In a time when it would probably be best for us to all shut up and admit that something senseless and difficult to comprehend has taken place, all of us seem to have an opinion, a theory. I’m talking of course about the shootings in Colorado early this morning.
I tend to try to stay out of conversations/arguments that take place on the interwebs, but there is emphasis on the word “try” for a reason. I like to debate, and if I feel that the addition of my voice to the conversation might actually add something clarifying to the dialogue, I will jump in. Plus, I have a graduate degree in Rhetoric, so I feel I have a pretty good grasp on what’s going on and when someone is committing a debate “no no.” So, essentially, I sometimes play debate cop.
I cautiously jumped into a Facebook debate this morning regarding gun control. While a friend was arguing for the need for gun control and what she sees as unnecessary protection of gun ownership, a friend of said friend was taking the opposing stance and explaining why he doesn’t feel that outlawing guns is the answer. I happen to stand more closely to the side of the latter argument. I voiced this opinion with some explanation and ethos support. My reasoning for supporting gun rights in general is basically that, as we’ve seen, terrorists will easily find a weapon when they want one and that to outlaw guns would put them disproportionately in the hands of criminals, and that doesn’t sound like a solution to me.
I left it at that; I wasn’t attempting to be combative, just to join in an informed debate. And, on top of that, I'm very open to other ideas/opinions on this matter, and am in no way set in my beliefs on the issue. Well, someone I don’t know, another friend of the original friend, came back with this response: "Those who fight for the right of every madman and every criminal to have as many people-killing weapons as they want share moral responsibility for what happened last night—as they will when it happens again."
And with that I had be shot down. Bang bang. Oh…too soon? By the way, before I get too far away from that quotation, I have no idea who originally said it as there was no citation provided. First of all, I’m not sure who fights for madmen and criminals to have guns; I’m pretty sure the current laws already include restrictions against sales of firearms to those documented as mentally disabled. Please do correct me if I’m wrong on that though. Second, I don’t do well with direct attacks to one’s character or moral standing in the middle of a debate about an issue. If I can discuss the issue without losing my emotional shit and pointing fingers at other’s “moral” character, I don’t see why anyone else couldn’t be expected to do the same.
So I excused myself from the dialogue that I otherwise would have likely continued to participate in; it’s just as well because I realized, once again and inevitably, how useless Facebook debates tend to be. The thing that frustrates me about them, and about any debate in which the character of the opposition is attacked rather than the claims, is that too many people seem primarily concerned with shutting up the people who disagree with them, as if a dissenting opinion is truly a threat to their own wellbeing. I don’t understand this line of thinking because I approach a debate/discussion as a venue for voicing your own opinions and listening to the opinions of others, as a place to try to better understand others’ points of view and to better understand your own. But so many seem to have no interest in refining their beliefs; it takes too much effort and at times may even require you to question yourself. That’s a whole lot of work.
I wonder sometimes if I should be so quick to excuse myself from debates when logical fallacies come into play; I wonder if I should stick it out and try to steer the conversation back to the issue at hand, but to do that would require a direct address of the fallacy presented and an explanation of why and how it was a fallacy. And there are two problems with this kind of scenario: it takes too much time and makes it difficult to ever get back on track (in other words, it’s exhausting), and it makes me feel like I’m teaching (when I’m not getting paid to!). I sometimes don’t mind the latter, but there comes a point where I just want to instruct people to take a Freshman Composition course, preferably mine, so they can learn all the stuff about argument, reasoning, and critical thinking that they should already know.
But that sounds condescending, doesn’t it?
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this and if you have any stories about online debates in which you’ve ventured. Attacks to my character or moral standing? In case I haven’t made this clear, I don’t welcome those. Those are for people who know me.
And this is just for fun http://www.logicalfallacies.info/