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Pointless arguing February 21, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in older son, societal commentary.
Tags: , ,

I will occasionally read conservative blogs.  I think it’s because either I’m a glutton for punishment or because I need someone to spit venom at.  Either way, I will seldom comment on them.  Instead, I’ll have my older boy pull up a chair, and we’ll discuss what we’re reading.

“You really ought to say something, tell them why they’re wrong.”

“No, it’s a waste of time.”

“Why is that a waste of time?”

“They don’t care it’s wrong, and anything I say is actually just going to reinforce their view.”

I would like to believe that people, when presented with evidence that they have a misconception, will take a serious look at it.  Unfortunately, as I was about to rethink this stance, I had something happen to reinforce that particular view.

I’ve been mutually following someone on Twitter for quite a while.  He’s a funny guy, and we’re both Star Trek fans.  In fact, he was one of the first people I started following.

I posted a link to a graphic from the New York Times detailing several measures of various country’s well-being.  He responded that the graphic said more about the NYT than the countries, and that they chose those particular countries so that the US would show up last.  I suggested he ask a question at the column about how the countries were chosen, but he said that would be a waste of his time.

I thought about it and wondered if there might be some truth to his statement.  However, after I looked into it (and discovered the answer was on the top line of the graphic), it turned out that the countries chosen were the ones that the International Monetary Fund lists as having “advanced economies”.  So no, the NYT didn’t cherry pick the countries they wanted to include in the graphic specifically so that the US would show up last on those measures: the countries were chosen according to someone else’s hopefully more objective criteria.  Maybe they did practice some type of exclusivity on the criteria they chose, but I won’t get into that because, frankly, I don’t know.

I let the Twitter friend know where the list of countries came from.  He responded, “Okay.”  Then he unfollowed me.

Harsh.  We’d had a disagreement.  I don’t hate the guy.

I used to spend a lot of time arguing with people, expecting that if I showed them data explaining why their viewpoint, if not wrong, may at least be questionable.  This was always the response I would get.  Or they’d try to convince me that their experiences trump statistical studies.  Or worse yet, they’d pull out data from some place that I would consider far from objective (*ahem* Heritage Foundation *ahem*).

At some point, I realized I was just having these discussions over and over, and it really didn’t matter what I said.  I don’t mind discussing opinions that differ from my own, but I also like justification for those opinions…and the internet is too full of people who prefer the Rush Limbaugh method of “discussion”.  So frustrating.  So pointless.



1. Charles J Gervasi - February 21, 2011

I agree completely. It’s really rare to find media outlets or individuals who seem really to be trying to get to the unbiased truth.

The un-following is a topic all in its own. I cannot follow more than around 100 people on a social website, and I don’t think anyone who has other things to do can either. My wife recently reduced the number of people she follows on Facebook, and at least two people thought it was politically motivated. It truly had nothing to do with politics, not even tangentially. She just unfollowed people she hadn’t communicated with in several months.

Something has to change in social media. The computer needs to filter the posts so you can follow more people if you want. People need to change the perception, too, so that it’s not a personal offense if you’re not following someone.


2. Women, Engineering, and Perception | Engineer Blogs - February 22, 2011

[…] I’m sure others can make a better case than I against Mr. Hastings, but unfortunately, arguing with facts has rarely changed anyone’s mind. Furthermore, I’ve found Mr. Hastings’ attitudes […]


3. GEARS - February 22, 2011

So sad and yet so true. I think of myself as left-of-center but not on the extreme side. Somewhere in the 90% in the middle (the edges are definitely logarithmic). I’m always reminde of a great comment by Jon Stewart on this topic. “The country is ran by 5% on the left and 5% on the right because the other 90% has shit to do.”

It’s a good lesson in learning the true meaning of futility for your son as well.


4. Luke Holzmann - February 22, 2011
5. FrauTech - February 22, 2011

A family member just had a similar thing occur with a somewhat distance family member and facebook. I try not to engage the other side. I am not really good at backing up my own points. If I was I’d go be a pundit, but I’m out of practice so when I try to articulate my own side I come off as stupid sounding as I think the other side sounds.


6. Not What I Wanted To Be - March 5, 2011

You can short-circuit these sorts of useless discussions (and weed out frustratingly close-minded people from your life) by asking point-blank, “What evidence would convince you that you are wrong?”

Often their answer will be is “nothing” because they “just know” that they’re right, or there’s “just no way” that the other side could be correct. Then you’ll know that there’s no point in continuing to try to reason with them, because their position is not based on reason but on faith.


mareserinitatis - March 5, 2011

I’ll have to give that a try some time. 🙂


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