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The Debating Game August 23, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Blogging, Mindfulness, People.
46 comments

I love a good debate. 

On occasion, just for fun, my dad and I spent time around the dinner table debating. 

After flipping a coin (to see who would argue FOR the death penalty and who would argue AGAINST), we took turns presenting our best arguments and pointing out our opponent’s weakest points.

The next night, we’d switch roles and argue the other side.

This debating exercise required logic and quick thinking and was lots of fun for a budding attorney.  We never made it “personal” by engaging in ad hominem attacks.  We didn’t snipe at each other’s character or call each other names.  

We stuck to the facts, weaving them into the best argument we could make FOR (or AGAINST) the topic under discussion.

As an attorney, I engaged in similar debates with adversaries in the courtroom on a regular basis ~ each side taking the facts of a case and weaving them into a coherent argument designed to favor the respective client’s position. 

During Opening Statements and Closing Arguments, we attacked opposing counsel’s position, not his or her character.  We stayed “on point.”  No ad hominem attacks.  No name calling.   No unfair characterizations or character assassinations. 

We debated fairly and squarely.  

If we didn’t . . . the judge reined us in, threatening us with contempt of court.

I still love a good debate ~ one based on making the strongest possible argument without engaging in name calling, hair pulling, or mud-slinging. 

Debates which attack the position . . . NOT its proponent.

As you may have noticed, I do not shy away from confrontation.  I am rather  like Elizabeth Bennet in that respect:

There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.

~ Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, ch. 31

You also may have noticed that I enjoy discussing topics more weighty than weather, fashion, sports, and the other minutiae that fills our days. 

Yesterday’s “debate” included more than a few “red herrings” tossed into the mix. 

Instead of staying on point, a few comments crossed the line into character assassination, name calling, and unfair characterizations. 

As the sole judge and arbiter of the comments on SLTW, it’s my role to make sure that posted comments add to the discussion at hand without causing unnecessary friction between proponents of opposing viewpoints. 

Divergent viewpoints are wonderful ~ name calling and mud-slinging are NOT.

Several times yesterday, I debated whether to post a comment which included a flippant remark designed to inflame while also presenting legitimate and valid points addressed to the topic at hand.

In all but a few cases, I opted to post the comment. 

A few times, unable to bite back a quick retort, I  responded in like vein.  

My bad.

Over the course of the day, I trashed three comments (all from the same commentator) because they argued points which were  irrelevant and tangential to the central discussion, and/or  contained an unfair characterization that wasn’t worth debating.

This morning, I afforded myself a third option when I edited a comment by deleting a couple of words that “crossed the line.”  I informed the author of the reason for the extraction. 

After a bit of pondering, I put on my administrator cap and  edited several more problematic comments posted yesterday ~ mine included.  

Any comment I edited is clearly marked: 

comment edited 

If I edited one of your comments (by removing an expletive, off-color remark, or unfair characterization) and you would prefer that I delete your comment in its entirety, please let me know and I’ll be happy to oblige. 

I am not interested in putting words into anyone’s mouth . . . I’m just trying to maintain some “order in the court.” 

Most of you will NEVER be impacted by this new freedom I’ve afforded myself ~ the only time your comments will be edited is when you ask me to fix a typo.

One (or two) readers may feel that this editorial freedom I’ve claimed is NOT to their advantage ~ they want to say what they want to say when they want to say it.  

I understand completely. 

That’s why I started Spirit Lights The Way . . . so that I could say what I want to say when I want to say it.   

Anyone chafing under these rather liberal editorial guidelines still has the right to say what they want to say when they want to say it . . . but they don’t have the right to say it here unless I agree that it adds to the discussion rather than detracting from it.

Aah . . . that’s better!

My rules.  Just right!  😉

Related posts: Rules of the House * Life is NOT A Free-For-All * The Queen of Hearts * Insanity * Discussion, Debate, and Blogging Etiquette (Woman Wielding Words)