The content on this blog is my personal opinion and does not reflect the views of the Department of Defense or the US Navy in any way.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tactics and Compromises

Sorry about last week. I was a little too busy enjoying my Veteran's Day weekend, I guess...

Anyway. I'd rather not go into too many specifics, but this week's commentary is based on a friendly debate I had with some acquaintances. I usually try to avoid having debates in person; most of the time, my opponents in such debates are people I have to live and work with. Particularly given that I usually focus on poking holes in my opponent's argument, no matter which side they argue, I tend to worry about straining relationships.

This also promotes a rather non-confrontational debate style, inasmuch as such a thing is possible. I tend to ask questions a lot - where I think a point the opponent is making is suspect or wrong, I will say something to that effect, but I'll also ask if my opponent understands my criticism and/or how they resolve any contradictions I brought up. Or I'll just ask how they came up with a point that I feel is insufficiently supported - either I learn an argument to justify it that I didn't know before, or they can't come up with something sensible. (Incidentally, that second option, if it happens, usually isn't acknowledged; instead, the attempted justifications just become that much more vague.)

That said, there is a third option for that second question. Namely, that they lie. Or that they repeat ridiculous talking points because they don't know that they're repeating falsehoods, which is only slightly better. Whether through ignorance or malice, my opponent has started to say things that are demonstrably untrue.

At this point you may be able to guess how the debate I mentioned earlier went.

My style tends to break down at this point, frankly. However else I choose to drag it out, I usually end up having to decide between two options: call it a falsehood (and my opponent a liar) and present my alternate opinion, or simply state disagreement but acknowledge that I don't care to argue the point (which usually gets treated as a concession). I've used both, but I usually go with the latter; the only exceptions are topics that I feel very strongly about.

These are also the topics I know the most about. Oddly enough, I'm much less inclined to take a strong stance on something when I'm not sure whether all my facts are accurate and can be cogently presented.

With that said, this is a bit of a problem with my style. It usually does trigger investigations (i.e. I study all the details I wish I'd known hours earlier for the debate) but that doesn't really help me present those points to anyone else. Unfortunately, it's also a problem that I'm not sure I know how to fix, unless I give up on something else - that "non-confrontational" adjective. And at this point, I think that property is more important than calling out every liar I debate. I guess I'll just have to keep an eye on how I'm balancing calling out liars and avoiding direct confrontation.

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