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The Debating Game August 23, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Blogging, Mindfulness, People.
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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)

Comments»

1. misswhiplash - August 23, 2011

well that put it very clearly! I do hope that I was not an offender Mrs Judge, if I was I am sorry. as I don’t use any sort of language other then my own I plead innocent of all charges.

love P

nrhatch - August 23, 2011

No worries . . . your comment remains in unedited format. 😀

2. Piglet in Portugal - August 23, 2011

I think very few people would win a debate against you Nancy!

nrhatch - August 23, 2011

Thanks, PiP!

When we don’t get tangled up in protecting our fragile egos from the perceived attack of differing points of view, the clarity of our own thoughts emerge more easily.

I find that stepping into the role of “detached observer” (as I did when practicing law), helps me immensely when engaging in intellectual debate. If someone attacks my “position,” I don’t take it personally.

It’s nothing to get hung about.

Piglet in Portugal - August 23, 2011

that’s the whole point many of us DO care passionately and we let our emotions/egos rule our head and it becames impossible to play the role of detached observer. The hardest posts I made were about hunting in Portugal (hunting signs and species hunted) In the end I just stated the bare facts as I could not emotionally detach myself from the topic. My normal humour deserted me and I was in danger of becoming judgemental. If in doubt say nothing!

I do love debating and we have had many enjoyable mornings down in the local cafe debating a whole range of topics.

I would love to engage some Portuguese people about their economy and work ethics, but my Portugese won’t stretch that far!

nrhatch - August 23, 2011

Oh, wow! I cannot imagine attempting to “debate” in a foreign language ~ there are so many nuances that would be missed.

Of course, face to face, one would pick up on some of the more obvious sign language ~ like middle fingers being extended in one’s direction. 😆

There are things that I cannot debate in a dispassionate way. For example, the woman in Pinellas County charged with trying to sell her 5 year old son for $2000 so she could buy drugs.

My initial knee jerk reaction:
Convict her. Tie her tubes. Let her go.

Now that I’m calmer:
Convict her. Tie her tubes. Lock her up or let her go . . . just keep her away from kids.

I’ve come along way in 24 hours, eh? 😉

Piglet in Portugal - August 23, 2011

Bring back the death penalty!

nrhatch - August 23, 2011

There are times when I would jump at the chance to be the one to throw the switch:

Pick me! Pick me!

Some people do NOT deserve to live. 😦

Chad - August 29, 2011

I believe we should have a death penalty, but only for white collar offenders. Raj Rajaratnam deserved to be put down.
-=Chad=-

nrhatch - August 29, 2011

I disagree with the proposition that ONLY while collar offenders deserve the death penalty. I have no opinion about Raj Rajaratnam since I don’t have enough facts to offer other than a skewed judgment.

3. kateshrewsday - August 23, 2011

This must have taken a huge amount of thought to write, Nancy: thanks 🙂

nrhatch - August 23, 2011

Nah . . . I just popped one of those little pills (from the movie LIMITLESS) and clarity reigned! 😀

Have you seen the movie yet? I loved it. A few plot holes but the idea of being able to access a bit more of our innate brain power is a heady concept to ponder.

4. SuziCate - August 23, 2011

Ahh, that IS better.

nrhatch - August 23, 2011

It is, isn’t it? 😛

5. Joanne - August 23, 2011

LOL…!!! What a great post & commentaries…

As much as I’d hate to admit this, Your Honor, you may be even nicer than I would be on the case of that woman…

Convict her, tie her tubes, throw in a lobotomy for safe measure, and then put her on the street corner ~ well, okay, give her a guitar and put a can in front of her…

Who knows… she may discover some hidden talent to keep her occupied until “Judgement Day” ~ if there ever truly is a re-trial by the Powers that Be… Just a dispassionate, objective opinion from a detached observer ;-D

nrhatch - August 23, 2011

Bwahaha! Glad you enjoyed. 😆

You should have seen the woman’s photograph ~ 27 going on 127!!! No joke. Crack ages people at the speed of light . . . without making them one iota wiser.

6. brainrants - August 24, 2011

I skimmed the lengthy back-n-forth of the post in question. I completely agree with your point of view, and I support your argumentative technique. Additionally, I completely understand the occasional and sometimes necessary hot blast without thinking at an asshat who deserves it. We are becoming an increasingly victim-centric culture, and that is scary. I could go on but that’s the essence of my thought.

Continue to Rock On.

nrhatch - August 24, 2011

Yes! Victim-centricity makes us WEAK!

And we are growing weaker by the day as people excuse the bad choices THEY have made by saying:

* I’m fat, but I can’t help it. When I see food, I must eat it.
* I’m in debt, but I can’t help it. When I see an ad, I must buy it.
* I’m lazy, but I can’t help it. I was born this way.

People make better choices when we hold them accountable for the choices they’ve made . . . instead of bailing them out every time they fall flat on their face.

And, yes, I understand the occasional “hot blast” in the heat of debate ~ but debates are far more productive when we stick to the issues, without attacking each other.

7. jannatwrites - August 24, 2011

You really stirred up the ant pile yesterday, didn’t you? 😉

On a personal blog, the author has every right to delete inappropriate comments, and I think your notation of edits and offer to delete comments if preferred is fair.

You mention irrelevant arguments and unfair characterization – if I didn’t know better, I’d think your post was political and the commenters were running for office.

Only kidding. Please don’t hold me in contempt for the unfair characterization…

nrhatch - August 24, 2011

Yes! That’s exactly what I thought! 😀

Watching our esteemed politicians debate is NOT the same thing as watching The Great Debate! They are more focused on making each other look bad than they are in discussing the issues.

But since no one here is running for office, we need not libel and slander each other as we hash through various topics. 😉

8. adeeyoyo - August 24, 2011

I think debating isan excellent training ground for enabling people to consider all sides of a problem…

nrhatch - August 24, 2011

Same here, Denise. It’s a wonderful tool IF we remember to focus on the issues.

The goal should be to find the “achilles heel” in the argument . . . NOT find something to criticize in the debater.

9. Tilly Bud - August 24, 2011

I am in favour of debate so long as I am not required to participate. I can so often see the other side of an argument that when I joined the debating society at school, in our first debate, I started on one team and ended up on the other, in the space of thirty minutes.

I’m not wishy-washy; I have principles; I believe what I believe and can’t be shaken from that, but I don’t think everything is black and white; for me, there always ARE two sides to an argument. At least.

I enjoy your blog and comment properly from time to time if I feel strongly enough, or if it’s been a while; but most of my comments are bland because I’m really not looking for an argument.

A discussion face to face is quite different because you can see and hear nuance, tone and so on. On the web, the same discussions often read as strident, inflexible and confrontational. If I want that, I just think back to my childhood.

My dislike of argument is entirely emotional and comes from constantly warring parents. I know that; I make no apologies. I will continue to leave banal comments here, and leave the debates to the rest of you.

Re: comments. I agree with you on this: your blog, your rules. I don’t believe in much censorship, but on my own blog I will quietly edit out blasphemy and swearing. I don’t make a big deal of it: I mention that I will do it on my About page.

It’s my blog and I don’t want anything there that I find offensive. If other people are offended by that, well, edit me out.

nrhatch - August 24, 2011

No worries, mate! You are in good company.

I agree that there is no “black and white” in these issues . . . but that’s the focus of debate. To polarize them until the shades of gray emerge.

One thing that I do in written debate is read the comment in a calm and kind voice ~ rather than hearing strident, inflexible, and confrontational tones.

I find it interesting to watch the flow of a good debate ~ with the debaters conceding some points and standing firm on others.

BUT that doesn’t happen if the conversation degenerates into a “I don’t understand how you can think that . . . you’re so stupid” kind of exchange. As soon as the argument becomes “personal” it starts losing its lustre.

So, TillyB, you can be the calming influence on the sidelines rooting for both/all sides of the issue ~ Go Teams! 😀

10. ElizOF - August 24, 2011

Good lord, how did I miss all the action. I thought that post was pretty clear; read it, comment, take it or leave it… Mudslinging too? Good grief… 🙂

nrhatch - August 24, 2011

Communication deteriorates quickly when people show up “for a fight.” Instead of listening to what IS being said, they develop selective listening and reading skills so that they can make the point that THEY want to make . . . even if its entirely off point.

Rather than commenting on the zebra that’s been painted, they argue that I should have painted a giraffe. 😉

Silly rabbits!

11. crumbl - August 24, 2011

I’m always up for a good debate, Nancy, and like you, I can always see two sides to any discussion, Tilly … my side and the wrong side. 🙂

Speaking of debate, I’d been debating whether to watch Limitless, but I’ll trust you,Nancy, caveats noted.

nrhatch - August 24, 2011

You and Tilly have got me thinking.

What if after each of these Great Debates I did a second post ~ stepping through the looking glass and debating from the other side of the mirror and taking an opposite point of view like I did with my dad. That could be FUN . . . for me, anyway. 😉

I enjoyed Limitless ~ except for the gruesome bits. And it stars a writer who undergoes an intriguing metamorphesis.

We would be “smarter than the average bear” if we could access the other 80% of our brains ~we could learn languages, history, musical instruments . . . and retain what we’ve learned.

And creativity . . . WOW! Limitless. 😀

crumbl - August 24, 2011

I’ll play Devil’s advocate for you any time … funnily, in another post, you mentioned the “pushme-pullyou” … perfect image for debating both sides with equal objectivity and dispassion.

I think some people I know (or know of) are “smarter than the average bear” (are we somehow related, or sharing a brain cell, ’cause I’ve been using that phrase most of my life?), but then, I don’t think the bar is all that high to begin with, so, yeah, being able to access more of your brain and retain it longer would be great … for those who actually appreciate and exploit the potential. I know my language skills could use some work … most of the Russian I know is not fit for polite society, for example, and my Japanese, while not bad, needs some work too. English, Spanish, French … passable. Guitar … fluent, reeds … pretty fair, keyboards … I can fumble a bit, drums … mezzo mezzo. Could I do better? You bet.

nrhatch - August 24, 2011

Did you watch Yogi Bear and Boo Boo as a kid? That’s where the expression comes from, I believe. “I’m . . . smarter than your average bear!”

Aah, yes, the Pushmi~Pullyu is a great visual for sliding back and forth, pro and con, for and against. Except, of course, Pushmi~Pullyus, like llamas and camels, are prone to SPITTING! 😀

Oh, lovely, that you play all those instruments and speak all those languages.

I studied French and Spanish. In French, I can share my name, order une autre bouteille de vin, and ask for directions to the salle de bain when I’ve had “enough”! My Spanish is a tad more limited than that. I expect that it’s all in my brain somewhere, rattling around behind a locked door, but I’ve lost the key. 😆 Pretty funny since I, at one time, wanted to be a simultaneous interpreter at the United Nations.

I’m not a musician by any stretch of the imagination . . . but I love playing guitar and piano for my own enjoyment. And singing! I love to sing!

crumbl - August 26, 2011

Did I watch Yogi and Boo-boo? Did Yogi hang upside down from trees to steal picnic baskets? Was Ranger Smith always trying to catch him? Nope, never saw the show! 🙂

nrhatch - August 26, 2011

What about Magilla?

How much is that gorilla in the window??? 😉

12. Team Oyeniyi - August 24, 2011

Well said!

nrhatch - August 24, 2011

Editing out objectional and extraneous comments will be a rare occurence since most visitors to SLTW need no editorial supervision. 😉

13. A Quirk of Fate - August 24, 2011

Oh my goodness, i seem to have found a non photography blog thatI’m interested in!? I’m not sure how I stumbled upon you, but so far I’ve only read this one post. The firstparagraph sounded like me and my father. My whole family loves doing the exact same thing, although having been raised under the same roof as my oldest brother I certainly know what you mean abiut drawing the line on character assasination. If there’s another friendly debate anytime soon, definitely count me in 🙂

nrhatch - August 24, 2011

Awesome! Debate is such FUN when we remain “detached” . . . rather than being swept away by our emotions. I look forward to your comments on any and all future debates. 😀

14. Julie - August 24, 2011

I didn’t step into the debate yesterday because I felt enough had been said on both sides already. When conversation deteriorates into finger-pointing and name-calling, as you say, it is no longer a debate but a character assassination. Kind of like presidential debates. 🙂

nrhatch - August 24, 2011

Exactly! And since none of us are running for office . . . we need not stoop to their level. 😉

The quandary for me arises when people making VALID points also slip in a few asides, swipes, and snipes. I don’t want to post the comment without responding to the snipe . . . but I don’t want to waste the time by responding.

Now, I have a viable alternative ~ post the comment AFTER excising the gratuitous remarks designed to inflame rather than inform.

Aah . . . that’s better.

15. Rosa - August 24, 2011

Good for you! This is Your blog- your forum. If people want to have Control, they can start their own blog!

nrhatch - August 24, 2011

Thanks for your support, Rosa! And you are exactly right.

Anyone who feels the editorial environment on SLTW is too restrictive is free to start their own WP blog with whatever parameters and guidelines suit their particiular sensibilities.

16. Christine Grote - August 26, 2011

I don’t always, or even usually, read all the comments. Maybe I need to go back and see what the buzz is about.

I support you 100%– your site, your rules. You’re the editor. You’re not taking away anyone’s freedom of speech.

Gosh, Nancy, have you always been this controversial?

I love the image of you debating with your dad. Great memories for you.

nrhatch - August 26, 2011

Thanks, Christine. My dad debated between law school and getting a masters in engineering. He went with engineering, and was thrilled when I headed off to law school.

In some respects, yes. I don’t enjoy being controversial for the sake of being controversial. It’s too tiring. I am interested in discussing issues of import that affect our happiness. And they often tie in with controversial topics.

I think that I have now found a solution to keep future discussions on a more even keel. 😀

17. Discussion, Debate and Blogging Etiquette « Woman Wielding Words - October 2, 2011

[…] Related Posts: http://taochild.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/standing-up/;  https://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/the-debating-game/; http://bornstoryteller.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/whats-in-your-interpretive-wallet/ […]

nrhatch - October 2, 2011

Excellent post, Lisa.

18. reocochran - November 18, 2014

I was on Timi’s post about hoping people would use better arguments when I saw your comment, Nancy. I may sometimes cover shallow topics, but I was raised similarly to you. My Mom was a teacher, my Dad worked for NASA and they taught us as young children, if we had an interest in something (like staying up later) or buying something, we needed to ‘declare our points.’ We had to number them with facts based on some level of childish knowledge. As we grew older, we got much better at this. When I talk to one of my best girlfriends about my childhood we laugh, she was raised on a farm where weather and general topics were okay, but no controversial subjects. She was allowed to pedal her bike to the end of her lane, at age 12. While I was 12, I could be allowed to go to Cleveland, by catching a bus in our suburb, with a friend or two, I would travel to the Airport and then get on a Rapid Transit to Terminal Tower. If I had lived in NY, my Mom said I would have been allowed to ride the subway. When my brother wanted running shoes, he had to ‘earn’ 1/2 the money and also, reach an improved time of speed… Problem is, there are a lot of people who find ‘debating’ equivalent to ‘fighting’ or ‘arguing.’ Such a shame!

nrhatch - November 18, 2014

Debating is a terrific way to learn what we think and how we should act ~ I still do Pro/Con lists when facing tough decisions. It’s also a great way to strengthen our logic muscles and utilize the art of persuasion.

And good for your parents for insisting that 1/2 the money had to come from your brother’s pocket. That prevents a feeling of entitlement to handouts.


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