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Friday, January 18, 2019

I've Seen The Preview: I Don't Need to Hear Your Shitty Argument

Ending of the movie on cover.
What do shitty arguments have in common with crappy movie trailers?

Only everything.

When I went to see Bumblebee, there was a trailer for A Dog's Way Home, which seems to pretty much be Lassie Come Home for a new generation. As you watch the trailer for A Dog's Way Home, it becomes obvious that you just saw the entire movie. I mean there might be a scene that you aren't able to predict exactly, but all the major beats are right there in the preview. Even the part where the dog and the human are reunited at the end is in the trailer.

These kinds of trailers are not unusual. You watch them and it's really clear that you don't need to see the movie. You've seen the whole thing. You already know how it is going to go.

Arguing with Dudebros and SQuiD's (status quo defenders) about social issues is very similar. They are, from the moment they appear, the living embodiment of the latest studies that raised upper forebrains, logic, rationality, and thinking are not created to find truth, but to win arguments. And they want, more than anything else in the world, to win.

They often equate the unwillingness to debate them so with an inability, but in reality, just like that movie, you just don't NEED to see this one out. They think they are original, edgy, vital, fresh to death, but what they really are is an edgelord clone with a all-too predictable stream of clich├ęs spewing out. From the first moment they reveal their "Debate me!" position or demand proof of things like "inequality exists," you already know pretty much exactly how it's going to go.

Not a lot of variety.
First, they demand proof! Whatever it is, they will demand that it be proven. It's a very popular strategy because it mimics good faith skepticism, and claims require evidence. Here's the punchline though: you're NEVER going to prove it to these people. Maybe inequality existed once, but we're past all that now. (It's always, mysteriously, ten years ago that this great shift occurred––even if they themselves age a year, it doesn't become eleven years ago, but still ten).  If you give them statistics, they argue the narrative. If you give them the narrative, they question the statistics. If you give them both, they question the source as reliable. If you give them an impeccable source with pie charts and graphs and hundreds of studies that they can't possibly argue, they pontificate some heretofore unexamined X factor like they are suddenly experts on the subject who are seeing a flaw in the data. They work tirelessly to grind the argument into dozens, maybe hundreds of comments just dealing with something like the very existence of racism or sexism, and turn the entire ordeal of attempting to educate into a huge emotional labor engine trying to get them to acknowledge not only the value of a person's ability to relay their own lived experience, but something that literally all evidence points to.

They twist the institutional forces of bigotry into the false equivalency of someone with prejudice. ("I can name a white person who once got called a honkey before being punched, so obviously the entirety of systematic and systemic racism is a myth.")

And then they will claim that equalism/egalitarianism/humanism should be the real goal (because they care about social issues and equality, but only so long as no specific group gets to talk about how inequality affects them in particular), as if the only thing holding them back from being the champion of oppression everywhere is a branding issue, and not in any way a silencing tactic.

Come on guys! They changed the name to "egalitarianism."
That's what we were waiting for, and now
we totally give a shit about pay inequality for women!

And then they will attack the person making the claim for anything they have ever done that seems questionable as if it justifies the bigotry they have experienced and/or insinuate (or outright claim) they are faking it for attention or money.

And then they will claim that the efforts to name and shame the social issue (sexism for example) are just as bad as the bigotry itself. Because they can remember a time a woman was mean to them for holding the door open or something.

And then they will attempt a fallacy of relative privation because someone somewhere has it worse.

And perhaps they may even attempt a rousing round of "That's Just How Humans Are." The game where it's apparently not ever worth pointing out or working against fundamental inequality because at the end of the day, humans just suck. (That 99% of people who say this happens to be in the group that benefits from this fundamental human suckage is surely just coincidence.)

The cleverer versions of these folks will, at each step of the way, first try Just Asking Questions and imply that their genuine skepticism is above reproach. Any emotion that meets their non-stop questions it (be it frustration, anger, or anything else) is simply evidence that it's all an emotional reaction, worthy only of scorn.

At some point, it is likely they will say that they would listen (or would have listened) if everyone had been a whole lot nicer to them. They may say this despite their own inability to remain even remotely civil because of course THEY were being "attacked" and accused of not getting it and not to mention not a few unkind words as regard to their character, and of course, that is the real crime––their feelings––rather than the implication that entire groups of people are making shit up.

For many enacting this carefully choreographed dance on some sort of open forum or multi-person venue, the entire time they will conveniently miss the logical and careful arguments they claim to be interested in by those who carefully, logically, and OH SO NICELY refute their points, they will respond mostly to the emotional arguments, which they find easiest to attack.

Of course, every one of these is one type or another of fallacy––from a burden of proof fallacy (dismissing something on the basis that it hasn't been proven beyond all doubt is a part of that fallacy), to Tu Quoque, to Argument Ad Absurdum and more.  Honestly it would take a week and change of a critical thinking class to break them all down.

Ironically, about 90% of these people would recognize these fallacies if they were being told to prove vaccines work or to prove that the earth is round. 

And then....the best part of all. The climax of our story––which, just like Free Willy, you already know....

The ghosting.

If all of this somehow ends in inescapably pinioning the person, they simply disappear. Like a ninja with a smoke pellet, they must go, or it is time for work, or their spouse is calling, or maybe....JUST MAYBE they quite appreciate the rousing intellectual stimulation you have provided them purely as a diversion and thought experiment, possibly with a side of thanking the person who managed to explain the issue in the most detached way possible (weaponizing their discipline against everyone else who had the temerity to get frustrated).

And then the next time you see them they have returned all the way back to "Prove to me this exists at all." They didn't learn. They didn't grow. It was all designed to make sure everyone knew that the "price" of disrupting the status quo would be endless iterations of the same argument...again and again and again and....

Of course, at any point during all of this, should anyone give up and assume this agent is not operating in the most irreproachable of best faith to be educated OH so gently, it is because they CAN'T. It is because this social issue doesn't really exist. It is because this claim has no evidence. The whole thing is made up and run by the group's emotions.

The thing is, from the moment most of us who butt up against this sort of motivated skepticism every day recognize that someone is stubbornly NOT GETTING IT, we don't need to see the whole movie. We've seen the preview with the entire thing. We've watched the earlier version. We know exactly what's going to happen. As amazing and intellectual and original as these people think they are, the best most people can do with their time is go watch something else.


  1. There’s no need to read this piece. It’s the same old mixture of priggishness and moral bullying.

    1. If you felt bullied, you may want to examine why that was your emotional reaction. Bullying requires a specific target, and this article wasn't targeted at any particular person. Do better.

    2. There's no need to read this comment. It's the same unsupported accusations that conflate criticism with bullying and display the exact behavior that the article is about.

    3. I heard a new term recently. Apparently, the new excuse to dodge around a similar response to Unknown's call for a little introspection is to call it a Kafka Trap. Which was something I had to look up. Evidently a logical fallacy in which any protestation of innocence is taken as evidence of guilt. Not sure it actually applies in these situations in a technical sense, but as I tend to view these sorts of "discussions" as a sort of evolutionary weaponization of conversation, it's useful to share the newest thing one has seen come to pass.

    4. Looks like "gummboote" has skipped straight to Ghosting. Shame, I was hoping he'd provide us with a demonstration of the rest Mr. Beechen's excellent and accurate points.

  2. Unknown and Chris -- exactly. (Unless gummboote was being deliberately ironic... but the lack of the go-to "winky" makes me highly doubt it... lol...)

  3. I spent most of the summer getting into political arguments with my mom's cousin on FB, but I had a strong feeling he was never responding in good faith. Finally unfollowed him. Seeing this article come round again was pretty validating.