The Problem with Your Theory Begins with You Opening Your Mouth

When it comes to arguing your position online I've found that often people act like there are only two ways to argue: either you can proclaim yourself correct and put your fingers in your ears when others argue against you; or you can pretend that anything your opponent says is a mistake and that they need to start over and reevaluate their statements (of the two I find that the second is far more satisfying as you can actually pretend that your sparring partner has some intellectual deficiency). All the same it's odd to me that after being off the blogging scene for so many years these two tactics are still on the front lines of arguing online. It's as though we've not advanced at all in the last decade.

So here's my solution: instead of acting like a bunch of jack-wagons, how about we all try listening to each other and then going from there? It's so much easier to just talk to one and another like we're all reasonable people then to become the sort of caterwauling popinjays we see on television. See if you admit that you're wrong when you step off and start talking out of your neck then the conversation can move beyond the phase where each of you are assholes wasting bandwidth and into the realm where you can have a real exchange of ideas.

"But I might have to admit that I was wrong if that happens!"

What's wrong with that?

I've been wrong when I've argued with +Zak Smith, +Courtney Campbell, and countless others. It's a natural extension of being human that you're going to make mistakes. You'll argue points that you wish they had said instead of what they actually stated. You'll make false leaps of logic that have nothing to do with the actual direction of the conversation. Hell, if you're really unlucky you'll find yourself talking about something no one else has even addressed and then look like a damned fool. So what's wrong with saying, "Look, I've clearly been wrong here. Sorry about that," instead of continuing to mouth off?

In an environment where every punter with a keyboard wants to pretend like they're infallible and that they can do no wrong speaking the truth when you make a mistake makes you stand out. You're not just another dickhead on the internet who wants to see how many words you can force onto the page - you're a reasonable man. That's a rare commodity in a culture where it's far more accepted to dismiss someone who disagrees with you as delusional. 

"Yeah, but the fucking trolls . . ."

Not everyone who disagrees with you is a troll. Oftentimes the internet creates this vacuum where tone and context are lost and what would come across as a semi-reasonable, if slightly incredulous, statement reads like a personal attack on your integrity. You can engage them for a single post to see if they're actually wanting to be involved in the conversation without wasting your time (after all, you're not so important that you can't take five minutes to respond to someone who has left you a comment). If they're a troll you can delete all their subsequent comments without losing anything.

"See, what you fail to understand is 
that I've dealt with them for years and. . ."

Yeah, I don't care. It costs you nothing to respond and if they're a troll it only makes them look bad. They gain nothing by you responding to them in a reasonable fashion and everything if you act like the sanctimonious asshole they are trying to prove you to be. Just take a moment and look at the blog Your Dungeon is Suck (YDIS) and it's assaults on +Jeff Rients and +Alexis Smolensk. YDIS and its commentators have attacked Jeff at various times for everything from his creating countless tables to his incredible creativity (which they labeled anything but) and being a leading voice in the OSR community. Jeff has engaged them directly on several occasions and never came out the worse for it as he was always a reasonable voice without the sort of self-righteous anger that they had hoped for. As a result his assaults tended to fall flat and withered where the attacks on Alexis did not. YDIS has gone after Alexis for being a pompous windbag who refused to have conversations with anyone who disagreed with him, for his view that D&D doesn't have to be fun - or that it should even attempt to be - and for only engaging with people he could either browbeat into agreeing with his opinion or who fellated his enlarged ego by telling him how wonderful and great he was (also for his creepy role-play sex). Alexis engaged them and in the process allowed himself to actually become what they had always accused him of being. He deletes comments that argue against his positions, makes rules for how comments must be presented, and in general acts like the sort of suck fest they claimed he was. 

Comments

  1. Sometimes I'm glad I'm just blip on the Blogosphere Radar. No one bothers to argue with me. Of course, I rarely say anything controversial. So, that may have something to do with it.

    However, in the past, I have argued Religion and Politics online ad nauseum. And I have to say, what a waste of time. The only benefit of all of that wasted time and energy is that it eventually lead me to learning a thing or two about the world I thought I lived in. I'm much more a "Live and let live" person nowadays. Though I still call people out on their narrow-minded bullshit. I just do it in a more logical, open-minded way. :)

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    1. "I have argued Religion and Politics online ad nauseum. And I have to say, what a waste of time. The only benefit of all of that wasted time and energy is that it eventually lead me to learning a thing or two about the world I thought I lived in."

      That's the only benefit that I recieved from doing the same thing. I used to spend way, way, way, too much time doing the same thing.

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  2. I had no choice, really. The abuse simply reached a point where making an attempt to speak directly or forthrightly was only seen as a sign of weakness, and an opportunity for further gloating, chortling and self-aggrandizing horseplay.

    I am opinionated. Many people are. About seven weeks ago, with the rules post of mine you linked, I admitted that I am getting angry TOO often. And I made a commitment to change. Since then, I have only been sorely tempted to go after one person online, and at the last moment I restrained myself from doing it. And the fellow and I resolved our differences. And I have been 'clean' for almost four weeks since.

    I am trying to turn over a new leaf. Be a better person online. But it won't matter whether I try or not, there will always be people who will want to push me. And there will be people who will want to use my blog, or my opinions, as fodder for their abuse.

    I'd like to offer a point of definition. I never said role-playing isn't fun, shouldn't be fun, or that I don't like fun. What I have repeatedly said is that 'fun' is not enough. We design things by working on them. Work isn't fun. It is pleasure. People don't seem to be able to tell the difference between those two things. I think people ought to be able to tell the difference.

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    1. "What I have repeatedly said is that 'fun' is not enough. We design things by working on them. Work isn't fun. It is pleasure. People don't seem to be able to tell the difference between those two things."

      I completely disagree with you on the work isn't fun thing. I not only find work a pleasurable experience I find it quite fun. I enjoy the hell out of myself whether I'm laboring through a high quota or trying to get a group of teenagers to move their asses and get their jobs done. But then again I am the classic work-a-holic.

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  3. I know that is not the point of this post however, YDIS is exactly the kind of internet content I try to avoid. I have never found them funny or useful, regardless of their hit count. A bit more civility in the comment sections of the web would do us all some good.
    I had my own minor issue on my blog where I feel I over reacted to a poster who questioned the game I was working on. I chalk it up the phenomenon of a blog comment not being the best way to convey tone, and my own insecurity about my work. That's my fault, and I think I learned from it.
    Point being, I think sometimes as the writers of these blogs we look for the troll in every question, and it may be a mistake.

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    1. "I think sometimes as the writers of these blogs we look for the troll in every question, and it may be a mistake."

      Absolutely, my friend. As a whole we're all putting ourselves out there. You, me, Alexis - all of us. We're taking the time out of our days and lives to reveal our inner thoughts and workings to a wider world that may just turn a deaf ear to us, or it may launch a thousand insults. Both can be a form of refutation and both can be just as harmful.

      I'm sorry, it's late at night when I writing this and I may be waxing a bit. I'll stop now.

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  4. I thought YDIS was basically a cry for help and evidence that somewhere out there someone needs therapy and medication.

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    1. I've found that YDIS has a tendency to find things that should be a concern to all of us before anyone else is even talking about them. Like their comments about Monte Cook and his bullshit statement over how people donating money to his kickstarters don't have a right to tell him anything they'd like to see in the project - as though we should all just be so very glad for the privilege to hand over our money to him and see him do a money dance.

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  5. I had disagreed with numerous posts by numerous bloggers, got into somewhat heated discussions, but never anything you could call a full blown argument (unless I'm forgetting something, which is possible).

    Likewise, you could scroll the comments of every post I've ever made and you will almost never find anyone arguing with me, though many have disagreed.

    I guess I am doing the internet gaming blog thing wrong. ;)

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    1. You could just be doing it right! :)

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  6. I did try arguing with you once, Barking, but from the outset you made it so thoroughly clear that you took umbrage at my demeanor, my expression and my candor that I ceased having anything to say about your points.

    One of the difficulties in expressing disagreement is that it stems from discontent with the merit or substance of the opinion that has been stated. This is something we usually abide in reality, because we don't expect to shut down a real, breathing person with condemnation for their personality without in turn exposing ourselves somehow. But it is quite easy to condemn a person's demeanor on the internet out of hand, instantaneously, according to a judgement based upon which words, and which combinations of words, are acceptable, because there is no investment.

    As I can attest to a number of comments you have left on various threads, Barking, about my stance, my argumentativeness . . . and indeed my value, I can only assume that anything I might say disagreeing with some point you've made on your blog would be dismissed out of hand. Thus, I never comment on your blog. I think you would find, Barking, more people arguing with you if they felt there was any point in the effort.

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    1. "This is something we usually abide in reality, because we don't expect to shut down a real, breathing person with condemnation for their personality without in turn exposing ourselves somehow."

      In my area of the country we call that consequences. When some jerk says something that goes over the line you are obliged to knock him up side his head. It's what prevents people from saying the sort of stupid, internet troll comments in real life.

      "I never comment on your blog. I think you would find, Barking, more people arguing with you if they felt there was any point in the effort."

      You should probably comment. Barking is really a lot of fun to discuss things with on his blog, and on any other blog that I've run across, because he's smart and able to keep up with most anyone. You may not change his mind, and he may not change yours, but the conversation you'll have is well worth the time.

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    2. Wow. It must have been major 'cause...I don't remember it at all.

      I think the key, IMHO, and what I get out of both your comment above Alex and Charles' article, is that it's not what you say, but how you say it.

      Be a dick and you will rarely find someone who will be swayed by your argument.

      I like to think I am a very open minded, non-judgemental, adaptable person, but, seriously, I ain't Mahatma Gandi. Even I don't have patience for those with no patience.

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    3. "Be a dick and you will rarely find someone who will be swayed by your argument."

      True story.

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    4. Right there, Barking, is my point. ". . . but how you say it." You're concerned with cosmetics. The way you would like someone to "say it" is quite obvious. You want them to substantially agree with you while disagreeing.

      Thus, no one argues with you.

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    5. First, it's protocol. Then name calling. Nothing unpredictable here.

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  7. Charles, I am a dick all the time. And people are swayed by my arguments all the time. So that is a non-sequitur in my experience.

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    1. When you are being a dick people are not swayed by your arguments. They may be cowed into agreeing with you for the time being but their opinions are not changed by your boorish behavior.

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    2. You know they're not? Have you met all these people? Do you have paper that entitles you to speak for them? I only mention it because I get comments that tell me all the time that they are swayed. But you know best. You know the interior workings of their minds so well, you can tell me for sure that they're intimidated and not swayed. You must tell me how you manage this, Charles.

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    3. "I only mention it because I get comments that tell me all the time that they are swayed."

      That's because your blog has slowly but surely been culled to the point where you only allow sycophants to comment. All other dissenting voices are either dismissed as intellectually incompetent jag-offs or deleted. It's one of the things that I dislike about your blog because in spite of being very intelligent you sully yourself by pretending that the only voices that matter are the ones that agree with you and follow your agenda.

      "You must tell me how you manage this, Charles."

      How I manage to understand influencing people and changing their minds is through having been actively involved in politics for 25 years on the local, state, and national levels and having been a manager of people for the last ten years. I have spent years learning how to get people of all stripes to change their minds, behaviors, and actions. Being a dick only works in the short term and does nothing for the long term.

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    4. Nice. As a politician, you've started with insulting all my readers.

      You should know, I have quite a lot of readers who don't comment at all. I also get a lot of hate mail. Post much hate mail on your political website, do you?

      Politics is about getting the MOST people on your side. Most people think viscerally. Visceral thinking is useless to me. It would be impractical for me to promote thought-inspired commentary by appealing to the majority. It is strange that, being in politics, you don't understand this. Having written for politicians, counselled politicians, interviewed politicians, stumped for politicians and such since I was 15, I would think that your words would in some way reflect my experience. Instead, they seem to be contrived to justify your presumptive arrogance in being able to know the thoughts of every person on earth, as well as mine, and all those who read or who comment on my blog.

      Charles, the problem with people who take it upon themselves to 'defend the masses' is that it usually begins with the assumption that the masses can't defend themselves. That is always a mistake.

      I am quite happy to know there are people in the world who agree with me, who support me, who enjoy my blog and who want me to continue writing. If you feel you must write these people off as 'sycophantic' in order to soothe your ego, then I would point out that all the people in the world who agree with you must be as well. By your definition. Your very flat, uninspired, convenient definition.

      Now, say something else, and I'll stop coming around here. I mean, if you're not going to be sycophantic, what's the point?

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    5. " Post much hate mail on your political website, do you?"

      I don't have a political website Alexis, I write a D&D blog. If you managed to read enough to manifest an informed opinion instead of lashing out you would have noticed that was the case.

      "Instead, they seem to be contrived to justify your presumptive arrogance in being able to know the thoughts of every person on earth, as well as mine, and all those who read or who comment on my blog."

      I never claimed to know the thoughts of everyone who comments on your blog. I merely stated that being a dick doesn't work. It doesn't effect long term changes in a person's thoughts and beliefs.

      "Charles, the problem with people who take it upon themselves to 'defend the masses' is that it usually begins with the assumption that the masses can't defend themselves."

      Where are you getting the notion that I'm defending the masses? I never suggested that I had any such intent.

      "I am quite happy to know there are people in the world who agree with me, who support me, who enjoy my blog and who want me to continue writing."

      It's always nice to have people who appreciate your hard work, and there is nothing wrong with having admirers - nor is there anything wrong with people recognizing your concerted efforts to stifle real discussions by deleting the comments of people who disagree with you and verbally berating people who might even slightly be offering a different opinion.

      Now as for soothing my ego, I have no ego when it comes to this blog. I write it because I want to write and that's enough. I don't care if I'm read by a dozen or two hundred thousand people every day. It's a D&D blog. It's here for fun, not for me to lord my knowledge over the unwashed masses while I do my "I'm so wonderful" dance.

      "Now, say something else, and I'll stop coming around here. I mean, if you're not going to be sycophantic, what's the point?"

      Seriously, what did you expect was going to be my response to that? Did you think I was going to apologize for criticizing you and beg your forgiveness? You've really never read me at all, have you?

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  8. cool how this thread has become what the original post is about. That my friends is art.

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    1. Interpretive dance in Dyvers! Interpretive dance I say

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  9. I just wonder why this sort of culture never flourished in Colombia's gaming community.

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    1. More important things to worry about I suppose . . .

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  10. My attacks on Jeff began as horseplay -- I made jibes and silly taunts because I knew he would take them with the humor intended. And he did and would either respond in kind, or with self-deprecating humor. That was, like two years ago and more.

    Since then I've noticed a change in Jeff, although probably he's not changed much and I'm just disappointed in losing him to academia. So there's mild disappointment at being cheated of amusing, free content and then he goes the pay-for-play route and aligns himself with Raggi, two of my big bugaboos. Boo Jeff! My attacks became more strident because he was now linked with those issues, and also I thought that medieval Britain thing he was doing was boring. But fundamentally I like Jeff, just disappointed at how lame his infrequent content has become. He good people.

    Alexis? He's just a gross dude. Damaged. Yucky. And laughably so, which makes for a big, fat greasy pony-tailed target, with giant manboobs that he rubs sticky loads into.

    So comparing him Jeff and Alexis with regards to the shit I do is incorrect.

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    1. I had always been under the impression that your initial dealings with both of them were based on their places within the OSR and how seriously each of them took themselves, but after reading your comment I realize I was wrong. You're absolutely right, comparing the two of them in that light is incorrect. Sorry about that.

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