Saturday, May 23, 2009

Simply stunned....

I am amazed at what passes for debate in the media these days. Instead of listening and dealing with the arguments raised, people simply attack the person speaking (at least the person who would be speaking if the host/moderator gave them a moment to get in a word).

It seems popular culture thinks the loudest voice wins. It doesn't. It seems society thinks that all that is needed to win a debate is to insult your opponent. It's like saying, "My opponent is an idiot. Therefore, he's wrong. He's ugly, too. Fight's over - I win."

I want to point out that even idiots and ugly people are right at least some of the time.

As Helene Cooper (quoting William Safire - a former presedential speechwriter who writes the 'On Language' column for The New York Times Magazine) wrote in the New York Times today: “Here’s the trick: Take your opponent’s argument to a ridiculous extreme, and then attack the extremists. That leaves the opponent to sputter defensively, ‘But I never said that.’

"The telltale indicators that a straw man trick is on the way are the introductory words “there are those who say” or “some say".

“In strawmanese, you never specify who ‘those who’ are,” Mr. Safire said. “They are the hollow scarecrows you set up to knock down.”

If I hear someone else set up a straw man and kick him over and claim the debate is won, I will scream. Or at least turn off the TV......

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