I have always enjoyed argument and viewed it more as a pastime – a sport – than anything to be avoided.
The exchange of reasoned ideas supported by evidence of varying kind and quality. Like chess, no one gets to say they got a bad bounce or that the sun was in their eyes. Debate doesn’t come with those sorts of excuses for poor results (although, it is well noted that in the orgies of idiocy one commonly stumbles into on facebook, fan interference produces some ugly moments).
Premise: All of us believe very many wrong things.
Some more than others – there are people out there who are wrong about almost every single thing they believe short of their name…and they might be lying about that, too. But the ubiquity of stupidity is the point, not its varying depths. We’re all wrong about some things.
I tend to take great pains over this seemingly simple truth…usually by not making any claims.
There is a difference between making a positive case for a proposition X, and pointing out that the case being made for Y is a ridiculous fantasy cobbled together out of bullshit, lies and foolishness.
This commonly results in various forms of straw man: “Oh, you don’t like my Libertarian FREEDOM!, so therefore you must be a full-on stooge of full government control of everything!”
No…not really…I’m just pointing out what a moron YOU are.
THAT, of course, leads to accusations of ad hominem. So, before we go any further, allow me to clear that up.
Ad hominem (literally “At the man”) is a logical fallacy in which one attacks the person making the argument RATHER THAN the argument itself.
It takes the form, broadly speaking, of, “He is a stupid and bad man, so his argument (which I have not addressed) must also be stupid and bad.”
This must be contrasted with taking the time to specifically address the argument, shred it to fucking pieces, demonstrate beyond any question that it is premised on bullshit, and THEN calling the person who constructed it a mendacious, wrongheaded twat.
THAT AIN’T AD HOMINEM. That is calling a spade a spade.
The foregoing is merely a quick glance at the SORTS of stupid…the depth of the stupid is also a real and quantifiable thing.
There is a significant difference in degree between these two positions with regard to “questions” about September 11, 2001:
1. “I’m not sure we’re being told the whole story about what happened on 9/11. I have doubts about the official explanation.”
2. “The official explanation is a lie and the laws of physics prove it! Because they lied, I know it was a controlled demolition / inside job which the same laws of physics also proves!”
You can have a reasonable conversation with the first one.
For some purely masochistic reason I refuse to examine too closely, I cannot leave the second one alone.
And it doesn’t matter whether they are Truthers, Birthers, anti-abortionists, god wallopers, gun nuts, Republicans, Libertarians, Left-Wing Purity Police, Glenn Greenwald fanbois, anti-vaccers, creationists, racists, xenophobes, homophobes, David Brooks, Sarah Palin…I loathe stupid.
I simply cannot resist stabbing insistent public imbecility, willful blindness, and that damned Dunning-Kruger Effect degree of completely unwarranted certainty that they actually know what they’re talking about.
For me, stupid people might as well be slathering themselves in bacon grease and running around the garbage dump outside Churchill, Manitoba.
If you didn’t catch the reference, google “Polar Bear Capital of Canada.”
There are some specific examples that stand out:
One particularly knowledgeable chap asserted (among so very many outright lies) that Indian Reservations were created as reparations for past wrongs.
Now, one can view the creation of reservations in many ways, but their creation by treaty between sovereign nations (for good or ill) is an absolute conceptual denial that they could be seen as having been CREATED (as opposed to held back…or, you know RESERVED) or that they were in any way related to reparations for crimes that had not even been acknowledged and, for the most part, have yet to be so acknowledged, much less that any “Reparations” might be due.
He did not retract, modify or even acknowledge the error…by which term I am being kind, especially in view of his immediate progression into the casual claim to know what is best for Those People; how they need to get off their sovereign land and integrate into the community that murdered their ancestors, inflicted residential schools on generations and continues to socially and economically oppress them.
Ah…smart white people – where would Natives be without them?
In another thread, the same insightful fellow posited that corporate charity could and should be the source of all social welfare monies…because corporations, despite their ill-deserved reputation, are really very generous and caring.
He posted links to show that corporate giving is $16 BILLION per year! Do you see? Are you not thankful? If we would just stop taxing those generous, loving corporations, why…they would give more!
Analysis of his own data showed that corporate giving to “Charity” amounted to 16 billion. He was unable to explain how donations to Ducks Unlimited, the Texas 4H-Club, Americans for Prosperity and The Heritage Foundation equated with the social safety net.
Further analysis revealed that corporate charity amounts to 5% of ALL charitable giving – vastly greater sums coming from trusts and endowments, and (leading the pack!) individual, private donors – people like you kicking in $10 or $20. This, of course, has nothing to do with the social safety net. After we subtract all of the Ducks and wetlands and Pandas, the anti-Obamacare organizations, Sean Hannity’s scam off the children of fallen soldiers which exists to provide Sean Hannity with private planes and expensive hotel rooms…after all that “Charitable giving”, some money winds up in church soup kitchens and food banks which are just a wee bit fucking overwhelmed by demand.
Almost effortless additional googling turns up the annual cost of the social safety net, which is not “Well-funded” or “Comprehensive” by any measure and through which far too many slip: $650 billion dollars per year.
The brilliant defender of corporate largess was unable to explain where the other SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY BILLION DOLLARS might come from…but lower taxes for generous corporations was still the only way to fly.
In yet ANOTHER thread…in which he had a problem with Building 7 falling at the speed of gravity (which, I kept explaining to him, is how fast things FALL)…he asserted that GRAVITY affects different material in different ways.
Now, keep in mind, the point at issue – the nut he wanted to crack – is that Building 7 fell at “Free fall speed”.
I granted that it did, because that is how things fall when there is nothing holding them up.
He kept insisting that it should not have done that.
“Why should it not have done that?”
Because there was something impeding it.
“What, specifically, was ‘impeding’ it?”
I provided an analogy: a skateboarder’s shin snaps – he doesn’t fall slowly as the skin and muscle fight to continue holding up what the bone can no longer support.
The brilliant truther started screaming that I know NOTHING about science, engineering, physics, the laws of gravity…that I was stupid. How could I not know that GRAVITY AFFECTS DIFFERENT MATERIALS DIFFERENTLY? Did I really expect that GRAVITY affects sheets of glass and large piece of steel the same way it affects a human body?
Well, yes…in fact, I do.
I explained gravity to him. How it’s a constant. How in 1589 Galileo dropped some stuff from the Leaning Tower of Pisa and sorted that bit out…and how most elementary school children know this.
Now comes the BEST part…
This fellow, who had repeatedly insisted on his expertise in design, engineering, construction, infrastructure, Native American history, economics, politics, civil rights (trust me…these specific examples barely scratch the surface) while asserting my stone ignorance in ALL things, accused me of putting words in his mouth:
OF COURSE he understands gravity…
…what he was REALLY talking about was how different materials respond to the force of IMPACT after they have fallen…
…remember that television commercial in which they drop a real pick-up truck and a TONKA truck from the same height and the pick-up truck is destroyed but the TONKA truck is only dented? See? The force of impact depends on the materials involved, and THAT’S what he really meant…
…and if I weren’t such a foul-mouthed, unreasonable, stupid know-nothing, I would KNOW that!
I did point out to him that the way different materials respond to impact doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with how fast they fall…which was, I had thought, the issue. I didn’t point out that the differing MASS of the pick-up truck and the TONKA truck might have had something to do with force of impact…but I didn’t want to stray farther into science, about which I know nothing.
But if I were arguing about how fast things are SUPPOSED to fall, I would certainly consider what happens to them on impact to be a determining factor. Sure I would. Because it makes perfect sense. How could I not know that? I guess I need to bone up on that science stuff.
Thus far, I have restricted my comments to the nature, quality and degree of the sorts of stupidity one is likely to encounter when strolling about hunting for it; the sort of insistent, wrongheaded pathology that accompanies it.
There is another facet I would like to note.
There are a couple of assumptions that people make about how debate ought to be conducted. The first of these seems to follow, incorrectly in my view, from the principle that everyone has a right to their opinion – freedom of thought and freedom of speech. The false step that often follows is the assumption that everyone’s opinion is just as good as anyone else’s. “You say X, I say Y…it’s a coin flip.”
If I need an operation, the opinion of my doctor outweighs that of my motorcycle mechanic. The reverse is true should I require piston rings.
Questions of evidence, expertise, experience, reason, history, bias and many other qualities come into significant play when assessing the value of any opinion.
That one HAS an opinion in no way obligates anyone else to take it seriously, or gives it ANY inherent value.
The other assumption people seem to make is that they deserve to be treated respectfully when they parade around in public spouting outright lies, stubbornly refusing to engage facts, reason and evidence in favour of insistent repetition of their paranoid fever dreams and giving snotty, condescending responses to anyone who happens to point out that, you know, the laws of physics they’ve been lecturing everyone about don’t work the way they think.
I understand the reasonable protocol of not calling someone a “Brainless, ignorant fuckwit with their head jammed so goddamn far up their own ass they need a glass belly button,” right off the drop (except in egregious cases)…but when it reaches the point where some god walloping anti-science piece of shit starts blathering about AIDS being god’s punishment for the homo-sek-shuls, I stop caring whether they care for my fucking tone.
When some stunningly ignorant, casual hatesac Libertarian starts telling me that I can trust the FREE MARKET to stamp out any “No Colored” signs that appear in Mississippi because, of course, that would cost the restaurant all of their business…you explain to me why they SHOULDN’T be asked when they get their fucking Klan sheets back from the cleaners.
I’m fucking well tired of a bunch a lobotomy survivors telling me they don’t like my tone; that my salty language offends their delicate, Nancy-boy sensibilities…but they have no trouble pulling themselves up from the fainting couch to bawl like a spoiled tween over my horrible language while refusing to address the awesome pus-soaked brainlessness that provoked it.
I don’t need anger management…they need stupid management.
And anyone who thinks they have a fucking right NOT to be offended can kiss my ass. Twice.
You don’t like being called a stupid, lying, ignorant fuckwit in public?
Stop telling blatant lies and making insistent claims that ooze infectious stupid IN PUBLIC.
When you climb up on the soapbox, squat and proudly take a giant shit, don’t expect a fucking pat on the head.
Filed under: Abortion, Atheism, Creationism, Evolution, Gender Issues, Gun Policy, Intelligent Design, Lies, Philosophy, Physics, Politics, Propaganda, Racism, Religion, Science, Social Commentary, Stupid, Theology, Truth |