Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Authoritarians On The Internet: Why They're All Wrong

I hate it when people come to me with their strongly-held opinions and pretty much batter me if I don't immediately accept them without question. I hate it even more when I am treated like an enemy of the worst kind for daring to question them. Well, I dare. I have opinions too, you know, and I don't accept "Because I say so" as a valid argument. If you want to win me over, you'll have to do better than that.

Well tonight I had the questionable "pleasure" of being harangued by frothing loons from the left and the right. The only person I interacted with that gave me any real pleasure was open to checking out new ways of doing things. Whether or not he chooses to agree with me is another matter altogether, but unlike the others he didn't treat me dismissively, spam my timeline with talking points on a loop (I hate that. Anyone who does that gets muted.), or resort to ad hominem attacks for not taking the time out to find reasons to agree with him. He actually seems like a nice chap. Sorry, dude, I'm married.

The left/right dichotomy

If you ask the wrong questions, you'll get the wrong answers. In my post If We're Going To Forget Left And Right, We Need To Forget Them, I pointed out that we're too busy pushing bipolar partisan talking points to actually discuss things properly. Well that's what happens when you ignore the Twofold Principle. We really need to get better at reasoning using empiricism, not emotion, as a guide. The reduction in stupidity will be immediately apparent the minute we start doing that. The fact that we're unwilling to question established political positions is actually the problem. It creates a my team V your team confrontation and does nothing to get anything done. In any case, other choices exist between two sides in a two hundred year old ideological struggle. The joke is on us: they're just two sides of the same coin. If we look from the pigs to the men and the men to the pigs, we won't see much of a difference between them, mostly because some animals are more equal than others.

Why they fail

The authoritarians I argue with could make a better case for their points of view if they provided enough wiggle room to debate them properly. No system is perfect; the best ones are the most flexible and adaptable. I'm not interested in talking points so spamming my timeline with them is not the best or most effective way to get me on board. That they're passionate about what they believe is all well and good but as I said earlier, I have opinions too. Insulting and dismissing me is not the way to go if you want me on board.

Make a good case and be prepared to defend it or make like a bunny and hop it. Notice that, in the comments, nobody questioned Nick's stock buybacks line. They went off on a tangent. He's made his case. Anyone who takes a pop at Middle-out invariably results to repeating partisan talking points and taking potshots at Nick. At no point do they discredit Middle-out itself because it actually stands up to scrutiny. Note that Epstein, in the linked article, relies on studies and theory, not practicals and established facts. I might question some of the thing Nick comes out with (95% income tax on the top 1%? I don't think so. 75% tops.) but for the most part I agree with them. Mind you, Middle-out is flexible, not some non-negotiable all-or-nothing proposition. That's why, when I came out with my own version of it, what I ended up with was still recognisably Middle-out.

Addressing the market

There is such a thing as the market, even though it's not free. Just as we have always had government in one form or another, we have always had money in one form or another. Back in the day it was seashells, today we like to think our banknotes are much more sophisticated because they have their nominal value printed on them. Therefore, we have always had markets in one form or another. This is how humanity works. Pretending that it doesn't causes more problems than it solves.

The problem with the left/right dichotomy, as I've pointed out time and again, is that none of their philosophies actually addresses the market as such and both of them attempt to control or manipulate it in practice. The right tends towards consolidation for the benefit of a few stakeholders and the left tends towards consolidation and state control. A more free, fair market would permit competition even with state-run services and would act against anti-competitive corporate protectionism as and when required. Few people in the vanguard of the left/right divide agree with me because right-wingers see any interference as an appropriation of business owners' rights and the left hates capitalism on principle.

I personally favour a Middle-out tame capitalism working in tandem with state service providers to increase the number of employment opportunities that actually pay well enough to support a robust welfare state. I've never had a chance to debate it properly, though, and this needs to be done. I'd like to see if it stands or falls under scrutiny.

Addressing the people

Authoritarians generally fail because they want to give us what they think we should receive, not what we actually need. That sum is non negotiable and it's all we're getting if Fooligan gets his way. Okay, what if you have complex needs? Tough. All other benefits would go. Authoritarianism, in and of itself, fails because it's primarily interested in promoting and perpetuating a system, not in meeting people's needs. This is the root of my opposition to Basic Income. It's not so much about the money, it's about being dismissed for asking questions. Since the purpose of the people in favour of it is to perpetuate and promote it first and foremost, anyone who questions it will be treated as I was, and by the same people. This is the thing that makes it wrong.

I'm a bit of a control freak, I freely admit it, but if anyone questions me about an opinion I hold I'm happy to answer them, providing reasons for my viewpoints. I love a robust debate but can't be dealing with that thing where you're bashing your opinion against another person's opinion. There needs to be room for manoeuvre and you need to be willing to accept that you might not be correct. See this lone tweet?
I think I got muted for asking this fellow to explain why he's such a believer in online paywalls. He asked me to do my own research to prove him right, would you believe? You'll have to take my word for it because our entire conversation has vanished. I think he deleted the tweet stream in which I asked him for before and after sales figures.

This is what happens when you have opinions, not facts. Here's another conversation with a believer. I've yanked his crank a few times but he's got more opinions than facts. Again, case not proven. I can't get on board with a philosophy that doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

How to avoid falling into the authoritarian trap

Authoritarians arrogate to themselves the right to make decisions for us for our own good, usually without consulting us first. I have learned from personal experience that life is complex and that one-size-fits-all solutions don't always work for everyone. Heck, I discovered that when I first started buying my own clothes! So, if you have a great idea that you think is the cat's pyjamas in terms of saving the world or whatever, how can you convince other people that you're right and win them over?

Provide links to articles, etc., that prove your point, then, when people question it, engage properly with them. If your philosophy is so rigid it can't be questioned, that's the problem. You need a new philosophy. If your philosophy is lacking in detail and doesn't address the points being made by your questioner, that's okay. Ask for help to refine it. Result: a better, more effective philosophy AND you've won someone over. Being willing to discuss other people's points of view with the intention of discovering their value is a surefire winner.

Heck, I'd even get on board with Basic Income if it wasn't so flippin' rigid. I'd tweak it a lot, to be sure, but I'm willing to debate it with people who know what the word actually means. One World Kibbutz might work on a smaller scale and could prove useful as a way of providing housing and employment for some of our homeless people, etc. but I can't see it working on a national level for everyone. The point is, I try to avoid getting all authoritarian about my viewpoints because I might be wrong. I just haven't had them properly tested in a robust debate yet. Please note, bashing me because I disagree with you is not debating. Neither is peppering my timeline with your opinion spam.

Let's move away from the authoritarian approach when sharing our opinions and be willing to accept that we're not always right. Let's be willing to make changes if faults are found in our reasoning. Sooner or later, this will result in excellent, practically applicable policies, and that can only be a good thing.

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