For years, I’ve been getting this constant urging to debate, debate, debate. We’re supposed to engage creationists in debate. We’re supposed to battle Nazis in debate. We’re supposed to meet bad speech with more speech, which I guess is fine, but why the fuck is the form of the speech supposed to be debate? Debate is a weirdly specific and artificial mode of interaction, it’s often not particularly effective at engaging people, and it never settles anything. I’ve noticed that creationists often prefer to set up debates, because all they’re doing is bringing in a foil who will be ignored while their chosen insipid viewpoint is given equal status with serious, scientific positions.
So why are we giving in to them and doing debates?
Now here’s a beautiful argument that addresses that issue.
Hey folks, today I'd like to talk about the alt-right, debate, and Scary Terry.
If you're a fan of Rick and Morty, you'll probably remember the Freddy Kruger inspired but legally distinct character of Scary Terry, and his "You can run but you can't hide, b***h" catchphrase. pic.twitter.com/5WA5nekfty
— Sloth Ms. Fizzle (@CaseyExplosion) January 19, 2018
Hey folks, today I’d like to talk about the alt-right, debate, and Scary Terry.
If you’re a fan of Rick and Morty, you’ll probably remember the Freddy Kruger inspired but legally distinct character of Scary Terry, and his “You can run but you can’t hide, b***h” catchphrase.
He’s mostly known for saying “b***h” at the end of every sentence, but it’s a key plot point that he keeps repeating “You can run but you can’t hide” because Rick and Morty eventually evade and defeat him by not taking his advice, and hiding from him instead of running.
And now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything, let alone the alt-right and debate?
Well, it’s in reference to the talking point that all leftist “SJWs” have to do is debate the alt-right, rubbish their arguments, show them up, and you’ll defeat them!
So when Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, or any other alt-right figurehead says “debate me, that’s the only way you’ll defeat me!” you need to ask yourselves one little question:
“Since when are we taking this guy’s advice on anything?”
The fact is, you can engage with their arguments, you can debunk their claims, make a mockery of their ideas, all without their involvement! Their participation is not required in any of this, you don’t need to help give them an audience for this, they are broadly irrelevant.
The alt-right, the neo-nazis, their currency is attention, they need it to thrive and for their ideas to spread. You can engage with that, without giving them an audience, without granting them participation in the process.
You don’t need to ignore them, you don’t need to stop engaging with their ideology or their rhetoric, but you do need to stop handing them the megaphone they crave. Don’t take their advice and let them set the rules.
Spencer calls for a white ethnostate, and “peaceful” ethnic cleansing.
Ok, let’s debate the idea. It’s absurd on it’s face. What happens to POC who don’t want to leave their homes? There could be no establishment of an ethnostate without violence, so it is a threat of violence.
So, remind me again why I’d need Spencer’s participation to rubbish his ideas?
It is far more effective to cut people like him out of the conversation entirely, talk about his ideas without having to deal with him, or anyone like him, in a debate setting.
Giving them platforms, agreeing to their debates, you’re just being a useful idiot and spreading their ideology for them.
I like it. Cut ’em off. Don’t bestow them the credibility of sharing an equal footing with you. There are terrible, stupid, discredited ideas out there, and the appalling nature of their arguments is not a good reason to elevate their representatives. Tear them down without promoting their proponents.
No more debates.
Raucous Indignation says
Geezuz, it takes you forever to see simple shit, doesn’t it?
I like this plan. I’m excited to be a part of it.
Hear hear! The humanity of my family, friends, and neighbors is not up for debate.
That goes for debating MAGAts on social media as well. Don’t bother letting them have air. Just shut that shit down.
Darn good sense!!
Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says
Oh, sorry, didn’t notice you until now :)
Marcus Ranum says
Supremacists are arguing in bad faith because they are (as you point out) downplaying or omitting relevant parts of their agenda. They are also, like religious believers, presupposing their arguments are true, because if they actually try to defend them, they cannot. Their beliefs are not just wrong, they are silly – not even wrong. Therefore they are not arguing in good faith. Arguing with someone who has already made it obvious that they will lie and make stuff up wherever necessary – it’s pointless. They’ve already shown they know they are wrong, or they wouldn’t be arguing in bad faith in the first place. Just deconstuct them and move on.
Marcus Ranum says
That also divides them internally – because they are not a unit without Deep Rifts of its own: ask them “What is your proposal? Slavery is not going to happen again – we’ll kill you first – so what is your vision of a white ethnostate and how do you propose to make it work?”
They have no idea. As I have pointed out a few times over at [stderr] they agree they are against certain things (mostly) but that doesn’t mean they agree about a consistent platform, else. Which is why the Republicans just shut down the government they control: they agree that they hate Obama but they disagree over the details of their agenda.
When we ask “what do white supremacists really want?” The only likely outcomes are turning the US into a failed state that resembles Syria. That might not be an entirely bad thing but I’d like to imagine we collectively could do better.
“Spencer calls for ….. “peaceful” ethnic cleansing.”
Excellent idea. Everyone with more than 25% ancestors from 600 years ago which not were born in the USA must leave. It’s the only way to set aright the worst theft of land in the history of mankind.
You don’t need a nazi to participate to rubbish their ideas. You need the nazi in close proximity to punch them in the face.
I know under which conditions I would debate nazis.
“So, you like the Sturmgewehr Mp 44?
Look, I brought one just for you!”
That’s all cool. Just don’t go about lying about not maltreating creationists etc or what not. l don’t care if you didn’t say that here. The attitude you display is what drives discrimination creationists and social conservatives get.
Danny Husar says
Forget dialogue or debate. I’d settle for the left not resorting to violence when a mainstream conservative, or a right-wing provocateur/shit-disturber, or even if a neo-nazi is giving a talk. To be fair this only happens at certain public institutions but everytime it does it expands the platform of guys like Milo and Spencer and makes them look like victims – when they aren’t.
@14 Dafuq??? How is refusing to debate a creationist maltreating them? I would have thought dogmatic faith and desire to hustle money out believers is what drives creationists. I doubt anyone has ever become a creationist because bleeding heart university professor pointed out the flaws in their beliefs.
Oops should have been @13. My bad.
Iredia: “The attitude you display is what drives discrimination creationists and social conservatives get.”
Maybe this reads better in the original Russian?
WTF are you even trying to say here? That sentence simply makes no sense.
Your evidence for this claim?
I mean PZ’s statement. Not #13
Ed Martin says
Might makes right. “No more debates.”
Congratulations on that fine parody of alt-right idiocy, in just 6 words!
To everyone who isn’t already convinced that the Nazi’s are right, Richard Spencer is just “That one nazi twerp what got punched in his nazi mouth, good riddance”.
Spencer getting punched as a meme has eclipsed any actual knowledge of his positions, and that’s the way it should be. The only people sympathetic to him were already too sympathetic to his beliefs to be worth debating. Nazis don’t arrive in that position by logic.
OK. So don’t debate them. You must be thinking that either their True Believer’s will discount any and everything you say, 100%. But, of course, if you don’t debate them, you’ll never even get in front of their audience. Sure, a random few will have heard of you, but even fewer will have read and understand anything you have said or written, or anything that Stephen J Gould wrote before you, or Charles Darwin wrote in a previous century. They are hung up on tribal truths from the dawn of settled culture (the establishment of towns and agriculture and armies… and religious dogma) and will have no truck with science or objectively verifiable facts.
As far as the actual, out-and-out Nazis go (like Richard Spencer and Milo Y), the Allied response in the mid 1940s offers the most appropriate template for dealing with them. Obviously, we must learn from the mistakes we made back then, and it would be strongly preferable that we don’t actually let them build to where they were in 1939.
Psh, typical radical leftist propaganda. If Hitler was really wrong, the US should have just debated him on the mater. Resorting to violence just makes people sympathize with the nazis.
Danny Husar says
@25 The Allied response was against a fascist nation-state that attacked its neighbors BUT this was long after fascists gained power. The rise of Nazism was marked by violence between brownshirts and the reds. Brownshirts won in Italy, in Germany and they won in Spain and they had sympathies in the Anglo world (Britain, America, Canada). I would be really careful advocating violence against neo-Nazis. I would be really careful in defending violence against neo-Nazis. You will lose many people because when you throw a brick through a window a business to protest a speaker people remember the brick.
You can see that with Milo. Milo has nothing interesting to say. He’s not well-read. He has no argument he wants to present. All he knows is how to be a troll and insult Feminists (In Devil’s Bargain, Joshua Green described him as a Nihilist). His campus tour is only remembered and talked about because of the violence from groups like Antifa that it attracted. The irony is that his tour needed that violence otherwise he’d have nothing. Milo and Spencer are one thing, but then the leftist protesters don’t know how to draw boundaries because then they go and attack a guy like Ben Shapiro. Shapiro is not a Nazi. He’s a traditional conservative and Berkeley was forced to spend a million bucks for security. He has to hire personal bodyguards because of the threats he receives. Come on guys!
@23 It made him look like a victim. I think he’s views are abhorrent but I have to concede that he shouldn’t have been sucker punched. I’m defending him right now. I don’t want to do that, but I think having Nazis speak without violent protests is better setting the precedent that violence against political speech (even abhorrent political speech) is OK.
Your evidence for this claim? I certainly heard plenty about it before that. Allowing scum like him to speak at a University normalises their hate-speech. The implicit message is “this person has something to say that’s worth listening to”. It is in countries where such speech has been allowed and normalised – Russia, Hungary, Poland, Austria, the USA – that the far right is actually in government. Italy is likely to be next.
It made him a laughing stock. If you don’t want to defend him, then I suggest that you stop defending him. What the Nazis want is control of the streets. As a step toward that, they want to be able to march along those streets, and spew their hatred from open platforms, without interference. Every time they are able to do that, it builds the impression of strength and power that they want to project.
He’s also a racist, a lying shitbag (his false accusations about Chuck Hagel are a notable case) and someone who deliberately misgenders a transwoman with whom he is in conversation. But maybe that’s just what you’d expect from a “traditional conservative”.
He’s now on the receiving end of antisemitic harrassment and threats from the alt right. I admit I find it hard to summon up much sympathy for him – as opposed to his family.
Danny Husar, #27
I’ve seen this many times from well-meaning people and I don’t know if it’s a genuine mistake or if they’re actually don’t mean well.
Why is it that you choose to label promotion of genocide in public merely “political speech”?
Try this sentence instead:
“I think having Nazis speak without violent protests is better setting the precedent that violence against calling for genocide and recruiting support for ethnic cleansing is OK.”
Seems fine to me.
Your previous wording makes it sound like we support punching people suggesting various tax brackets.
It made him a laughingstock even among his own community. Its pretty simple to find legit nazis decrying him as an effeminate beta who couldn’t fight off a single person with the power of white masculinity
Spencer, rather than getting a CNN titlecard that tacitly preaches his ideals, became a living meme about the dangers of being a nazi in public.
Punching him has done more good than letting him speak ever could. Twerps like him thrive on parasitically gaining platforms to preach from.
No one who wasn’t already sympathetic to nazism goes from “Huh, that Nazi got punched” to “We must ethnically cleanse white nations”.
David Marjanović says
You seem to be under the misapprehension that scientists stage debates to settle their differences of opinion…?
We don’t. Even at our conferences, we don’t. Discussions are had in writing, in (usually peer-reviewed) journal articles and book chapters, so that all participants can draw on the sources they need at leisure. After all, we don’t give a fuck about who’s best at rhetorics. We actually try to find out which ideas are wrong, and that doesn’t depend on how artfully they’re defended.
@ Danny Husar, #27
That’s why I advocate stopping them NOW. You don’t think people debated Nazis before they gained power? You don’t think people opposed them by non-violent means? They did. They died at the hands of the Nazis, unless they managed to flee to safety before the secret police smashed in their doors.
Really? I follow the news of such things, and I’ve heard nothing at all about “violence from groups like Antifa,” save for from the Nazi scum themselves.
I have no interest in participating in another “oh no, don’t punch the Nazis!” discussion. I have no sympathy for the simplistic view that violence never solves anything. Violence is never ideal, but sometimes it’s necessary, and when you’ve got Nazis openly recruiting members, marching in the streets, and stirring up genocide then violence is absolutely necessary.
Nazis always frame themselves as victims, and claim they’re just trying to defend themselves. Even as they’re stuffing people into ovens, they claim it’s self-defense. Fine then- I’ll take them at their word that they simply cannot exist in a world that contains non-Nazis. That means, of course, that I must choose between allowing Nazis to exist, or allowing literally everyone else to survive.
This, to me, is not a difficult decision. Being a Nazi is not an immutable, innate characteristic. Nazis can either cease to be Nazis, or they can cease to be.
Plus, a significant part of why the war got in such dire straits is that the US was perfectly fine with letting Hitler do his thing until we got pushed to the point where we literally couldn’t not fight. If we’d stepped in by the time Poland or France fell, there’s have been a lot less misery and war, and a lot more “Big nations curbstomping an uppity fascist state”
@ Vivec, #34
Yep. There was widespread support in the US for the Nazis, too, before the US joined the war. I think it would have made a positive impact on the nation if those Nazis stateside had seen some serious consequences after the war, but nothing at all was done about them.
Instead, they were allowed to merely change their colors. They helped bring us such wonderfully poisonous things as the Red Scare, McCarthyism, and the John Birch Society. They helped bring us to where we are now.
This is part of a larger problem for social discourse.
People with bad ideas nevertheless have audiences of varying sizes. They promote their position and their audiences can grow.
People with good ideas and thinking methods can of cpurse do the same.
A debate or other similar conversation can nring the audiences in touch with each others ideas. The question seems to me how do we make better ideas and ways of thinking tend to gain more audience approval and undetstanding?
You can broadcast your own ideas and disprove others faulty beliefs without giving those beliefs a platform and a veneer of respectability.
Good: PZ saying that nazism is stupid and race realism is a red herring dog whistle for neonazis.
Bad: A news station holding a panel discussion with nazis entitled “Are jews people?”
37 Vivec that is true but simple broadcast is generally ignored by those that don’t want to hear or blocked by thpse that don’t want it heard.
So the question remains. How do we create and put put thete good ways of thinking and good perspectives in such a way they get to the people that need them?