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August 02, 2008


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Ordinary Joe

A poster is held up. It is simply a picture of a fetus in a tray alongside some surgical instruments. The poster has no captions.

Was it an abortion? A still-birth? A diseased fetus that could not be carried to term? A woman's life saved at the cost of an infant's life? A woman facing tragedy of a lost wanted baby? A rape victim's or an incest victim's burden removed? A would-be father angry that he had no choice when this woman killed his would-be son? A group trying to lead people to believe that the majority of abortions occur at this stage of development? A dead would-be daughter, the effect of a nation's policy allowing only one child? A sin? A blessing?

What do *you* see?

The only correct answer should be something along the lines of, "I see someone holding a poster of what appears to be a picture of a fetus in a tray alongside some surgical instruments."

If you see anything more, then ask from where does the more come?

If you understand this point, then there is no need for you to review the earlier posts; If you don't, then there is probably no point in your reviewing the earlier posts.

Texas Red

I personally believe antichoicers shouldnt be allowed to show pictures unless they can provide information about them - where was the picture taken? when was it taken? who took the picture? how was the picture obtained? If they cant do that then they cant pretend they are telling *the truth* about anything, because they dont know it IS the truth.


Joe writes: >>>Karen-Ann, you misstate my position by claiming I have a position on the abortion issue at all. If you review my posts, it should be clear that I am making a sincere effort to return discussion to the argument about arguing. >>>

Joe, the point of the original blog was that it was a tacky thing to do to shove inaccurate, gory signs in people's faces. No reasonable person thinks it's accurate--as one poster above said, you certainly wouldn't be applauding young children being exposed to gory pictures of appendectomies, or brain surgeries, or even hysterectomies. It's not like a website that someone can choose to enter; you have taken away the right of parents to decide for themselves what they want their children to be exposed to. You seem to want to make it be about more. Your position seems to be that whatever you want to do, that's fine, and nobody had better speak up and point out the fallacy of your argument.

Ordinary Joe

Texas Rose, consider:

A man gives a woman a flower. She accepts it. What did he mean by the gift? What was the meaning of the particular type and color of flower? What did she think his intentions were? What does he think her acceptance of the flower means?

The sun rose and the sun set, and we both stood beneath it. You had a good day, and I had a bad day. How can this be? Was our day not precisely the same? Will you correct me, "No, this was a good day!"? Will I correct you, "No, this was a bad day!"?

Can a good gesture be misinterpreted as an insult. Can an effort to offend be misinterpreted as a kind gesture? You insult me by offering the scraps your dog will not eat; can I not be grateful because I am hungry?

One man's this is another man's that.

How do you ensure that what is said is the same as what is heard?

Should we insist that the reader of a thread posting absolutely understand the mind of the poster so there is no misunderstanding? Is this different than insisting that the poster put thoughts into forms that absolutely cannot be misunderstood by a reader?

How do we enforce that we have a meeting of the minds in everything we do?

Ordinary Joe

Maria says: "Joe, the point of the original blog was that it was a tacky thing to do to shove inaccurate, gory signs in people's faces."

The Original Poster says: "But it wasn't gory or graphic, though it was definitely in your face. And I really have to question the civility of these pro-life protestors."

The Original Poster concludes: "I think that in Howard County, and in society in general, we should strive towards higher forms of discourse." I wonder whether the Original Poster or Maria best states the Original Poster's point of the original blog.

Maria says: "No reasonable person thinks..." I think such a sweeping assertion is unreasonable---and uncivil---in an argument about civility in argument.

Do you see my point?

Maria concludes: "You seem to want to make it be about more. Your position seems to be that whatever you want to do, that's fine, and nobody had better speak up and point out the fallacy of your argument."

Alas, again and again, I try to make this thread about less and less---specifically, returning to the topic at hand. My one main argument made here, again and again, is this:

--- The people protesting against the protesters with the posters are behaving exactly like the protesters with the posters, but they simply cannot see it.

And in making that point, I am stunned by the irony of how uncivil people are when making arguments for civility in arguments---assuming, of course, that they haven't lost sight of that point in the first place.

So, Maria, I welcome you to point out the fallacy of my argument.


Wow. What a steaming pile...
Joe, the 'one hand clapping', 'snatch this pebble from my hand' phraseology is high handed and overblown. It obfuscates your argument and I don't believe that is accidental...

Maria and Karen-Ann: dial back the caffiene. The point that Joe is trying to make, while setting himself up as a superior thinker, is that you cannot have an argument with only one side.

You *are* the opposite side to their argument.
This is an entirely seperate issue from the rightness or the wrongness of the argument.
Your view is that there can only be to sides to the issue of abortion, so when Joe did not *explicitly* support *your* side, you immediately assumed that he *must* be against you.
The most appalling thing, to me, is that he was not expressing an opinion about abortion, pro or con, but was speaking about the method of discourse and the failures that arise when one imposes a black/white, left/right, choice/life framework on the complexities of reality.
You chose to be insulting, the sure sign of someone who has no thoughtful argument to offer, to someone who was not even discussing the issue about which you chose to vent.

Allow me to offer you an easier target, if you have managed to read this far into my post, rather than skimming it, as so many do today.
I am, as are all human beings, inclined to make generalizations about the world around me. They help us filter the incoming cacophony of information into usable chunks, making the task of navigating life much easier. But, they are only useful if we are willing to adjust them to fit new circumstances. Once they have ossified they may be called stereotypes and they, too often, do more harm than good.
My generalization for this discussion, drawn from my own real life experience, and bolstered by my dealings with the 'fairer sex', with very few exceptions, is that women have a much more difficult time
seperating the person from the argument, the personal from the thoughtful.
Women who encounter resisitance to any of their strongly held belliefs are more likely to deem the person expressing the opposition as a universally 'bad' person, and are more likely to condemn them out of hand, whether they know anything more about that person than that one idea or not.

Fire away!

Ordinary Joe

Hey, Clandaddy!

Be careful way up there! You have to see yourself in a very high position to see another setting himself up as a superior thinker beneath you. Don't get yourself stuck on the same peak with some of the others in the thread!

Tell me, what is the right way to make a point in an argument?

Too heavy handed? ;-)

[Good to see you :-)]


Your point is understood, but, as I stand here on the ground, I have no problem looking up the the mountainside to see someone setting themselves up with affected aphorisms and obscured wisdom.
To make an argument, state your position plainly, then support that argument with clearly stated points. This allos thoughtful individuals to weigh their arguments against yours and decide on a result.
To make a point in an argument, if I understand you as trying to 'score' in an argument, it is not necessary to be clear. To 'score' a point in an argument one can use Marie's method of ad hominem attack, or the OP's method of disdainful dismissal, however politely done.
Alternately, to 'score' points in an argument you can set yourself up as a teacher and work to guide or lead someone to what you believe to be a correct view, using the method that you have chosen, that is to say, a modified Socratic Method.
This is little different from Marie's or Karen's method of bellowing what they 'know' to be true, such as 'knowing' your position on abortion, or 'knowing' that the protestors 'know' that they are perpetrating some sort of hoax and then building a series of arguments based on this flawed thought process.
This method only works if you are speaking to people who already *believe* that you have the correct view or have knowledge to impart to them; meaning this only works if you speaking in the echo chamber that passes as debate these days or if you are speaking to supplicants seeking your wisdom.
Starting this way, as you did, you will immediately alienate anyone who either does not wish to be viewed as a petitioner for wisdom seated below you or anyone who is only interested in hearing themselves speak, because, in both instances, you have pricked their ego rather than addressing any valid points they may have to contribute to the argument.
The usual result of this sort of passive aggressive argument technique is a rapid descent to ad hominem attacks, as Marie demonstrated, because your phrasing makes it very clear that you take it as an article of faith that you have the 'correct' view. This stymies any attemmpt at debate or reconciliation, because, as one of my favorite talk show hosts, Dennis Prager states, "You cannot argue belief, you can only argue facts."
Trying to argue belief with people who take it as article of unexamined or even unexaminable faith that they have the 'correct' view on abortion, politics, race relations, drugs, or any of a host of other ideas is pointless.

Ordinary Joe

Not being burdened with the need to be heard, to be understood, to push a point, to be liked, or to be right, life is much simpler.

The thoughtful person, not understanding the meaning, will seek to understand---maybe even ask. Others will be offended, raise their hackles, and maybe even attack.

My question, "Tell me, what is the right way to make a point in an argument?" was a trap. Were we having an argument? Do you believe you scored points with your response?

The Original Poster essentially questioned the method of the protesters' debate. Most thoughtfully, the Original Poster asked if perhaps people might seek more civil ways to get their points across.

With only slight variation, Clandaddy is asking the same question. With only slight variation, Clandaddy responds as others have, that another is on the wrong side---in this case, that my methods of argument are uncivil (or, inappropriate, ineffective, or whatever the most accurate description may be).

Do you see the point?

We cannot ultimately control how people will communicate; we cannot completely control what enters our mind. We can examine our own minds though, examining the nature of the aversions, attractions, and so forth so we can see what is before us clearly.

What about this offends you?


Nothing about it offends me, any more than identifying a particular bird and its habits is somehow inherently offensive to me. Without having to follow you into your own navel I am able to identify your passive aggressive tendencies and see them as the defensive mechanisms that they are.
I have spent enough time sitting zazen with good folks to be able to identify, to some limited degree, who gets it and who feels needy enough to *act* like they get it.
As I said before, people who spend time rehearsing their arguments, loudly like Marie, or passively like you, have not reached a level of comfort with themselves and their outlook on life. If you need to practice it before a mirror or an audience, be it the standard talking points on abortion, umm, 'pro-choice', or cribbed Zen doublespeak, you are still working to exorcise the dissonant tensions in your own ego.

My point was not that your tactics were uncivil. They were self serving, but not uncivil.
My point was that, since they are designed to push other people away to increase your own feelings of security, they are not effective for discourse.

Just holding up a mirror, amigo.
Look carefully at the fact that your pretense is that we, you and I, are having a dialogue, but that you choose to refer to me in the third person.
This implies that you are speaking to an audience, not directly to me, which you use as a device to elevate yourself as you did with our other less settled posters who have since apparently fled the field.
The choice to address me in the third person automatically puts a distance between yourself and someone that you are obviously uncomfortable engaging directly, as a means of defending yourself against....what?

Ordinary Joe

Alas, Clandaddy, this is not our conversation; we are guests in our host's forum, the topic is set, and there *is* an audience. When I speak to you, I speak to you; when I point out something about a conversation, third person seems appropriate and is therefore is my choice.

Now consider: I said what I said. Why I said it that way was not explicitly stated; nevertheless, you imagined an implication, filling the void. You saw me attempting to put myself above you, and that is where We fell. You saw my statements and methods as divisive and alienating, stating the faults of mine and the benefits of yours; that is where We became divided and alienated. You state what you see I know, what you see I don't know, and what you see I am trying to accomplish; alas, what you saw of me between your ears is Our collective error.

From a less superior or righteous position, anyone may simply have asked what I meant instead of assuming and telling us all what I meant.

I'll continue to hold the mirror for you if you'd like to continue shadow boxing --- or would you like the punch line now? :-)

*** I never said that my own contributions and associated methods to this thread were better than, worse than, the same as, different from, superior to, inferior to, or preferable over anyone else's. ***

I *chose* a combination of indirect and direct methods as I felt each situation warranted. I did not exclude the use of potentially offensive pictures, ad hominem attacks, condescension, or anything else as a means to make a point, nor was I attached to any form or method of argument. I did not state, "The way to state an argument is..." nor did I state why one form was preferable to another.

It would take some time to review all of my posts, but my hope is that all I have essentially said to any poster is that he or she is acting precisely like his adversary, real or imagined, while, when possible or worth noting, that I was not that adversary.

That is the nature of communication and, when people divide themselves, argument.

Which restatement of the following will be the one that finally finds itself at home?

*** We cannot ultimately control what enters our minds, what we experience. The best we can do is to examine how we experience these things that come to us with a goal of seeing what is before us clearly. ***

Ordinary Joe

... or, Clandaddy, we can say essentially the same without an essay:

--- Knocked from the peak by the wind blowing from his own ass, shouting "Show yourself, Coward!"

*That* would be more Zen-like. ;-)


That's a good one, Joe! Doin' the dozens, koan style.

But, you're starting to sound a little testy, a very normal reaction when passive aggressives are forced to look at how *what* they do affects other people without the screen of what they *meant*.

I have understood your point from the first, and I have continued to point out that I am focusing on *how* you are saying it. To extend your own ostensible central point, we may not be able to control what enters our minds, but we *can*, and should, control what leaves it. Traditionally this is called decorum and good manners and, again traditionally, it is something that one should practice solely because you are good enough to do so, regardless of whether the other guy has the good grace to avoid ad hominem attacks or not.

Your choice of wording had the effect of poking other people in the ego, and this is bullying behavior. Working to get a rise out of someone so that you can point to them as the aggressor ranks with tactics traditionally used by people who believe they have no power in a relationship, something that a dialogue *must* be. Classically it is the domain of minorities and women in western society, in politics and in personal relations.

Your intentions are immaterial. No one else can tell what you intend, except through interpretation of your message and its extended meta-message, your choice of wording. I really don't care whether you have *explicitly* stated that you think your wording or your methods are better than, worse than, or on a par with what others have said in this dialogue. I am very clear that the *effect* of both what you have said and, far more importantly, *how* you have chosen to say it, is anathema to civil discourse. It also happens that I have some insight into why people like you poke someone else in the eye and then run off pointing fingers at the other guy.

Do you see the point?

Two guys are having a discussion, whether it is hosted and posted to someone else's blog is not germane, one points out that the other is choosing to state his case in ways that obscure his point and work to irritate others by dint of the way that he chooses to phrase his answers. The other guy continues in the same vein, deflecting from the main topic and giving immaterial, off the cuff reasons for his actions that neither add to the original point of the dialogue or address the points directed to him. This same guy gets testy when not lauded for the depth of the simple point he has been trying to elevate to high thought and attempts to point fingers and attribute motives and emotions that are not only not there, but whose only purpose is to deflect attention from the point.

Who were you saying was being the aggressor?

Ordinary Joe

CD: " Who were you saying was being the aggressor? "

I searched both pages of this thread for the word; I'm fairly certain this is the only one of my posts which uses it.

But I don't deny that you really did see it somewhere: It's the same place where you see me being testy, where you assign responsibility to me for another's response to an arbitrary post, where you see me caring about the response, where you see the need for civil discourse and direct argument, where you see me requiring laud, and particularly where you see your own insight. ;-)

A little history:

OP: "I think that in Howard County, and in society in general, we should strive towards higher forms of discourse."

Me, in the very first response to the post: "The feeling of being offended begins with an expectation that someone should be following a rule that you've accepted. The way to avoid offense isn't best handled by creating more rules; better to do away with the expectation :-)"

OP (Shock about shock!): "In the course of the ensuing comments, I learned a lot about how others, and I, deal with subject matter that is distasteful. I appreciate the thoughtfulness the respondents put in to their posts. It may sound trite, but some of these posts have given me cause for self-reflection, and have given me suggestions on how I can keep my own mind more open."

The OP got it, even before you, CD, arrived to the thread to explain what I meant (CD: "The point that Joe is trying to make, while setting himself up as a superior thinker, is [...]."). Perhaps the OP can explain the point to you, CD, in a way that you can appreciate ;-)

*** We cannot ultimately control what enters our minds, what we experience. The best we can do is to examine how we experience these things that come to us with a goal of seeing what is before us clearly. ***

Ordinary Joe

A Koan for Clandaddy:

The Tzar for Matters of Argument is bound and hangs precariously from a rope by his teeth. A passerby asks the tzar, "You cannot help but argue, can you?" If he does not respond, he will be executed for not doing his duty; if he does, he falls to his death. How can the tzar survive?



Ordinary Joe


It's been enjoyable, Clandaddy! Shall we agree let this thread rest? I'm *sure* we'll have more opportunities in the future... ;-)

(My thanks to our host for allowing the exchange to continue!)

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