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Monday, February 17, 2014

True Confessions of a Blogger: I Argue and Dissent




As a writer and a stubborn old fart, I do confront dissenting opinions. Yes, I really do "enjoy it" when people disagree with me. Their well-designed disagreement ignites my investigation into issues and also leads to new fertile ground. It even offers me irrefutable opposition that causes me to change my mind about certain personal truths and interpretations. In other words, "I agree to disagree" and in doing so, I find stimulating conversation despite the outcome of the disagreement.

Arguing and talking about vexing problems and important issues does not make me hate people or make me belittle them for thinking differently from me. Folks can argue and disagree while remaining close friends when a modicum of common respect exists.

Still, off-the-wall, unfounded comments aimed at attacking character are uncalled for in argumentation intended to produce positive results. These attacks are meant to be distractions. They are used by people to avoid facing and confronting the truth of an opposing view. Slander is ammunition employed by those who see opportunities to besmirch their enemies.

I feel very strongly about expressing my opinion because I see a culture that increasingly prefers indifference and backstabbing to open forums where different views are accepted, even welcomed. I miss the conversations that once flowed freely without fear of retribution and personal attack. The media itself, controlled by big business, instructs Americans about what they should and shouldn't think and say. Now, if you cross a line of popular public opinion, you enter a well-orchestrated minefield of ravenous mouths set to ignite their nasty commentary and destroy your credibility.

I do agree that unfounded argument is unnecessary attack. Confronting with a dissenting opinion unsupported by truth is an exercise in futility. I do not encourage arguing for the sake of arguing. However, I strongly support stating good opinions.

But, how do many people betray good argumentation? Headstrong, single-minded individuals refuse to listen to reason simply because they feel they "know the one and only way." As if God or some supreme being has bestowed upon them supernatural judgmental capabilities, they stand on the ground they view as solid, despite the risk of impending landslide. Many are quick to rush to judgment if they take great comfort in believing only one side is "morally right" despite evidence to the contrary.


I worry that a fast-paced, group-mob mentality will overtake the ability to present cogent and articulate arguments that dissent with the view of a pop-loving majority. Why? A society becomes stagnant without well-supported dissent, yet brainless with a self-inflicted bandwagon mentality. And today, bandwagons are often cheaply constructed vehicles sold with smoke and mirrors.

Enter the Internet and instant feedback on social networks. I find people's first reaction to any controversy is to seek a crowd of support willing to attack the person arguing, not the argument itself. It reminds me of the enraged villagers chasing the unhappy, undead monster instead of attacking Frankenstein, its evil creator.

I admit humans in general do not react well to opposition or to feedback. Nobody likes to be called out publicly, and many are far too sensitive to every little word printed in a medium that typically employs very little elaboration. I struggle mightily in forums even trying to interpret untold acronyms such as GMAB, WYT, and BSF. Condense, condense, condense... meaning is lost as explanations and elaborations dwindle.

I sense a real need by many to receive an audience online by being vindictive -- many use the public forums to inflame friends to denigrate another person with an opposing view, despite the consequences. They hope for instant feedback that confirms the need for their attack, and they seem to think punishing treatment online is trendy, similar to popular tabloid publishing. "WTF, you MOFO, biatch, porch monkey, crack whore, nut case. Someone ought to cap your ass and spit on your grave. Thank you very much!"

The quick, reflexive nature of 140-characters-long responses does not give the recipient enough time to process the message. Online members fire quickly conceived messages in anger, and, of course, this creates a chain of other knee-jerk reactions. Accusations largely stemming from hearsay fuel fights and nasty online conversations.

Long blog entries where an argument can be properly outlined and developed are eschewed in favor of long bursts of tweets and posts. The feeding frenzy eventually culminates in utter disarray. Then, people quit clicking keyboard keys until the next juicy dissing opportunity surfaces.

So, should people never post anything controversial online? Should Facebook be just a happy-face, photo-sharing, "have a nice day," ultra-conservative grazing medium for sheep who follow one flock?
I don't think so. I believe the ultimate worth of the site lies in diversity -- sharing pleasant conversation, important information, breaking news and developments, schedules of upcoming events, research and educational material, and well-founded opinion. Reactions to this opinion will undoubtedly be mixed and emotional. Yet, through discussion and compromise, Facebook helps us to overcome narrow mindedness. The key is willing to engage with thoughtful content, not potentially hurtful personal attack.

Thank God for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Attack the argument. Any argument you see fit to attack. Slam it with your knowledge, your facts, and your superior detail. Disagree with force and vigor by finding fantastic pro statements to elaborate your reasons for disagreement. Find indisputable research to support your side. Go for the knockout punch -- not of the person arguing "the insanity," but of their weakly supported argument.

That, to me, is progress. Allowing others to express their intelligently developed opposition builds stronger minds, stronger communities, and stronger commitments to compromise for creating lasting solutions. If anyone believes the likes of our founding fathers -- Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Paine, Adams, Hamilton, Burr, Jay, Henry, and others -- had one viewpoint about revolution that eventually freed or nation from tyranny, I would point them to some in-depth history texts.  

Yeah, my opinions are not necessarily like yours. But, our differences, not necessary our likenesses, are our best strengths if acknowledged with respect and toleration. I have the right and the duty to dissent. So do you. Are you willing to disagree with me by stating your well-planned words aimed at the heart of my beliefs? I hope you do because in the process, you can gain my respect. I believe argumentation is shunned because change and new ideas scare the hell out of the comfortably lazy mind.


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