“Confusion is an often too subtle sign of paranoia.” April 24, 2007 9:27 PM   Subscribe

Upon reading some responses in the "Shooty" post, I have a basic question that has started to bother me and I hope it is appropriate to post here. Why, when there is debate sparked over anything in general, does it seem to always point to Republican/Democrat, Race or Income? More inside:
posted by ForeverDcember to MetaFilter-Related at 9:27 PM (75 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I am terribly sorry if this is inappropriate, in the wrong spot ect.. I am still fairly new to Metafilter I suppose.

Anyway, I have noticed thoughout society in general (on the net, media, day-to-day ect) that whenever debate is sparked up about something or another , there is almost always comments about that persons broad views, race ect. (for example: Abortion sometimes leads to jabs like "Liberal" or "Conservative"- "Slut" or "Prude")
I suppose in sort, why can't it just be about the person as an individual and not a tainted view of their beliefs ect?
posted by ForeverDcember at 9:31 PM on April 24, 2007


It's called human nature.
posted by Roger Dodger at 9:39 PM on April 24, 2007


Pick a flavour:
  • Labelling other people in order to pre-emptively dismiss them is easier than actually listening to and thinking about what they have to say.
  • Humans are tribal, and we instinctively sort ourselves into 'us' and 'them' whenever there is a hint of conflict or disagreement. See also: involuntary testicular retraction.
  • Shit happens. Buy a helmet, hippie. [ha ha funny ironic joke]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:52 PM on April 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have a helmet. [ ha ha I'm a fraud , I never got a helmet]
posted by nola at 9:56 PM on April 24, 2007


Issues are generally polarizing...certain views can generally be attributed to certain types of people or groups. It's sometimes stereotyping, sometimes useful.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:03 PM on April 24, 2007


it's like asking why cortex closes every MeTa thread he sees.

He just does (shrugs)

posted by jourman2 at 10:03 PM on April 24, 2007


It is a tendency in people to have only a set number of "arguments" to present to the world. These are little spiels that people have worked out and polished and when they're debating something they trot them out. Often they're on point, but sometimes they're jarringly wrong. But because one can only keep a certain number of such "arguments" stored in one's head, these arguments aren't directed at "Botoxforev0R,"
"JohnCReilly," "fartchicken" or "sillyusername111" but "Republicans," "Democrats," "puppies," "gaseous buffoons" etc.

This, I think, is the root cause of why such debates end up as name-calling, because a lot of people involved are not debating each other, but abstract beings. And it takes a helluva lot shorter amount of time to trot out an argument one's got down pat than to think through every single new event or issue.

God knows I don't except myself from the ranks of people who've got pre-conceived arguments. I try not to, but, y'know... laziness.
posted by Kattullus at 10:07 PM on April 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


It is collateral damage from the newsfilter posts. People work up grudges in the political posts and then go through the rest of the site looking to settle their personal vendetta.
posted by LarryC at 10:13 PM on April 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


We're associative creatures, prone toward acts of pattern recognition, and so it's easy to want to classify new things we encounter in terms of the things we've seen already. Couple that with the broader and narrower classifications that are fodder for conversation at the water cooler and on the television, and we're essentially primed to react to things by categorizing them according to a standing, common vocabulary.

And it's easier to form and advance an argument against a recognized, consistent entity (e.g. a political party or a social position) than it is to tailor a reaction to a nonce, a unique individual position. So either laziness or anger or just simple efficiency leads to reactions that incorporate the pre-existing reaction to an associated known. This applies to political parties, gender politics, pet ownership, music choices, specific identities, etc; not just the broad strokes (party, race) but the fine details as well (dios is a conservative stumper, cortex closes threads on a hair trigger, languagehat will correct your grammar).

So far as it is lazy, and so far as it can unfairly stifle unbiased debate, it's not a good thing for the site or for people in general. But it's a hard thing to just set aside, especially in the heat of an argument.

And for the record, every time I close a Metatalk thread, I die a little inside. Don't mock my pain. Also, [insert Helmut Lang joke here].
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:22 PM on April 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


c'mon close this one.

I dare ya.

double dare
posted by jourman2 at 10:29 PM on April 24, 2007




This is the kind of question only a damn Wobbly would ask.
posted by nanojath at 11:12 PM on April 24, 2007


But they started it!
posted by chillmost at 11:32 PM on April 24, 2007


Why? Because Americans are so stupid they think Hillary Clinton really IS a radical leftist.
posted by davy at 11:39 PM on April 24, 2007


If an american ever met a true leftist they'd shit their pants.
posted by matteo

(just got that out of the way)
posted by justgary at 12:39 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think it's just because there are no new ideas.

Let's say you're having a debate on gun control. Someone posts to argue that, if the victims of gun violence had themselves been armed, things would have turned out differently. You think their argument is a great big stinking pile of crap. But more to the point for our purposes here, you've heard it a number of times before. Somewhere in your brain there's a subroutine that sets 'same idea' equal to 'same ideology.' All the people who've made the same argument must think in a like manner, right? Otherwise, you figure, they wouldn't have produced the same idea.

But if we sat ATV (Arm The Victims) guy down and questioned him on the subject, we'd find that he doesn't see himself as part of any specific group or ideology. He didn't get his argument from them; he came up with it on his own. He doesn't even know anyone else who thinks the same as he does on the issue, so how can he be part of a like-minded group?

All that's going on here is that lots of people are thinking of the same stuff (or cribbing their ideas from elsewhere and convincing themselves they're original) over and over again.

Example: in this thread, davy says "Americans are so stupid they think Hillary Clinton really IS a radical leftist." I could link you to the mefi thread from maybe a year ago where I said essentially the same thing. (Except that I didn't say that Americans were stupid). But davy didn't get the idea from me and he and I might very well disagree on a long list of issues. So are he and I in the same group? I certainly don't think so. But others might make that assumption.
posted by Clay201 at 12:46 AM on April 25, 2007


It's a common logical fallacy called ad hominem. As to why we do it? It's easier than coming up with sound logical arguments.
posted by knave at 4:07 AM on April 25, 2007


The phonomenon you're witnessing is called confirmation bias.
posted by Plutor at 4:51 AM on April 25, 2007


It is collateral damage from the newsfilter posts.

Make that any contentious post. Some people remember names, and when they read a post they don't agree with a familiar name, they have a very easy way to respond that will probably get a response.

Or they're just trolling in general. In the gun thread, someone used the term "gun-hating whackjobs" and people couldn't resist responding, like sheep.
posted by smackfu at 5:30 AM on April 25, 2007


Well, let it be noted that, so far, gun-hating whackjobs have committed about 100% less massacres than gun-toting whack jobs.
posted by y2karl at 5:38 AM on April 25, 2007


Oh, let's make that school shooting massacres, to be sure--car and suicide bombs not included.
posted by y2karl at 5:39 AM on April 25, 2007


CONFIRMATION BIAS !!!
posted by reklaw at 5:39 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yesterday, I witnessed a customer yammering on and on and on and on and on to my boss (who was sitting in the café, trying to drink an iced tea on his break) about some Spanish dictionary he had helped her find and he really could have cared less, but oh man, that was not making her shut up anytime soon.

I was talking to Kattullus about this, and I don't remember which one of us said it first, so this may be his theory, but I agree, so whatever. Anyway, some people really truly believe that EVERYTHING THAT THEY SAY is interesting to everyone around them. These people don't think through whether or not you give two shits about Spanish dictionaries or gun-toting whack jobs. They just believe that you need to hear their opinion because they HAVE one.

It's like Austin Powers, when he loses his inner monologue.

It gets even worse on the interwebs, I think, because people feel like every text box is an invitation to release forth into the soliloquy on whatever issue it was they were thinking about at that exact moment. You don't even have to go OUTSIDE and find a HUMAN to respond! It's brilliant! You can just imagine that you're talking to the Republicans/Democrats/Spanish Dictionary editors and spew forth!

[NOT CONFIRMATION BIASIST.]
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:21 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


MetaTalk: in the "Shooty" post
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 6:25 AM on April 25, 2007


"Shooty" is a good name for a cute li'l kitten armed with an AK-47.

[NOT CAT-MACROIST]
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:29 AM on April 25, 2007


The result of it happens seems to be that there are people talking past each other, creating beliefs the others don't have and then attacking them, or assigning motives to people's beliefs that don't exist.

For example:
  • In an abortion thread, a string of posters couldn't accept that there are people who legitimately believe life starts at conception, and therefor they assume that everyone who is against abortion is anti-sex.
  • Posters repeatedly make claims that people only own guns out of fear.
  • In an askme question about a marriage, a poster was jumped on for encouraging "abuse" because she suggested that marriage was "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health," and it seemed the posters didn't seem to believe anyone could actually have that view
To often, it seems like people turn everything into a dichotomy, with everything either being right or wrong, without accepting that life is a string of shades of gray.

In a way, to assume that there is no middle ground is easier, because everything can be judged by more basic standards.

However, to accept that beliefs opposing yours may have grains of truth to them is to accept that you may be wrong—a thought some people seem less willing to accept.
posted by drezdn at 6:41 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Slaves of the binary. Troglodytes, all of them.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:46 AM on April 25, 2007


So let's leave it alone, 'cause we can't see eye to eye.
There ain't no good guy, there ain't no bad guy.
There's only you and me and we just disagree.
Ooo - ooo - ooohoo oh - oh - o-whoa
posted by jonmc at 7:04 AM on April 25, 2007


Is this the right thread to plug my idea for lifelike cockroach-shaped packets of soy sauce? They'd be fun for the whole family and a real boon for waiters with legerdemain skills.

Of course, people like other people who think they're right, and people like to think they're right. We're trained from youth to believe that being on the winning side of an argument is the best course of action, when exactly the opposite is the case. There's nothing as educational as being proven wrong, or being shown to have made false assumptions or incorrect statements.

But all our well-trained egos balk at the idea, and we'll fight tooth-and-nail to be right all the time. This often results in wedging others into a larger group of antagonists in order to not hear the nuances of their positions, and thus not have to rethink elements of our own.

A side effect is that we lump our positions in with "our side," which often does either a disservice to us, when our side stands for something obnoxious or false, or to our side, when our opinions represent incorrect or thoughtless positions.

By grouping ourselves and others so tightly with larger opinions, we protect ourselves from being wrong and alone, even though being wrong is the best thing that could ever happen to us. Sure, it's an ego thing, but there's nothing wrong with that. We like to make words into bugbears, like "ego" and "wrong," and we do great harm to ourselves by doing so.

"No, no. Your food is fine. That's just a novelty soy sauce packet on the edge of your plate."
posted by breezeway at 7:05 AM on April 25, 2007


Helmut Lang joke? Oooh.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:07 AM on April 25, 2007


So let's leave it alone, 'cause we can't see eye to eye.

God do I hate that song. People who like that song are, as an undifferentiated whole, bad.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:23 AM on April 25, 2007


They're even bad when differentiated, cortex. It's just that you don't need to differentiate to know that they are bad--like absolutely everything else!
posted by Kwine at 7:35 AM on April 25, 2007


cortex, kwine: you two obviously harbor anti-Masonic* prejudices. My work is done here.

*anti-Dave Masonic, to be precise.
posted by jonmc at 7:38 AM on April 25, 2007


also, this is baffling:

it's like asking why cortex closes every MeTa thread he sees.

He just does (shrugs)


I mean, have you looked at cortex's posting history, jourman? That guy loves open MetaTalk threads like Dizzy loves cake.
posted by Kwine at 7:39 AM on April 25, 2007


I wanna be known for loving something too!

Is loving hearing myself type taken yet?
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 7:42 AM on April 25, 2007


Don't forget about cats. Mefites are known for getting into quite heated debate over proper care for their cats.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 7:53 AM on April 25, 2007


prolly cuz ppl r dum lol
posted by Eideteker at 8:11 AM on April 25, 2007


Thanks for the input... I wrote that late last night, forgetting to write "stereotype." Sorry about that.

I think what is most frustrating to me is that try as you might (at least for me) you still end up stereotyping people in the end. Suppose it really is human nature. But thanks for the links, I had never heard of "confirmation bias", "ad hominem" and "heuristic."

Speaking of kitty cats... icanhascheezburger?
posted by ForeverDcember at 8:23 AM on April 25, 2007


The phenomena you talk about is exactly why I stay away from political debate here.

In real life, I live for debate and arguing with people. I'm pretty well known for it. It's a part of my nature. However, part of my nature also has an intense hatred for the left/right, conservative/liberal, [insert favorite polarizing dichotomy here]. My friends and I have a commonality where we try to avoid (what I consider) intellectually lazy labels and stick strictly to the subject at hand. Unfortunately, political and religious debate here always seem to verge to delve into labeling of opinions and people using artificial labels which don't really tell me anything other than what a blind ideology tells us to think. It's my own personal version of Godwin's Law for MeFi and as such I avoid actively participating in debates here.

That isn't to say there isn't some very intellectually stimulating remarks around here that make me think. While I avoid commenting, I also enjoy reading intense debate here because there are plenty of smart people here. I think part of the nature of a message board lends itself to use certain dichotomies to make arguments and I don't see it as a problem. It's just how things tend to go on the Internet.
I also can't write worth a damn, so I prefer verbal sparring.
posted by jmd82 at 8:40 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


There are 10 types of people in the world - those who understand binary, and gun-toting, anti-abortion whack-jobs.

Wait, I think I got the punchline wrong.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:42 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, let it be noted that, so far, gun-hating whackjobs have committed about 100% less massacres than gun-toting whack jobs.
posted by y2karl at 8:38 AM on April 25 [+] [!]


Oh, let's make that school shooting massacres, to be sure--car and suicide bombs not included.
posted by y2karl at 8:39 AM on April 25 [+] [!]


Yes, and for the sake of "discussion," let's also not include axe murders, stabbings non-gun-toting serial killings poisonings and anything else that doesn't fit the criteria of "killed someone with a gun, and only a gun."
posted by shmegegge at 9:00 AM on April 25, 2007


I believe y2karl was engaging in irony, shmegegge.
posted by Kattullus at 9:06 AM on April 25, 2007


Oh, ho, ho, irony! Oh, no, no, we don't get that here. See, uh, people ski topless here while smoking dope, so irony's not really a, a high priority. We haven't had any irony here since about, uh, '83, when I was the only practitioner of it. And I stopped because I was tired of being stared at.
posted by carsonb at 9:18 AM on April 25, 2007


look, there's no way he could be engaging in irony because I have my irony detector here and it's not registering any. and I know it works because it has this little button that you can press to test it so that the needle goes... up... and....

god damn it.
posted by shmegegge at 9:35 AM on April 25, 2007


This thread is going really well. Nice.
posted by Catfry at 10:33 AM on April 25, 2007


However, part of my nature also has an intense hatred for the left/right, conservative/liberal, [insert favorite polarizing dichotomy here]. My friends and I have a commonality where we try to avoid (what I consider) intellectually lazy labels and stick strictly to the subject at hand. Unfortunately, political and religious debate here always seem to verge to delve into labeling of opinions and people using artificial labels which don't really tell me anything other than what a blind ideology tells us to think.

I agree.

It is really repellent how for some people, every single issue has to be refracted through their binary-colored political lens. Every event in life has to be in line with or opposed to one political perspective or the other. Everything is polarized by partisans. People are suppose to have predictable reactions to any and every news event or issue and be labeled accordingly. I've been pointing this out for years, and as a result, I've been accused of being a partisan myself. It's the problem with permitting politics here. Politics devours everything because the most obsessed among us are also among the loudest and most frequent contributors. The site becomes polarized and partisan-charged. Unnecessary conflict and grudges result because to the politically-obsessive, difference is not acceptable; difference must be destroyed. It's truly disgusting. Everything becomes a political debate. Labels are throw about. No one can contribute without their contribution being refracted through the partisan lens.

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop it. The only way to stop it is to banish political posts form the site until the message is sent that this is not a political advocacy/discussion site. That position has been rejected. So instead, politics becomes like kudzu, encroaching everywhere and permeating the landscape. And to those who like that, they quickly and loudly try to draw lines in the sand and start carving up the community for their political purposes.

The question that I have always had is: why? Are these people like their day to day life? Do they bring this shit into conversations with their friends at bars on a Friday night? Or is it something about the website that fosters this kind of behavior? Why would someone be this dedicated to politics?
posted by dios at 10:40 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


/me stabs cortex in the junk
posted by dios at 10:41 AM on April 25, 2007


/me tackles dios slaming him to the floor biting his hands till he drops his shiv.


I was doing some Irony but I kept burning my shirts!
posted by French Fry at 10:49 AM on April 25, 2007


Metafilter: like kudzu, encroaching everywhere and permeating the landscape
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:58 AM on April 25, 2007


dios, do you also agree with jmd82 that there's some very intellectually stimulating remarks around here that make me think and don't see it as a problem? It often seems that your disgust with "partisan circle jerks" and your frequent denouncements of such indicate a certain hatred of this place that makes me wonder why too. Why do you subject yourself to this terrible website? (I am glad you do, though, generally.)
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:03 AM on April 25, 2007


"You killed my father! Pretend to diet!"
posted by davy at 11:07 AM on April 25, 2007


"Is loving hearing myself type taken yet?"

Yes.
posted by davy at 11:09 AM on April 25, 2007


What Roger Dodger and dios said, but with poorer grammar, random insults, and at least a couple of non sequiturs.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:55 AM on April 25, 2007


For the record:

April 25, 2001:
Half.com expands to list used electronics.
Christina Aguilera... a ditz?
Who Let the Blogs Out?
Ashcroft and Bush make their move.
Feeling chest pains? Maybe it's that gun in your pocket!
David! Cover Up!
Sen. Bob Kerrey tells a personal Vietnam horror story
InfoBots are coming.
The Quote Project...
Slim Shady poses nude in Cosmo
Does this Guy have an agent?
Why it sucks to be in the media spotlight.
Robert Downey, Jr. arrested yet again on drug charges.
Hello, Peril. The so-called model minority inspire an amazing amount of mistrust, according to a survey of US residents.
Gendex: A Family History Database
Generation X washed up?
Should all of America pay for Davenport?
Greenspun Redux.
Annapolis principal bans "Tag" on the playground.
May 1st Skiboot - Reinvigoration of the Ski Footwear.
Columbine parents sue game makers
"School bullying called widespread."
Pathology Tribunal Collapses.
Dubya-bashing and Porn to be Salon's salvation
Ashcroft and Bush make their move.
Feeling chest pains? Maybe it's that gun in your pocket!...
Columbine parents sue game makers


Yeah, this place was so different back in the day.
posted by y2karl at 12:34 PM on April 25, 2007


y2karl: are you in the right thread? Where are you getting the "things were different back in the day" argument. I don't see it here.
posted by dios at 12:47 PM on April 25, 2007


Oh, wait. I get it now. That was supposed to be ironic: you were making a comment about people fall back on default arguments when they make generalizations and assumptions about what The Other is saying.

My irony meter is worse than my sarcasm meter.
posted by dios at 12:50 PM on April 25, 2007


There's an opportunity there.

1. Develop reliable, accurate sarcasm/irony meter.
2. Lard up a bunch of discussion boards with ironic and sarcastic comments.
3. Announce availability of meter.
4. Profit!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:42 PM on April 25, 2007


So anyway, yea, why do people argue about stuff? Will they ever quit it?
posted by Mister_A at 1:59 PM on April 25, 2007


*lards up*
posted by Mister_A at 1:59 PM on April 25, 2007


Nono, A.
If you tell them you're larding up their threads, they don't need your meter>
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:51 PM on April 25, 2007


MetaFilter: People trying to shut other people up since 2000 or somethin'....
posted by y2karl at 4:01 PM on April 25, 2007


Just to be a pain in the ass, I'll point out that y2karl's clarifying five-year anniversary back-in-the-day link happened before 9/11 changed everything.

Less facetiously, though, I do think members' politics became more prominent after 9/11, more so than after the 2000 elections. Of course, it's also true that U.S. politics got more contentious in the same time frame, and that a whole lot of other stuff was happening, too, so, uh, whatever? Or, whatevs?
posted by cgc373 at 5:38 PM on April 25, 2007


you were making a comment about people fall back on default arguments when they make generalizations and assumptions about what The Other is saying.

to be fair to myself, I actually am for certain increases in gun control. I'm just against horrific argumentation and apparently I have a broken irony detector.
posted by shmegegge at 5:43 PM on April 25, 2007


It's all the fault of the Left.
posted by flabdablet at 6:40 PM on April 25, 2007


Shut UP!
posted by Shooty McGunpants at 6:43 PM on April 25, 2007


Dude, you just shot in your pants.
posted by jonmc at 7:55 PM on April 25, 2007


Metafilter: Over-larding a plate of has-beens.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:47 PM on April 25, 2007


eating has-beens gives you gas-in-the-pan.
posted by jonmc at 8:51 PM on April 25, 2007


My irony meter goes to 11!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:54 PM on April 25, 2007


FOOOOOOGGEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTTTTTTTYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by miss lynnster at 11:42 PM on April 25, 2007


Why do you subject yourself to this terrible website?

Every Wendy Pepper needs her Kara Saun.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:06 AM on April 26, 2007


Wait, you mean these beans aren't vegan?
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:27 AM on April 26, 2007


Dude, those aren't beans.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:38 AM on April 26, 2007


A friend of mine once went to a family wedding with her 82 year old father. He nearsightedly scooped, among other things, about five tablespoons of bacon bits onto his plate at the following reception. Upon his first bite thereof, he commented that "You know, Emmy, these beans are a little dry..."
posted by y2karl at 3:13 PM on April 27, 2007


I just don’t see how you can stand there drinking red paint.
posted by flabdablet at 10:53 PM on April 27, 2007


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