T Nation

Civil Debate

Let me preface my comments by acknowledging that I'm not a veteran participant in the political or religious debates that take place here.

I've read a great deal of them and commented when I felt that I had something to add. I appreciate the information links/articles that are generally presented at the beginning of each thread, regardless of the agenda of the article.

What I find unfortunate is the rapid escalation, of seemingly all of the threads, into ad hominem laced diatribes.

I touched on this in an earlier post and have been mulling it over for the past few days; Do you think that the political polarization that dominates American politics is detrimental for public awareness and degrades true intellectual debate?

What I think is being lost in this polarization is some recognition by either side that their position is not infallible and that the other side is indeed contributing something of value.

There seems to no longer be a discussion on the relative pros and cons of any decision or policy, or at least very little recognition of it in the political forum. I'm not saying that this does not occur at all. I have seen a number of forum contributors that are gracious in debate and feel confident enough to present their side of an issue, acknowledge the other side's points and then counter with what they believe is a point that takes precedence.

I would like to thank contributors such as Boston, Zeb and Zap in particular for the manner in which they conduct themselves in debate. I find that I lend a lot more credence to their posts, as they seem to be amongst the few who consistently are able to articulate their positions without resorting to name calling and infantile tantrums.

I would also like to point out that in general I disagree with at least half of what they post, but I think it is only fair to acknowledge their enrichment of my forum experience.

Their are a large number of other posters, on either side of the political divide, that I also find insightful, however I often find that they are easily drawn into name calling games by the attacks of the few truly ignorant amongst us.

I will probably be told that I should toughen up when I "come down here" to discuss politics, and that may be true, but my point is that toughening up doesn't mean closing your mind.

Nothing degrades my opinion of a post, and hence the poster, than the use of terms like Thinktard, Ass Clown, Red Neck, DemoRAT, Rethuglican, etc. While these labels are fun to say, they do nothing to advance the dialogue and they seem to be used more and more readily lately.

I know that I don't have to read the posts if I don't like them, but my point is that I do enjoy reading the genuine debates, when they do occur, and I just wish that they would happen more often and be maintained at a higher level.

I know that there a lot of intelligent members here and I think that what I'm really saying is that it would be best if we just ignored the trolls and name callers instead of responding to their ignorance. They're like scavengers, if you don't feed them they'll go elsewhere.

If you truly feel that the person you're arguing with is a total idiot, why are you responding to his statements? I don't go up to the nut job shouting at the crowds out on the street and engage him in debate. Do you?

For those of you posting informative links and contributing thoughtful, incisive dialogue, thank you.

For the rest of us, try and lead by example, I find the arguments to be more convincing and thought provoking when their primary content isn't:

"Hey Pal,

You are a twat!"



(I had to end with a shout out to Dane Cook, he rocks)


Lol. This has come up before...but hey, what are you gonna do. Put enough guys in a forum, throw some testosterone in, and you get what you get.

The only thing I would say is we do tend to get a bit off topic, but such is life. Sometimes the dickwaving contests are humorous.


True intellectual debate? I think theory of the lowest common denominator is going to come into play here. I'm not sure how many people would read anything very intellectual.

Civil, perhaps, but intellectual material is awfully dry!

I'm not sure where the line should be drawn, or how to keep the interest levels where they are if it is too high.




You suck, homo.

It seems like people too frequently enter into a discussion in order solely to promote their point of view, which as I understand it is not necessarily the primary point of conversation. I tend to think that one's ability to communicate is measured in large part by his or her ability to be changed by information presented by someone else.

When I first got online, I would simply state my position and then defend it, but lately I've found discussions to be much more interesting when I allow myself to consider the possibility that my position isn't inherently the correct one just because it's the one in which I believe. This has also helped me learn more and make more friends online.

But that's just me, fag.


To a certain degree, I think the name calling comes from frustration. Frustration stemming from the other side refusing to open their minds, and frusration at not being able to articulate your postition.

There is only one name I can't stand to be called. The rest rolls off like water off a ducks back.

Name calling and incivility is just part of arguing politics and religion. What is the difference between privately thinking a person to be an idiot and letting him know it in public?

Internet forums allow one to express opinions much more candidly than can be done in real life. There are not very many of us around that are as vociferous in real life as we are on the internet.

Vroom will disagree, but it is my contention that everyone that is a regular down here is not down here looking to have his mind opened. Most of the posts are made to incite a response from the other side. Like Irish said - add in a little extra test and you have a recipe for a rumble.

There are not very many real trolls down here in the political forum. Will I say something just to piss somebody off and start a fight? You're damn right I will. So will most of the regulars down here excepting BB, Zap, Hspder, Makkum and a few others.

I don't think that name calling and other less refined tactics should be banned, because once you do that - you are effectively killing the political forum. I do think that after a few exchanges personal battles should be moved to their own thread. But I really don't see that happening.

I get a bunch of PM's from folks that never post, but will send me a note to tell me how funny they think a particular exchange is, or how they feel the same way that I do about an issue, or to tell me that they would shoot me dead if they ever saw me in real life. The point is - and I hating agreeing with vroom - a lot of folks read these threads. Most of them never post. My opinion is that they read these things to get a good chuckle - to be entertained.

I think T-Nation has the best political forum on the net. Why? Because it is non-partisan. Both sides can come in here loaded for bear. The fireworks that ensue are just the nature of the beast.



I agree with you. Remaining open to the possibility that you could be wrong is the most important part of communication. Without it, the posts just become mindless cheerleading.

Understanding your "opponent's" perspective and reasoning is the best weapon at your disposal. If you can comprehend the basis of a person's beliefs and values then you can more effectively argue the benefits of your own position.

I think the most common problem is, as you mentioned, that people simply state their position on any one topic and then just react whenever someone contradicts them. I find the most enlightening posts include some aspect of how the conclusion that is being presented was reached.

For example, when an article or link is presented, it's great when the poster indicates a little background about the author and what conclusions they have reached from reading the article. Basically explaining how this one piece fits into the larger framework of the intellectual puzzle that represents the topic under debate. Many people here do this very well.





Thank you for contributing your viewpoint to the thread.

I didn't intend for my post to be taken as a cry for a widespread change in how the forums are run.

I enjoy the often frank discussions that take place here, and my post was intended more as a reminder, especially to newer forum contributors such as myself, to try and elevate the level of discussion instead of degrade it.

I also agree that there are a large number of people posting who have no interest in having a two way discussion and merely wish to cheerlead. I agree that this does contribute to the forum as a whole, as any new information that is presented is valuable.
However, I'm also convinced that there are a number of us here that have not reached firm conclusions and find a legitimate debate to be the best way to learn about and to understand a new topic.

A one sided presentation is informative and helpful to those who have a well rounded understanding of the topic at hand, but without some recognition of why this or that point precedes or impacts the position of the opposition, people new to the topic end up generating positions for themselves that they lack the capability of defending.

What we end up with is threads full of people posting the talking points outlined in the agenda of either party or religion, regardless of whether or not they even actually pertain to the topic at hand.

I think that what it boils down to is the fact that real debate forces you to present reasons why and how you've reached the decisions you've come to. Without that, the other side isn't given any reason to respect your position, which leads to the ad hominem attacks that so often happen.

I realize that there will always be occasions when people are just blowing off a little steam, or simply trying to incite some anger from the other side. It's agree that its healthy and often entertaining, I just wanted to point out that I enjoy it most down here when it isn't the dominant theme.




AGREED. If it wasn't a little wild like it is now, then I wouldn't bother going there. And then we would all lose something :wink:


I've stated before and still hold the position that this site would benefit from less flaming and more discussion.

I know the mods have censored some posts and have driven others off the site. Most of those driven off were distractions to actually discussion. I think that should happen more often when the BS starts, not less.

Setting a standard would elevate the discourse in my opinion, not lower it. It's not my site so all I can do is support the idea and play by the rules.


I think hedo makes a key point. Personally, I would participate in the political discussions a lot more often if I felt that it was not going to turn into a pissing match all the time. I think if there was a touch more civility, the discourse would definitely be elevated, not lowered. What I tend to notice (and the point at which I tune out) is when it all becomes personal or completely off topic... umm, which is seemingly any politics thread beyond 8 or 9 posts (and a lot of times its a great deal less than that).

That's why I tend to blog about a lot of stuff on my own rather than post on here since it never seems to get anywhere.

But that's just me.



Psst, Kuz, I enjoy blogging as well... no dissent! :wink:


There needs to be balance, but honestly, the only person I have seen on this forum who has never thrown an insult is Bostonbarrister. Everyone else is guilty of the same acts they seem to frown upon. Politics is personal. Trying to act as if it isn't is pointless.


Agreed. I admit to being guilty of being overly aggressive at times. However, I also think I am doing as the Romans do. I read the political forums for a long time before I ever posted and generally speaking, the discourse never seemed that genteel to me. Some people are more sly and sneaky in how they insult others, but they're still being insulting.

I don't mind that it gets rough and tumble in the forums. I'm a tough girl. What I would like to see is people acknowledging that other folks have valid points, even if they have reached a different conclusion.

I use the forums as a place to clarify my own thoughts and get a better idea of what the "other side" is thinking.



Good posts, guys and gals... and it bears repeating:

We are here to have some fun as well.

Sometimes part of the fun is a well-timed heckling comment which we all know will not cause lasting psychological damage to someone else. Hey, I spent the better part of evenings in my twenties sparring with classmates in my karate class, and sometimes you get hit a little hard. Sometimes you dish it out just little more than you meant to. It happens. But is that gonna discourage me from getting in the ring?

Hell NO!

You can't wear your heart on your sleeve around here. Things are tough sometimes, and that's on purpose. I'm actually glad to be one of the more assholish (is that a real word?) posters in that I tend to not spare much good-natured heckling for my debate opponents. Bring it right back to me, man! If you have a good point to make, and you can own me somehow, do it and make it sting! :slight_smile:

If Roman gladiators just tapped each other with their swords, they would never have sold a single ticket to the Roman Colliseum...



You might want to check the various gay marriage threads that ZEB has posted on before you place him in the group that doesn't get personal. He's one of the sneakiest, most condescending people on the boards. Zap has his moments, too, though he is not the worst. BB is one of the few that doesn't do the insult thing.



LOL This thread has given me a new goal: I'm going to try to be the first one to get BB to personally insult me. I have no idea how to go about doing this, unfortunately. I have seen all manner of trolls and other posters get on here and try their darndest, and the guy is so coolheaded and smooth that it just astounds me... and I guess everybody else, too. I even find myself forgiving him for posting full articles with the links he routinely uses to back up his assertions: "Damn, BB... I'm gonna get carpal tunnel from scrolling down through this... but it's you, so I guess I can put up with it..."

BB is definitely a class act all the way... that elitist yankee neocon pussy.

Just playin' BB... or am I? :slight_smile:


Hey, I allow comments! :wink: It's just that the 9 people who read my blog never tend to comment. sigh


So, the $64,000 question: Why can't we all just get along and follow 'the rules' when involved in a debate?

The answer to this simple question is multi-faceted, but suffice it to say that most people do not understand what constitutes a civil debate because they have never obseved one.

Personally, I do not enjoy it when an exchange of ideas becomes a rant of any sort, but (unfortunately) some people do. They don't want to deal with addressing an idea and pulling it apart logically (hard), but they will fall into the pit of using the top ten logical fallacies to (dis)prove their position (easy). That's sad and just too bad.

Others are articulate, but their positions are steeped in ideas of questionable accuracy. These folks probably won't ever change their minds about what they believe no matter what the facts expose. As my father once said (when describing his father): "Often wrong, but never in doubt."

How to solve it all??? Carry yourself above it; deal with the original issue, don't follow red herrings, but rather expose them. Ignore the personal attacks - you don't know these people from Adam or Eve and they don't know you.

So when they say: "You're ugly and your mother dresses you funny" for no particular reason, realize that your dealing with a mental giant and move on.

My $0.02 -



A civil debate on here would be nice, but, as said earlier, it will never happen. There are a few posters that have some much prior history that if one says "black" the other will say "white" out of reflex. Also, there are some on here that like to just troll for the sake of trolling. I really don't mind a true debate.

However, I am not going to stand by and have someone play their bullshit, name-calling games with me without giving my $0.02 worth. The high T-levels won't allow it. :wink: