Time and time again I have overheard discussion or arguments where participants polarize. The one who knows the most attempts to stay on focus providing ever more points to show his case. The less informed cannot stay focused, as he has run out of specifics. He resorts to one of five techniques: spraying, changing the focus of the topic, repeating over and over again the few points he does have, making the argument personal, and name calling. Sometimes he uses a mixture. Let us examine each.
Spraying is the term used for those who, in essence, travel around the world in three minutes or less bringing up everything related or not. The informed seek clarity or relevance on the first point only to notice that his opponent, the ill informed and lacking depth, has switched to yet another aspect. The ill-informed stays in control of the argument only because the more informed cannot keep up. Like a shotgun blast the intent is to blow the better informed over with a mass of non-specific, semi-related data so he drops the discussion. The less informed wins only because he is left standing. Sprayers also gain additional power by increasing their volume as well. Their thought processes do not allow them to realize the extent of their ignorance.
Focus changers also run out of counter arguments or choose not to deal with the logical next step and turn instead to changing the focus of the argument. Instead of dealing with the legitimate issues raised by the Tea Party Movement the need for both major parties to provide us candidates who endorse fiscal responsibility, limited Constitutional government, and free market economics they call them racist or mobsters. The argument now moves to defending against racism. The establishment media initially relied on this technique to undermine the Tea Party Movement but it failed because the movement was a microcosm of the population itself and one might find his, normally non-activist, mother leading the charge.
Repeaters, yet another technique for the less informed, likewise run out of counter arguments and try to win by constantly restating their initial two or three points. Normally, like sprayers, they also raise their voice on each restatement. They too have no depth but it does not matter to them.
The art of sounding informed when not includes personalizing the argument. I once published a column that dealt with a plan to cut the bureaucracy by laying off 10% of their work force per year but allowing them, for ten years, to continue receiving their former pay, reduced by 10% each year, until they received nothing and sought new productive employment. A colleague, rather than debate the idea, fired off a negative memo suggesting that I be first to go. In doing so the debate was now personalized with the new issue now being my value to the institution.
Name-callers seek to destroy your credibility by linking you, or what you advocate, to something unpopular, sometimes called labeling. This allows them to write you, or your issue, off without having to think or deal with your evidence. The favorite label is liberal or conservative. It gets worse. The mere word “McCarthyism”, the suggestion that there might be a single communist in the government, Hollywood or the media, was used for decades to destroy proponents of such or any real investigation into the evidence. Those who question the need to have our troops in 31 countries of the earth are called “isolationists.” Those who even dare question Barack Obama’s Birth Certificate are degraded by the term “birthers.” Even Congress was “cowed” into silence. Those who still question global warming as being man made are called “flat-earthers.” Those advocating that we get back to the Constitution as designed are called “strict constructionists” as though this were a venereal disease of some kind. You get the picture. How many of these things are true. I do not know as the opponents won by silencing proponents. Who comes up with these labels? The opponents did, of course? And who uses them the most? The least informed.
So what should the most informed do? First, make certain that they are the most informed and that they too are not using any of these techniques to further an argument that may not be totally correct. Second, let it be. The majority is normally ill informed. Relate where you can and move on to other friends. Someone else will have to reach them and perhaps that won’t happen either. In America we do not shoot you for disagreement or ignorance. At least not yet!!!!
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