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Discuss The Ethics of Civil and Effective Debating


Problematic Shitlord
So a week ago, I asked people on my blog to suggest topics for an essay. Since most of you are total slackers, I got one reply from my bromosexual pal, Sui. His response was:

"The ethics of real debate, and why it's beneficial for all parties to abide by them."

I thought even as the only suggestion, it was a great topic because here on GeneralForum we love our debates but as of late a hot discussion has been the Mature Discussion section and how debates have degraded severely. Without further adieu, here's my questionable attempt at this essay!

Oh, what? Why do it? I don't know, I've always liked debate and I honestly enjoy sharing my knowledge and thoughts on a subject I enjoy so . . . that's why? I guess?

The Ethics of Civil and Effective Debating
By Brian 'Merc' Kelley

Walking to work these days, one is likely to spot what has become a now common and completely unnoticeable occurrence, the jogger. Decades ago, this was not something we'd see outside of a gymnasium, people running down the street as exercise. Why do we do it? The easy answer is that as a society, we have become more sedimentary. We've drifted to the bottoms of our tanks like wisps of algae and we cling to the rocks, afraid to swim back up and complacent in our stationary lifestyles. As we began to achieve higher and more astounding levels of convenience, humanity naturally needed to respond and the birth of the exercise culture had taken place. In our busy days, people compensate for their lack of physical activity with expensive gym memberships, equipment and when the minutes permit, a quick jog. It's how we add balance to our lifestyles and ensure that we do not become precursors to whatever species of creature Jabba the Hut was in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

As with the jogger and the phenomena of exercise as a chore, another strange uprising has begun to occur in this little world of ours. Your mom always told you that TV would rot your brain and that video games were for dummies or heard all the popular terms like 'boob tube', 'idiot box' and such growing up. It seems that in the last twenty or thirty years of our culture, Americans have become progressively less informed. What is even more disturbing is that most do not seem to have a problem with it. Entertainment itself has gone the way of the pizza, becoming more of a 'snack food' jammed with preservatives, extra extra super cheese and fats. Best of all? It's delivered in minutes, just for your convenience. Now the luxury has become the hand tossed pies of our parents' lives that you like to savor and enjoy. All of this opportunity, instant satisfaction and excessive saturation has seemed to make us not only less informed, but somewhat dumber as well.

A common debate these days when asking most people is no longer pleasant conversation and more likely a heated flame war on an internet stage. Forgive the author for sounding like an old fogie craving his youth, it's not his intention. The ethics of debate even on national television have become unimportant and apparently optional. This has lead to a resurgence in political discourse as an artful endeavor rather than a Facebook app, something meant to be swallowed whole and passed on in minutes. As our minds have grown more sedimentary and unchallenged, it seems a new dawn has broken thanks to the open atmosphere of the internet and once again, we as people have found ways to exercise our minds and extend our thoughts. This brings however a dangerous clash to the forefront. With these lifestyles that have been discussed, how hampered has our ability become to actually maintain a civil, effective and worthwhile debate?

It's in the Mana

When we think of the great speakers of our current time and history, we always describe 'it' despite the fact that there is no real definition for such a thing. It's that strange, captivating aura that some people seem to be blessed with and others struggle to understand. These legendary vocalists seem to understand the innate nature of speech and are able to use it in such a way that it keeps us focused on them and nobody else while fully comprehending what they're speaking about. Today, the ways we try to capture attention have been stripped and diluted down to nothing more than troll tactics. Commonly we see baiting and flaming as ways of drawing our opponents into what we think are traps when clearly, we've already defeated ourselves as those who are better than us at this craft will no doubt see through such desperate attempts to dodge points we have no counter-arguments for and to fill empty space that we cannot.

Even though this sounds like a more apt description of the internet and not a real discussion, watch televised debate. Nothing of worth has been shown on television in years in terms of debate and it's not surprising. This culture of insulting and smarmy snap-talking seeps mostly onto the internet but it is not from the internet. It comes from within us as it is that very essence of instant gratification and quickness that was mentioned earlier. Practice it seems makes perfect.

The Question Itself

Why? Now that we've danced around it a bit and gotten into the mood of things, why should be worry about effective and civil debating? It seems another fallacy that we as people have been lead to believe is that as long as you're right, it doesn't matter how you got there. Being 'right' becomes the ultimate goal and this kind of simplified thinking often encourages the mind to engage in underhanded tactics or shortcuts. After all, if the goal is winning and nothing is supposed to stand in your way, why let silly things like morals or politeness cloud that path?

Our brains are computers in essence and tend to see the logic in these sorts of situations. So when you place the common person in an argument, say something prevalent and likely to cause fist fights like evolution, the target is to make yourself look better because better is 'right', right? Another fallacy that has taken root in our thought processes as of late is this concept that being better than someone is equal to being right. Being more wealthy, better looking, smarter, more popular or simply having more of something valuable seems to make people believe that they're 'right'.

Where this comes from is debatable, but the selfish materialistic nature of modern society is a glaring target of study here.

Driving While Intoxicated

Nevertheless, the average debate on evolution is likely to devolve itself into a slurry of insults along the lines of, 'heathen', 'hippie', 'bigot' and other favorites. Why? Passion. But passion? That's good! Passion is always good in a debate, you need it to drive your enthusiasm and spur your thoughts, it's true. However, as you approach a debate it's important to remember that your passion is always your own. We all have things we love and things we hate. If you're an atheist and you're very serious about it, that's wonderful. Yet, your opinion is not everyone else's and your beliefs are not universal. A simple way to remember it is as follows:

"Your world is your own and belongs to nobody else but the world itself does not belong to you and your own is not meant to be forced upon it"

To break the wall here a bit, personally, I always found this difficult when discussing topics pertaining to religion. I do not subscribe to any faith so it bothers me when faith is given as a reason or a defense to a topic. Abortion is the easy target here as the science behind it will never be objective, there's too much political clout. I have trouble understanding why the beliefs of those with religious faith should be considered part of law. So when I debate these things, I have to remember to approach the topic from a strong yet aware standpoint. I want to get my points across and be honest but I want to present it in a manner that doesn't offend or isolate.

Gun control is a godless topic that gets blood boiling as well. It's another hot stove subject that can easily tangle up into a web of middle school level name-calling and it's another great example of when to control yourself (ironically). A lot of people in this country grow up with guns in their house. There's nothing wrong with it and usually it means that person does not have an issue with them. Projecting your experiences onto everyone else is not a good way of getting a point across on either side of the argument. You had a friend that was shot and died? I'm sorry, I really am, but it means nothing in a debate. It's not a point and it's not an argument. Anecdotes are just that, they are not detailed and debatable opinions. Your dad bought you your first gun when you were four? Sweet, what does it have to do with this topic and how does it relate to gun safety in the slightest?

The answer is that it doesn't.

Hold Right There, Pal

This does it for the first part of this essay. Suffice to say, I think a lot of people will have things to add to it. I'd like to open the floor to my fellow users and see what everyone else has to say.

Thank you for reading and let's discuss!


blue 3
It was an interesting read. You know your bromancer was going to bring up something about debate ethics, so don't act like you were surprised!

I think there are definately a lot of things that have attributed to the absolutely loss of debate ethics in the past decade or so. I mean, for those of us that have grown up with the internet, you can see it. I, typically call it the degredation of the internet, but when it first was released it was an area for the free flow of information including intellectual debates. Anyone that was unwilling to do so was scolded off of the forums so quickly they didn't know what hit them. However, in todays "immediate gratification" culture quick wit and one liners are more celebrated than expanded thought.