Monday, 8 December 2014

Come Again?

I don't get a newspaper, I don't subscribe to any news feeds online, but I often read links that friends or family have shared with me to news items they think I'll be interested in. This weeds out all the rubbish, and saves me a lot of time. It also means I get to read news media from the full range of sites, including the politically biased, and the downright crazy. I tend to check WHERE I'm reading in addition to WHAT I'm reading, as there some pretty weird sites out there. I think it's good to read a variety, and sort the wheat from the chaff using critical thinking, rather than only reading one type.

But it's the comments underneath that often provide the most entertainment, and not just the obvious trolls.

Maybe you've noticed it too, but an awful lot of the discussions in these places read like this:

"You're an idiot!"
"No, you are!"
"No, you are!"
"No, you are!"
"No, you are!"
"No, you are!"
"No, you are!"
"No, you are!"
"No, you are!"
"No, you are!"
"No, you are!"

But in a more varied style in that. Sometimes in more than one language.

I saw one this morning where there were actually more than just the usual two opposing sides. So they all accused all of the others of more or less idiocy. It was quite creative, as if they'd ranked them, and chosen the invective accordingly.

I don't have anything to do with fights like that. They serve no purpose, they are boring, repetitive, and they are quite poisonous to my groove.

In formal terms what this is, if you don't know (not everyone does) is one type of ad hominem. It's where you claim something against the person, instead of his argument. In this instance it is his intellect but there are other versions, perhaps his age, or profession, suggesting bias but usually with no rational basis.

Effectively the discussion has gone off topic. You are so longer discussing the value of, say, proportional representation, but instead you are arguing about your opponent's IQ, or education, or whatever. It's a secondary argument.

There's another related issue in such arguments that messes everything up, and that is an assumption. I had been in a discussion over several days with a lady who was trying to convince me that I should be a vegetarian. I usually give very short shrift to such preaching, but she was so polite and reasonable about it, that I engaged her discussion, and there was no unpleasantness, but she made one huge mistake. Without asking about my background at all, she assumed that I was a typical modern urban woman, and she was totally floored when, in trying to tell me that a chicken was a vegetarian animal, I set her completely straight (nicely) from both a scientific angle, and one of having personally kept chickens myself for 16 years. I think I know what I'm talking about.

But I am here today to tell you of the aspect of these delightful jousts that juggles my brain cells the most. It is people who completely contradict themselves.

It's the response I have never uttered. Many times I've wanted to, but I could never be that harsh.

And it is this:

"That's not what you said the last time we discussed this."

I don't know if:

1) People believe something passionately, then change their minds, and then forget what they used to assert.
2) People believe something passionately, then change their minds, and then assume others forget what they used to assert.
3) People don't actually believe things all that passionately, no matter how passionate they seem, and it's easy for them to believe the opposite a few weeks later.
4) They're all simply quite mad.

But one things for sure, it's not a good idea to accuse me of having a bad memory, or assume I have a bad memory, because I remember every opinion you ever told me. I may not remember your birthday, your phone number, what car you drive, or what you take in your coffee, but I remember what you said about anything important. Sometimes your exact words. Sometimes for 40+ years. I don't know why, it's just my filing system.

You have been warned.


  1. Chickens are vegetarian animals? Did she mean they eat only vegetables as feed, or that they were okay to eat if you were a vegetarian? I can see where this could go a few ways, with exceptions being what they are these days. ~ Blessings! :)

    1. She was convinced they only ate grain. When I challenged that and said they were omnivores, she insisted it was only when forced, i.e. ground up fish in chicken feed. I think I gave her nightmares though because I gave a her a graphic account of watching chickens eating baby rabbits. I'll spare you the details.

  2. WRT people contradicting themselves, we have a good friend but she does this within the space of a single visit. As a result of which we have learned to take whatever opinions are expressed with a generous pinch of salt.