Something you'll see crop up every so often in debates is the ultimate ad hominem. The argument is dismissed. The person is crazy. We see it all the time, and I've even done it myself, but really, in general, it's not a good idea to resort to this, no matter how frustrating things get.
Just lately it has become very popular, for example to call any religious belief crazy. Considering how many religious people are in the world, it's a stretch. But what's worse is being selective about it. This is where one calls everyone's beliefs crazy except one's own.
It's the same with debates on politics, women's rights, animal rights, environmentalism, economics, you name it. If the opinion of the speaker is too different, well, he must be crazy. That's a cop-out. It's no way to discuss anything.
In fairness it tends to be a certain type that always resorts to this, they are quite lazy in debate, and often their own opinions are a bit eccentric. I see this especially in discussions over conspiracy theories. You're crazy to believe all that! You're crazy not to! It's like a tennis match.
But I can't dictate how others conduct themselves, all I can do is try to be reasonable myself.
So I make the effort, even if I think a person's opinion or reasoning is somewhat "off" not to say so, but to try harder to understand where they are coming from, and if one angle of discussion doesn't work, I'll try another one.
It is hardest of all when I'm dealing with the creationists, and others on the extreme religious right. When they start on their theories about how the story of Noah is perfectly plausible. Especially when having explained the utter impossibility of it, they give up having a debate and say "God can do anything". There's nothing you can say at that point and the best thing to do is walk away.
This week, I confess, I gave in. While I didn't actually say "you're crazy" it was what was on my mind. I wanted to say it.
OK, I should never have got into the discussion in the first place, even though I was invited. When I saw there were obviously very.......I'm not sure if conservative is even the right word here........let's say there were a certain type of Christian there, whose opinions are probably not even Biblical, but are certainly extreme. Let's leave it at that. These are not my kind of people. I don't have enough experience to know how to handle them, and I should not respond. Ever. But just as it's hard not to gasp sometimes, in written discussions, sometimes it's really hard not to say......something.
So the topic was threats in our future. It began with climate change (which obviously they attributed to the wrath of God), and went through the usual fears about the "gay agenda" and those evil Muslims, and then somebody mentioned zombies. I suggested (politely, I thought) that despite differing opinions we would do better to stick to REAL threats. And I was told:
"How do you know zombies aren't real?"
And she was supported by no less than 3 other people.
These people vote. In the US they are permitted weapons. They breed.
I know exactly what you are going to say. I said nothing.