Debating online, some ideas and dance moves.

29 Aug
As a busy working single muvva* with an opinion on the internet, I’m used to getting into arguments. Hell, I was getting into arguments before the internet because I have unique social skills and a need to annoy people.
 
But goddammit, if you want to argue, if you want your argument to be taken seriously and credibly, many people need to reconsider how they argue. You seriously want to make change? Learn how to argue.
 
A few pointers:
* your experience or your friend’s experience does not constitute a social model.
* Please note that some people have more expertise than you – to claim otherwise is a continuation of the “freedom of speech, my opinion is equal to yours, etc”. No. Not all opinions are created equally. I have expertise in some areas, I have zilch in others. Sometimes it’s humbling to realise – but own it.
* Don’t mistake experience with expertise. A moment of your life is not a lifetime of immersive research or community immersion.
* Statistics and theory are your friends. Treat them better. 
* That means reading. Read widely, read those you disagree with, read back into history, read wider than your identity.
* Listen. Not every argument needs you, especially if you have no expertise or research to back up your argument.
* You may not be represented in every single argument on the planet. That’s ok. You can augment it to show a contributing theory, but not everything is about you.
* No, really. Not everything is about you. Not in day to day life, not in activism. Not only is everything not about you, but sometimes people don’t care about your identity. What’s the answer to that? Go build. Activism isn’t always about conversion, sometimes it’s about building and you don’t always need everyone on board to build something for you.
* Irrationally angry about someone’s view but not entirely sure why? THAT IS A MAGICAL FUCKING TIME. Sit with that reaction, explore it, research it. You’re about to challenge yourself.
* Recognise that “gut instinct” and “intuition” are culturally conditioned responses and not the basis of an argument.
* Debate ideas, don’t debate people. For example, feminism is a series of theories (MANY of which are worthy of critique and improvement) and very definitely NOT a Miss Universe contest.
* If you want people to accept you as a complex individual of contradiction, un/learning, emotional responses, experience and expertise please extend the same as others. No one is perfect and fully enlightened, including you.
* Realise that debating ideas isn’t the same as debating your personal worthiness. Not everyone has to agree with you, or like you.
* Be polite with polite people. If someone’s being hostile, sure, go ham. If they’re not, no one is entitled to wear your rudeness. The moment you get rude is the moment people shut down and stop listening to you – and when you get to that point, you have to ask yourself if you want to have a conversation with potential of conversion or just yell at someone who hasn’t consented or shown hostility to you. So, have some fucking grace, mate.
 
If you want to learn about argument traps and how to debate, I’d recommend Tara Moss‘s “Speaking Out”. I’m also a fan of “Thank you for arguing” by Jay Heinrichs and “How to think about weird things: critical thinking for a new age”.
 
*I’m really not that busy.

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