Monday, September 26, 2011

A rather rapid escalation to ad hominem attacks & similar irrationality

I'm in the midst of an exchange with others on a Linkedin group that I belong to (reproduced here). This experience has motivated me to make the following reflections . . .

The most fascinating things to me are, first, how quickly the ad hominem attacks started, and, second, how quickly the thread diverged from the central point.

The central point that started the post, as you'll see in the link above, was that the government of a Virginia city decided no longer to display the Confederate battle flag on government property.

If one were to navigate through the comment thread on the post linked above, one would find that I wrote:

    I understand that some people react to change with fear and sadness, and that these emotions often manifest themselves in anger and hate-filled words -- it certainly happens to me at times! Since we're all humans here, and it seems as though we're all Americans as well, I would like to invite us all to eschew language that is both inaccurate and denigrating, and attempt to communicate with and about one another with mutual respect.

This comment didn't change the minds of the ad hominem attackers, nor prompt them to reflect a bit on the fact that they're not the only people in this country and that other people have valid points of view.

This speaks to at least the following things . . .

First, our nation is populated by people who have zero interest in entertaining, even for a moment, the fact that they may be wrong, OR, at least, the fact that other people might have points that are equally as valid.

Second, our nation is populated by people whose first impulse is not only to dismiss outright entire groups of people that they don't agree with, but to characterize these groups in the most mean-spirited way possible.

Third, our nation is populated by people who have little or no interest in intellectual disciplines generally, and the historical discipline specifically. It's called a discipline because there's a method and approach to apply in the attempt to produce findings that contribute to the greater good, and, by following this method, people can evaluate, refine, critique, challenge, etc., one's findings. The opposite of this are opinions: like assholes, we all have opinions, and like rabbits, opinions multiply exponentially; it is the intellectual discipline that tempers the unfounded opinions by applying a method to help us weed-out the nonsense and get closer to functional truths.

Fourth, following the above, it is sad, indeed, to realize that our nation is populated by a great many people who prefer not to use one of the few faculties that separates us from other animals -- namely, our species' intellectual abilities -- and operate, instead, from a simplistic, reactive, place.

Fifth, there are a great many people in this country still fighting the Civil War.

I certainly know that, at the core, I am a romantic optimist . . . it's just so fascinating to me to get outside of my bubble and realize that there seem to be so many people in this country who are actively working against the greater good of the nation.


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