The Bait: Debate

In yesterday’s New York Times, Daniel C. Dennett dissected a technique that the right-wing has been using to win converts for thirty years or more: trolling for debate. Dennett’s piece focuses on so-called "Intelligent Design" and the high powered trolling that has sucked so many into debating the matter. He says,

…the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist’s work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a "controversy" to teach.

Note that the trick is content-free. You can use it on any topic. "Smith’s work in geology supports my argument that the earth is flat," you say, misrepresenting Smith’s work. When Smith responds with a denunciation of your misuse of her work, you respond, saying something like: "See what a controversy we have here? Professor Smith and I are locked in a titanic scientific debate. We should teach the controversy in the classrooms." And here is the delicious part: you can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details."

The Intelligent Design whack-jobs are only one facet of the baffle-gab brigade.  We tax-and-spend liberals often find ourselves the targets of those who would PROVE US WRONG.  One recent example of the egregious use of the technique is the unfortunate incident of the CBS anchor guy who failed to meet courtroom standards of proof in telling a true story about the shortcomings of George "Bird Flipper" Bush.  I knew we were heading straight to hell early in the Afghan War in 2002 when the local radio talk shows "debated" the merits of the use of torture to extract information from the enemy.

Respect for morality and ethics, for personal integrity and community concerns, are mooted when the right wing bump-head batteries start lobbing flak into the air around the issues of the day.  From women’s health concerns to care for dependent children, from public school and library funding to education regarding progressive taxation, altercation and arguments that preclude agreement define the intentions of the plutocrats ("Bird Flipper" and his cronies) and their lackeys on the christian right (people too stupid to pause and consider and those too bigoted to accept the majority of people as brothers and sisters).

Somebody needs to tell these morally and intellectually stunted bean-brains that there is no debate and that life need not be a zero sum game.

Posted in Peace and Politics

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