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Facebook Arguments, or, Why Americans Can’t Compromise

Posted by RickH · January 12th, 2013 · 1 Comment

I think I’m going to make a go at reviving Unspun™. Sure, I already post my opinions — privately, usually — on my Facebook account. But I find myself sometimes longing for the ability to write commentary that doesn’t fit in so easily with the short bursts of conversation on Facebook, and I miss the days of blogging my opinions, and having people come here to tell me how stupid I am.

And that seems like a nice segue into the topic of today’s post, “Facebook Arguments, or, Why Americans Can’t Compromise.”

Another problem with Facebook is that, frequently, after some short blurb of mine, the “thread” will degenerate in a number of ways. One way in which that happens is that someone will start to shift the topic. Although sometimes I think people deliberately shift the topic, because they believe they’re losing points by directly arguing the point I made, I don’t think that’s always the case. Sometimes people are just genuinely confused about what we’re discussing.

Maybe that’s my fault. Or maybe it’s just another feature of Facebook arguments, because Facebook arguments are, again, frequently moved forward in short comments, rather than longer, thought-out-and-properly-punctuated posts, such as those I think I can do here at Unspun™.

Those short comments, we think, are pithy, and smartly done. More often, though, they are cliché, and argumentative.

And that’s when they’re on-point.

But the number one reason I think Facebook discussions go awry is because people think — and I’ve had people say this to me at least a half-dozen times in the last month — that because the discussion was posted on “their” wall, they get to control not just what gets said, but how it gets said.

Use a little sarcasm in responding to your “host” and you’re liable to be roundly criticized as being disrespectful. The stridency of the response from your “host” is proportional to the degree to which your sarcasm actually hits home; i.e., the degree to which it highlights that what you are responding to was wrong, inane, off-point, or, in some other manner, defective.

(That actually ties in to another reason I want to revive Unspun™. I have a private blog. But there are few articles there, since I didn’t acquire that domain until many, many years after starting Unspun™. And Unspun™ — which even today pulls down around a hundred visitors per day looking at old stuff — once had a significant, and significantly-cantankerous, readership. Yet I don’t know if I ever blocked a comment, regardless of how obnoxious the poster was. By starting to blog here again, some of you may decide to go looking at the Archives, and I wanted you to be able to see that.)

At any rate, I think one reason — almost certainly not the only reason — that Americans cannot compromise is that we can’t keep up a discussion long enough, nor can we make one deep enough, to allow for that opportunity.

For my part, the minute someone tells me I “have to be more respectful” in responding to their comments, the conversation is over. You don’t like my way of talking, then you don’t have to talk to me. And, on Facebook I’ve enforced that: the number one reason (but, again, not the only one) that I’ve “un-friended” people on Facebook is for injecting “you have to be more respectful” into a discussion with me.

Because, no, I don’t have to do anything. If I think your point is stupid, I’m going to say so. If you think my point is stupid, you get to say so.  Be prepared, however, to do more than that. I can’t actually think of a time when I just said to someone, “Your point is stupid,” and left it at that. That isn’t even an argument. It may be an observation, but it’s not an argument. It’s one thing to tell someone that their argument is stupid. Afterwards, you have to explain why

In other words, you have to move the argument forward.

Americans, though, seem to have forgotten that part of the equation. Too many Facebook arguments are mere popularity contests. Someone floats a proposition — supported or unsupported — and other people then vote, or “like” the proposition. Since there is no “dislike” button, others pop in to the comments to say, “Your [sic] stupid!” (I always love that it’s “your” and not “you’re.” Maybe their referring to the possessed comment?)

So long as that’s where the argument stays. It can’t move forward. There can be no compromise. You might as well just quit at that point. If the specified subject comes up for a vote, go vote on it — on the ballot, at least, you’ll not just get a “like” button; you’ll also get the opportunity to “click ‘dislike'” by voting “no,” or “against,” or whatever your ballot uses for that purpose.

This is not to say that compromise is possible in all circumstances. Sometimes it isn’t. You want to pass a law that requires people not to say mean things; I cite the First Amendment. You want to vote for body-cavity searches before anyone gets on a train; I cite the Fourth Amendment. You don’t think “criminals” — by which you mean “people who get arrested” — deserve trials; I cite the Sixth Amendment. Neither one of us will budge.

At that point, as I already noted above, we might as well just quit, go to the ballot box. Those types of problems will almost always end up in court. If the courts get it “wrong” — in either your opinion, or mine — often enough, we might have to resort to arms.

Until then, though, I think that regardless of how stupid you think my opinion is, or how stupid I think yours is, we might want to keep trying for a compromise, whenever possible.

Because that’s how multifaceted complex societies made up of people with pluralities of opinions work.

And that’s how this blog will work, so much as it’s in my power to make that so.

Use the comments section below to tell me how stupid you think I am — or, if you’re of a mind to do so, to contribute to the conversation.

Categories: Political Discourse

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Jeff Daniel // May 26, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    The only way to move America forward is to compromise. Compromise means both sides half to give a little.

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