Has the internet ruined honest debate?
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19-05-2012, 02:18 AM
Has the internet ruined honest debate?
The internet connects everyone across the world, making it possible to hold discussions and debate issues more easily than ever. So hypothetically, humanity should be arriving at universally accepted ideas about morals, politics, and religions due to collaboration and analytical dissection on a massive scale. Hypothetically.

But instead what we have is a bunch of willfully ignorant morons shouting their unresearched rhetoric while refusing to consider any ideas but their own. The internet grants us anonymity, which carries with it the delightful trait of having no responsibility. You aren't Joe Smithers of Ohio, ranting about how "fags should leave America." You are xJS2001x, and he can be as bigoted as he wants because there are no repercussions in the digital world.

An actual debate involves considering the other person's point of view and politely expressing why you disagree. Internet debates involve hastily googling something that vaguely supports your idea (found on a geocities domain name) then berating the other person mercilessly for being so ridiculously misguided. And not only is your opponent incorrect, he's also mentally retarded and a homosexual living in his mom's basement. Everyone is a google scholar. You don't have the pressure of answering in a matter of seconds anymore, forcing you to admit that you don't know the answer. Rather, you now have hours under the guise of "I actually HAVE a life. Forgive me for having things to do." And in those few hours, you can piece together enough of everyone else's ideas to present the pretense that these are your ideas.

Everyone is so concerned with "being right" and "winning" the argument that no one cares about discovering the truth of the issue. It's one big dick waving competition where even shrill voiced teens can pretend to be knowledgeable in between shrieking at their mothers for more chocolate milk.

Everyone takes opinions to the extreme now. If you support gay marriage, then you support polygamy and bestiality. If you are pro-choice, then you are pro-murder. Obamacare is extreme socialism. And socialism is the tool for terrorists. And terrorists hate America for our freedom. You can just say the most extreme one-sided sh*t because you aren't held accountable for your opinions. Glenn Beck tried internet debating in real life and ended up crying, crazy, and fired.

"Ain't got no last words to say, yellow streak right up my spine. The gun in my mouth was real and the taste blew my mind."

"We see you cry. We turn your head. Then we slap your face. We see you try. We see you fail. Some things never change."
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19-05-2012, 03:04 AM
RE: Has the internet ruined honest debate?
Gotta say that that is a profoundly stupid opinion, sir!
You are so very wrong! Are you mentally challenged or just gay? Maybe you can't see the truth if there are no windows in your mum's cellar?
Sorry that I didn't get back to you immediately but ... I have a life!

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19-05-2012, 03:40 AM
RE: Has the internet ruined honest debate?
I wouldn't say it's ruined it. However, it makes it easier for dishonest people to be dishonest much faster and cherry pick and look for any bits and bites of data that agree with them, even if they don't look into it.

For those looking for honest debate, the internet has also made it easier as you can easily find a reputable source of data (university, lab, science, etc) that is peer reviewed and available (if we consider something like science as the subject for said debate).

For instance: If I wanted to be a dishonest debater in regards to evolution, I could easily go out and find one of the many thousands of sites full of pseudo science. If I wanted to be an honest debater I could easily say: "Let me figure out more about that and get back to you." go out, look on something like Yale or Berkley on their various university research articles, or go find one of the major foundations that studies it. You could easily spend days, weeks, months etc looking into it so that you could honestly study the source of info.

Prior to the age of technology we would be limited to writing a letter, waiting for correspondence, or waiting for a book to arrive. Perhaps the information wasn't what we wanted, we would then have to re-initiate correspondence to look for more data. There is of course the library too, however, in comparison to the internet, they are limited to what a local community can provide.
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19-05-2012, 05:50 AM
RE: Has the internet ruined honest debate?
It's easy to find an echo chamber (like this one!) that feeds you information you want to hear. Still, there are open forums where anyone is free to comment and competing views can be presented. We're also still suffering from the September that Never Ended[1]. Perhaps when a generation grows up that has been taught enough netiquette in school things will settle down. We might have to wait 30 to a hundred years for the Internet to calm down. Unfortunately there is also a feedback loop with extremism in broader society that isn't helping things.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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19-05-2012, 10:13 AM
RE: Has the internet ruined honest debate?
I think the only universally acknowledge issue presented by the internet is the one mentioned in the OP. The ability to immediately chuck partial sources out there from the quick google search. It's defeat-able but it makes a serious debate more challenging since you're not actually debating the person and their acquired knowledge but the speed to which they can out google you. Forcing you to read through shit tons of incorrect linked data.

Other than that I think we all group together like in life, finding people who socialize with one another the same way we would in real life. Like here for instance. There are certain groups that socialize and some that take part in multiple groups and others who only stay within their comfort zones. Every once in a while people cross into territory where they don't mesh well and that usually results in internet frustrations. Or youtube is another great example. Just go to an atheist video (not a christian one or muslim because they both more often then not disable ratings and comments...) look at the debates. Some are genuinely decent and you can tell two people or more have actually found a comfort zone of debate, most suck ass because one of the debate partners or both are debate douche trolls. Youtube is such a broad place to be, there is no one topic that draws people there so the personalities are so vast and diverse people rarely have genuine debate, it's usually everything mentioned in the OP. People have a harder time finding their spots at that place because it's so vast and the sense of community is sparse. It's like a big city versus a small town.

"I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments." -Jim Morrison
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19-05-2012, 10:37 AM
RE: Has the internet ruined honest debate?
Be a little sociable and you'll see that throughout the world it has always been like the internet. The difference is that the assholes are heard better with lasting statements rather than whispers behind breath, or quiet discussions among friends. These voices have always been around, it's just that the internet allows the small opinion much more priority. It is the curse and blessing that the internet age has brought that allows those who would rarely be heard to be noticed. Sadly most who we normally wouldn't pay attention to truly don't deserve any attention.

Serious debates stil happen within the internet ,and there are plenty of users who will defend their position with actual evidence. Not only do there exist people who are truly capable on the internet available to discuss things with those who would run in fear in person, but also the internet in general allows any passive observer to learn much more than they previously could. By going and seeking out the sources and finding out all the words they weren't aware of. I'd say the age of the internet has made serious debate more worthwhile for the masses.

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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19-05-2012, 03:13 PM
RE: Has the internet ruined honest debate?
Great thread, BC.

I think your point about anonymity is right on the money. Take a look at the comments section for any YouTube video dealing with politics, sexuality, religion, social issues--more often than not it's a cesspool of bigotry and ugliness. With the complete removal of responsibility that anonymity provides, the constraints of civilized society disappear as well. People seem to delight in the chance to act like assholes, saying things they'd never say if their name were attached. Call it the titillation of the forbidden.

(A related situation comes to mind: Twenty years ago, following the infamous Rodney King verdict, we had some of the worst riots in this country here in Los Angeles. Driving home from work that night on the freeway, I felt genuine fear--the only time in 40+ years in this city I've experienced that. I could see the flames of burning neighborhoods in the distance, but that wasn't what scared me; it was the way people were driving. It was as if someone had suddenly rescinded all the rules: cars were driving on the shoulders, lanes no longer existed. No cops were around. It was a free-for-all. I had the frightening feeling society was breaking down around me.)

Something else that figures into the sorry state of discussion these days is the idea that everyone is supposed to have an opinion about everything, and that everyone's opinion is worth listening to. You may be a professional ditch-digger (not that there's anything wrong with that), but sooner or later some survey taker is going to ask you your opinion on man-made global warming, or some TV reporter is going to stick a microphone in your face and ask if you think the MMR vaccine causes autism. And in such situations, apparently the one unacceptable answer is "I don't know." Yes, it's a free country and everyone is entitled to an opinion--in the sense that you can believe what you like and express your beliefs without fear of being thrown into jail. But that doesn't mean that all your opinions have value. Some things are appropriately left to experts and professionals. That's not elitism--it's reality.

But more than anything, I think the problem lies in the word "debate" itself. And it's considerably older than the Internet.

"Debate" is exactly the wrong model for discussion, at least for the kind of discussion where the parties involved are genuinely seeking the truth. Because a debate is a competition. A game. A sport. It's all about scoring points. And in the end, there's a winner and a loser. High-school and college debates may be fun and may even teach valuable life lessons (like how to get people to come around to your way of thinking, clearly a useful skill in a competition-driven society), but they have nothing to do with truth-seeking. They're team sports, and like other sports they have coaches, venues, spectators, cheering squads.

The problem occurs when this becomes the model for all discussion. In other words, you stake out a position, the stronger the better, and stick to it. You bring in whatever evidence supports your position and ignore or try to hide whatever supports the other guy's. Watch the typical "talking head" discussion on any news channel. They invite the most extreme representatives of the two sides of an issue and have them go at each other like gladiators in the Coliseum. Can anyone even imagine one of these pundits listening to the other and saying, "Hmm. Interesting. I hadn't thought of that before. I see your point." It's inconceivable. And if anyone ever did say that on the radio or TV, what do you think the chances would be of their ever getting another such gig?

One of the reasons I like TTA is that people here sometimes do engage in real discussion rather than in debate--and that's pretty rare these days.

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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19-05-2012, 05:06 PM
RE: Has the internet ruined honest debate?
Hence why I am skilled in the ways of trolling. When I encounter such a person who is unable to provide a proper arguement and resorts too "I have a life" I simply troll them into oblivion making them rage quit.

Twice the anger, Half the space!
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20-05-2012, 09:34 AM
RE: Has the internet ruined honest debate?
It seems like it is easy to blame something like the internet for why debate has degraded into petty slams and name-calling.

No..the internet has not ruined anything just as records and cd's did not ruin music.
I don't even blame anonymity for poor debate either, if anything I blame the attitudes of people who will post deliberately hurtful and/or inflammatory remarks just so they can see their words on the screen for all too see.
There are those who feel that just because they experienced something, they then think that something is true or real. On the other end of the spectrum there are those who feel that if you don't have a gegree in a particular field then you are just supposed to sit down and shut up because after all, if you haven't been to school to study said topic then you are obviously just an uneducated twat.

Peoples attitudes are to blame, not technology.

Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return.
To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.
That is Alchemy's first law of Equivalent Exchange.
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21-05-2012, 12:53 AM
RE: Has the internet ruined honest debate?
I think the internet actually has improved the debate, yes, there's 4chan and the youtube comment section, but I see people wanting to debate and willing to participate in a conversation, even if they have trolling intentions.
I think the general low quality debate is not a consequence of the internet but a previous condition of society, back then when regular people didn't have a chance to talk except with their closest social circle, debate took place in some secluded halls in some hard to access places by some highly educated people, now everyone talks, and therefore, the general debate skills show up, and they're not what we expected to be. As a society, we are not as educated or as intelligent or as homogeneous as we thought, we're rude and extremist, but eventually, I hope, this will change, because now everyone talks, and someday that global conversation will bring some good stuff... and the eventual destruction of the human race by the alien zombiebots invasion of course, but that's a different topic Tongue

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