*This post has been edited*
Yesterday, Ethan Siegel of Starts with a Bang fame wrote a post called “Weekend Diversion: How to Argue.” In this post Siegel talks about there being good ways to argue and bad ways to argue. He even put up a helpful graphic to emphasize good vs. bad arguments (not made by him). Here it is:
I’m sympathetic to the concern that if people are going to engage in debate they act in some kind of reasonable manner, which, for me, means addressing the issues at hand rather than calling someone names. A big reason I’m sympathetic is that, like most people reading this, sometimes I get into debates online. Often these debates are frustrating as many of the people on message boards and the like are more than happy to sling insults rather than address relevant issues. In light of that, I found myself nodding vigorously when I read the post by Siegel.
What I did not expect was anything like the response from Isis the Scientist who wrote her post here. She wrote, “I find Ethan’s post derailing and counterproductive at best, offensive and naive at worst.” She continues to hammer away at Siegel, saying that his post is an attempt to maintain his position of privilege, and that he wants to prevent others (Others) from having a voice. She even replaces his graphic with her own:
Maybe you are not scratching your heat at this. Maybe you see this, and it makes all the sense in the world. But if so, you are not me. I am just puzzled. Nothing in Siegel’s post said anything about sex or ethnicity. He never even hinted at it. He merely suggested that there are good arguments and poor ones, and that, to quote him, “on my site” (italics his own), you had to use good arguments, that you had to actually address the issues, if you wanted to participate in discussions with him.
The reason I find this so weird is that a number of people on Isis’ journal chimed in agreeing with her. And that just leaves me wondering, again, what the hell? Isis provides a number of points that sound great, and they would make a fine argument if anything Siegel suggested any of the things Isis perceives. But he doesn’t. As such, things like “Being Polite in the Discussion Does Not Make your Message Civil” and “The Fact That You Don’t Understand the Argument Doesn’t Mean the Other Person is not Being Clear,” while correct, have no relevance to Siegel’s argument at all. Isis misses the point of Siegel’s post completely. That makes me wonder, is she projecting? I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s confusing and a little frustrating when people jump all over you without actually touching on anything you said.
For me, this is merely something to muse over. It isn’t like someone jumping on you for no good reason on the internet really matters. After all, it’s the internet. If you get your feelings hurt every time some nameless and faceless individual attacking you for things you haven’t done, you need to cut your LAN cable. But it is weird. It makes me wonder just what is going through these people’s minds. What do they think is going on? Where do they go so wrong? How do they get such a wrong idea about what you’re saying? Seriously, what the hell?