Sunday, June 15, 2008

Debate by Attrition

I didn't have much to write about, so decided to repost my latest response in my long, long on-going debate with conservative nutjob Professor Donald Douglas, of the esteemed American Power Blog, who refuses to acknowledge that there was nothing wrong with me saying it was "obvious" that Obama didn't agree with his former pastor. Yes, I know this non-issue has been decided in my favor long ago in the real world, but in the world of the conservative nutjob, even the debate over ONE WORD can last for years.

As it is, I'm still debating the use of ONE WORD that I wrote on March 24 whichwasn't even important to the point I was making. But no matter, Donald imagines that he's finally found one thing he can prove that I was wrong about and is now stuck trying to debate this forever. Anyway, just thought I'd post this as a reminder to how nutty these people can be in their arguments. We're talking about a guy who thinks I'm trying to score debate points when I call him a "nutjob," rather than realizing that I'm doing so as a comment outside the framework of my actual debate points. But to conservatives, insults are the debate points, so I guess I understand how he could make this mistake.

Anyway, if you really want, you can read the comment I was reponding to, though I think my response is all you need to understand the context of what he wrote. But if you click through, you can't say I didn't warn you. I started with a quote from his comment and moved on.

The Endless "Debate"

Remember, we're not referring to YOUR opinion about what Obama knows ... you said that Obama's views are knowable, that they are obvious, and you still haven't directed anyone in this debate to that source of information.

See, this is exactly what I’m talking about. Like most conservatives, you somehow imagine that I have to prove to your satisfaction that your assertion is false, and until I do that, you’ll pretend that your assertion is already established fact. But it isn’t. The word “obvious” can be used to describe both facts and opinions, as I’ve shown repeatedly, and I’ve always insisted that my statement was opinion and not factually knowable. But you’re forced to keep blowing past this point because it entirely undermines everything you’ve written.

And once I explained to you that I wasn’t making an empirical statement, it should have ended. That was the only point you were trying to make and once I clarified my intent at the beginning of this debate, it was over. We disagreed over the use of one word, but once you heard my clarification and realized that we were basically in agreement, you should have let it drop. But you couldn’t. Why? Because it’s all you’ve got. A normal person would have accepted my clarification, but I’ve learned long ago that you are definitely not normal. So you had to keep attacking me over semantics while insisting that I was the one making the semantics debate. Why? Because you’ve convinced yourself that there are no logical liberals and couldn’t stand the fact that one kept demolishing you in these debates.

So when you misinterpreted one word I wrote, you decided to hang your entire debate on that misinterpretation, and now find yourself in the unenviable position of having to defend the indefensible. So you keep tossing out big word gibberish and empty insults in the hope to confuse and tire me; which I’ve found is your standard method of “winning” debates. You imagine that the person who gives up debating first is the loser and have developed a Debate by Attrition method, where you substitute the standard rules of debate with your own rules which are designed to frustrate people so they won’t ever want to deal with you again. And then you declare victory.

And in the end, the only thing you’re trying to make me concede is that I used one word improperly. Yet, I’ve shown over and over that I used the word correctly. Not only does it fit within the dictionary definition, but it fits with how it’s used in the real world, as well as at your own blog. So you’re wanting me to concede on a idiotically minor point on something I’m right about. You’re too funny, Donald. But of course, you’re really just trying to force me to quit the debate, as it’s the only possible way you could “win.” Pathetic. I’m not sure where you got the idea that debates are endurance contests, but they’re not. They’re logic contests, which makes it understandable why you’d prefer a different criteria for victory.

The Quotes

And sorry to break this to you, but those sentences I quoted from your blog were most definitely opinions. Was there an “external basis” for making those opinions? Yes. Were they objective statements? No, they weren’t. Remember, the standard for objectivism is: Are these statements provable? And in each case, the answer is that they’re not. They’re opinions that you said are “obvious,” just as I had an opinion that I said was obvious. I’ll explain, giving the initial quote and hyperlink first:

If there's anyone in this presidential race who has cause for hating war, it's obviously John McCain.”

Yes, it’s a fact that McCain was a POW and was tortured. But is it a fact that McCain hates war more than Obama or Hillary? No, that’s an opinion. And it’s not an opinion I agree with at all. I completely reject that opinion because I believe that anyone who supported and continues to support our optional war in Iraq must not hate war as much as the people who oppose it. Now, I understand why you people believe that McCain doesn’t like war (though it has nothing to do with him being a POW and everything to do with people hating the war and him wanting to get elected in spite of his support for the war), but it’s not a factual claim. You can’t prove it and there are millions of people who think you are wrong. Nor is it “universally recognized,” which was one definition you once insisted that obvious statements must be.

Oh, and in case you didn’t know, McCain’s suggestion that he hates war more than people who haven’t served in war is meant to be an underhanded slap in the face to Bush, Cheney, and the other warhawks who avoided service in Vietnam. In essence, it’s the equivalent of the chickenhawk smear that you conservatives hate so much. Pretty funny, when you think about it. McCain has to keep insulting Bush and the Republicans to get elected, and you people don’t even notice because you’re too busy attacking Obama. Funny.

Are we ready to employ America's unprecedented military preponderance in wars of total, scorched earth annihilation (and is Israel)? Obviously not.”

Now this one is definitely an opinion, as it’s a prediction that hasn’t happened yet. How can a prediction be factual? Now, I happen to agree with this one, but it’s still an opinion because it can’t be proven. I can also predict that I'll see the sun tomorrow, but until it happens, it's not a factual statement.

Let’s start with the obvious. Sullivan is a lunatic.”

Are you honestly trying to suggest that you can prove that Andrew Sullivan is a lunatic? Really? Again, I happen to agree with this opinion, but it can’t be factual. You can’t prove that he’s a lunatic, and if you could, I wish you would do so and get him some professional help. Or at least get him to stop blogging.

Your “Objective” Opinions

But then again, a careful reading of your comment seems to indicate that you’re now admitting that these are opinions and that they don't need to be "universally recognized" to be obvious (though you've been careful to not admit that you've changed your definition of "obvious" to include opinions). So you had to create an arbitrary standard that your quotes pass and mine doesn’t. You write that opinions can be obvious when “all participants to an exchange have access to a raw objective data point which then can be used to make a subjective evaluation,” which is Donaldese for saying that we need an objective basis for our opinions. You then pretend as if there is an objective basis for your opinions, which is different from my quotes of Obama. So let’s look at these again, in search of this alleged objective basis.

Sure, McCain was a POW and has seen the horrors of war, but that doesn’t mean anything. Hitler saw the evils of war, suffered a leg wound in battle and was hospitalized by a WMD, yet he didn’t hate war at all. Far from it. So is there an objective standard that says everyone who suffers from war automatically hates it? No, there isn’t. The very idea borders on non sequitir, as there is no specific link between being hurt in war and hating war. Sure, maybe McCain hates war more than Obama, though I don’t believe it. But there is no objective basis for that opinion. It’s based upon a subjective belief and one that really doesn’t make much sense. Again, your objective link from “hurt in war” to “hates war the most” is missing.

Even worse was the “objective” basis for your opinion that Americans wouldn’t stand for scorched-earth annihilation. Because there is no objective basis for that at all. While I happen to agree with you on that, it’s based entirely on opinion. I also once believed that we’d never be stupid enough to invade Iraq, and we saw how wrong that prediction was. At best, you might be able to cite opinion polls which are mildly subjective and even that isn’t conclusive proof of anything.

And the fact that you think your statement was actually objective is entirely laughable. Every reason you cited is opinion and many Republicans disagree with it. The whole thing is opinion all the way up, starting at the opinion polls and then working up through the subjective analysis of them. Who knows, maybe we’re both wrong and people would accept scorched-earth war with Iran right now. It’s certainly possible. And that excludes it from the world of objectivism, because objective statements are provable and yours wasn’t, because it was a prediction. Sorry.

And then we move on to your “obvious” opinion that Sullivan is a lunatic. Again, I agree with this opinion, but what is the basis for that opinion? His words. That’s it. The things he wrote. Yet…you’ve said that we can’t use Obama’s words as verification that he disagrees with his pastor, so how can we use Sullivan’s words as the basis for his lunacy? Even worse for you, Obama directly stated that he disagreed with his pastor, while Sullivan, to my knowledge, has never stated that he is a lunatic (that would actually be the first sign of his sanity). So how can we use his writings to justify your opinion when we can’t use Obama’s words to justify mine?

Valid Opinions

The truth is that all of these were valid opinions, right or wrong, but none of them have a truly objective basis. Your opinions were no different from mine. I didn’t pull my opinion out of my ass. I based it upon Obama’s words and my belief that he was being truthful. Just as you based your opinions on your belief in McCain’s hatred of war, America’s hatred of annihilation, and Sullivan’s lunatic writings. And while there were valid reasons for you to think these things, they were just as valid as the basis for my opinion of Obama.

Face it, Donald. It’s over. It was over a long, long time ago. You keep flailing about like a blindman in a riot, and can’t even land one punch. This is pathetic. We’re both in agreement about everything we’ve debated here, except you refuse to admit it and have to keep reinventing my positions in order to imagine that I haven’t destroyed you repeatedly. But I have. You can misinterpret what I write all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that you lost.

And rather than admit to this and move on, all you can do is to keep embarrassing yourself further and hope I’ll just give up. I keep telling you Donald, I won’t. This is much too fun. Rather than admit that you were mistaken over this insignificant point of semantics, you’re stuck debating this forever or risk damaging that little ego of yours.

Ready with that concession, Donnie? Of course not. You'll just keep tossing out even more arbitrary rules, lamebrained hairsplitting, bizarre phrasing to confuse everything, and topping it off with more insults and childish name-calling that would embarrass a third grader (or do you imagine that "Dr. Biopukesampler" was a valid description of me?). And I'll just keep laughing at you all the way.

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