Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Civilised discussion

To my mind, here is how civilised discussions should work, the rules apply to the pub, the dinner table, the blogosphere, anywhere.

One person, the bloghost, kicks things off by writing a post, reporting what he believes to be the facts, giving examples, linking to a couple of sources etc.

Other people then either agree; or disagree by giving counter-examples where the facts are different, linking to other sources; or ask the first person for clarification on certain matters etc.

Then the bloghost has the opportunity to say, oh yes, you are right, my original assumption was wrong. Or it's up to him to present more evidence or to explain why the counter-examples are invalid etc.

There is a fairly large sub-set of time wasters and idiots don't understand this and think that debating is all about trying to refute the original claims by insulting the bloghost (or other commenters); by taking his explanation ad absurdum; by claiming he has no expertise or experience - but without ever stating their opinion or  answering a direct question.

Let me give you an example of civilised discussion:

Bloghost: "I think most politicians are quite tall. Look at Tony Blair and David Cameron." He adds a link to a newspaper article, Wiki page or academic study on the matter.

In civilised debate, commenters will either agree ("I met John Major once, he is surprisingly tall"); or disagree ("I met Nigel Farage once, he's medium height at best"); or point out that Churchill and Hollande were quite small, possibly linking to some academic study saying that successful politicians tend to be small - or at least giving their honestly held opinion that on the whole, politicians are of average height.

The bloghost then has the opportunity to withdraw his first claim in the light of better evidence; give more examples; or decide that he his original statement was in fact correct and damn the doubters. If he is asked for clarification then he will give it. If he ignores all the comments listing small politicians and academic studies saying that politicians tend to be small, then so be it, let the court of public opinion judge the matter.

Let me now give you an example of full blown time wasting twats who have no concept of civilised discussion

Bloghost: "I think most successful politicians are quite tall. Look at Tony Blair and David Cameron." He adds a link to a newspaper article, Wiki page or scientific study on the matter.

Comments left by time wasting twats will be along the following lines:

"Tony Blair and David Cameron are actually very short."

"I bet you've never met any politicians."

"The source you link to is unreliable."

"If that's true, and the tallest people are basket ball players, how many basket ball players can you name who became president or Prime Minister?"

"I bet you're a short arse yourself. You're using this to excuse for failing in politics."

"I bet you're quite tall yourself and think that this gives you a God-given right to be a political leader."

"Why is this important? What has it got to do with Land Value Tax?"

"What qualifies you to speak? Are you a geneticist?"

"Prove it!"

"Are you saying that small people shouldn't be allowed in politics? Women tend to be shorter. This is a myth put about by sexists who want to disqualify women from politicos. I suppose you think women should just stay at home doing the housework? Typical UKIP voter!

"Define tall! In the middle ages, 5'6" counted as very tall.

"Not according to this link
" (which turns out to be totally irrelevant and hundreds of pages long).

If the bloghost makes the mistake of trying to engage in serious discussion by asking any of them "Go on then, you are rubbishing my theory, can you give me any examples of small politicians?" or "What exactly do you mean by that?" or "I am judging 'tall' by modern standards, i.e. at least six foot and a bit. Why does it matter how big people were in the middle ages?" the commenters will flatly refuse to respond.

If the bloghost is lucky they will at least acknowledge that a question has been asked and admit that they cannot or will not answer it, but the chances are they will ignore it or say things like "That is irrelevant." or "Don't think you can change the topic, your original claim is bollocks." or worse, they will answer a completely different question or repeat the assertion on which the bloghost was seeking clarification.

It does not matter than the bloghost's question is very simple and very relevant and that he wants to establish what the twat commenter is actually trying to say, the key is to ignore it.

So in response to the unfounded claim that Tony Blair and David Cameron are short, the bloghost might add links to some photos of summit meetings showing that Tony Blair or David Cameron were among the tallest in the photo, and ask the first twat commenter "Do you really think that they are small? Do you have any evidence for that?".

The twat commenter will probably refuse to answer the question and will not submit any evidence that they are short. At best, he will say "Photos can be misleading. The ones where they appear tall are photoshopped."

And so on.


Lola said...

Like the blogosphere. Like life. Some people are that's.end of. Apropos of which I attended a pre brexit debate where Ben gummer was speaking. He used all those 'techniques '

Lola said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rich Tee said...

The burden of proof for a blogpost is low so it usually isn't worth arguing, but if you were writing a university essay then accusations like "that source is unreliable" and "that photo has been altered" would be legitimate objections to arguments.

Lola said...

Re my previous comment. 'that's = 'twats' (bloody smartphones predictive text)

Bayard said...

By coincidence on Facebook

A K Haart said...

I agree with Lola. Like the blogosphere. Like life. People tend to put their allegiances first and cannot or will not reshape their ideas whatever the logic or the evidence. They don't answer pertinent questions because they can't, because it would give up too much ground.

Often they can't even acknowledge the question as pertinent however blindingly obvious it may be to those who just want to analyse things wherever it takes them.

DBC Reed said...

Would have thought the standard of debate on this blog is commendably high and courteous. The problems break out when the subjects are not LVT related, since with LVT everybody agrees with each other which makes for some bland postings.
A basic land taxer is suspicious when arguments proposed and developed at length are such right-wing eccentricities as 'global warming is nonsense'and 'Brexit will be wonderful', which though niche opinions are already plastered over the blogosphere.
I feel we should not be involved with this right-wing eccentricity: we have the basic problem that most of the electorate have been persuaded that property price increases are good while wage increases are treasonable; that businesses in aggregate can grow without expanding the circulating medium through wages and, according to Nick Clegg, focus groups are extremely anti any social welfare spending that might be the slightest bit redistributive.
Like it or not we do nothing to bring on LVT, by legitimising right-wing crank ideas .Otherwise LVT gets dismissed with all the other ideas that lack consensus.

ThomasBHall said...

@ DBC Reed- I feel the standard of debate on this blog is generally good, and I agree that things are kept easy when the post is about LVT. I disagree however that other topics should be excluded- this is after all Mark's personal blog, and the fact the quality of his LVT posts bring the readers in does not alter this.
I do not however accept your examples of "right wing eccentricities" are any such thing- there are plenty of left wingers who are against the EU for example (even JC is only lukewarm by all accounts). I myself am against the EU for reasons completely in line with my support of LVT- namely the EU's love of VAT to raise revenue, and the way the CAP benefits gets doled out to landowners.
I do partially agree that it might be nice to have a pure LVT blog with as much activity as this one, but as any new stock exchange knows, it is very hard to move liquidity from one place to another. And again, it is Mark's blog.