The Charitable Steel Man

Not sure if you have any pull with Jim or not but I would like to continue the debate with you, just a bit unsure if that is the correct forum. I DO appreciate Jim for his non political writings, and do not wish to become airlocked.

In truth I have been well noticed, particularly by Jim, and received a tongue lashing and an allowance to stay. I make a point to stay within his posted rules of decorum and by those rules, I do not believe he wants a complete echo chamber. See rule #1. If you can reach him, ask for him to respond to me in PM. All debate will be in the same manner in which we have already been discussing things.

This was a private message from the opponent that a good portion of the article The Key to Ending Mass Shootings? was directed at before I took the time to generalise the argument in a way that made it more monologue, less dialog. I try to go through Facebook memories on a daily basis. I do this to pick up the conversational tidbits that never made it onto the blog, and then I put them on the blog where I unquestionably own all the content. Anyone who has read a post of mine and noticed the small print at the end probably realizes I do this. Yesterday was just another day. I search for a text string with the blog search function, and if that string isn’t there somewhere, I create an article and try to embroider what is frequently two or three sentences of text into something that unambiguously makes a statement, drives home a point.

Yesterday I looked at three paragraphs of text on a historical article and realized I’d never finished the article I was trying to create from those three paragraphs. What’s worse, I had preserved those paragraphs written on the spur of the moment, and a whole separate thread of comments that I had written in response to arguments presented in the wake of the Parkland mass shooting last year. Reading through the unfinished article, I realized that I had taken the time to write rather lengthily on the subject. For some reason that I can’t remember I abandoned the work mid-sentence.

So, I did my best to clean it all up and finally posted it to the blog a year late and a dollar short, and then I do what I always do and posted a link to the article on the threads where the content was posted. I do this as a mental note to myself, you’ve preserved this on the blog already, rather than in the hope that someone will notice and comment subsequently. Few people do notice and even fewer comment. This was an even rarer moment. An opponent that wants to continue beating a dead horse a year later. I’ve never seen that before.

First he took me to task for dredging the thread back up again. I in turn complimented him on avoiding Jim’s airlock for more than a year, going so far as to marvel at how he managed to get into the group in the first place let alone avoid capture and ejection for over a year. Considering how strident his attacks were, not getting airlocked in the subsequent year is no small feat. Then he PM’d me with the message above, and when I didn’t reply right away, he commented on the thread that I needed to check my messenger app. I’ll try to avoid the ire I feel at being chided for resurrecting a zombie thread, while at the same time being told I need to pay attention to said zombie thread and long dead counter arguments. I’ll try to do that and simply answer the specific question asked.

I don’t know Jim Wright. I was lucky and discovered his writing early. I got into his circle of friends on Facebook before he hit the 5000 max. It has not been all sunshine and kittens. I have had my share of disagreements with him in the past, mostly over the finer points of intellectual property (I should put those comments on the blog but I’d have to find them first) I’ve faced some pretty heated arguments with him. I’ve consciously risked airlocking more than once. I had people whispering to me both times,

“You better back down. You better change that post. He seems pretty mad.”

I’m a professional when it comes to arguments on the internet. I read every comment at least three times before posting, and I do this on every platform I participate on. I read the offered replies and I try to gauge the best argument I can assemble from the point being made. I’ve tried to employ the steel man technique for longer than I’ve known it’s name. If you are charitable, employing the principle of charity, rather than picking the flimsiest straw man you can concoct just so you can make the biggest splash possible, you’ll get less reflexive pushback from opponents. If all else fails, I walk away from the keyboard and contemplate the argument to get past the emotion. Sometimes I do this for weeks. Sometimes the navel gazing lasts for years.

If I can’t get past the emotion I simply don’t reply anymore. I won’t reply or I block the user, leave the group, whatever. If you respond in anger, your opponent wins the argument. They’ve forced you to act irrationally with their barbs. I’ve tested this truism many times. Responding in anger is always worse than not responding. I don’t succeed in striking a balance every time (no one does) but in the case of arguments on Jim’s turf, I want to be sure to go out well. As he has said more than once (paraphrasing) if you’re going to go out the airlock anyway, go out with style. If I post to Stonekettle Station, I try to make whatever I say something that is unambiguous in its point and worthy as my last words to live by. Because those words might well be the last words anyone on the group reads from me.

This caution on my part is well earned. My most innocuous attempts at humor have lead to violent outrage by former friends in the past. Some of these encounters are documented on the blog. Clever comments are rarely seen as clever by the targeted reader. The authors of poorly crafted arguments never thank you for taking their arguments apart. I’ve been blocked innumerable times, and I have my own lengthy block list that I add to prophylactically. I do this on every platform that allows blocking, and I don’t stay long on platforms that don’t allow content moderation. Arguments inevitably go sideways if someone is invested in their argument, if it represents a core belief or if emotions are running high. If emotions are at play, like when a gunnut kills 59 people and injures at least 527 at a concert. Or possibly when another ammosexual kills 17 high school students and injures 17 more. Children the same age as your own children that are gunned down in classrooms much like the classrooms your children are currently in.

You tend to not think clearly, in those cases. You really cannot think clearly, no matter how many years go by, and you just want the senseless killing to come to an end. You are motivated to see the circumstances change, no matter how many years go by, and no matter how many armaphiles just can’t bear to be separated from their cherished collections. In those cases it is time for the status quo to change, and it will change because enough people want it to change.

Opponents will be blocked in those instances. There really isn’t the mental space for contemplating not doing something. Opponents will be airlocked mercilessly until the lunacy comes to an end. Opponents will be blocked, their comments deleted, their participation in the conversation erased. This is true of everyone. Everyone will hit their August Landmesser moment.

Who is August Landmesser? Just another ordinary German. Someone trying to get along and be reasonable in the face of the complete lack of reason being displayed by everyone around him. Until he can’t ignore it anymore and rebels. He refuses to play along even though it costs him his life in the end. Once you realize that the authority you are responsible to no longer makes reasonable requests but instead asks you to sit idly by while the people you love are ground up by the machinery of profit, you’ll hit that moment yourself. When you realize that reason is no longer prevalent, you face an unenviable choice. You can conform to the nightmare in front of you and abandon who you were, or you can fight the nightmare in front of you with every weapon at your disposal.

This is me doing what I can for the cause. For the cause of not seeing more children shot while sitting in their classroom. For the cause of ending mass shootings as we have come to endure them here in the United States. I will tolerate this insanity no longer. #NeverAgain

Author: RAnthony

I'm a freethinking, unapologetic liberal. I'm a former CAD guru with an architectural fetish. I'm a happily married father. I'm also a disabled Meniere's sufferer.

Attacks on arguments offered are appreciated and awaited. Attacks on the author will be deleted.