by T.L. James | 11:53 pm, February 28, 2013 | Comments Off
Last week, one of Colorado’s more prolific Progressive tweeters was caught out misrepresenting the conclusions of a study on gun violence, claiming that the study reported certain things about women gun owners when in fact women were not mentioned separately in the methodology or conclusions.
Today, when prodded about it in a manner intentionally mirroring how he addresses his enemies on Twitter, this resulted:
Yes. Yes, he really went there. He really and truly went there.
“Are women not people?” When he was confronted with his lie last week, it occurred to me that someone could make just that argument – but I thought “Naah, this guy may be a deluded Progressive who substitutes angry bullying for rational discussion, but even he isn’t lame enough to beclown himself by making such an absurd response.” Well…looks like I was very, very wrong.
He followed up the comments above (which you can see in their entirety on our Twitter feed) by…ahem…sticking to his guns, repeating the same embarrassing argument that pointing out that the study he cited didn’t distinguish in methodology or conclusions between men and women was somehow not seeing women as people. (It’s amusing to note that by referring only to women when he first cited this sex- and gender-neutral study, by his own formulation he was declaring that men are not people.) Along with this there were several tweets in which he attempted to divert attention away from his dishonest citation of the study onto his latest interpretation of what the study said or onto extraneous matters unrelated to the discussion of his earlier deceitful and manipulative misrepresentation of the study’s conclusions.
I’m fascinated by the way people argue, so personally I found this exchange fascinating. When you follow Twitter for a while, especially the hashtags where lefties tend to congregate, you can see common patterns emerge in how they communicate, and in particular in how they respond to or “argue” with their enemies, and this exchange includes ‘textbook’ examples of several of these patterns. The patterns hold across all social media, and fall into a few broad and not-mutually-exclusive categories (which are conveniently or contortedly identified with words starting in D):
- Distractions: responses aimed at luring their opponent into talking about something else, taking them “down a rabbit hole” and “into the weeds” by focusing on some trivial or secondary facet of their opponent’s argument, thereby miring their opponent in minutiae;
- Diversions: responses aimed at changing the subject entirely, moving it away from a topic they find threatening to their own interests or worldview and instead onto something threatening to their opponent’s;
- Deflections: explanations, justifications, or rationalizations which redirect criticism aimed at their sacred cows and onto their opponent, in an attempt to put the latter on the defensive instead;
- Disruptions: emotional outbursts and interruptions, alleged to be triggered by some contrived offense and intended to shut down rational discussion altogether;
- Demonization: attempts at character assassination and mudslinging, meant to wreck their opponent’s reputation and credibility with onlookers who then will be encouraged and expected to reject out of hand anything the opponent says and any facts or proof they offer; this includes inducing the opponent into a gaffe or ‘excited utterance’ that can then be used against them to destroy their reputation and credibility;
- Depletion: sometimes innocent-seeming, sometimes hostile and aggressive efforts aimed at wasting their opponent’s time and attention by continuing unproductive arguments, repeatedly and unreasonably demanding additional clarifications of or proof supporting their opponent’s claims, or otherwise prolonging useless interactions so as to prevent their opponent from making best use of their limited time and energy;
- Silencing (there had to be one without a D, right?): shouting down, harassing, humiliating, bullying, shaming, and other efforts aimed at simply shutting their opponent up, getting them to stop participating in a particular forum, and in extremis getting them to withdraw from political discussion entirely, reducing the number of voices on their opponent’s side and undermining the confidence and security of those who remain.
(I’m sure there’s at least one category I’ve left out, but I don’t have my notes in front of me.) For each of these categories, there are a vast number of specific tactics available for applying them – I’ve actually bothered to write down about 150 so far. I won’t go into them here (since I am working on a PPC training class on this subject to be held in late April, so watch the site for details over the next few weeks), but I shouldn’t really need to – anyone who approaches Twitter, blog and newspaper comment sections, Facebook, and other social media tar-pits with these “Ds” in mind should see the tactics jump out at them. They’re really that blatant – which is pretty sad when you consider that it’s exactly this kind of thing that helps the Progressive left win over voters.
Why are these tactics so common across so many sites and platforms? I suspect there are three main reasons: first, there are professional online activists who are trained to do this kind of thing in much the way Media Matters and others train people for appearances on television or teach them to call talk radio shows or write letters to the editor; second, many more people consciously or subconsciously emulate what they see other like-minded commenters doing; and third, there are people who are just
sociopathic naturally gifted in this regard and need neither training nor example to create and employ such tactics.
It’s important for center-right activists to learn to recognize these things so as not to be suckered in by them, and to fight back effectively when encountering leftists using them. Being able to spot, identify, understand, and respond to these tactics undercuts their power. Given enough education and discipline, perhaps we can return to a more rational and persuasion-based political conversation and jettison the juvenile bickering that seems to have become the norm since the emergence of social media and the ascendance of the infantile Progressive movement which dominates its political channels.
For what it’s worth, I took a brief look the study in question and was unpersuaded by its conclusions and by OnFire/PolitiComm’s interpretations of them. The methodology section was nearly impenetrable jargon, but the gist of it left me unconvinced as to the value of the results in drawing any sort of broad conclusions or their applicability outside one specific urban area. But hey, if it tells you what you want to hear and it gives you factoids with a useful degree of shock value with which to bludgeon your enemies, that’s what social science is for, right?
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