Long-time members have experienced it, newer members have experienced it; moderators fret over it. Yet there is nothing fundamentally "wrong" with
adversarial conversations in and of themselves.
Why then, I wonder, do we seem to express ourselves as if to inflate the adversarial? Why is it that an otherwise rational person, facing an
adversarial response in a thread, seems compelled to escalate the friction? How is it that even when two members recognize the overly dramatic,
neither seems capable of withdrawing the angst and vitriol? Is this an inevitable consequence of discussing polarized topics? Furthermore, should it
even be necessary to pull in the reigns of explosive exchanges; are our opinions not included in what many call our for as our "right" to "free
Herein I offer my opinion, hoping that others will give theirs; and together we can at least understand why this relative 'ugliness' happens, what it
represents, and whether or not we want to accept it as part of our overall dialog.
In order to construct a good foundation to the discussion, we need to depart from our normal; "I say what I think.. and then .. you counter." Why?
Because we are discussing "discussion" itself.
We must agree from the onset, on the terms we will use. Such an agreement will be hard won; because those who argue for the sake of argument (in
advocacy of dissent) must stay on the charted course and not resort to veering into hypothetical extensions outside the range of the discussion (for
example, "If a poster calls me out, I have a right to defend myself.") Instance-by-instance examples are infinite, and this adversarial phenomenon
can not be explored by revisiting discrete strategies (just as you cannot analyze the meaning behind a book, generally speaking, by analyzing the font
of the characters used to present it.)
I will try to be as brief as possible here; I believe we need to accept the common ground of context, intent, and execution.
For the sake of the discussion I am attemptng to initiate, the context is broad. Our ever-present immediate context is AboveTopSecret.com; our
on-line community dedicated to exchanging ideas and information, largely to augment or replace those where people usually get ideas and information
(often said to be in many ways inadequate or corrupted.) There are numbers of people who will be inclined to focus on their areas of interest; there
are those who will have a 'collection' of topics they frequent; fewer in number are the generalists who can be seen everywhere, dabbling in many
areas. The whole body of our content is embraced by the board which hosts our community, ATS.
Intent is less difficult to categorize broadly. Yet the simplicity of the answer is self-evident. We share the same intent, through and through.
The intent to communicate.
Execution is where we find the most striking differences between us. I could elaborate on numerous differences in execution on this board (as I did
in "The stages of the journey into the community of ATS"
); but why not just admit that
the methods members use to compose their thoughts and translate them onto the board are as varied as the membership?)
I submit that the execution is the real center of the phenomenon where any dialog can become problematic; regardless of context or intent. Of course
there are exceptions to most every rule.... but this is largely consistent. There are ideologues who express themselves without offense, there are
tradiotionalists who do as well, there are mystics, and cynics also, who manage to convey their ideas without conflict, and more... yet among them
appear some who either a) cannot avoid it, or b) do not care to.
For a moment, let us get some direct questions on these three elements.
Questions of context:
Do you "know" the person to whom your responding? Are you responding based solely upon the previous post? Are you
responding based upon your assessment of the member over time? Would that include previous posts in this thread, or posts all over the board? Are
you responding to the conversation that has occured since the thread began, or are you only considering the last few pages of the exchange? Are you
talking about the poster, or posters, as opposed to the topic itself?
There are no correct responses; but not knowing the reponses to any of these questions will affect many posters who may post after you...
engendering what some may call ignorance - even if the ignorance is not about the topic. So inadvertently or otherwise, you may create the emergence
of the adversarial. To be fair, you may likewise defuse the adversarial; such things are possible in our world.
Questions of intent:
Does how you state something depend on what someone before you says, or how they say it? If a person is rude, do you
join in the rudeness as a matter of "equity?" Do you believe if you do not respond "in kind" you are weak or wrong? Do you feel appearing weak or
wrong in a virtual world is as demeaning as it would be if you were speaking person-to-person? Do you feel that it is your place to "characterize"
people who disagree with you or what you want to say is true? Do you believe that it is important to 'expose' posters for their opinions which were
given outside the thread your in? Are you bothered, troubled, or somehow put off by what your discussing, or the person with whom your discussing it
(and what ideas they express?) Are you here to learn what others think, or to tell others what you think? Do you beleive that you cannot be 'wrong'?
Do you believe that the topic, or poster cannot be correct? Can you recognize the difference between knowing and believing an opinion is right or
Again, there are no correct responses to these questions. It is a matter of self-recognition which - for the most part - drives the execution of
our response. How we say what we say is driven by why we say it. Moderators often profess - "speak to the topic - not the poster" and this is
a fairly safe way to avoid unintentional offense. in fact, if one offends by speaking of the subject, it is the person claiming offense whose action
will first demonstrate the adversarial inclination. Of course, the coy and calculating who can make such offenses happen while seeming innocent are
few... but admitteldy, they do exist.
Questions of execution:
Do you respond in thread to make yourself "feel better"? Do you construct your response as to "make the adversary
seem a fool?" Do you construct your response to make yourself seem "less" a fool? Are you contributing to the thread (the OP) or are you "talking"
to someone? Do you believe that there must be a winner and a loser in a discussion? Do you beleive that when one person is right in an argument the
other "must" be wrong? Do you ever find yourself regretting what you have said - or how you said it? Do you believe that you need to be an excellent
and well-spoken person to get your point across? Do you find yourself repeatedly in the position of stating something in your post while mentally
reciting to yourself how you "don't care what others think of it?"
When you gird your mental loins to enter the fray in an exciting or contraversial topic, you may find yourself asking these questions of others -
but you should always know the answers as they apply to yourself. We execute our communications, often as challenges or reposte - but just as often -
we don't have to respond that way... and the second choice of how to answer may prove to be the less contentious and more productive.
Tools of derission, Tools of conciliation, and the dangers of the d-ego.
We have a recurrent dilemma in our world.
While being virtual people to each other, some lack sensitivty to the real person behind the words. To those, there is freedom to lash out because
they can cause 'no real harm' from their perspective. Social competence requires the acceptance of the dignity of "the other"... such acceptance
engenders responsiblity for ones words. The dilemma further extends itself because lacking a real presence, to some (often the same people) they
needn't worry about, nor have any inclination to protect their own image - as it has no value they can measure - assuming they don't care about this
virtual second home for many of us.
The tools of the derrisive are many. Some of these tools are quite clever, subtle, and damaging to their targets. Others not so much so. I will
enumerate only those I personally believe are 'given' to us from the institutions of our societies. That list will follow further on.
There are "peacemakers" in our world. I am grateful they are around. Sadly I would like to see more of them around here; but the scarcity is not
their fault. These are the members who see the conflict, and do not begin a tit-for-tat exchange with an obtuse adversary; but instead focus on the
OP, attempt to rationalize the varying arguments in respect with one another; and when the offense diminishes our board, alerts a moderator so they
may attempt to salvage the exchange. The tools of reconciliation are inherent in most members who think outside the d-ego box. They sense, or know,
that adversarial conflict often leads to the dilution of the OP, the distraction from the point, and the overall unpleasant feeling it spreads across
the participants in the thread.
The d-ego.... a term which many have come to hate, reject, despise, and otherwise find generally repugnant. What is it? Let all manner of
philosopher, sociologist, and deep-thinker slam away at it... but in my humber opinion it refers to a single vice. Pride. Many feel the d-ego is a
good thing, just like pride. They cite pride in what you do, who you are, where your from, what you accomplish, what you know, what skills you have
and how well you 'perform.' In the end - I simply maintain that if it can move a person to intentionally injure another - it is not a good thing. In
fact, every effort to belittle, diminish, disrespect, ridicule, or otherwise damage the reputation of another member is an offense against all of us.
That is not "how we roll" at ATS.
But how can you blame some people for taking that path? After all, we are conditioned to 'admire' it. It's insitutionalized, publicized,
glorified, set to theme music and produced into a 'show.'
Our members, regardless of any categorization you would like to apply to them (rightly or wrongly) are subject to an indoctrination like no other:
"institutionalized" tools of manipulation include: Misinformation, Disinformation, Lies, Hoaxes, Propaganda, Rhetoric, Hyperbole, Demagoguery,
Inflammatory presentation, Sensationalism, and Sophism ...
Our "talking head" celebrities are applauded for it, they 'have at each other' on air continuously, talking trash about each other, their group,
party, religion, etc. And the more clever and shocking they are the better. Those tools of circular logic, straw-man attacks, mischaratcerizations,
petty sniping, vapid histrionics, are all part of what we are 'sold' as "intellectual conversation" by the one thing that we all share in common... we
are consumers of "produced information for profit." Which, as all commerce does, promotes the idea that consumption of information is more important
than understanding... therefore, to make it 'look good' 'sound good' and 'dumb it down' is their norm. And their "norm" becomes what we are
indoctrinated to "be like" - except here... in my second home ATS... we don't need their communication gimmicks, their "marketing" and psycho-babble
"public relations" tactics to express the truth between us.
edit on 4-4-2012 by Maxmars because: (no reason given)