question, I answer it. If they find my answer entertaining or enlightening or just enjoy my sunny personality, they may ask another and I will answer it. If, on the other hand, they don’t like my answers then they can SUCK it!

    Argue? I sometimes make that error but I’m working on it.

    PS @ Cegorach – You talked about a lack of empathy, or as you phrased it ‘selective empathy’. There’s no lack of empathy, there’s just hate. I run into the same kind of right-wing, loud mouth, assholes you do. When they’ve ranted their rant I remind them that I too have toys that go flash and bang in the night. The only thing I find disturbing is that I’m far more likely to play with my toys than they are and I find violence repugnant.

  45. Robert: Let’s take, for example, racism. I might, under some circumstances, argue with a supporter of identity politics, explain why I believe such politics are catastrophic, and why I believe preferential hiring (or “crowjimming” in the parlance of the 50’s) is a bad approach. I am NOT, however, going to waste my time arguing with an overt racist.

  46. Steve, I understand your reasoning entirely and am in agreement with you. But it might seem to me, who shares your opinion of crowjimming that by excluding all pale and pointy hooded gentlemen who might be wandering about, we would be engaged in mere discussion and not argument as the word is usually understood to mean.

    Even if I didn’t take as extreme a dislike that you do on the subject then our discussion might have a degree of disagreeability, but argument? I avoid those as they have a propensity to become violent and I have expressed my opinion about violence.

    Thank you for the discussion; it was pleasant.

  47. Dear Kreistor,

    ‘Wizards in White Towers have no concept of what it is like on the streets. You have to meet them in order to know what their lives are like.’

    You see, rather than just meeting the poorest people in society, or living amongst them, I actually WAS one of them. I lived alongside people you would cross the road to avoid (assuming you also did not live in the poorest part of your town).

    And now I am a successful executive working in a world-leading ICT centre.

    That should make me the bootstrappiest Tea Partier around, ey?

    Oh no, wait. It was the light socialism of the Australian government that allowed me to actually excel through subsidised education, rather than keep me poor and downtrodden for no reason other than the smug satisfaction of the middle class and their masters who could hold onto a slightly bigger chunk of their largely inherited wealth.

    Which is why I have nothing but contempt for your whitebread complaints about ‘socialism’.

    The irony of conservatives whining about progressive notions ‘hurting others’ when their entire philosophy is based on ‘I got mine so F-you’ seems to be lost on many people.

    @Robert – Hatred is simply fear, mixed with a lack of empathy. It’s the lack of empathy that really makes it dangerous. Once you fully objectify you’re ready to start commiting atrocities.

  48. @Cegorach – In your recipe for hatred you have forgotten a heaping tablespoon of ignorance. It’s the ignorance that really provides the true flavor of a good hate. ;)

  49. I’m going to take this opportunity to say that I’ve always enjoyed reading the forum here. I love how it is always an intelligent, informative, and on topic discussion. I love the banter between Kreistor and everyone else. I love learning the perspective of my favorite author on certain topics. I especially enjoyed the discussion OWS, which is the most maturity I’ve seen regarding that topic.

    @Kreistor – I tend to be a ‘center’ politically as you were talking about. I tend to hold very conservative values for myself, but believe that those values don’t need to be enforced upon others, and I am willing to help fund government programs as long as they have a purpose of bettering society and are run well (which isn’t always the case with government programs). I believe that the GOP is full of lunatics, especially the current primary candidates, so I tend to vote more liberal, but if the Republicans were able to find a more rational representative, I think I would be much more inclined to vote for that candidate. You are one of the few conservatives whose political views don’t offend me.

    I am very much for a persons right to make choices that don’t affect anyone else, which includes but is not limited to, abortion up to a certain point especially for certain reasons. I would have a major problem if my wife ever wanted to have an abortion, but I don’t have a right to decide that for someone else whose situation I don’t even know. I’m not stating this at anyone, I’m just stating my own point of view.

    Now to get to the topic at hand, my own journey with arguing is a bit different. I spent most of my life loving to argue for the sake of arguing. Long, pointless arguments were awesome to me. Then the advent of the internet came along and I started to here the dreaded words ‘you don’t believe me, let’s look it up on the internet’. Those words brought about the end of the argument, which I really didn’t care for. Around the time that I became engaged to my wife, my arguments changed. My arguments were pointed and rational (or at least more rational than before), and pointless arguments didn’t hold any interest. A couple of years prior to that, I had actually started to allow people to make statements that I believed were false without saying anything. You see, one of the better ways that I use to get into arguments was to correct a stranger about a certain statement they had made on a topic that I believed that I had a decent amount of knowledge on. I consider it to be great personal growth that I was able to allow others to be what I perceived to be wrong.

  50. “I am willing to help fund government programs as long as they have a purpose of bettering society and are run well (which isn’t always the case with government programs).”

    I really can’t comment on waste in government. I’ve never worked in government, so haven’t seen inefficiencies. People mostly talk about them as if they must exist, rather than being able to point at inefficiency in one dept or another.

    ” I believe that the GOP is full of lunatics,”

    Well, the Left in the USA hasn’t been able to get strong candidates into the Democrats. We’ve got two Left wing parties here, one center left, and the other far Left, so you can get both extremes in our government with the current right wing majority.

    “You are one of the few conservatives whose political views don’t offend me.”

    Thanks. Being center-right doesn’t really get too much disrespect from anyone. It’s the arguing down the extreme left wing (or right wing which you don’t see here) opinions that gets people after me. Extreme right wing opinion is actually fairly rare in Canada. The benefits of universal health care has killed the idea that we shouldn’t help each other to a minimum extent.

  51. You guys talk like there’s a political number line with 0 being dead-center. So, what’s your Poli-Number? LOL.

  52. @Robert, you see saying that your views are ‘Centrist, Centre-right or Centre-left ‘ are the ultimate arguing tool.

    Describing yourself with the word ‘Centre’ means you are an awesomely balanced person who unlike everyone else, has the perspicacity and wisdom to see all aspects of the situation, judge them in the most objective and rational of fashions and then gently shape your perspective into a perfection of harmony.

    You can also heal the sick and raise the dead by laying on hands.

    You can add in a Left/Right appelation if you’re feeling a little naughty, or if your cognitive dissonance is feeling a somewhat shaky and your use of the term ‘trickle down wealth’ is making you feel a little guilty.

    Note all of the above is a joke, for those not playing along at home.

    99% of the time people who describe themselves with the word ‘Centre’ are anything but, they just have to move the goalposts radically so that they can rationalise their extremist views as being held by ‘the majority’ or give them an air of scientific or rational validity in laughable contrast to their actual content.

    The other 1% are just confused, as any one with a relatively firm grasp on reality can work out that ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are not on a continuum (except in early high school texts) and therefore ‘Centre’ is an utterly invalid position.

    Of course, my insightful analysis doesn’t include those people who actually divine their political affiliation via an online questionnaire that displays them on a brightly coloured chart, possibly with emoticons that look like famous historical figures.

  53. I also am painfully aware that I have the luxury of arguing about politics, economics, books, philosophy and the length of my hair. Many folks simply don’t and all the arguing, regardless of ones actual viewpoints , in the world isn’t going to make a difference to them in the here and now.

    It’s why middle class and wealthy people can be so snooty about people with nothing who game the system. Often, gaming the system is the only solution to a pretty untenable situation. Often, gaming the system, is a way to bootstrap yourself or your offspring out or at the very least survive.

    We talk a lot, on all sides of the political spectrum, about teaching people to fish etc but rarely do we make it even remotely possible for them to learn skills AND survive.

    So, I enjoy arguing, enjoy discussions, but the end I get it’s a privilege I enjoy and not always productive.

  54. @Amysue Wonderfully put. I’d say a key issue though is that poor people ‘gaming the system’ tend to be amateurs in relation to how the middle class and their bosses ‘game’ the system, but that’s simply more socially acceptable.

    A millionaire CEO is EXPECTED to employ a team of accountants that will shave tens of thousands of dollars off their taxes through *clever* financial trickery.

    A single mother who wangles an extra ten bucks a fortnight in welfare however should be sent packing to prison (Proudly administered by Omnicorp) for STEALING the taxes of honest middle class folk.

    The fact of the matter is despite the bootstrappy commentary from the well heeled members of the right wing, the last thing they want is poor people actually being ‘taught to fish’.

    They don’t want the assorted dregs of society climbing the ladder and shouldering in at THEIR trough. Especially when inheritance is the key to the majority of them holding their position – you don’t want people who worked a lot harder for it getting all uppity.

    They want the poor to remain poor so they have someone they can villify and clean their toilets for a slave wage.

    And we of the middle class and above are all complicit in this cycle of exploitation – regardless of political stripe – as are the poorer members of our society when it comes to the utter poverty seen in other nations.

    Exploitation is indeed the cornerstone of glorious capitalism and we are all (with few exceptions) guilty of it through the clothes we wear, the food we eat and the computers we type at.

    Whether or not it is a fundamental cornerstone of humanity (which certain conservatives use as a justification for mass consumerism) or whether it is possible for us to develop past it is yet to be seen.

  55. Exploitation is not even a cornerstone of Capitalism, so it is certainly not a cornerstone of humanity.

  56. I didn’t think you knew what Capitalism was.

    Unless the definition has changed to mean a socio-economic system where ownership of the means of production is divided equally, accumulation of capital is kept at an equalised level, all profits are reflected by an equivalent profit by the party one profits from and all labor is compensated equivalently, then yes it damn well is based on exploitation as each of the above circumstances requires inherent exploitation unless all are mandated to be precisely equal in all cases.

    Is that how you define Capitalism?

    But it is gratifying to see that you feel humanity is capable of transcending the current individual greed focused paradigm and moving toward a collectivist utopia.

    Warms my heart that does, comrade.

  57. @Kriestor – How do you say that with a straight face? I may never know but I do know Troll-bait when I see it , so except for my wholly rhetorical question I’m not touching that with a Troll Pole.

    @Cegorach – Most of what you say is generally true. As a member of the impoverished class (poor is offensive), I feel free: free of ‘wealth guilt’.

    I don’t mind the suspicious looks that my upper middle class neighbors give me as I pull out of the mobile home park that my family and I live in (it is the nicest park in the area) to share the road with them in my 2011 BMW 335d (the ‘d’ is for diesel which proves I have environmental sensibilities and lowers my ‘eco guilt’). I don’t mind because I deserve that fine automobile. I deserve it because I’m smart enough to fuck the system bloody.

    Without breaking a single law I’ve screwed this system out of obscene amounts of money. Well, obscene for one of the Impoverished, you rich assholes wouldn’t be impressed.

    I’m sure some of you will blast me on moral grounds but manipulation of laws isn’t evil and I do deserve that fine auto as much as any rich prick or any of my impoverished brethren for that matter.

  58. A little ways off-topic(ish): I have friends who are building a new home. It is important to them that it be as sustainable as possible, use green materials , wood stove, solar panelling, and a whole bunch of other stuff I don’t understand but with which they hope to both be healthy and lower thier carbon footprint etc. The house is not overly large or ostentatious and yet, the reality is without a whole lot of money, real wealth, this house could not be built. It’s impact as far as improving the environment is likely minimal. The house will be healthier for them certainly and the neighbors won’t be disturbed by a McMansion or obstructed views so they are certainly being considerate of their neighbors.

    So, aside from the personal benefits, does building homes like this ( or on a smaller scale, not using plastic water bottles, recycling, composting etc) make any difference whatsoever? There is also the reality that you need a certain amount of financial security to have the resources ( not just the money, but time, energy) to make many of the changes necessary to help protect or save our environment and planet.

    I have no answers here, just curious what others think.

  59. Amysue: Astute question. In my opinion, no it doesn’t make a difference. I think we’re solve environmental problems as soon as profit is no longer a factor in social decision-making.

  60. For something to be a cornerstone, when it is removed, the building must collapse.

    If we restructure all companies in North America such that management loses $2000 per year, and the Janitoroial Staff (which is usually 1/5th as many people) makes $10000 more per year, will Capitalism collapse?

    Not even close. It will march on unhindered.

    Capitalism does NOT dictate a wage structure. That is determined by the Free Market, which is influenced by Supply and Demand, as well as fad. If one comapny invents a new position called Chief of Nose Picking, and makes a killing, other companies will hire CNP’s to ride the success of the new management concept. Even though the position is a big waste of time, he’s paid highly until management fgures out it was a stupid idea. But for that tie, Supply existed because attitudes existed that wanted it.

    Free Market determines how much people are paid, and that is heavily influenced by belief. Change beliefs about what something is worth, and the wage changes. Wages changing doesn’t collapse Capitalism, because Capitalism doesn’t care why someone is paid low or high wages. It leaves it to the individuals — employer, employee, and potential replacement — to decide what a fair wage is. But be careful of taking that too far as an employee. If you’re not willing to do the job for less than someone else, then you’re not keeping that job because someone else thinks that a lower wage is fair.

  61. Kreistor, have you ever tried the following?

    Don’t take what someone else has says, start to answer it THEN SUDDENLY TALK LOTS AND LOTS ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE AND WAFFLE ON ABOUT YOUR TANGENT AS IF IT WERE THE MAIN POINT (caps for the crazy brain feeling your posts generate). Instead try addressing your painful pages and pages of nonsense to what they are actually talking about. Note that I understand you may not understand what that is, but the point is to go educate yourself before answering.

    You seem to be hell-bent on demonstrating that you don’t actually know what Capitalism is, so I might try and help a bit. Granted, there is no singular definition but the most common elements are:

    1) Private ownership of the means of production (ie Capital goods)
    2) Private accumulation and management of wealth
    3) Competitive (not necessarily ‘free’ (lol!)) markets
    4) Transaction of good/services for profit
    5) Wage labour

    Now that we have Timmy’s first Capitalism lesson out of the way, let’s look at a definition of exploitation.

    In general terms, it refers to a transactional process where one party benefits from the loss of the other. This is then transcribed to various circumstances – ie. wage exploitation is not paying someone adequately for their labour.

    Now, with that out of the way, you should be able to understand that exploitation is a cornerstone of Capitalism.

    Some pointers to help you derail the train to Crazytown –

    1) As Capitalism does not contain an inbuilt system of regulation, it will contain unequal balancing of forces within each of the defined categories above and when these are exercised against each other an intrinsic exploitation of weaker forces by more powerful forces will occur.
    2) The alleged ‘free’ market (a simplistic myth used to indoctrinate children and the hard of thinking) on a macro level is influenced by a myriad of factors (a few thousand more than Supply, Demand and fad for Chrissakes). As these factors apply varying levels of market change, you will see a change in relationship between various forces (although not any nonsensical ‘invisible hand’ magically equalising them however) which may at time see points of relative equivalency but as it is a dynamic situation it is a constant process of advantage/exploitation.

    Now I know you won’t understand a word of that and will jones yourself up for another page or so of unrelated spurge.

    Maybe try this for a summary, dressed in terms you might understand –

    The magical free marketplace is not expressly regulated like nasty socialist models. As a result, it is constantly, non-stop, forever in motion due to market forces.

    This means someone is always being exploited as the scales can never, ever be completely equal since they are always moving, even if it is ever so gradually.

    To remove this cornerstone exploitation which generates market movement you would need to regulate it out OH MY GOD KREISTOR WHAT ARE YOU, A COMMUNIST?

    Hope that helps, bet it doesn’t. Funnily enough, even the most conservative economists who have even half a brain recognise the inherent exploitation. They just believe it to be a necessary thing.

  62. @Amysue – What SKZB said and then some.

    Beyond all the economic waffle, environmental sustainability really is the big picture threatening humanity.

    And as someone who has worked for years in environmental management and associated with world-leading sustainability scientists, it’s a bleak picture.

    Steve is spot on – at this point in time, it really doesn’t make a difference, other than to hope it is part of a cascade effect to encourage others, leading to a critical market shift. But given the deeply entrenched hatred that the majority of the social and economic conservative power blocs have for sustainability, they are actively resisting any market movement as they screw the remaining $$$ out of the current system.

  63. To digress a bit on this point, the problem with the resistance to a sustainability shift isn’t simply that we will spend longer being shafted by our corporate overlords and can expect to see fossil fuel wars in the near future.

    In fact the bigger issue is the amount of resources required to transition to sustainable existence models. There’s a vast amount of work to be done in answering the question of whether we actually have enough resources to make the shift and sustain it.

    To put it in concrete terms, if for example solar and wind power were the sustainable energy sources we need (they aren’t but they are a move in the right direction) then are there enough materials and energy to construct the required number and keep them going in an indefinite cycle.

    The problem is that all the research indicates we have already destroyed (not simply consumed) a critical amount of key resources and our recycling capability is incredibly inefficient. This means that we are unable to support current technology in a sustainable process.

    Now idiots like to claim that ‘science will just invent a magic bullet soon and that will fix it’ but they are of course idiots, if not paid shills for vested corporate interests.

    The fact is that globally we should be dropping everything and focusing all efforts on developing a sustainable survival system for humanity.

    But as long as certain people and their ‘I got mine’ mass-consumer ideological fantasy are the driving force behind our corporate overlords, it ain’t going to happen.

    What will happen is that something vital will run out, we will be forced to realise we are screwed beyond redemption and then we get to watch the people responsible for this desperately try and blame ‘socialists’ for the problem their greed cemented.

    The vast majoriy of contemporary conservative movements (as well as progressive doctrines that ignore environmental sustainability) are simply fiddling while Rome burns.

  64. You didn`t demonstrate how Capitalism fails in the face of a minimum wage, Cegorach. Min wage here is $10.75, but Capitalism soldiers on despite that regulation. Raise it to $15, and Capitalism will continue apace. Capitalism doesn`t care why yo`re paid what you are. It never did.

    Cegorach, just because something can happen, that doesn’t make it a cornerstone. To be a cornerstone, removing it must destroy the system. You say yourself that regulation can make exploitation go away, but regulating a minimum wage doesn’t end capital investment and the profits it generates for the investor. All it does is change the allocation of expenditures and potentially reduce profits. Capitalism soldiers on in the face of regulation. All you`re doing is raising the cost of doing business, which makes some ventures no longer profitable so they don`t get investment. It`s conceivable that some fool could raise min wage so high that no venture can turn a profit, but the resulting Depression should get the point across that a reasonable balance must be maintained between profit for workers and profit for investors.

    For example, creating carbon monoxide is the result of an internal combustion engine. Carbon monoxide, by the logic you use for exploitation, is a cornerstone. Adding a catalytic converter removes much of the CO. Have we somehow broken the IC engine by removing the COÉ Not even close.

    And that`s a parallel to your argument. Capitalism can result in exploitation. If we add a process to remove exploitation, Capitalism continues unabated, not even noticing the change. Private investment continues, and profits for the investors continue. Maybe one business or another gfails, but that`s part of Capitalist theory too. Capitalism assumes the failure of companies, and doesn`t particularly care why it failed. The investor takes a bath, but another will arise from another industry and invest in an alternative solution to the failed company.

    As another example, we can look at the auto industry. After Unionization, wages skyrocketed, to the point a line worker now can make as much as an engineer. Has Capitalism failed because these `exploited` workers were able to push their wags far into middle classÉ Nope, it hasn`t cared a whit. What you are asking for, better wages for low paid workers, has already happened over and over in history. Capitalism does not care, except that some ventures stop being profitable.

    So, no, you have not demonstrated that regulating exploitation away annihilates Capitalism, and so you have not demonstrated the `cornerstone`nature of exploitation. All your increased spending on wages does is raise costs, which is hardly a Capitalism-killer.

    But the other question you miss is, “Who decides what an adequate wage is?”

    You? A self-appointed intelligencia? People that have no clue how an industry operates that react on bias alone?

    Because it’s not the employee. All employees feel they are underpaid, so you don`t even need to ask them that question. Everyone in the world feels they are worth more than what someone else offers to pay them.

    You seem to dislike the idea of “private” investors. So what’s your solution? Communism? Communism is the ultimate exploiter. There is no reward system for hard work. No matter how talented you are, you make as much as the worst layabout. The idea that you advance to higher responsibility is absurd: functionally, you only advance if you can spout Communist theory, not if you’re a good worker. So, hard work gets no reward whatsoever, which is exploitation in its purest form. (Communism has got lots of punishment though.) Does regulating higher wages for harder workers violate Communist doctrineÉ I don`t know enough about Communist theory to know for certain, but my limited knowledge suggests that it does.

  65. You *almost* managed it.

    Here, I’ll extract the only useful comment:

    “If we add a process to remove exploitation, Capitalism continues unabated, not even noticing the change.”

    A single process, yes. Even a hundred. Regulating a process for every single situation of exploitation? No, that’s collectivist modelling, not a free capitalist market. The whole reason why capitalism is a ‘free’ model (as persons such as yourself tout) is because it does not impose blanket restrictions on the ability to profit from power over weaker forces.

    Or what on earth did you think the ‘freedom’ in capitalism let you do?

    Again you miss the point because you get sidetracked by specifics and run down rabbit holes.

    Serious question – have you been tested to see if you have an Autism Spectrum Disorder? (I hate the term disorder but I’m using it as that’s the commonest term I’ve seen).

    The fact that you seem to be unable to grab contextual clues, view from external positions and spend your time focusing on extraneous points to extreme detail are all red flags for conditions within the spectrum.

    Given that you’re a network engineer, it would not be surprising – from my work in the ICT industry it’s patently clear people with those types of functioning are drawn to the industry and do well in it.

    If you’ve not been tested, you might want to – there’s a good chance you are disadvantaging yourself in many situations if you have one of those conditions and there are plenty of therapies that can help you learn strategies that make things a bit fairer for you.

    I’ve quite a few acquaintances who display behaviours like yours and those who have learned coping strategies find the deck isn’t quite as stacked against them in many areas.

  66. cegorach: In economic terms, exploitation refers to that condition when someone produces more value than he is paid. In other words, it is how surplus value happens, which is where profit comes from.

  67. @SKZB – to clarify what you are saying, I can safely assume you are not meaning that to refer solely to wages (as Kreistor seems to).

    There’s room to argue the shading of it til the cows come home but you express the heart of it clearly, much better than my more theoretical approach – thanks.

    This bit – ‘In other words, it is how surplus value happens, which is where profit comes from.’

    I think is the part Kreistor needs to read again.

    Exploitation is the mechanism behind profit.

    Kreistor, are you seriously arguing that removing that mechanism (and therefore regulating the inability to profit) would not harm Capitalism?

  68. And the employee is exploiting the Capitalist, then, if that’s the definition we are going to use.

    Consider the engineer. He has an idea to solve a problem, let’s say to kill cockroaches. Problem: he has no money to build the devices to sell to the people that want them. How does he build them? He finds an investor to build them for him, both get a cut. So the engineer made profit where alone he could not. The engineer is, then, exploiting the Capitalist.

    Consider teh janitor. He has no income without a job, no capacity to make profit. He works and makes money, which facilitates teh production of whatever wigdget his company makes. By your definition, it is mutual exploitation.

    Further, if we replace the Capitalist with a Communist public investment scheme, nothing changes. The engineer is exploiting the government that funds his project, and the government is exploiting the engineer to better society. “Profit” is not limited to monetary gain, but includes any kind of gain. Even if the product is created and given free by the Communists to the people, society’s gain is profit. Removing money from the system does not eliminate exploiitation.

    Thus, you are playing favorites by ignoring half of the employment situation. By looking only at the profit of the investor, and ignoring the profit of the worker, you are shading the investor as evil, when the worker is equally guilty.

    “Exploiitation” has a negative connotation, and clearly is intended for use in situations where one party is being harmed by the relationship. That’s how you’re vilifying the Capitalist, isn’t it? You need his generation of profit to be evil, but Steven’s definition lacks negative connotations to support that conclusion, since it can be applied to both participants in the relationship to demonstrate that all participants in an employment situation are exploiting each other. If the engineer feels he is making adequate profit, and the Capitalist feels he is making adequate profit, and the Janitor feels he is making adequate profit, your definition suggests that everyone is evil, even though everyone is perfectly satisfied.

    So, no, I flat out reject that oversimplified, completely myopic, totally prejudicial redefinition of “exploitation”. You need a definition with a clear negative connotation in order to vilify the Capitalist, but not the workers. Right now, you’ve only proven everyone in the world is evil, including Communists, so you’re far from demonstrating Capitalism is so flawed it needs to be trashed.

  69. Who are you talking to Kreistor?


    I didn’t respond to any of your comments regarding wages yet you have a string of responses as if I did?

    You’ve not answered a single one of the simple questions put to you and instead have generated elaborate self-fulfilling justifications for an alleged pejorative ideological argument.

    Since you seem to have an issue preventing you from reading it, here is what I actually said about exploitation, not the insane ramble you just blurted out.

    “In general terms, it refers to a transactional process where one party benefits from the loss of the other.”

    This is a cornerstone of capitalism. Capitalism is NOT predicated on precisely equal transactions being continually regulated.

    Instead, as you sort of pointed out after missing me pointing it out, you see a shifting back-and-forth. And yes, you can indeed sometimes see scurrilous workers exploiting their poor hard working bosses! The humanity!

    I will say it yet again.

    “The magical free marketplace is not expressly regulated like some nasty socialist models. As a result, it is constantly, non-stop, forever in motion due to market forces.

    This means someone is always being exploited as the scales can never, ever be completely equal since they are always moving, even if it is ever so gradually.

    To remove this cornerstone exploitation which generates market movement you would need to regulate it out.”

    Despite your hot wind about my evil, capitalism-hating socialist venom, I am simply making the point that exploitation underpins capitalism and it MOSTLY (but not always) sees the exploitation of the more vulnerable members of society (or other societies).

    If you want an actual argument about that (which is the point here, right?), you’d first need to establish whether or not the question is whether:

    a) Capitalism is a system with a basis in exploitation


    b) If it is, whether that is a BAD thing.

    Because you’re going full-mental if you try and argue against a), but you could get some good argument going for b) (as you have done so before). Your kneejerk ‘no one can say anything bad against Capitalism!’ is just a bit sad really.

    Have you just gone Galt and are literally having a high-school ‘COMMUNISM VS CAPITALISM’ fight inside your head? If so, get over it. Outside of North America, much of the rest of the world doesn’t have the same knee jerk freakout about those words. Or confuse Communism with Totalitarianism, for that matter.

    Anyway, I’m not a Communist, comrade, far from it. I just clearly don’t drink the same kool-aid as you do.

  70. @SKZB – Your definition of ‘Exploitation’ is fantastic and I will be stealing it.

    @Cegorach – You’ve met Kriestor, I see?

    @Amysue – I wasn’t really off-topic, merely behind topic. There was a previous discussion of the merits of ‘welfare programs’ and that the abuse of those institutions was tolerable if the ends were noble, e.g. survival, improving your children’s futures, etc.

    I provided a slightly exaggerated and wholly attackable scenario that called the assumptions underlying that idea into questions, e.g. what constitutes welfare, must the ends be noble, etc.

    That issue of discussion has long passed so feel free to ignore any compulsion to respond. ;)

  71. Admittedly, I generally have little but rebuttal to offer but I think I may have an actual on topic idea to present (I blame the bag of Hot Tamales for this).

    Argument/Discussion is a fundamental element of Speech, defined as the expression, verbal or otherwise, of an idea, or set of ideas. Free Speech, is as it sounds, unrestricted argument.

    Now, when Steve opened this commentary he made a personal position statement that we’ve all danced around, myself included. And that position is that argument with extremists is futile: those in agreement are kissing ass and those in opposition won’t be moved.

    Sound logic but a bit toxic to the idea of Free Speech. Imagine a bag of Hot Tamales. Now, take a few Tamales that are Marxist and put them aside. Do the same for Capitalists, Nazis, Peckerheads, and a few other groups.

    Now, under the assumption that the disparate groups won’t argue with each other, there will be little argument except within each ideological cell.

    This is anathema to Free Speech and the logical conclusion is a fractured society with each group’s leadership condemning all other groups and encouraging each member to forfeit their individual identity in favor of the collective’s.

    I think I just described the American people and mostly because no one will confront someone ‘outside the cell’ by way of argument, even hot arguments.

    It is intolerable to blast someone else’s ideals or beliefs. That’s what we have today. Our idea of Free Speech has been castrated by the public policy of tolerance.

    I don’t pretend that Steve or others are wrong, I merely suggest that the byproduct of the idea that arguments are futile or intolerable impeed Free Speech and act as forces that compartmentalize and segment society rather than bind us.

  72. Robert: I think that with the success of social media and the interwebs many,many people- most of us I think- surround themselves with a feedback loop. There are exceptions, but most if the blogs, status updates, tweets etc we see more or less echo what we believe and I sometimes wonder if it isn’t just another version of bread and circuses to keep us distracted.

    As for economics, I was a social worker and worked mostly direct care at that, so don’t pretend to fully understand economic theory. What. Do know is what we have isn’t sustainable- not for us as a species and not for the planet. I don’t believe that we will voluntarily abandon the system of profit and exploitation for profit that exists- few on any place on the socio-economic continuum want to live in a world that completely removes property, ownership, etc. I think that as resources run out we will either succumb to the violence that will accompany it or we will rise above it. It won’t be pretty either way.

    In the here and now though, I can merrily debate as I please whatever I please and ingest content on my content provider devices and do the good I can in the world and ignore the bad and not think about it all too much. Or that’s what those with real power expect us to do and we pretty much comply.

  73. Cegorach, you’re the one that claimed exploitation is the cornerstone of Capitalism. i don’t need to “establish” something you’ve claimed as fact.

    The fundamental problem with your claim, though, is a lack of definition of “exploitation”. The dictionary definition:

    “use or utilization, especially for profit”

    makes everyone in all economic systems exploiters. Heck, you’re exploiting water when you drink it, since the definition is not limited to monetary gain. The janitor that can afford a cell phone has generated a profit by “using” his broom and “utilizing” hydrochloric acid to clean something. While the word “exploitation” has a negative connotation in general use, the dictionary definition is so broad that everything anyone does is exploitation, making it an unavoidable act, which can’t have a negative connotation. Well, maybe if you’re in agreement with the Christian concept of original sin you could find fault with unavoidable acts as sin, but personally, I’ve rejected that as propaganda intended to control you through shame and self-hatred. Is that what you’re trying to do? Shame us all into rejecting Capitalism through original sin?

    Since you and Steven are using two different definitions of exploitation, I cannot at this time make any case without fundamental confusion for every reader. You and he have totally obfuscated your claim of exploitation to the point that it’s both true and false simultaneously. It’s true that the dictionary version of exploitation occurs everywhere all the time so it’s part of Capitalism in that context, but it’s false that the negative connotation is attached to it.

    When you provide for me a singular definition of exploitation that has a negative connotation that cannot be used to demonstrate that the worker is exploiting the investor that is facilitating his own profit, then we can debate this. But right now, Steven’s view of surplus profit is only being applied from the worker’s perspective: he suggests that the profit made by the worker must partially pay the investor, and claims that is “surplus”. If you flip it on its head and apply the same idea from the investor’s perspective, then the worker is taking the surplus profit for himself. That situation is actually symbiotic: without an investor, the worker makes zero profit because he has no resources to turn into commodities, and without a worker to invest in, the investor makes no profit because his money is not being utilized. There is no “surplus” because only together is any profit generated, so both should get a share of the profits. You could replace the Capitalist investor with a Communist bureaucrat, and nothing changes for the worker, except in the minds of those that can rationalize working for the government as less exploitative, by shifting their perspective off the worker and onto a societal perspective. If the Communist kept his perspective on society in the first place, instead of using whatever was convenient at the moment, he couldn’t draw the same conclusion. The Capitalist’s self-interest in creating solutions for problems important enough to generate a profit is far superior to the idea that a faceless, bored bureaucrat can figure out the next best thing for society.

    It’s tough to proceed from here without creating Strawmen, so I’m not going furhter. I have no idea what process you want to replace Capital investment with. Just be aware that bureaucrats and government agencies don’t have a very good track record in any industry, if you’re headed in that direction.

  74. You’ve already created a small army of strawmen Kreistor, what on earth are you talking about?

    You’ve been given extreme definition of the term ‘exploitation’, you’re pushing the envelope of your insanity by suggesting otherwise.

    Unfortunately for you, the argument is indeed a little more complicated than the black/white definition, communism vs capitalism ‘debate’ you seem to be jonesing for (and having in your own mind already).

    I’ll post this AGAIN:

    “In general terms, it refers to a transactional process where one party benefits from the loss of the other.”

    This covers Steve’s definition as well.

    This is not necessarily pejorative in description at all (which is where you seem hell-bent on taking it).

    It is indeed a cornerstone of capitalism, as has been repeatedly pointed out to you (and not one instance of this have you refuted, as you were too busy inventing straw men).

    I am not saying in essence this is intrinsically BAD. I am saying it is DYNAMIC, as opposed to a more regulated system. Some forms of capitalism can be quite benign indeed.

    The issue at hand is that the current form, mass consumption capitalism, is fundamentally unsustainable and inimical to the good of humanity in both social and environmental terms.

    In this case, the dynamism is disadvantageous as it is applying an ever-increasing scale of consumption to an ever-decreasing pool of resources, with pathetic fantasies such as magical ‘invisible hands’ being the alleged protection from extinction – fantasies disproven on a regular basis as resources run out with no market force stepping in to prevent it.

    This is scientifically clear and demonstrable.

    The prime rejection of this evidence comes from shonky, 1950-era ‘reds under the bed’ economic propaganda and Randian Objectivist claptrap peddled to provide a false air of legitimacy to the simple desire to profit at the expense of others on a global scale.

    This isn’t an argument Kreistor. You’re not on the same page, you’re not paying attention and like myself, you are simply projecting your own internal positioning with no actual desire to convince the ‘opposition’ but instead you simply want your voice to be heard (by the invisible lurking masses no doubt) as a point of dissent to what you believe to be commentary running counter to a righteous view of reality.

    We’re doing the exact same thing, whether or note you can cope with that fact.

    I’m happy with it myself, but then again I can content myself that by and large my views are not:

    a) Based on harming humanity for the gain of a small few


    b) Insane.

    Let’s just say that while you are creating elaborate and dramatic communist-fighting castles in the sky, I’m amusing myself with a more modest bungalow that has a nice view and a well-tended cloud garden – but I keep renovating for my own entertainment.

    So since there is no argument to ‘win’ (not that you’re fixated on that apparently anyway), howsabout you give it a rest now, ey?

  75. “In economic terms, exploitation refers to that condition when someone produces more value than he is paid. In other words, it is how surplus value happens, which is where profit comes from.”

    In Steve’s version, the worker makes profit, and some of that profit goes to the investor that funded him, with the rest going to himself. Both parties to the production of the commodity profit, and no one suffers a loss.

    “In general terms, it refers to a transactional process where one party benefits from the loss of the other.”

    In your version, the worker losses on the transaction with his investor and therefore can make no profit. A loss is the polar opposite of a profit. The investor, on the other hand, must have profited, since the worker lost.

    Your definitions are mutually exclusive. I can’t imagine what kind of rationalization allows you to convince yourself the worker both takes profits and suffers a loss simultaneously.

  76. Because Steve’s definition is an economic definition focused on wages and mine is a general definition about ANY transaction. His definition may fold into mine, but it is not the same thing.

    “In Steve’s version, the worker makes profit, and some of that profit goes to the investor that funded him, with the rest going to himself. Both parties to the production of the commodity profit, and no one suffers a loss.”

    I’d not want to mire Steve in this cesspit but I did not get the impression that his definition was trying to argue that both workers and bosses continually profit in a glorious capitalist love-in. That sounds like YOUR view of things being projected.

    Under most Marxist-generated frameworks, exploitation is sure as hell not seen as a mutually profitable exercise. My definition is actually a lot more forgiving as it can encompass occasions where workers do profit from the loss of bosses – you don’t see that in all Marxist analyses.

    Also, you can indeed take both a profit and a loss – do you have no conception of short term loss for long term gain? Profit is subjectively defined by each party and its value can change – what is initially seen as a profit may not turn out to be later for example.

    Again, you’re not listening. I am not just talking about wages – you are. You are utterly ignoring my posts to fit things into your own straw man arguments.

    You’re either insane, cognitively differenced or entirely and utterly dishonourable in your need to WIN.

    Either way, you’re doing a good job of providing illustrative evidence for Steve’s original point. You’re not adding value by engaging in discussion, you’re just knee jerking because someone said something nasty about capitalism.

    Let it go already.


    Either provide some sensible and interesting refutation as to why capitalism is NOT a dynamic economic framework that relies on constantly changing patterns of exploitation/profit (as opposed to vile socialist models that attempt to remove the freedom of personal profit and replace it with soul-crushing equivalency) or get off the pot.

    Defenders of capitalism much more ardent and erudite than you have no issue whatsoever admitting that exploitation is a cornerstone of capitalism – in fact it’s a central argument of many pro-capitalist views, especially Objectivist fruitcakery (and I am surprised you’re not an avowed Randian).

    I think you’ve simply got an issue that it was said by a filthy ‘leftwingnut’.

  77. @Amysue – I won’t argue with your second point. That you believe it to be true is enough for me.

    I won’t argue with your first point regarding social media for you are affirming what I previously stated. Although, I do like thinking of people as Hot Tamales as opposed to digital nodes on a network that is essentially a flock of birds of the same feather.

  78. I’ve missed some stuff in here, but anyone saying the worker makes profit is confused. In the strict economic definition of exploitation, the capitalist makes profit, the worker makes wages.

  79. I’m sure this sounds blindingly obvious, but I recently concluded that in a capitalism society, most people aren’t capitalists–they’re capital.

  80. “I’d not want to mire Steve in this cesspit but I did not get the impression that his definition was trying to argue that both workers and bosses continually profit in a glorious capitalist love-in. That sounds like YOUR view of things being projected. ”

    No, it’s Steven’s. It comes from Marx’s Das Kapital, which we’ve been debating. Marx’s foundation for that entire book is that exchanges are equivalent — no one profits, no one loses. Steven and I have argued about this throughout this Blog, so if you think that all transactions are fundamentally a loss to one side, then you can take it up with Marx.

    That’s what you get for not paying attention, Cegorach.

    In fact, Steven just undermined all of Das Kapital. Marx assigns all variance in commodity exchanges to labour value, not Capitalist profitmongering, so when Steven said that exchanges include “surplus value”, he falsifies Marx’s conclusions, putting Das Kapital in it’s place… the garbage bin… as the disingenuous drivel it always was.

    But, that’s only fun for me. Your assumption is plainly false, and easily disproven.

    If a miner needs a pick and trades iron ore to the Blacksmith for it, both win. The ore is useless to the miner and the pick is useless to the smith, but the opposite is obviously true — the miner needs a pick and the smith needs ore.

    What happens if they are separated by 100km?

    The ore and pick are just as useless until someone takes them to the right place. For something to be worth something, it must not only have an intrinsic usefulness (even though we may feel a hula hoop has no intrinsic value to us, the person that wants it disagrees) but it must also be where they are.

    Before money, that’s how we traded. The ceramic maker traded pots to the farmer for food, the farmer traded food to the rug maker, and so on. Did all of those trades have “losers”? The farmer couldn’t eat all of his food, so he was giving away something he didn’t need for something he did not make himself. Why was he “losing”, or why was the potter that grew no food “losing” by getting money for pots he didn’t need?

    Workers make what they don’t need. They trade away what is useless to themselves.

    Stick money in the middle to facilitate the trades… and suddenly someone is “losing”?

    No, you have much to prove Cegorach, before all trades are between a “winner” and “loser”.

  81. Steven: “I’ve missed some stuff in here, but anyone saying the worker makes profit is confused. In the strict economic definition of exploitation, the capitalist makes profit, the worker makes wages.”

    Yeah, you might want to talk to a farmer about that. He’d completely disagree with you, since to him, he works for himself with investment from the bank. He pays a bank “interest” and makes the “profit” himself.

  82. ‘That’s what you get for not paying attention, Cegorach.’


    Have you considered a career in the circus Kreistor?

    Your ability to rapidly and repeatedly backflip would no doubt pull in the crowds.

    You start by crowing that I misunderstood Steve’s comment and implying that he was in fact suggesting that both parties profit.

    Then immediately afterwards you belatedly notice he clearly explained otherwise and then you switch directions and start blathering at that.

    Does your brain not go ‘Hang on, I just carried on about something but now I am suddenly carrying on about the opposite.’?

    Where’s your apology to me for incorrectly stating I wasn’t paying attention?

    Oh that’s right, the honorable, troll-slaying white knight Kreistor is actually a dishonorable, troll of an ideologue who is drowning in cognitive dissonance in his need to ‘win’ an argument he has not been paying attention to from the beginning.

    Case in point, your last spurge on how I ‘have much to prove , before all trades are between a “winner” and “loser”.’

    Can you point to the part in my posts where I said ALL transactions in capitalist systems are based on exploitation?

    I didn’t. In fact I clearly and repeatedly stated it is a DYNAMIC system – not always equal, not always unbalanced. The ALLOWANCE of exploitation as a key driver, as opposed to attempts to regulate it away, is indeed a cornerstone of Capitalism.

    Remove the potential to exploit for profit, and you’re not talking Capitalism any more. There are ten year olds in my local school system who can grasp this you know.

    So all your waffling is utterly incorrect and your straw men are falsified.


    Either pay attention and respond sensibly, or be quiet and wait for the next topic to be utterly confused about.

  83. Hey, it’s not my fault you and Steve are making mutually exclusive arguments, and all of them self-defeating.

  84. @Cegorach – I am a rabid advocate of Free Speech almost to the point, or past it if it pleases you to think so, of pathology. Even with that being clearly stated I implore you to cease and desist.

    I implore YOU because talking to Kriestor is not only a waste of my time but also offends my sense of dignity. I did this once and allowed myself to be just as stupid as he is: never again.

    So I ask you to please stop feeding that Troll, not because I desire to chill your speech, far from it as I find some of your ideas interesting. I ask you to stop because he never will and you can’t win. How can you reason with crazy? How do you argue a point against a position that is ever changing?

    Your immediate reaction may be to tell me to go fuck myself. I understand that, but please give my request some consideration.

  85. @Robert Don’t worry mate, despite my delight in hyperbolic and ironic posting styles I’m not actually *talking to* Kreistor.

    Which is kind of the summation of this entire thread, and neatly provides support for the arguments made by the rational people in here.

    On one hand, we have support for Steve’s argument. Kreistor is suffering from a clear issue – either an actual mental disorder, or severe indoctrination of an extreme sort (which you can argue is a disorder as well).

    Given that he is impossible to engage with as he will never answer questions directly and will instead puff out defensive smoke clouds (or austism-generated) of extraneous waffle that diverts any scrutiny of his ideas, in all respects he embodies what Steve was talking about – a waste of space that you shouldn’t bother arguing with.

    You’ll never change his mind and anything you say will be sucked into a subspace anomaly of cognitive dissonance and spewed back out with a light trimming of Atlas Shrugged.

    From my perspective, I find some value in mirroring his approach to a degree and spinning out his “discourse”.

    I find him interesting in the same way an entomologist finds a new variation of stinkbug fascinating. Is he actually insane? Is it indoctrination? Is there an element of another functional issue? Is it a confluence of all of these? How do you get this way? What mechanisms are in place to sustain it?

    To me these questions add value as even though he’s a person of no special consequence, his views are held by many conservatives – and it’s this inimical and unsustainable approach to humanity’s future that is a prime danger to our survival.

    It’s not a question of learning how to directly change their minds – the crazy is too strong. It’s a question of building the most thorough picture of their means of operation and seeing what strategies can be employed to more indirectly subvert, defuse or humiliate.

    He’s correct in one thing – it’s the lurkers that count. But not the lurkers in here, it’s the lurkers that make up the majority of the world.

    The poor bastards who every day get screwed a bit more by the corporate overlords Kreistor worships, and who are force -fed conservative propaganda on a constant basis to keep them in their position of oppression.

    The poor bastards who will end up on the wrong side of the wire when our resources start hitting crucial tipping points and the powers that be draw the lines in the sand.

    Of course, in those situations folks like Kreistor get a nice uniform and a barracks spot inside the wire so you can kind of see the long term motivation for his mentality.

    As I said before, I have had access to some of the brightest folks in the world in terms of sustainability and the picture is frankly terrifying.

    This is a bigger threat to our species than anything we’ve faced in historical memory yet our politicians and their masters are still arguing whether or not it even exists!

    Much as my ire at consumer capitalism is generated by the oppression it causes against the weaker members of society, my real concern is the damage it is doing to our environment.

    And while most members of our society are at the very least complicit in this destruction, it’s the conservative extremists who are actively driving our descent.

    So I involve myself in studying and teaching communication and psychology that can help work against this decline. I’ve hosted workshops and seminars in effective science communication and provided sustainability advice into matters of public policy.

    Poking Kreistor is just a mild form of study but there’s a lot to be learned from watching how people are willing to twist simple concepts in order to fit an agenda of greed and control.

  86. The problem is that really is all you’re doing… poking me. Maybe that makes you think you’re impressing others, but you’re abandoning the issues to rag on me. I really don’t think that impresses anyone with a swing vote. It might impress the diehards that already agree with you, but the middle ground where it matters?

    I really don’t think they’re impressed by all of these discussions about me. I think they’d be perfectly happy if you shut up about me, and actually made an argument that could stand up to me.

    Why don’t you tell them what a farmer would have to do to buy grain for seed under your system. You don’t want a private interest investing in him… so who exactly and how does the farmer buy his seed?

    See, I’ve noticed that you haven’t finished that theory. You hate Capitalism, and that’s clear, so what’s your proposed replacement?

    If you’ve got the guts to stick your neck out again…

  87. @Kreistor

    See the @? That means I am talking to you now.

    When I said @Robert it meant I was talking to him. But since you’ve butted in, here’s your answer.

    You’ve had argument after argument presented to you and you’ve run away from each of them like a coward.

    Or you’re suffering some form of impediment that prevents you from being aware of them, that could also be a factor.

    Since you inserted yourself into the conversation I was having with Robert, you obviously already know the answer to why your latest attempt at a straw man won’t be getting a rise.

    You’re either an obscene troll, insane, or suffering from a cognitive disorder.

    There’s no point answering your questions as each time they are refuted, you suddenly change tracks to divert attention.

    Kreistor – Hah, I think oranges are the only fruit with pips!
    Someone else – Well, there’s actually plenty of other that have pips, for example apples.
    Someone else – Hang on, you were talking about fruit pips! Howabout you deal with that? What’s that got to do with communism?

    You see, not really much of an argument.

    More like contemporary performance art if anything.

  88. You don’t have a solution, do you? Or is it that you do, and you know it will be suicidal to speak out loud?

  89. Sure, I do have a solution but it’s significantly more complex than a few paragraphs here could explain – a video link will be best:

    This should illuminate you so can you now at last be satisfied that you have received what you were asking for?

  90. Yep. A sax solo definitely demonstrates you are afraid of answering the question. Coward.

  91. Haha!

    It’s obvious clicked on that link expecting a video of some earnest Socialist, probably bearded, who would quietly and eloquently present solutions to the issues Capitalism present.

    It’s also obvious that you would have been rubbing your hands with glee at the prospect – a Leftwingnut video to painfully dissect, gleefully rebutting each point with your usual lack of focus.

    Oh dear.

    It’s just a shame you don’t have a webcam set up so I could have seen the look on your face.

    You’ve spent your time on here trolling merrily away, it’s only fitting you should receive a taste of your own medicine ;)

  92. I have been enjoying Steve’s books for almost 3 decades and, so, when I discovered this weblog of his I pleased indeed. I mean who wouldn’t appreciate some real world exposure and the insight generated about a man whose writings I’ve enjoyed for so many years.

    And even though Steve doesn’t post much, what he does post is surprisingly well thought out. Let’s use the topic of this thread for example. Steve asserts that arguing with people possessing vastly divergent world views is a waste of time. I countered with the Hot Tamale example and Amy used social networking as her example which seemed to support my argument.

    So, on the one hand Amy and I had good rebuttal to Steve’s assertions and on the other we have Kreistor and Cegorach proving his assertions correct. Now, either Steve has multiple personalities or Amy and I need to reassess our theories.

    I cannot find a logical fault that invalidates my Hot Tamale example or Amy’s social media commentary. We’re right, Steve’s wrong. But only slightly wrong. I think if he were to restate his original position and replace “persons with vastly divergent world views” with “ASSHOLES”, then all would make sense.

    I can discuss morality and ethics with a bigot, but I can’t discuss the smell of dogshit with an ASSHOLE.

    Kreistor, Cegorach, you two are ASSHOLES. That’s why you can’t talk to each other or conduct any form of productive discourse with anyone else. Now, don’t mistake my label with animus. I don’t give a pile of rat shit one way or the other: be the biggest ASSHOLEs in existence if it suits you.

    Steve, if you catch this understand that I took your hint given in OWS and that I’m done with these two.

  93. As a PS, if it helps clarify things substitute the term”ASSHOLE” with “militantly ignorant”. To me they’re synonymous but I recognize that others may not share that understanding.

  94. @Robert For someone who has a pathology about free speech, your attitude that people with divergent views are ASSHOLES is pretty frightening.

    Your claims of Free Speech are bound within your own definition of ‘productive discourse’ – like many people – but that’s not Free Speech at all. That’s Speech You Like To Hear.

    Anyway, I’m seeing plenty of evidence here supporting the OP and not much to the contrary.

    Revisit Steve’s summary up top:

    ‘To summarize: I will engage in argument to help me clarify my positions; to expose the logical conclusions of another’s positions, and that’s about it.

    Well, no. I’ll also do it because I’m pissed off, or because I thought of a clever way to trash someone who annoys me. But I shouldn’t do that, and I try not to.’

    Four elements –

    – Clarify position
    – Expose logical conclusions of others
    – Be pissed off
    – Trash those who annoy you

    Look up the page. That’s exactly what you are getting all the way through. Even while Kreistor may be somewhat idiosyncratic in delivery, he’s doing all four of those (or trying to from his own perspective). As are you. And as am I (yes, as Steve said I shouldn’t have trashed him for annoying me but there you go).

    This is all about ‘winning arguments’ (or the futility implied thereof) and it’s a fine tapestry to support the original post.

    Having an argument is simply an exercise in self-aggrandisement where you are displaying your own conclusion in a dominance play.

    That’s precisely what your post here does – you beat your chest and tell people whose content or delivery you don’t like that you are better than they are.

    Most of us are guilty of this, and pretty regularly. It’s what we resort to when we recognise we aren’t going to see immediate support for our views and feel the need to bolster them with an ego display.

    Don’t confuse argument with any one of many less egotistical ways of discussing opinions – arguments are called that for a reason.

    Look up again – you’ve argued, I’ve argued, Kreistor argued. All posting ego-focused commentary (and I don’t mean that pejoratively).

    Look at Amysue’s posts – are those arguments? There are conclusions put forward indeed, as well as information, but they are not arguments. They are considered, thought-provoking yet lacking in ego.

    It’s that display of ego rather than simple content that makes an argument (across a spectrum of behaviours) and that display of ego is what you are railing against (while doing the same thing).

    I’m not seeing that you’re right and Steve’s wrong.

    His commentary seems to nail down that argument is an ego-focused, self-driven action where external parties largely exist as a whetstone to grind against.

    I’m not seeing where you have supplied evidence to the contrary – and you’ve supplied a fair bit that supports :)

    I think what’s happening is that you are confusing discussion with argument. They are quite different things entirely. You can nest them within each other but they are separate types of activity.

  95. I think a very pertinent aspect to the discussion is Amysue’s comment:

    ‘I think that with the success of social media and the interwebs many,many people- most of us I think- surround themselves with a feedback loop. ‘

    I’d argue this also applies to discourse. We have much greater access to our very own echo chambers in terms of responsibility- and context- free support of our own views and equal access to their diametric opposition – unfettered commentary from those whose views directly oppose our own.

    I’d say this polarises a lot of internet discourse, driving a thicker wedge between discussion and argument than you would see offline.

    In the real world, you generally don’t have the same access to instant support/opposition and the cognitive and social hoops you jump through require a more measured approach.

    It’s harder in real life to step into a discussion with a stranger of like mind, likewise it’s harder to step right into an argument.

    The fact that online communication is nowhere near as rich or nuanced as the real thing pares back a lot of things and exposes some truths (while obfuscating others).

    I think it’s telling to see the degree to which someone immerses themselves in online communication (when online).

    There seems to me to be a clear divide between those unfamiliar (who tend to be more measured as they apply greater levels of real-life consideration) to regular communicators (who assume a more egotistical position as they are used to the ‘free-er’ style of the internet).

    There’s a strong argument to be made that internet speech is ‘de-valued’ over the physical – though I’d argue in opposition it’s not a question of relative measure but change of perspective.

    I think the real proving of the matter will be to see how today’s youngest generations approach discussion/argument after growing up through a social media experience.

    I suggest they may appear to be more ‘argumentative’ but I don’t think they will take the concept of ‘argument’ the same way as older folk since their views of self-display/social status is more self-consciously defined through social media exposure.

    Or to put it another way, they yap and argue so much through vapid mediums like Facebook that the relative content of their yapping and arguing isn’t taken as seriously as similar content delivered in person.

  96. Robert, you’re allowed to think I’m an asshole, but I beg you to go back and read again. Have I written long diatribes psychoanalyzing anyone? Attack their personalities? Fail to answer their direct questions? Many of the posts I respond to are not about the issues: they are direct attacks against me.

    I have made arguments. Cited where I could, and provided examples. You may not agree with my conclusions, but I discuss issues, not posters. Largely. I think I have to point out something right here, though.

    Cegorach, while you may find your false link amusing, it does demonstrate that you cannot be trusted. It is another example that you will lie, which I have pointed out before. I don’t take fault in myself for trusting my opponents’ word and checking his sources. Personally, I feel following that link to be demonstrative that I check my opponents’ sources, which I feel to be the sign of a good debater. It shows that I am not limiting myself to solely my own sources, but WILL READ YOURS TOO.

    Is there anything more vapid than Rickrolling?

    So, who can trust you, if you lie? Rant all you like: I don’t think anyone in the middle is missing that you’re not answering a simple question about your solution to your own complaints. I don’t think humour deflects the question at all.

  97. @Cegorach – .|..

    As I said before I’m not chilling your speech since you have been repeating yourself ad nauseum. ‘Nuff said. Satisfy your ego with a reply. I don’t give a shit.

  98. So, I actually do have some thoughts on the question Steve proposed, although I am a little doubtful that this is the place to discuss them. Still, since those doubts about the existence of forums for rational discussion are a central part of what I have to say, maybe this is as good a spot as any.

    Way back when I was a teen, I believed unreservedly in the power of rational discourse. I was certain that when two people with different opinions met, the one with more persuasive, better supported arguments could convince the other to rethink and shift position. I suppose that was because my prefrontal cortex wasn’t fully developed yet, so I wasn’t yet capable of thinking like a “rational” adult. I even experienced one of the radical shifts of worldview myself.

    After winning a round of Group Discussion at a speech team meet, in which I had successfully argued that the US had the right to interfere with sovereign foreign powers to secure more resources for our own use (crazy idea, I know?), I overheard one of the other participants complain that everyone in his round was a fascist. Lowest form of argument, right? Like throwing the word Nazi into a forum. But 16 year old me actually started thinking about the definition of fascism and applying it to the position I had taken, and ended up wishing I hadn’t won the round.

    I haven’t observed a whole lot of moments like that since, not in my own attitudes or those of anyone with whom I have interacted. After years of quiet discussions with one agnostic I know, I think I have almost convinced him that he is actually an atheist, but I am afraid that if I ask the question outright, he will startle and revert. ;)

    Mostly people come to the table with their opinions set and talk to hear them aloud. If you agree with them, they feel satisfaction. If you differ, they quibble or deny. There has been a lot of fascinating work done on cognitive bias in the last few years that goes a long way in explaining and even excusing some of the imaginative extremes humans go to to defend their prejudices. Read above, and you can find ample, text-book examples of fundamental attribution error, confirmation bias, egocentric bias, belief bias… that isn’t a dig, cegorach and Kreistor, or not much of one. Those are fundamental aspects of almost every human being’s thought processes, virtually unavoidable. Of course, some people account for their own biases better than others. I am clearly in the top 1% in my ability to reason away illusory superiority bias, if I do say so myself.

    My point is, and I think the state of debate in the modern US upholds it, most argument is not at all persuasive. It is just self-gratifying noise. That has left me increasingly pessimistic about the value of sharing my opinion and more than a little shaky on the viability of Democracy itself. Lock Michelle Bachman and Al Franken in a room together and you are more likely to open the door on bloodshed than a workable solution to the ongoing banking crisis.

    Still, there is one concept from cognitive psychology that I have recently run across that keeps me from total despair. The anchoring and adjustment heuristic (also known as focalism) is when a presented value shifts your assessment of a probability even when there is to no correlation between the value and what you are assessing. The classic study on the bias was done by Tversky and Kahneman (I’ll let you do your own Wikipedia lookup) where they showed that subjects asked to guess whether the percentage of African nations represented in the UN was above or below a randomly chosen number tended to pick a number near the one they were given, even though they knew it was completely random.

    What’s my point? Just that this particular piece of complete and involuntary irrationality that plagues humanity actually gives a space to effect public discourse. Going back to Steve’s previous question about OWS (see, Robert I can tie it all together too ;), while I don’t think they are going to be persuading many opponents to embrace governmental controls on runaway financial adventurism, I think they did manage to shift the debate. It seemed to me that before OWS caught the public ear, any discussion of adjusting income tax rates back to their pre-robber baron levels was socialism and class warfare, pure and simple. No one was able to propose changing the system of wealth redistribution at all. By taking a position on the extreme other end of the dominant paradigm, but declaring clearly and loudly that shoveling all of the wealth of a nation at a handful of individuals is neither advantageous nor ethically defensible, they opened up the middle ground for discussion. Even if they never convince a single person to leave the Tea Party, they have dragged the economic conservatism bar just enough to the left that reasonable people might be able to work out some sort of compromise on the myriad issues confronting our increasingly unbalanced society.

    If any reasonable people wander into positions of authority, of course.

  99. Bravo. I differ with you on one point; if Bachman and Franken were to locked in a room, Bachman would emerge moments later and well fed.

  100. It’s a tough fight to handicap! While I am certain that Bachman can unhinge her jaw like a boa constrictor, Franken is much more feisty than you might guess from his SNL appearances. He was a High School wrestler, you know, and once beat Fox News in a copyright infringement suit over his use of the phrase “Fair and Balanced”. Sooooo…. you are right, she would probably swallow him whole. ;p

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