Wednesday 14 May 2014

Distracted from the Real Arguments

Well, after two nights of wondering what on earth I could possibly write about this week, I was gifted a marvellous online argument this afternoon, in which I showed remarkable restraint in the face of boundless abuse. Unfounded I might add, and still not apologised for. It was a little like going back to school again for a bit with some of the insults chucked my way. However, we settled our differences, and he became a perfectly reasonable chap after he realised his mistake, and I shall not name names, or my connection to him, those of you who saw it will know, and those of you who didn't don't need to. I don't personally know the chap, or wish him any ill-will, but it once again got me thinking about people's very different styles of argument.

Now, if you have spent any time on the world wide web at all recently, or even in the company of real people, talking about stuff (you know, in the pub, like we used to do in the olden days) you will be aware of UKIP, and how they divide opinion. Although, in my personal circle, it is more about why you think they're wrong, rather than whether you like them or not, however, I am not getting into that here. There are plenty of other ranty political blogs out there, suffice it to say that the borderline racism is not their worst quality. A friend of mine had posted on facebook that he was thinking of voting for them as a protest vote, and being helpful, I posted some alternatives, and this infamous Stewart Lee picture quote.

After which, I came across this blog entry by somebody else, and rather than just posting the link, I also quoted a hefty chunk of text in the thread, inside quotation marks. Because people never click on links, but they will pick up on bits of quotes. If you are similarly unlikely to read the link, the gist of the bit I quoted was that UKIP policies are a wee bit tory-like and establishment, and thus as a protest vote, it's a bit daft. There were these two key parts that got me in a bit of trouble however

"backed by a tide of political illiterates who consider them some kind of "alternative" to the establishment orthodoxy",

and “UKIP is the party to represent the kind of person who loved Margaret Thatcher, but thought her biggest fault was that she was too left-wing. If you are not as right-wing as Margaret Thatcher was, yet you actually vote for this unmistakably Thatcherite party, you are clearly an idiot, and should be ashamed of yourself.”

Now, having just read it, quoted a big chunk and wandered off to do something else, I was slightly surprised later on to find some comments below my quotes.

“Another twat that can do nothing but slab off ukip yawn”

“Get your hair cut get a job and jog on I'm not the 1 looks like a idiot”

Which surprised me a bit, as it is not the cut and thrust political debate I am used to. Particularly since I have a relatively well-paid and responsible job. And my employer has no problem with my beautiful locks at all. I'm not one to generalise over the “average bloke in the street” voter, but cripes DM, this is an odd refutation. At this point, I assumed he was on a serious offensive, and pointed out that personal insults are no way to conduct a serious debate, and it seemed a bit childish. I got this in return

You started it calling all people that vote ukip idiots and what's Thatcher got to do with it no proper argument just blame her”

Yep, I got told that I “started it.” At any point I expected to be told that I was just jealous, or that he knew I was but what was he. I had a quick look up the thread to discover that earlier on he had referred to somebody else as a “chink” which is lovely. Then googled him, and found him expressing solidarity with the lovely Jeremy Clarkson (who I do find funny, and have no problem with) by telling him to use the dambusters dog as defence (we all know what Guy Gibson's dog in dambusters was called right?) so I had a measure of his “speak as I find” type personality, and tried to tread carefully. In my next few attempts to get the reasons for the UKIP support I also got these little gems thrown at me

what you done apart from slag a party off and slate a dead woman your a hero mate”

*name of my friend removed* some of your friends are 1st class single minded bell ends”

maybe you just a green sheep and can't make your own decisions Barr.”

At which point I realised, after much explaining that I had only linked to the article, and had not called anybody anything derogatory, he hadn't seen the quote marks around the bit I quoted, and thus assumed that the fairly combative language used in the original had been mine, and he felt I had aimed it at him. So I did what I always do in these situations, explained it more fully, apologised for any offence caused and tried to move on.

To this guys credit, we did. He did not however apologise for the schoolboy insults. Which unfortunately makes him a grade A cuntknuckle who can go fuck himself with his mum's fat sweaty leg. (joke).
He is also lucky that I do consider pulling people up on their spelling and grammar to be the lowest form of arguing. Pedantry is hugely distracting, and the last refuge of a fuckwit on the ropes. It was tempting, though there would be no winners in that situation, only unending twattery of the worst order.

I learned very quickly on the web that as soon as you bring personal insults into an argument, you have essentially lost. As I've been arguing about politics, religion, music and comic books all over the web since back on the usenet forums in the 90s, I've got a lot of experience at online arguing. Much the same as I learned very quickly in real life arguing in the pub that he who starts swearing first, gets punched in the head by a psycho (learned that the hard way thanks). So I have always conducted myself in as obsessively polite a manner as I can when arguing, particularly on the internet, as I don't like it when people can back-quote me, and prove that I was disrespectful and impolite in my arguments when I pull them up for it. If we all did this, internet arguments would be a lot more fun for all involved.

I will still say things I do not believe in as inflammatory a way as I can just for shits and giggles though. Trolling in its purest form is still a great deal of fun.

On the same note, when I read this in the guardian a few weeks ago the below the line comments made me surprisingly cross. I know all below the line commenters are certifiably insane, trolls, or advertising robots, but some of them undermine the whole argumentative process. In the article, Chris Huhne makes the point that inequality is bad, and it hurts every level of society. Hoorah! Rapturous applause, Lib Dem MP makes thoroughly obvious point that we should all agree with. Although some definitely won't agree, that's where the argument in the comments section will go surely?

No, the argument was that Mr Huhne makes too much money to be able to talk about this issue.

As if only the very poor can talk about inequality. If we want any change to happen, it has to come from those at the top, who are in power, unless we go for a full on blood and ashes revolution. And those seldom end well in the short term. It got worse, somebody else dragged Lib Dem policy into it, and then he was pulled apart because he was promoting a book at the same time.

And thus the arguments over the actual issues were brilliantly sidelined into trivialities of party politics that do not matter one jot. Which makes me suspect that the internet trolls, crazies, and swivel-eyed loons are actually hired by the Illuminati/Government/Your Conspiracy Theory of Choice to distract us from ever reaching any kind of truth.


  1. Great read Dave. "Cuntknuckle" that has to be the best word I've read in 2014 :-)

    1. I'm quite proud of that one actually. I may not be the first to use it, but it's one I've not been called before at least.