03 January 2011

An incomplete list of phrases that do not end debates

Most of these are used without any designs on their accuracy. But in most cases, even where they are accurate, they have little to do with the actual arguments either and do not make the arguments themselves wrong.

1) You're a Nazi/Fascist!
2) You're a Socialist/Anarchist!
3) You're a Liberal/Progressive/Conservative!
4) You're a Republican/Democrat!
5) You're a Racist/Bigot/Homophobic!
6) You're not a Parent!
7) You've never been in the Military!
8) You're an Atheist!
9) You're a (fill-in-religious/superstition here)!
10) You're a Religious Fundamentalist!
11) You're too Old/too Young (implied, to understand)!

That's not to say that some, perhaps most of these do not commonly raise incomplete, incorrect, or false argumentative points. Indeed, all of them sometimes will. But it's incredibly common for people to dismiss points with these as rhetorical flourish as though it ends the argument.

I myself will tend not to argue once a position is staked out solely based on the religious fundamentalism worldview, because I find it personally useless to argue with such people. If they can find a non-Biblical basis for it, I can attack that instead, but arguing over theology and metaphysics is boring and ultimately tied into far too much subjective interpretation and belief. And attacking someone's belief structure or schema tends to make them dig in rather than listen, sadly enough. I find it is enough to identify, or allow them to self-identify (which most religious fundamentalists will gladly do), that this is the basis of a point and move on to other more important matters.

I suppose it would be said that if these pejorative statements are accurately deployed, which in some cases is extremely rare, then it can be useful for the flow of the conversation, or to otherwise examine why someone holds a particular set of views. But it still usually doesn't have much to do with the arguments themselves as most arguments can flow from anywhere and very few people are monolithically identifiable with only a single set of values (even most religious fundamentalists, principally because there is not a single set of values to which ALL religious fundamentalists appeal to). So primarily what happens when they are used is the conversation changes from some preeminent meta-analytical point to a battle staked out over whether said person is really the very model of a racist or a socialist, and so on. And in most cases, the answer is no and we should move our attention back to something more pressing. In the case of many accusations of racism, the question should be more like "is it really a good idea to have someone this ignorant and careless running a state (I'm looking in your direction Mr Barbour)", for example.
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