Something I was wondering today. The SDMB (GD specifically because it’s really the only board I read) seems to be in love with ad hominem attacks, even though supposedly GD is supposed to be against that sort of thing.
I hear so often that this board has some of the best minds on the planet, I have found that not to be so. While I do not claim to be one of the best minds on the planet as much as I would love that distinction, I think that a very small percentage on the board probably a percent of a percent can actually lay claim to that title and in their cases I would bet that they probably wouldn’t lay claim.
Yet, what I see so often is just mud slinging back and forth, and depending on what type of mud you are slinging will depend on what issues are unpopular at the moment. If they are unpopular then they don’t even rise above disdain.
For instance, SenorBeef once posted a thread about Women’s Suffrage and whether or not it was actually a benefit to the country. While this is definitely an unpopular opinion, why can we not discuss it rationally if we are among the best minds on the planet? If one chooses to join in a discussion such as this, why is it SO important that one proves that the opinion is unjustified rather than presenting an opinion that gives the idea credibility at least enough to present an alternate viewpoint that shows benefits to Women’s Suffrage and how they outweigh the negatives rather than labeling the poster a bigoted asshole? In this particular instance there was a pit thread started about the poster that went to triple digits and he wasn’t even aware of it’s existance until it was a couple pages long.
Another good example of this is the sudden attack on the Ms. message board. Why is it SO important that these feminists be proved wrong? Many dopers went over the Ms. forum and felt they needed to witness as to why it was inappropriate for the Ms. people to believe the way they did.
Most people will agree that you are not going to change a fundamentalists mind with an argument, and generally the reason I’ve seen to argue with these people is so that people who are on the fence can see both viewpoints. Odds are a person on the fence is NOT reading the Ms. forum as it is a blatantly partisan forum.
So my question is how can we reconcile “Some of the best minds” with so many personal attacks?
Why I decided to post this thread, today on IRC in a conversation with some dopers I was discussing capitalism and how I thought that it could lead to tyranny just as any other system unchecked can and has. I listed as examples Microsoft’s current monopolistic practices that make it’s old practices pale in comparison, such as only releasing products for it’s XP line nevermind that it’s XP line is more expensive and can’t run on many of the computers in circulation. I mentioned bad customer service, both with AOL and Earthlink (I’ve worked in the billing department at AOL) and Enron as examples of where capitalism leads to tyranny. Well, I was in a not very heated discussion with a friend of mine who held a dissenting opinion and said that I had fuzzy logic on this one, which maybe I did or did not, that’s not the current discussion. Someone else piped up and said “you sound like you’re going go go unabomber” to which my response was, “Yes because I have problems with capitalism, that means I am going to blow up computer company execs” and his response to that was “Let me rephrase it, I think you’re a dumbass” (or some synonym) I blew it off by saying, “That’s ok I never valued your opinion.”, however clearly I valued it enough to be offended, that calling me an idiot can be case closed on the subject.
Now this seems to be a pervading attitude on the boards, and I think it makes it very difficult for this board to actually fight ignorance, because how is it possible to truly find which posters know what they are talking about when for every one of them, there are at least 5 people who are willing to denigrate one’s opinion by insulting their competence. For this very reason I rarely post anymore, because it’s all just a big ego massage, and if you’re not among the proper cliques, or you’re not one of the amazing posters like MEBuckner, Collounsbury, or Edwino, your opinion can be stifled if enough people are willing to say “god you’re a moron”. While I have seen people post things using logic that suits their agenda more than once, and have been guilty of it myself, many times unpopular opinions have been labelled as faulty logic just because there can be a consensus of enough people willing to label the person they all disagree with as an idiot, because clearly if that many people think he’s an idiot it must be so.
(Note, I do not claim that I am innocent in this sort of behavior.)