How to Argue Part III: Sometimes, it's just time for a good fight

Aug 19 2009 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Debate and Discussion

In case you are just entering the discussion I'm following up on points I've made on shifting the intrapersonal Overton window and communicating unmistakeably to your opponent that they are not in your camp. This series on How to Argue more or less in response to Ethan Siegel and Isis the Scientist, kinda taking a Ladenesque or UncertainChadian approach of being unable to relinquish the bone...except without the initial pronouncements of disinterest.
Personal confession after the jump.


I love to get in fights. My usual Readers are desperately trying to reel their gaping, disbelieving jaws back together at this shocking revelation, I realize.
No, I am not talking about certain recreational hobbies in which I might or might not engage, but rather fighting over ideas. Over ideas, the support for those ideas and the reasons why people holding ideas may or may not hold them. Not arguing, not debating.

Fighting.

I am not going to bother trying to draw lines with respect to pyramids of discourse or when an argument has gone ad hominem. I'll just acknowledge in a general way that fighting about ideas encompasses many low tricks that are otherwise considered not-cricket for proper debate. Actual ad hominems, taking fake positions, raising straw people, holier-than-thou'ing, appealing to authority, insulting their momz, heaping scorn, false associating.....all that stuff the nose-sniffing sphincter ratcheters accuse people of doing even when they haven't actually done so.

I will pause right here to acknowledge that my fondness for heated discussion is a mark of privilege. A privilege deriving first and foremost from a family environment in which there was never much confusion (beyond tame levels of teenage angst) of vigorous debate over ideas with a lack of emotional security. Deriving from whatever quirks of genetics and development permit me to enjoy such discussion of differing viewpoints without undue dismay. From whatever quirks permit me to shrug off, more or less, the realization that some people may just not like me very much. I will also note that I need to be reminded of this now and again...nevertheless I disagree that there is any particularly objective valence on this issue that rules out a good rousing fight over ideas.

So why get in these fights? Is it a moral flaw? Some might see it that way. A bullying personality? Perhaps, although I'll return to this in a minute. A variance in entertainment preference (sure) similar to those who enjoy boxing, hockey or dogfights (ummm....)? Blowing off steam? Cry in the wilderness? Staking a claim? Street theater?

One reason, perhaps not intentional at the time, is to take the measure of your opponent. The true measure. An unfortunate parallel with the inevitable wrestling between 5-10 yr old boys occurs to me. Unfortunate because press over persecutorial physical bullying and kids-who-return-with-a-gun overshadows the much less-serious reality of many childhoods. Still, it is worth thinking about because even school yard wrestling/fighting between boys has a set of limits. Noses get bloodied, knees scraped and bruises are produced, yes. To my fading recollection, and to my observance of a more recent generation of boys, there are still limits. The point is not to maim or cause permanent injury and even very mad youngsters seem to understand this. The point is not to persecute continually and bullies are indeed identified. As are the kids on the other side of the distribution...those who cannot take it, for whatever reason. Yet, kids can be very sweet and solicitous about those who are truly impaired and would not fight with them. There are rules...but kids still still engage in a good bit of physical measure-taking of their peers.

Now that I've nicely derailed myself, back to the point. Why do we resort to fighting over issues to take the true measure of each other's ideas and character? I suspect it has much to do with the fact that people can be reasonably secretive about their true beliefs. Even from themselves. Secretive about not just single issue, but the panoply of implications of taking a particular stance. The may paper these beliefs over with convenient labels such as liberal, progressive, democrat, conservative, fiscally responsible or republican. Libertarian, intellectual, feminist, rational, atheist, pro-choice, anti-prohibition, harm-reductionist. The lists go on.

I am not interested in what you call yourself, I am interested in how you really feel about things. How you really behave when it counts. Are you really on my side? Am I on yours? Can we make common cause on what is really important?
I am reminded of a vignette over at 49 percent. Although Samia is unjustifiably beating herself for not wanting to throw down, the issue has to do with inadvertent revelations of true stances. I assume, as I think Samia does, that expressions of -ist insensitivity are gated by the audience. That people who habitually use wetback, nigger, fag, slurs against women, etc, have a tendency to do less of that in the presence of someone they think of as in that group. This is the extreme example...but then I have to admit that I've been around some vigorous discussions in which people, while not exactly defending the slur as such, tried to make out the slur wasn't really a slur and shouldn't really cause offense.

There are subtler ones. Perhaps consider the precise tenor and depth of a conservative political person's disdain for a more liberal perspective (or vice versa). Political fervor is not always on view...it may take some probing. Pro-choice vs. Pro-life...how far are you willing to push your views? Commitment to workplace diversity is an easy surface...until you start probing personal privilege. "What? I'm into diversity and all but wtf do you mean I have my faculty position in part because of my penis, heternormativity and skin reflectance?" says the white d00d- when pressed. Tax strategies- can you do math, do you argue against a principle to which you supposedly adhere just to enrich yourself? Are you for Public Policy X only because you know damn well it will never affect you but you would never go for the version that impacts your liberties?

I find that getting into fights over ideas really brings out the truth of people. Not right away, perhaps. It may take some cooling off and reflection. It may take subsequent events. In the end, however, you tend to get a pretty good read. And in many cases you may even have convinced them to change their mind about something important.

Perhaps even more importantly you have taken the measure of how they conduct themselves. Are they willing to give and receive hard shots? Find their true beliefs held up, excoriated and dismissed? How do they respond? To what lengths of illogic, hypocrisy and contradiction are they willing to go to avoid acknowledging that you are right? Do they take responsibility? Try to run home and stop playing? Resort to their daddy to save them? Do they mindlessly bully or do they know when to stop? Are they able to distinguish a move that will cause bumps and bruises from one that might maim or hospitalize (rhetorically speaking)? Do they stand in there and keep punching even when clearly beat?
Would it really surprise you to find that many of my closest friends are those I've had bitter battles over ideas with?

32 responses so far

  • PalMD says:

    Anecdote:
    Since this discussion started, I have made personal observations which I see as a direct, positive result of this shit (and which I hope Our Friend Ethan will see can be positive as well).
    I have a tendency to lose my shit when my patients are not cared for the way I'd like. I have a great relationship with my staff and the hospital staff. When I lose my shit, it's usually of this type:
    "They didn't draw the rhubarb level? After I ordered it STAT?! What the fuck is going on? Why did they enter 'patient refused' when the patient is comatose? WTFHBMFHA???"
    What I've found out over the years is that people often misinterpret these gentle whinings as being directed at them.
    What I've surmised based on recent discussions on the tubes is that no matter how good my relationship with the staff, they still see themselves as "staff" and me as "big doc dude", and therefore tremble before my power and rage.
    It turns out it's important to realize when you are in a position of relative power, and to take this into account in your behavior.
    Hmph.

  • becca says:

    "I love to get in fights. "
    No you don't!
    I don't buy the notion that you get a truer picture of people during fights. Different, yes. But not truer. I think the biochemistry behind aggression and reconciliation enables a post-fight bonding such that you *feel* you know the person better.
    I wish I could remember that book I read that described said biochemistry- it really explained a frightening variety of aggression dynamics.
    As an aside... don't you personally wrestle with how much violence is too much? Yes, even kids 'know' they shouldn't injure, but I can't count the number of times there was something I did where my Mom said I 'didn't know my own strength'. Granted, as an adult I've gotten a much better handle on it, but the times I fail are etched upon my mind very vividly.
    @PalMD- I'm glad to see you've recognized that a person in power perceiving that a relationship is sound does not always make certain argument techniques truly 'fair' to employ.
    Next you'll realize that the power dynamics don't make most of them 'tremble before your power and rage' so much as loose respect for you. Multiple generations of brilliant nurses in my family have passed on a distinctly... subversive patronizing attitude toward MDs. Of course, historically there have also been complicating factors of gender privilege.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    As an aside... don't you personally wrestle with how much violence is too much?
    as a parent, hell yes. I think that we (myself and whatever circles my kids run in) are in fact too quick to break up physicality...but I do it anyway. Perhaps this is a necessary part of the socialization process, I seem to remember the more severe fights occurring outside the supervision of any adults when I was a kid..

  • PalMD says:

    @becca

    Next you'll realize that the power dynamics don't make most of them 'tremble before your power and rage' so much as loose respect for you.

    You've fallen into the trap of believing that they respected me at all in the first place.

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    I find that getting into fights over ideas really brings out the truth of people.

    Bullshit. It's all words, and for most of us that means it's either inconsequential or a game we play. Some of us enjoy playing it so much that we make a career of taking either side of an argument -- for big stakes.
    If you want the truth, actions count. Everything else is hot air and recycled electrons.

  • Samia says:

    I am not interested in what you call yourself, I am interested in how you really feel about things. How you really behave when it counts. Are you really on my side? Am I on yours? Can we make common cause on what is really important?
    It sounds like you mean that our actions should match up with our political/ideological affiliations, but your actual statement stops at "what you call yourself." The words you used raised my hackles because I feel self-identifying can be empowering for a lot of people who get labels slapped on them whether they want them or not.
    But that said, yeah. I feel you, especially re: people who think of themselves as progressive and then do/say weird, ignorant things because they think they have it like that with every last marginalized group on the planet. Which is...a lot of people I know. And they're impossible to talk to, even though some of them call themselves "allies" of whatever group-- 'cause they're only interested in pointing out other people's flaws. In the end, their allyhood or whatever is about THEM. They are invested in thinking of themselves as do-gooders, and if some of the people they claim to be helping get mowed down in the process...well, that doesn't count, of course. I'm seeing quite a bit of this I'm Helping! Don't Criticize Meeeee! phenomenon in a particular corner of the LGBTQI blogosphere at the moment.
    I am reminded of a vignette over at 49 percent. Although Samia is unjustifiably beating herself for not wanting to throw down, the issue has to do with inadvertent revelations of true stances.
    I'm feeling invalidated here. In the post you linked to, I expressed specific reasons why I feel complicit in aiding and abetting racist attitudes in my friends-- why it hurts me quite deeply to participate in that process through silence. So I get that some people think I'm taking it too hard or whatever, but the thing is, I'm "justifiably" in a position to feel pretty shitty about helping my white friends tokenize other people of colour. 'Cause um, I am one, it's happened to me, it's a bunch of bullshit, and every time I don't speak up in my real life, I become a little more full-o-crap. And now I'm realizing that some of my closer friends might tokenize me too-- hold me up as their little Brown Friend when they need to cover their asses.
    I think that part of being anti-racist is speaking up when we can, so I let myself and my ideals down by choosing the easy way out.
    Besides, what I wanted to do (but didn't) was engage my friend in an actual dialogue, not argue her into the ground. Yes, what she said made me feel squicky, but if she had actually shown a willingness to hear me out, it's not like I was going to raise my voice to her or start provoking her. That's what was so sad about the whole thing-- even if I'd gotten "my way," even if her reaction made me angry, there wouldn't have been a "throwdown" to speak of. I talk to my other white friends about race and it's not a "fight" then, either. We just kinda talk. Pretty openly. And lately our conversations have deepened into discussions about class, which is awesome. Some stuff...I don't see the point in fighting about.
    This is the extreme example...but then I have to admit that I've been around some vigorous discussions in which people, while not exactly defending the slur as such, tried to make out the slur wasn't really a slur and shouldn't really cause offense.
    Things get even more complicated when code language is used (as in my case). And since it was assumed for me that I could not possibly identify with one of THOSE people of colour...yeah. The second I expressed discomfort ("Oh, what's wrong with X?"), the other person went into the very early stages of How Dare You Sully My Self-Image! and I eventually let it go because you really can't talk to someone reasonably when they're that invested in protecting their ego.
    I'm gonna resist anyone's attempt to paint me as overreacting to the incident I blogged about. I went to some length to explain exactly why I felt so crappy about it, and I feel it's insensitive for a white person to pass judgment on whether or not my emotions were warranted by a situation that obviously hurt me. Whether it's intentional or not, that's kinda how you're coming off here. For some reason I feel like I need to add that I don't think this is coming from a malicious place on your part.
    Apparently there's more I want to say...whew! šŸ™‚ I think it's important to consider situations where one person just wants to "fight," and the other person actually wants to explain something-- something hard, that may involve sharing a lot about themselves and putting themselves out there. I see situations where one person who benefits from relative privilege just wants a good argument and takes on the devil's advocate stance just for shits and giggles, but it'll turn out that they're talking to someone from a marginalized group who doesn't necessarily have the luxury of indulging in those games. This second person might even think they have a fighting chance at explaining their suffering, maybe getting someone to understand and empathize. It's sad to watch.
    Everyone participating in a discussion should have some idea of the motivations behind what we're all saying. Why do we bother to open our mouths in the first place? If our intentions are clear to ourselves and each other, I think we stand a better chance of taking something really great away from the conversation.
    [/$0.02]

  • Not arguing, not debating. Fighting.

    YEAH!!!! COCKDOUCHEWEASELMONKEY FOREVERBBQ!!11!1!11!!111Q!!! NEVER SURRENDER!!!1111!!!

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Samia, all I was saying here is that I don't think that one has to be ready willing and able to get the discussion of -ism* on, whenever and with whomever 24/7 to be a good person. I appreciate that you feel that you disappointed yourself in this scenario. It happens to me, it happens to everyone.
    I was not at all trying to judge whether you made a good or bad decision to duke it out in this particular scenario.
    __
    *I didn't really follow up on this but your points have great parallels in every situation where one person can "pass" in the perception of the other person making the offensive comment. It may be because it is your brother that is gay, your spouse that is an immigrant or ethnic minority. Because you mom was discriminated against in the workplace. or your best male friend from forever lost a nasty custody battle over gender bias. or it may just be your well-considered philosophical stances.
    The point being that the offender looks at you and doesn't see any obvious clues that you might be in the other group, as opposed to his/her group, when it comes to taking offense. and then the person who can pass has to decide whether it is worth having it out ...

  • Greg Laden says:

    My Ladenesque nature forces me to ask this question: Can you tell the difference, in yourself (and I'm asking this of everyone reading this) between fighting because you disagree with a point and passing judgement? Because when you pass judgement, it is much harder to back down and much harder to forget when someone ignores your pronouncements or writes off your opinion. This is possibly why actual judges are so bad tempered most of the time.
    I find myself arguing points sometimes, and passing judgment sometimes. I passed judgment on James Watson and I have no regrets about that at the moment. Usually, though I see passing judgment as a weak move and I prefer to avoid it.
    (I should add that of all the Kliqueons, DM is the least judgmental IMHO, though he still manages to be rather bad tempered sometimes....)

  • Tony P says:

    I just love taunting the religious bigots on YouTube. It's enormous fun to call them out on their bullshit and bigotry.

  • Samia says:

    I was not at all trying to judge whether you made a good or bad decision to duke it out in this particular scenario.
    DM, I'm glad you explained what you meant to say, because I really was unsure about what to take away from that part of your post. From my point of view, what happened was very personal and I took a risk in sharing it on my blog because I hoped that someone out there can relate on some level. To me, "unjustifiably" kinda implied that I needed to "justify" my feelings to Some Person.
    And yes, "it happens" to everyone, but it also bears remembering that the amount of privilege one has in any given situation can affect the ease with which we opt out of certain yucky discussions. Kinda like my cisgendered ass has been opting out of fighting transphobia until literally last month. As much as I want to think I am ultimately a decent human being, I can't pretend that caring (in our cissexist, transphobic society) wasn't and isn't STILL a socially sanctioned option for me. Whether or not I personally feel a moral obligation to listen to and lift up trans voices, I lose less in failing to do so than others. Depending on the identity at hand and our proximity to it, these incidents tend to affect us all differently. I think that's why it's so cool to talk about all this stuff openly, acknowledging that we each have blind spots as well as areas of unique insight.

  • Stephanie Z says:

    It surprises me not at all, DM. I hear you on the privilege too, although mine comes from almost exactly the opposite place.
    Becca, I think saying you find the true measure of a person in a fight is simplistic, but I don't think you have seen the true measure until you've seen the fight too. And the aftermath.

  • Mike Olson says:

    Actions, in some situations, speak louder than words. But words(ideas) can largely control and effect actions. We have laws governing actions that at their best are about what is right, fair, just and logical. We may use force to ensure these words are followed, but ultimately it is the logic of the words that minimizes the use of force and necessity for undue action or over reaction. Further, in some cases, words are not about taking measure, they are about provoking reaction. Finding buttons to push, sore spots to trounce on, have nothing to do with taking the measure of another. It is simply about refusing to allow someone peace of mind and hoping to push them to the point of either poorly thought out action, or a rash series of words that can be used to denigrate them to a level with which you feel comfortable. Frequently these sore spots involve, religion, political affiliation, and morality. Generally not science.

  • Greg Laden says:

    I am very uncomfortable with the idea that fighting HAS to happen to reach some truth. That is often does happen this way, or that there are many circumstances in which this seems an effective way is probably the case, but the inevitability of it is demonstrably not true, and if I'm wrong about that, it is all rather tragic.

  • Stephanie Z says:

    Oh, someone may well be the same person while fighting whom you got to know in other situations. In fact, I think most of my friends fall into that category. But until you see it, you don't know, and having been burned on this one pretty recently, I'm not at my most trusting at the moment.

  • Greg Laden says:

    But that is true of every aspect of life. How do you know, for instance, how I (to use me as an example) would act as a soldier in combat? Or if I was told I had 30 days to live? Do you really need to know these things? Do you feel like you really can't know me satisfactorily if you don't know these things?
    Of all the people that I love, or need to care about for some other reason, very very few will ever fight on the internet. I do not have a sense of emptiness from this. Some may never fight in other contexts either. I am not missing anything in those relationships (due to this, anyway).
    I think what is happening here is that fighting on the internet has become fetishized. There. That's my anthropological critique. Wanna fight about it?
    This reminds me of several years ago, when I asked the person who was closest to me in the world at the time this question: If this place was on fire, who would you rescue, me or your cat? She did not hesitate. "The cat."
    I asked her why, and she said that the cat had not done anything wrong. I asked her what I had done wrong, and she told me, "Nothing. You've done nothing wrong. And I love you. But you are a human being. You're going to do something wrong."
    (I didn't mention that the cat was always doing shit wrong, but whatever..)

  • Stephanie Z says:

    I fight, and not just on the internet. I poke and pry and sometimes give unsolicited advice, all of which make fights more likely. I don't demand or expect that other people will fight, but my behavior makes the information about how others fight relevant to me. If I'm never going to fight with someone, I don't need it, but....

  • idlemind says:

    Fights are about winning, which has little to do with an honest revelation of perceptions and beliefs. You're fooling yourself if you think you're egoless enough to reject any tendency to shade your argument in whatever direction maximizes your chances of winning the battle. It's human nature, and we all do it.
    Perhaps someday our fMRI machines will help us find the "truth" about what we truly think and feel. Perhaps such would miss the point entirely.

  • Usually, though I see passing judgment as a weak move and I prefer to avoid it.

    Dude, you're much more entertaining when you're sputtering and fuming and raving and going berserk and misspelling shit.

  • Somewhere in all of this I missed the part where 'argument' (which, to me, is more of an intellectual exercise) became synonymous with 'fight' (which, to me, is more of a visceral exercise).
    Anyway, STFU and loose the high and mighty attitude dude. Your a looser! Fighting is about descent and we all know that descent is the highest form of patriotic. Get a life, moran!

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    I am very uncomfortable with the idea that fighting HAS to happen to reach some truth.

    I think you're back to conflating "adversarial process" with "fight."
    Beyond that, it's certainly possible to use non-adversarial processes to find truth; it's just that adversarial ones have certain advantages (such as harnessing our competitive instincts.)
    One of the issues here is distinguishing "competition" from "fight." This is not a moot point to me, since the majority of the co-workers that I mentor aren't US-born and have cultural backgrounds that don't lend themselves as readily to the kind of jumping-up-and-down, arm-waving, passionate brainstorming and peer review that I favor [1].
    Of course, my way of doing things is superior and I'm trying to corrupt them into becoming more like me šŸ˜‰ Keeping a lid on it so as to not terrify the timid is a bit of a strain, though, so I take it out on people like Greg who can handle it.
    [1] I do kinda miss a Lebanese dude I used to work with. We had great arguments. Lots of good work came from them, even if the Company had to install extra soundproofing in the conference room.

  • Greg Laden says:

    Dude, you're much more entertaining when you're sputtering and fuming and raving and going berserk and misspelling shit.
    I have more than one audience, and I do appreciate that for many this is true.
    DC:I think you're back to conflating "adversarial process" with "fight."
    I do not conflate these. I am simply responding to the OP.
    One of the issues here is distinguishing "competition" from "fight." This is not a moot point...
    Very true.

  • DSKS says:

    Meh. Little more truth is eked out from an argument in which the issues are peripheral to the martial art of the engagement itself than one would expect to get out of a game of table tennis, or from a pistol duel. There's a profound honesty in all of these things, but that honesty reveals only general truths about human nature (rutting is up there with fucking, eating and sleeping as things we have an innate desire for at some point or other, along with the rest of the animal kingdom, COCKDOUCHEWEASELMONKEY!!11!!!11! included).
    I think it rarely reveals anything substantial about the more nuanced and less primitive aspects of an individual person's mind. Arguably, most of the time aggression and competitiveness just obscures them, which is presumably why therapists, psychologists, counselors and whatnot have to calm all that shit down to get to the real "feelings" &c.
    But, yeah, a good scrap can be quite cathartic in the flesh. It's a bit pointless on the internets, though, where rapier repartee somewhat loses its edge. COCKDOUCHEWEASELMONKEY!!11!!!11! notwithstanding.

  • Michael Burt says:

    Did my comment post? Or was it removed? Why was it removed.
    [DM edit: Comments that look like spam are deleted. The best way to avoid this is to post something substantive other than "testing" or some such nonsense. I'm going to delete this one too after an interval]

  • DrugMonkey says:

    GL: I am very uncomfortable with the idea that fighting HAS to happen to reach some truth. That is often does happen this way, or that there are many circumstances in which this seems an effective way is probably the case, but the inevitability of it is demonstrably not true,
    Well, if I made this sound as if I think this is the only way, I wrote poorly. No surprise there. I was more trying to explore whether it is the case that when we do move over into fighting, as opposed to arguing, there is any purpose or benefit.
    GL: Can you tell the difference, in yourself (and I'm asking this of everyone reading this) between fighting because you disagree with a point and passing judgement?
    Not sure of your question here. Meaning that at some stage you decide a particular individual is somehow permanently on the wrong side and you fight with them because of this and not because you disagree with their *point*? This is perhaps another category of why one might fight I suppose. I think, as with the ad hominem cognitive defense, this is probably accused far more often than it is truly the case. The Glenn Beck argument that Obama must hate white people comes to mind here.
    MO:Finding buttons to push, sore spots to trounce on, have nothing to do with taking the measure of another. It is simply about refusing to allow someone peace of mind and hoping to push them to the point of either poorly thought out action, or a rash series of words that can be used to denigrate them to a level with which you feel comfortable.
    I disagree. Strongly. I do not buy "the alcohol made me spout racist epithets" and I do not buy "if you hadn't phrased it so meanly I would have agreed with you" tropes. For nontrivial matters anyway. The notion that people show their true character under duress for dang sure did not originate with me, nor did the quote about virtue untried.

  • Greg Laden says:

    DM:Well, if I made this sound as if I think this is the only way, I wrote poorly. No surprise there. I was more trying to explore whether it is the case that when we do move over into fighting, as opposed to arguing, there is any purpose or benefit.
    Actually, I was responding more to what was developing in the comments.
    DM:Not sure of your question here. Meaning that at some stage you decide a particular individual is somehow permanently on the wrong side and you fight with them because of this and not because you disagree with their *point*?
    That is exactly what I was thinking and I agree with your comment on it.
    Regarding showing true character: I think there is less difference among humans than many humans choose to believe, and that stress often moves people to common area. In other words, we are constructions, some more intentional than others, or more self conscious than others, but all constructions. There really isn't a lot of dispute about that. If we think of those constructions as self, then stress actually moves people away from self rather than towards. Thus, my still unanswered question about knowing how someone would act in combat being not the best approach to learning the kind of person they "really" are.
    This does not mean that "The alcohol made me do it" is a good excuse (though it might often be part of a more complete explanation). But then, it does come back to judgment, desn't it? And the validity of judgment, and one's right to do that? And the excessive use of question marks when trying to make a point? Eh?

  • Zuska says:

    Not sure if I am amused or disturbed by some commenters' seeming to declare that actions and words are always two separate things, that words are just so much air (or electrons) and thus don't have any of the sort of significance we might give to actions. This is patently absurd.
    A wonderful brief treatise about the power of words to dictate actions - within the scientific community - is Evelyn Fox Keller's Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth Century Biology.
    But if you don't have time to read a book, just think of the power one simple phrase has had to rally troops and cause legislators to drop a proposal from health care legislation in Congress: Sarah Palin's fetching "death panels" elocution.

  • Greg Laden says:

    Not sure if I am amused or disturbed by some commenters' seeming to declare that actions and words are always two separate things, that words are just so much air (or electrons) and thus don't have any of the sort of significance we might give to actions. This is patently absurd.
    Truer meanings have never been worded!

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Not sure if I am amused or disturbed by some commenters' seeming to declare that actions and words are always two separate things, that words are just so much air (or electrons) and thus don't have any of the sort of significance we might give to actions. This is patently absurd.

    If I'd meant that words don't have power, it would indeed have been absurd.
    However, I hope that you're not proposing that there's no fundamental difference between "talking the talk" and "walking the walk." If words were as good as deeds, there wouldn't be any gender or racial equality issues today.

  • nails says:

    There most certainly would be equality issues today. The language of it is a huge part of the problem. People saying things that they don't understand to be racist or sexist but ARE, and people who say things they know to be descriminatory. Businesses picking male client reps because they know that a lot of company dudes would be unfomortable speaking to female reps.

  • Ola says:

    So, you play devil's advocate sometimes just to pick a fight and see how people react?

    You, Sir, are a troll

    And what do we do with trolls? Burn 'em!

  • DrugMonkey says:

    So, you play devil's advocate sometimes just to pick a fight and see how people react?

    This cannot possible be news to you.

    And what do we do with trolls?

    Read their blogs and comment, apparently.

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