How the Fuck do you Persuade People, You Dick?

persuasionArgumentation and discussion is virtually always pointless it seems. People very rarely shift from their existing positions and so the whole effort is usually for naught. Strenuous argument can often only cause people to entrench. This means that many arguments aren’t really fought to win over the person you’re arguing with, but to demonstrate the strength of your argument and the weakness of theirs to undecided onlookers.

One thing that remains very difficult, even impossible, for me to reconcile is that I strive very hard to only be persuaded by logic, reason and evidence – as I believe everyone should. Everyone slips, but it’s a good standard to work to, the trouble is that in the real world most people aren’t rational actors making weighed, rational decisions. It would be a much better world if that were the case.

Most people appear to be led by emotion and this is what leads to to such blatant acts of hypocrisy and rationalisation that we see.

Take the example of Gawker.

A writer at Gawker recently wrote this after Sanders was forced off the mic by #blacklivesmatter activists:

Screenshot from 2015-08-12 19:55:43

This from the same ”””””news organisation””””” that has condemned #Gamergate – a similarly disorganised group – as a whole, with absolutely no reservation.

The principle given above is a reasonable, rational approach that should be universally applicable in these sorts of situations but where they are willing to make room and forgive a cause or group they seem to believe in (BLM) the same principle is not applied when they don’t (GG).

Is there any way around this? I don’t know that there is.

The previously discussed ‘Rules for Radicals’ advocates methods that acknowledge and accept that most people are not rational actors, but it tends to add ‘heat’ to discussion and to celebrate and encourage vicious confrontation. It’s a war of attrition rather than persuasion.

How do you win then? Embrace the irrational and strike at people first in order to elicit an emotional response and ‘buy in’? To return to Gamergate as an example, being full of ‘spergs’, has highly valued logic, reason and evidence (with notable exceptions). It has catalogued all the transgressions of journalists, it has meticulously tracked and presented every detail and it’s inarguable at this point that there are serious problems around corruption and collusion that need to be addressed.

But has that persuaded anyone?

A handful perhaps, but the dominant media narrative is that of ‘misogynistic abusers’ despite the total lack of evidence that this is so and the huge amount of countermanding evidence that exists. Still it persists, and is an emotional appeal, and it reached more undecided people (especially normal people) than Gamergate could – to the point where people who agree with everything Gamergate actually stands for and does, aggressively position themselves as ‘neutral’ to avoid being smeared.

To return to #BlackLivesMatter there’s no argument over whether the disruptive elements were ‘truly’ part of it in the first place, and we see how the aggressiveness of the argument has – arguably – made the situation worse. We now have poor white people standing between the police and the protesters in Ferguson, when really the poor should be united, regardless of race/colour. Racial activism is bad PR and less likely to lead to change.

Productive action has to be based in fact, whatever PR it happens to be sold on, but the battle for hearts and minds is fought more in the heart than the mind, sadly.

I honestly don’t know what the solution is. When we do argue on logic, reason and evidence we do it in formal arenas such as science or the court, with a great deal of apparatus to try and ensure objective and reasoned argument and evidence carries the day. We don’t have that in personal argumentation.

I don’t know if I can change to a different tactic, because logic, reason and evidence are everything to me I expect them to work (and they should!) Specious, emotive arguments feel like they should be avoided or are beneath someone who is being serious, yet there’s no denying their efficacy.

Perhaps some ground could be made by taking people at their word, and taking it to its logical extension. To argue indirectly by bringing up things they have failed to consider – though this certainly doesn’t work in the case of ‘what about the menz?’ as there’s zero compassion there, regardless.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

What success I have had fighting creationists, which is the only point of comparison I can really make, has come through prolonged application of evidence, or provoking emotion that requires them to defend the morally indefensible, but even these don’t seem to work in activist arguments.

Any ideas?

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