First You Ignore Them, Then You Quarrel With Them, Then You Laugh At Them, Then You Win Dept.


The Closed Minds Problem - NYTimes.com

... is there a reason I go for door #3 ["Point out the wrongness in ways designed to grab readers’ attention — with ridicule where appropriate, with snark, and with names attached"], other than simply telling the truth and having some fun while I’m at it? Yes — because the point is not to convince Rick Santelli or Allan Meltzer that they are wrong, which is never going to happen. It is, instead, to deter other parties from false equivalence. Inflation cultists can’t be moved; but reporters and editors who tend to put out views-differ-on-shape-of-planet stories because they think it’s safe can be, sometimes, deterred if you show that they are lending credence to charlatans. And this in turn can gradually move the terms of discussion, possibly even pushing the nonsense out of the Overton window.

I had a vaguely similar set of experiences when dealing with folks (mercifully, at extreme arm's length) in the Holocaust-denial crowd. The point wasn't to convince them they were wrong, because they had not been argued into the position in the first place — or, rather, if they were, it was only because the arguments they had heard were received more as a way to confirm existing prejudices than because they represented any kind of process of arrival at the truth.

Rather, the overriding reason folks debated those people in alt.revisionism and other such places was to show other people — the newcomers, the as-yet-uncommitted, those looking back through the record — why the revisionist argument was worthless and based on false pretenses. If those people ended up siding with the revisionists anyway because they liked it better (or were more comfortable) on that aide, they probably weren't worth having as allies to begin with.

The importance of setting or embodying an example isn't something we pay a lot of attention to, or put a lot of credence in. We want results, not just something that looks good, right? But people respond to appearances, sometimes more than they like to admit. (There's a reason PR people dress in suits and ties even when most of their clients or prospective pitch subjects don't.) If they can see that someone's arguments simply don't hold water, time and again, that gives the ones with a brain no excuse not to come to the right conclusion.


Tags: Paul Krugman psychology revisionism sociology


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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2015/02/28 10:00.

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