Excellent article about how to argue online

Innula Zenovka

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The author, Adam Wagner, is a very highly-regarded British human rights lawyer, and he's a model of patience and courtesy on Twitter, even when he's under fire from supporters of Jeremy Corbyn who are upset about the suggestion that anyone on the left could be an antisemite.

He sums up his main recommendations here, but the whole article is well-worth reading:

 

Han Held

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LOL
Literally lost me on the first sentence.
Literally.

Sorry, the last 10 years of watching digital manipulation has taught me that assuming good faith is one of the absolutely stupidest things you can do.

It's a boojee conciet ("we're so civilized hurrr hurrr hurrr") and it leaves you open to being gamed by trolling jackasses (pro and ameteur), gamed by contrarians and throwing time and energy away on idiots.

I apologize, Innula, sincerely. But if he's that wrong, that clueless right out of the gate I can't be bothered to read the rest.
 

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Seriously unless it's required for their job or something people should just stop using Twitter at all. It and Facebook have destroyed human society and while we can't undo that we can at least stop it from getting worse by continuing with them.
 

Innula Zenovka

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LOL
Literally lost me on the first sentence.
Literally.

Sorry, the last 10 years of watching digital manipulation has taught me that assuming good faith is one of the absolutely stupidest things you can do.

It's a boojee conciet ("we're so civilized hurrr hurrr hurrr") and it leaves you open to being gamed by trolling jackasses (pro and ameteur), gamed by contrarians and throwing time and energy away on idiots.

I apologize, Innula, sincerely. But if he's that wrong, that clueless right out of the gate I can't be bothered to read the rest.
I think his rules apply apply to forums other than Twitter, but I agree that arguing on Twitter is often a thankless task. That's why I very rarely do it.

However, Adam Wagner does, and I'm very glad he does because he provides a very valuable commentary on legal issues in general and human rights issues in particular. He also provides a contribution I find valuable -- as a member of the Labour Party who is no particular fan of the present government of Israel -- to the debate about anti-zionism and antisemitism on the left.

His comments on both human rights and on antisemitism obviously provoke some hostile responses, and while I agree it's probably best not to engage hostile responses on Twitter, he does, at least when people make reasonable points. I find his replies very helpful, since while the criticisms he answers may well be made in bad faith, they do often raise valid points.

Seriously unless it's required for their job or something people should just stop using Twitter at all. It and Facebook have destroyed human society and while we can't undo that we can at least stop it from getting worse by continuing with them.
Depends who you follow, I think. I certainly derive a lot of useful information and analysis of Brexit from some of the specialist accounts I read.
 

Han Held

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I think his rules apply apply to forums other than Twitter, but I agree that arguing on Twitter is often a thankless task. That's why I very rarely do it.
I mean in general. I don't twitter, at least not much and with zero engagement.

That old saw about "remember that behind every user is a human with feelings" -with the IRA shenanigans we've seen that disproven time and time again. With Wikileaks. With Guccifer (sp?) ..who was a human being, sure; but he was a human being who was a high-ranking member of the russian government.

Even with someone who is very transparent, it's pretty common for conservatives to dig into the bag of dirty tricks (the gish gallop, moving goalposts, etc) when entering into a debate.

It's been proven that assuming good faith in an argument is dumb.

In any high-stakes, heavily trafficed arena (twitter, facebook, reddit,etc) I think it's good to remember there's a 90% chance you're dealing with someone who is coming from a place of bad faith and either deliberately, intentionally get down in the mud with them (PRS style :D), or ignore them and in your responses play to the rational folks that might be reading.

Of course, like with every other thing that involves politics, there's another cliche that happens to be highly appropriate:
 

Innula Zenovka

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I mean in general. I don't twitter, at least not much and with zero engagement.

That old saw about "remember that behind every user is a human with feelings" -with the IRA shenanigans we've seen that disproven time and time again. With Wikileaks. With Guccifer (sp?) ..who was a human being, sure; but he was a human being who was a high-ranking member of the russian government.

Even with someone who is very transparent, it's pretty common for conservatives to dig into the bag of dirty tricks (the gish gallop, moving goalposts, etc) when entering into a debate.

It's been proven that assuming good faith in an argument is dumb.

In any high-stakes, heavily trafficed arena (twitter, facebook, reddit,etc) I think it's good to remember there's a 90% chance you're dealing with someone who is coming from a place of bad faith and either deliberately, intentionally get down in the mud with them (PRS style :D), or ignore them and in your responses play to the rational folks that might be reading.

Of course, like with every other thing that involves politics, there's another cliche that happens to be highly appropriate:
Sure, and usually I don't bother to get involved in online arguments, at least not with people I don't know.

However, when someone I don't know raises a point I think is worth answering, I absolutely do try to answer it on the assumption it was raised in good faith. If they start moving the goalposts or whatever, I politely but firmly point this out to them, and remain on track.

This isn't because I'm interested in changing their minds particularly, but because I think the point is worth answering for the benefit of anyone who may be reading the thread in good faith.

If I am dealing with a troll, they normally give up in disgust within a couple of exchanges, and if I'm not then we can end up with an interesting discussion.
 

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Hrm. If I were to boil it down to simple rules:

1) Presume nothing other than the argumentativeness of your opponent. Engage if and only if you will enjoy it. Don't reward a possible troll by putting more visible effort into their response than they did.

2) Ignore the derails and distracting details and be careful not to create any. Stick to the higher road and don't be logically or factually inaccurate, or you'll alienate others who sympathize with your position.

3) Adopt style and content that makes you look smarter, funnier or more entertaining than your opponent. ;)
 

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On the subject of arguing from good faith...

I see a lot of the tactics this guy is outlining in the way Innula approaches discussions here at VVO, in my opinion Innula is probably the most effective debater iin our midst by a fairly considerable margin. I think he might be more correct than people are willing to give him credit for.
 

GoblinCampFollower

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It's been proven that assuming good faith in an argument is dumb.
As a math geek, I always cringe when someone is too hasty to use words like "proven" in reference to political debates. It's very hard to "prove" such things to any meaningful extent. I think it's good to be a bit more open.

In any high-stakes, heavily trafficed arena (twitter, facebook, reddit,etc) I think it's good to remember there's a 90% chance you're dealing with someone who is coming from a place of bad faith...
I honestly think it's less than 10% that are coming from a place of bad faith, BUT those people are a lot more memorable. I think over 90% of my internet discussions are very positive, but the nasty ones stick with you. Some celebrities have talked about how they can read 1000 positive comments then 1 horrible one and still feel like shit when it's all said and done. I fully agree with the idea that you should assume good faith until proven otherwise; but have an exit strategy when it's clear that it was in bad faith.
 
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Kamilah Hauptmann

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Han Held

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I honestly think it's less than 10% that are coming from a place of bad faith, BUT those people are a lot more memorable. I think over 90% of my internet discussions are very positive, but the nasty ones stick with you. Some celebrities have talked about how they can read 1000 positive comments then 1 horrible one and still feel like shit when it's all said and done. I fully agree with the idea that you should assume good faith until proven otherwise; but have an exit strategy when it's clear that it was in bad faith.
Point taken about different definitions of the word "proof". :)

What you're describing ...one bad encounter disproportionately ruining one's impression... is very real and worth bearing in mind. I think context has to be taken into account, though. I am on all three platforms (facebook,reddit and twitter) and most of my interactions are decent. But that is because (on reddit, at least) I steer clear of politics mostly hanging out in niche subs where the worst I come across is some easily-spottible dork coming in to cause trouble.

I can't say for the "active measures"/"cointelpro"/"astroturfing" side, but I have a strong suspicion that if a study was done on either the political subs, or the larger subs (that make /r/all all the time) the number of negative encounters would be found to be drastically higher.

Facebook and twitter I can't say for; I limit who I follow on FB and who I interact with. A year ago I signed up for some seattle groups and they were all full of RWNJ and that lead me to pull back.

Twitter is an obvious dumpster fire that I've kept controlled from day one :3
 

Tigger

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"The best move is not to play" - War Games

Hence, I don't use Twitter or Facebook.
The problem is that a lot of bad faith actors use these media to push lies that influence the politics of our day. Often through swarms of bots or targetted advertising that then gets regurgitated by supporters. They have to be challenged, not engaging leaves them to run roughshod over reality.
 

Han Held

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They have to be challenged, not engaging leaves them to run roughshod over reality.
Yes, orgs that hire call center levels of people ought to be challenged; but they're not going to be meaningfully challenged by folks engaging one on one.

What we're looking at -in all of these cases, are organized efforts and the only way that they'll be successfully opposed is either by starving them of their oxygen, or getting positive orgs out to counter their message.

Individuals wasting their time and sanity flaming bots has worse than no effect -that's energy that someone could be using more constructively somewhere else.
 
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