On FB, Twitter, and personal conversations of late, I’ve been seeing the same tacks develop in conversation after conversation. I can predict the curve of the conversation and whether I’ll have to block/cut off the person in question within their first two comments. (I’m being generous.)
I’m going to detail those arcs here, and I’ll probably just start linking to this post as a shortcut to getting into the same argument over and over ad nauseum.
1: “If [favorite person] had been elected/appointed, this wouldn’t be happening!”
This usually comes with a heaping side of “don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for that asshole.”
Problem: This always derails the conversation from [problem we can address in real life/real time] into an abstract fantasy world. A specific conversation–about, say, a clueless thing said by an ignorant politician–warps over into Big Picture Talk. Inevitably, I’m accused of things I didn’t say, lined up alongside people I disagree with, and talked down to, if not outright insulted.
2: “The wording on this could have been better, but here’s what [politician] really meant!”
This usually comes with a heaping side of “you just don’t understand how politicians talk.”
Problem: This starts out with an intrinsic assumption that objecting to the politician’s statement is based on ignorance of context. Sometimes, that’s true! But not always. Politicians are supposed to serve the people, meaning they’re the ones who should understand the context of their own statements. That’s a big job, no question, which is why they have aides and researchers and advisors who are supposed to vet public statements and warn the politician about upcoming landmines. This is what they get paid the big bucks for. It’s not our job to understand politician speak. It’s their job to communicate clearly to the public. Inevitably, this comes down to a partisan argument that I’m just looking to bash the politician in question for anything and everything possible, and that the politician should be given credit for all the good things they’re doing. Which, again, derails the point in question into a Big Picture Talk that’s much harder to actually affect.
3: “I came onto your feed and started an argument, and I’m angry because nobody’s listening to my brilliant analytical points.”
This usually comes with a heaping side of “Why won’t you stand up for me? Your friends are being meeeeeeeeean!”
Problem: This conversation is always, ALWAYS between folks from a marginalized group (trans activists, POC, anarchists, bisexuals, etc etc) and a person from a majority group (generally, but not always, a straight white male). The former, who have been dealing with nonsense arguments for their entire lives, are understandably not interested in finding out whether This Particular Person is actually an okay guy. They’re especially not interested in participating in a conversation that will most likely derail along one of the two above lines, because their focus is on getting shit done and saving lives. Abstract arguments don’t work with them. They see an injustice, they want to go after it and fix it, not listen to talk about the last sixteen presidents from the perspective of someone who’s not in the least worried about his or her own personal safety on a day to day basis. Inevitably, this winds up with flounces, angry rhetoric, asshat memes, and *me* getting blocked. Which puzzles me, because…I didn’t start the fight…? But whatever.
4: “You liberals always do [this thing that makes me crazy]! There’s no talking to you!”
This usually comes with a heaping side of “You’re so stupid, you’ll believe anything, why don’t you trust the news sources I like to read?”
Problem: I have read those news sources. I’ve read across conservative and liberal, anarchist and libertarian. I’m quite aware of confirmation bias. There are certain sources I regard with skepticism (Huffington Post) and some I outright refuse to touch these days (Breitbart). That isn’t because of any one current issue. I’ve watched these publications for years now. When I get fired up about a cause or a problem, believe me, it isn’t just the latest clickbait crap that I’m reading. Inevitably, this winds up with me having to block the person in question, because they turn out to be all about Winning the Argument instead of having a reasonable discussion. (Irony being, of course, that they’re displaying the very confirmation bias they’re trying to accuse me of…)
So there you go. Four very simple ways to avoid losing an argument with me before you even get properly rolling. You’re welcome. Go forth and enjoy a good discussion or ten!