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Debating with Style

Simon W. Moon

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I have been a participant in political discussion boards for decades. Remember the election of 2000 and the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court's intervention? How quaint those times seem. Remember when the sexual habits of a President seemed significant? Good times. Over the years, and perhaps it was the particular forums I participated in, I have watched as the "debating habits" of participants have degraded. Yes, "burns" and "put-downs" have always been a theme in debates, but they used to be done with far greater panache and erudition. The sharpest knives go in without being felt immediately. Facts used to matter. Wow, that takes me back! I actually remember when one would use logic to build an argument, provide citations to relevant material and conduct disagreements with respect and a presumption of sincerity. I used to do that too!

Now, it seems, I am too often drawn into "debates" that consist entirely of well-worn and canned position statements that are presented with no intent of persuasion, without consideration or even understanding; When a well-developed rationale is responded to with a "dismissed" or less-polite versions of "Jane, you ignorant slut!"; "Labels" are de rigueur in lieu of specifics or actual responses, with the expectation that the recipient, not being one of "us", is assumed to be one of "them" and not deserving of consideration. Worse, I am prompted to respond in kind!

My question is: am I alone in this feeling? Is my desire for debate with substance and respect just a quaint notion from a bygone era? Is self-deprecation or even self-consciousness passe? Is nuance dead? Is it possible, in this day and age, to carry on a reasoned debate with an honest and respectful opponent, or is this just wishful thinking?

Sturgeon's Law applies to DP too.
[ Present company excluded of course. ;) ]

If providing facts and logic was more effective, the world would be a much different place.

Few people appreciate actual reasoning and debate.

I spent years researching and meticulously linking to sources for my posts.
But idiots are idiots and are unmotivated by facts.

Post in whatever style you enjoy posting.
But do what you do for you.
Us idiots out here are never gonna get in line or behave.

I enjoy the challenge of trying to become an "idiot-whisperer".
i.e. "How can I say this so that even an idiot will be unable to argue with it?"


If well-reasoned factual posting is something you enjoy, please do it.
Most people are idiots and are unable or unwilling to appreciate it.
Accept that you're unable to change that.
Your pleasure in creating good posts with solid debating must come from those acts themselves,
instead of from the reactions of us morons out here in the world.​

Humans are not rational creatures by choice.
 

HikerGuy83

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Folks,

I would suggest we need to set an example.

If we get caught up in the petulance, then we add to the problem.
 

Nomad4Ever

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If providing facts and logic was more effective, the world would be a much different place.
Brings me back to my very first post here all the way back in 2017. Trump had been elected. I was a newly politically motivated teenager excited to discuss the issues and combat conservative ideas out in the "real" world.

My first venture into online political debate was a rude awakening.
First off...what even happened to this thread? I was trying to start a scientific discussion, did anyone even READ the article?
:ROFLMAO:

I was so innocent.
 

Nomad4Ever

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My question is: am I alone in this feeling? Is my desire for debate with substance and respect just a quaint notion from a bygone era? Is self-deprecation or even self-consciousness passe? Is nuance dead? Is it possible, in this day and age, to carry on a reasoned debate with an honest and respectful opponent, or is this just wishful thinking?
While as you know I very much enjoy discussions between two good faith parties. Many of my favorite thread are your discussing fascism. I very much enjoyed my thread discussing the definition of communism and capitalism. However, I think you underestimate how effective a debate tactic the appearance of "destroying" your opponent is.

When you are debating someone, not having a discussion...debating, you will almost never change their mind. They are too invested personally in the argument with you. You can change the mind of the "spectators" who won't look or feel silly or weak by changing their view because they don't have to admit they are wrong mid debate. Your goal really is to make your opponent look as silly as possible in an environment like that. Ben Shapiro pulled so many people over to the right, not because his arguments were better, but because he made his opponents look foolish.

I think using "debate tactics" is an overlooked strategy on the left.
Explain why homosexuality is immoral and depraved, please. I must be too stupid to figure it out on my own.
Using the Socratic method to draw people into making dumb arguments then making fun of that position is probably one of the strongest methods appearing to win an argument to an audience.

I don't think there is anything wrong with insults either, but you have to make sure the person you are debating has made themselves deserving of it to a reasonable onlooker. For example, I personally believe this post came off as a very effective rebuttal despite, and arguably because of my flaboyent language.
 

NWRatCon

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While as you know I very much enjoy discussions between two good faith parties. Many of my favorite thread are your discussing fascism. I very much enjoyed my thread discussing the definition of communism and capitalism. However, I think you underestimate how effective a debate tactic the appearance of "destroying" your opponent is.

When you are debating someone, not having a discussion...debating, you will almost never change their mind. They are too invested personally in the argument with you. You can change the mind of the "spectators" who won't look or feel silly or weak by changing their view because they don't have to admit they are wrong mid debate. Your goal really is to make your opponent look as silly as possible in an environment like that. Ben Shapiro pulled so many people over to the right, not because his arguments were better, but because he made his opponents look foolish.

I think using "debate tactics" is an overlooked strategy on the left.

Using the Socratic method to draw people into making dumb arguments then making fun of that position is probably one of the strongest methods appearing to win an argument to an audience.

I don't think there is anything wrong with insults either, but you have to make sure the person you are debating has made themselves deserving of it to a reasonable onlooker. For example, I personally believe this post came off as a very effective rebuttal despite, and arguably because of my flaboyent language.
I don't find fault in your presentation. I have found that the most difficult aspect of "debate" forums is finding "two good faith parties". More frequently, I find a few good(ish) faith parties, and a plethora of bad faith interlopers.

My hope, always, is to change minds toward my way of thinking - if only incrementally. I am also always open to changing my mind, and have done so repeatedly - and inconsistently. ;)

Seriously, though, I do not participate merely to read what I have written (pleasurable as that is), but because I want to persuade, and, nearly as often, to clarify my own thinking. I'm opinionated, as anyone who has seen my posts will know, but those opinions are, I hope, informed. And with additional information, my opinions can be changed. I am, at present, adjusting my views on COVID, for example, and I have modified my views on gun control in many aspects.

One of the problems I often run into is that my views are fairly central, and those on either extreme find them anathema. Having been a lawyer far longer than not, I can see both sides of an argument, and my position usually straddles that point. I am a gun owner, permit holder and enthusiast that believes in common-sense gun control; I'm a civil libertarian that recognizes the corrosion and threat that hate speech has on the public stage; I'm a rule of law advocate that recognizes the failures of "the system", and really any system. But I have also found that the "median" and "mode" of conversations has become wildly disparate, and therein lies most of the friction.
 

Nomad4Ever

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I don't find fault in your presentation. I have found that the most difficult aspect of "debate" forums is finding "two good faith parties".
Rereading your post, I think my response rather missed the mark at addressing the main crux of the point you were making.

My hope, always, is to change minds toward my way of thinking - if only incrementally. I am also always open to changing my mind, and have done so repeatedly - and inconsistently.
And with additional information, my opinions can be changed. I am, at present, adjusting my views on COVID, for example, and I have modified my views on gun control in many aspects.
Guns are an issue I've especially done a 180 on, as I used to be very anti-gun across the board. I can only think of one instance where I've drastically changed my opinion from an interaction on this forum, and it was when it was very clearly demonstrated to me that current inflation was not in fact caused by "printing money".

One of the problems I often run into is that my views are fairly central, and those on either extreme find them anathema.
Perhaps on certain issues? While anecdotal, I consider myself "an extreme left anarchist communist", and I doubt many leftists would take issue with your views and dissection of fascism for example.

Indeed, within the US political framework, many of your views would be considered radically left. Thinking back to our discussion on worker coopers, there are market socialists like myself that would take little issue with anything there.

I, personally, do not think that simply considering both sides before arriving at an conclusion makes ones views centrist.

But I have also found that the "median" and "mode" of conversations has become wildly disparate, and therein lies most of the friction.
Maybe I'm too young to have perspective on this. I feel like things got worse after 2016 and Trump in terms of political discussion in the US, but I always had the sense that online discussion at least was always in a similar state as to what it is now.
 

Nomad4Ever

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I have found that the most difficult aspect of "debate" forums is finding "two good faith parties".
Something I've been thinking about for a while is trying to pick arguments with liberals instead of conservatives. My natural pull is to dive into the threads with the people who I disagree with most, but I don't think that's where the most productive discussions happen.

For example, I think I might try to start threads designed to create discussion between people who all agree climate change is an issue, but argue about what the best way is to solve it. That to me would be a much more interesting discussion that arguing with someone that links pictures of how it was cold outside so global warming is fake for the 100th time.
 

NWRatCon

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I, personally, do not think that simply considering both sides before arriving at an conclusion makes ones views centrist.
I agree. What is "considered" centrist, though, has changed substantially in my lifetime (which is a bit longer than yours ;)). It is not simply because I can see both sides that I consider myself centrist, but that my views have been "muddle of the road" most of my life - things like support for Social Security, Medicare, and working families; things like "the common defense' and "general welfare"; like helping helping one another, judicial equality, capitalism and rational policies are not wingnut territory, but they have been described as such by wingers on one side of the spectrum.

My views are now deemed "left of center" (by partisans) not because they have migrated, but because what is considered the "center" has migrated so far to the right. That migration is not within the population, however, but among partisans and the pundit class.

The country, I would argue, it hasn't really moved right at all. See this:
6-4-12-V-2.png
and

Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years

(Pew). It's the rhetoric that has changed. It's the willingness of partisans to take ideologically "pure" positions and brook no dissent that has changed. The country's views, I would suggest, have actually gotten markedly more liberal on race, religion, equality, the environment and social consciousness. It's a minority of Americans that hold the most radical views, but they are the loudest.

Striking findings from 2021 (Pew)​

Most Americans, for example, are vaccinated; vast majorities believe in climate change ("Two-Thirds of Americans Think Government Should Do More on Climate"; and that racial disparities exists ("Majorities across racial and ethnic groups say being white helps one’s ability to get ahead, though Asians (73%), blacks (69%) and Hispanics (61%) are more likely than whites (56%) to say this.") On issue after issue after issue the bulk of Americans are "left of center", but Congress and the courts skew radically right. They no longer represent "most Americans" - and it is not even close.
Maybe I'm too young to have perspective on this. I feel like things got worse after 2016 and Trump in terms of political discussion in the US, but I always had the sense that online discussion at least was always in a similar state as to what it is now.
You are not wrong, at all. Things are markedly worse after 2016. It, however, has been a process over decades that led to Trump and Trumpism. I began my personal online/discussion board journey during the 2000 election. That was an eye-opener to me. I was appalled at the vitriol that was considered "okay" even then. But, in retrospect, that was mild in comparison to what is allowed now. Yes, the "commie-pinko" tropes have been around for nearly a century, preceding even the Second World War, but now that is a minor (yet still comic) sleight - it's merely a starting point for the kinds of attacks that seem commonplace now.
 

Germinator

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Facts used to matter.

Now, it seems, I am too often drawn into "debates" that consist entirely of well-worn and canned position statements that are presented with no intent of persuasion, without consideration or even understanding;

don't know if others consider employing mashup graphic images "style" BUT since a picture can be worth thousands of words, here is how I see things WRT a complex interconnected issue I've been interested in for decades,... specifically "the science of man made climate change" vs "the role of economics and monetary systems"

4x6-PC-The-Robbers-Cave-extinction-experiment.png


Most people just wanna be cheerleaders for a team. They're not intellectuals.

yup,... seems most people are no smarter than 5th graders (watch YouTube video about psychology experiment)

 
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NWRatCon

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don't know if others consider employing mashup graphic images "style" BUT since a picture can be worth thousands of words, here is how I see things WRT a complex interconnected issue I've been interested in for decades,... specifically "the science of man made climate change" vs "the role of economics and monetary systems"

4x6-PC-The-Robbers-Cave-extinction-experiment.png




yup,... seems most people are no smarter than 5th graders (watch YouTube video about psychology experiment)


A multi-media presentation! I love alternative styles, personally, and a lot of information can be conveyed that way.
 

Germinator

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You mentioned logic in a debate. I often find myself wondering what people are debating when I start reading threads.
To be fair, empiricism lends itself to sensationalism. You can't expect a debate based around facts to last since the very first fact in any debate is what people say.

If you want to grab attention with facts, then say something witty that's instantaneously gratifying.
A multi-media presentation! I love alternative styles, personally, and a lot of information can be conveyed that way.

the simple truth is students (i.e. people in general) are not taught how to think critically and prioritize threats (the exception being military personal, specifically pilots)

said another way military culture prepares their personal to face up to tough adversaries using intellectual framework like the OODA loop and "psychological training preparation"

as I see things the "military culture" approach is the only way it is possible to deal with a complex and intimidating issue such as manmade climate change because its basic human nature to bury one's head in the sand when confronted w/ a "yuge" problem

4x6-PC-TRUMP-gut-instincts-vs-OODA-loop.png


one thing I learned from various flight instructors is "situational awareness" and OODA analysis,... basically it is a thought process that was developed to keep USAF pilots alive AND understanding it is insurance of sorts from doing dumb things

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OODA_loop

4x6-PC-Trumpoleon-darwin-award.png


bottom line to solve a problem it first must be understood AND for a very complex issue such as "the science of man made climate change" vs "the role of economics and monetary systems" it requires "balls" AND "brains"

FYI WRT "psychological training preparation,..." military pilots have to under go SERE (SURVIVAL, EVASION, RESISTANCE and ESCAPE) school,... which is another thing few in the general public are taught (or are aware of),... actually was about 12 and a Boy Scout when I first learned the art of "wilderness survival"

the following is a link to a PDF version of "the US navy seal survival handbook"

http://glow420.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/the-u-s-navy-seal-survival-handbook.pdf

if ya look on p. 45 of the PDF it shows a photo of a SERE instructor w/ some boy scouts,... consider myself fortunate being introduced to wilderness survival skills as a kid,... also learned back then that to survive in the wilderness one also needs to toughen up mentally

...sad fact of the matter is too few in political office have the "balls" AND/OR "brains" to confront a complex issues that involve science or economics

basically the one talent politicians do have is "branding themselves" to some group of partisan supporters,... just saying it takes a keen eye to notice what is actually happening,... for example look at the following image using the concept of the OODA loop

4x6-PC-TRUMP-climate-change-analysis-coverup.png
 

Nomad4Ever

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My views are now deemed "left of center" (by partisans) not because they have migrated, but because what is considered the "center" has migrated so far to the right.
It's funny, because the right argues much the opposite. What is considered "center" at any point in time is very subjective under the best circumstances.

I would personally argue that socially the US center has moved drastically left. There are more registered R voters that support gay marriage now than there were D voters that supported it only a few decades ago; not even a lifetime. Economically, I would argue we have moved slowly right ever since FDR.

That migration is not within the population, however, but among partisans and the pundit class.

The country, I would argue, it hasn't really moved right at all. See this:
Again, I would reiterate what I said above.
Because Roosevelt was pushing quickly, and had offhandedly mentioned the potential of comprehensive health care, Americans grew concerned. Their suspicions were fanned by the GOP and private medical lobbies like the American Health Association, which accused FDR of socialist conspiracy and government overreach. (Source)
History rhymes.

Most Americans, for example, are vaccinated; vast majorities believe in climate change ("Two-Thirds of Americans Think Government Should Do More on Climate"; and that racial disparities exists ("Majorities across racial and ethnic groups say being white helps one’s ability to get ahead, though Asians (73%), blacks (69%) and Hispanics (61%) are more likely than whites (56%) to say this.") On issue after issue after issue the bulk of Americans are "left of center", but Congress and the courts skew radically right. They no longer represent "most Americans" - and it is not even close.
Well...I don't disagree with any of that.

Things are markedly worse after 2016. It, however, has been a process over decades that led to Trump and Trumpism.
I would argue the real catalyst for Trumpism was Sarah Palin.

That was an eye-opener to me. I was appalled at the vitriol that was considered "okay" even then. But, in retrospect, that was mild in comparison to what is allowed now.
Out of curiosity, what was the vitriol that was ok then, but is considered mild now?
 

HikerGuy83

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To be fair, empiricism lends itself to sensationalism. You can't expect a debate based around facts to last since the very first fact in any debate is what people say.

If you want to grab attention with facts, then say something witty that's instantaneously gratifying.

I don't agree with this (as I understand it).

Can you give me a specific example of what you are talking about ?

Facts grab my attention by themselves. Saying something "witty" many times (especially on boards like these means some pithy insult thrown at your opponent).
 

HikerGuy83

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the simple truth is students (i.e. people in general) are not taught how to think critically and prioritize threats (the exception being military personal, specifically pilots)

said another way military culture prepares their personal to face up to tough adversaries using intellectual framework like the OODA loop and "psychological training preparation"

as I see things the "military culture" approach is the only way it is possible to deal with a complex and intimidating issue such as manmade climate change because its basic human nature to bury one's head in the sand when confronted w/ a "yuge" problem

4x6-PC-TRUMP-gut-instincts-vs-OODA-loop.png


one thing I learned from various flight instructors is "situational awareness" and OODA analysis,... basically it is a thought process that was developed to keep USAF pilots alive AND understanding it is insurance of sorts from doing dumb things

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OODA_loop

4x6-PC-Trumpoleon-darwin-award.png


bottom line to solve a problem it first must be understood AND for a very complex issue such as "the science of man made climate change" vs "the role of economics and monetary systems" it requires "balls" AND "brains"

FYI WRT "psychological training preparation,..." military pilots have to under go SERE (SURVIVAL, EVASION, RESISTANCE and ESCAPE) school,... which is another thing few in the general public are taught (or are aware of),... actually was about 12 and a Boy Scout when I first learned the art of "wilderness survival"

the following is a link to a PDF version of "the US navy seal survival handbook"

http://glow420.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/the-u-s-navy-seal-survival-handbook.pdf

if ya look on p. 45 of the PDF it shows a photo of a SERE instructor w/ some boy scouts,... consider myself fortunate being introduced to wilderness survival skills as a kid,... also learned back then that to survive in the wilderness one also needs to toughen up mentally

...sad fact of the matter is too few in political office have the "balls" AND/OR "brains" to confront a complex issues that involve science or economics

basically the one talent politicians do have is "branding themselves" to some group of partisan supporters,... just saying it takes a keen eye to notice what is actually happening,... for example look at the following image using the concept of the OODA loop

4x6-PC-TRUMP-climate-change-analysis-coverup.png

Maybe you can share the point you were trying to make since I am not smart enough to figure it out on my own.
 

HikerGuy83

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Judged debates don't really work. They just evoke a different sort of prejudice.

Not sure I agree.

Judging a debate is judging how well the point is made, not if the point is valid.

Everyone who goes to debate understands what it will be judged on.

As I was typing this, I wondered if YouTube had any college debates.

They do !!!!

I will look forward to watching them.

This one has Harvard Dems and Harvard Republicans debating. If I could find two hours to watch it I would.

 

HikerGuy83

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No. It didn't seem to get much traffic, though, so maybe that's why.

Thank you for that.

I might send an inquiry in asking if such a thing could be restored.

I like the loft as it pretty much keeps out the snarky comments and attacks.

But I think it was to be a little more casual.

Another board I participated on had what they called "The Clean Debate Zone". This is more self moderated.

They also have the "Bull Ring". This one was only supposed to be between the two debaters although it is violated to infinity.
 

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Thank you for that.

I might send an inquiry in asking if such a thing could be restored.

I like the loft as it pretty much keeps out the snarky comments and attacks.

But I think it was to be a little more casual.

Another board I participated on had what they called "The Clean Debate Zone". This is more self moderated.

They also have the "Bull Ring". This one was only supposed to be between the two debaters although it is violated to infinity.
The mod responsibility for keeping out the uninvited is probably a big drawback. I've helped keep an arranged debate 'clean' on that board, and it was several hours of watching and reporting the violaters as soon as they trolled on. Of course, that board removes offending posts, which DP doesn't, so reading the debate here would be full of noise. Maybe not worth it.
 

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I wanted to reread the OP and thought I should answer in order to encourage more specific thought on how to improve the quality of these threads.
I have been a participant in political discussion boards for decades. Remember the election of 2000 and the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court's intervention? How quaint those times seem. Remember when the sexual habits of a President seemed significant? Good times. Over the years, and perhaps it was the particular forums I participated in, I have watched as the "debating habits" of participants have degraded. Yes, "burns" and "put-downs" have always been a theme in debates, but they used to be done with far greater panache and erudition. The sharpest knives go in without being felt immediately. Facts used to matter. Wow, that takes me back! I actually remember when one would use logic to build an argument, provide citations to relevant material and conduct disagreements with respect and a presumption of sincerity. I used to do that too!

Yes, when I was younger I had a very caustic wit and I enjoyed cutting others deeply as I made my point.

That was both immature and not consistent with my stated interest in being a better person.

Facts still matter. The laws of physics don't bend to emotion. I work in the physical world (chemical engineer).

Now, it seems, I am too often drawn into "debates" that consist entirely of well-worn and canned position statements that are presented with no intent of persuasion, without consideration or even understanding; When a well-developed rationale is responded to with a "dismissed" or less-polite versions of "Jane, you ignorant slut!"; "Labels" are de rigueur in lieu of specifics or actual responses, with the expectation that the recipient, not being one of "us", is assumed to be one of "them" and not deserving of consideration. Worse, I am prompted to respond in kind!

Human nature tends to push us in the direction of a fight. If we let others get under our skin.....

But that is our choice.

What's worse is that those in power know this. They use this to their advantage. It saves them the trouble of coming up with well thought out policy and laws. Instead, like preachers, football coaches or generals, they say what they need to engender emotional reactions to push people to do what they want. (i.e. block harder......take on a machine gun nest head on).

And it discourages many who are not easily given in.

My question is: am I alone in this feeling?

No. I think you articulate what many of us feel.

Is my desire for debate with substance and respect just a quaint notion from a bygone era?

Another way to ask this is....."Was the movie Idiocracy a movie or a prophecy ?".

We've become way to primitive in our communication with those we don't agree with.

What happened to allowing people their points of view.

I, for one, don't like it.
Is nuance dead?

This is tougher.

For most of us, we are still learning to get to that point.

But you only get there with practice.
Is it possible, in this day and age, to carry on a reasoned debate with an honest and respectful opponent, or is this just wishful thinking?

It's up to us.

I've simply tried to stay out of the general politics forum. It's not very meaningful.

Additionally, I am putting the pot-stirers on ignore. I see no reason to waste my time with them.

Wishful thinking.....only if we don't act.

******************************************************

Just wanted to reiterate that I am interested in learning how to communicate without pissing at others.

I don't have to agree with them, but I don't have to hate or hate on them.
 

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The mod responsibility for keeping out the uninvited is probably a big drawback. I've helped keep an arranged debate 'clean' on that board, and it was several hours of watching and reporting the violaters as soon as they trolled on. Of course, that board removes offending posts, which DP doesn't, so reading the debate here would be full of noise. Maybe not worth it.

I did not realize they didn't take down "offending posts".

That would explain and support your response.

So, if I called someone an ugly name in the loft....they don't take it down ?
 

XDU

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I don't agree with this (as I understand it).

Can you give me a specific example of what you are talking about ?

Facts grab my attention by themselves. Saying something "witty" many times (especially on boards like these means some pithy insult thrown at your opponent).
It's not about appealing to you. Debate is about appealing to a general audience. Sensationalist rhetoric will get recorded and released which will grab other people's attention.

Furthermore, debate becomes part of society itself. The debates themselves are facts which people are motivated by, and those motivations will create behavior to be debated about.
 

XDU

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Not sure I agree.

Judging a debate is judging how well the point is made, not if the point is valid.

Everyone who goes to debate understands what it will be judged on.

As I was typing this, I wondered if YouTube had any college debates.

They do !!!!

I will look forward to watching them.

This one has Harvard Dems and Harvard Republicans debating. If I could find two hours to watch it I would.


Yea, but they're not really different.

People are biased towards certain positions because they believe a certain way of making a point is best. Those who make points the way they want will get their approval. They'll even discriminate against their own positions if they're made in second best ways because they don't believe those ways are sustainable, and they'll play favorites towards alternative points made their way because they believe other points will decay into their preferred position over time.
 

MaryP

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I did not realize they didn't take down "offending posts".

That would explain and support your response.

So, if I called someone an ugly name in the loft....they don't take it down ?
I don't know; I don't hang in the Loft. They don't take them down anywhere else that I know of ( unless it's really really bad), so I'm just guessing they wouldn't.
 
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