Right now we are deep into election season, and many people have already developed a very firm position on a number of issues, including who they intend to vote for in the election, and they are engaging in all manner of arguments, distribution and (in some cases) dissemination of propaganda as they seek to validate their choices, seek affirmation from others, and maybe persuade other people of their great wisdom. (Although I concluded a long time ago that the number of people who change their opinion on a significant issue because of some revelation via social media is so small as to be un-measurable).
One easy way in which I can distinguish people who argue and discuss their positions in good faith from those who are unable or unwilling to do so is their reaction when somebody shows them that an assertion or argument is incorrect.
When challenged on aspects of their worldview and opinions, many people are not exactly honest in their responses if (for example) somebody informs them that some aspect of that worldview is defective or incorrect. People who have read any books by George Lakoff will know all about this behavior pathology.
I have seen a whole pile of sneaky, deceptive and deceitful claims rolling across my wall this election cycle already. I know that the people publishing these claims are fundamentally intelligent, so I have to either extend the principle of charity and conclude that they keep making mistakes, or conclude that their worldview has nudged them in the direction of arguments and communications that are not totally open and honest good-faith arguments, as they seek to defend their choices and thinking.
One thing that I found out a long time ago however, is that people who argue in good faith are far more likely to accept their error and move on if somebody attempts to correct them. They may put up a rearguard action, but usually they accept it.
Those incapable or unwilling to argue and discuss in good faith tend to react in a number of predictable ways:
1. Not responding at all
2. Changing the subject or moving the goalposts
3. Pretending to have not read or understood the correction
4. Denying that they ever made the initial claim or argument, or claiming that it was misunderstood
5. Admitting to the error but then claiming in the same response that it does not matter because (insert new claim here)
6. Dismissing the correction with “I don’t care because I’m right anyway”
7. Engaging in ad hominems or insults
I find (1) indicative of embarrassment – 5 brownie points
(2) is weaselling – 10
(3) is being obtuse – 10
(4) is deceit – 50
(5) is a variant of 2 – 10
(6) is doubling down or diverting – 30
(7) is being a jerk – 50
No. I am joking, I am not really running a scorecard. However, since (4) and (7) tend to piss me off, anybody trying those this election season may well end up on my Hide list for the duration. Most of time, these defective and deficient rhetorical devices, like the use of numerous logical fallacies, tend to mostly amuse me.