You may have noticed that, when people can’t give a rational argument to persuade another person to change their mind on a subject, they proceed to name call to try to shut down the conversation. Let’s be very clear: this is the tactic of the person who is desperately holding on to a failed argument.
Need examples? How many pro-gun people have been called Nazis in the last few years for their support of private gun ownership? Never mind that Nazis were gun control supporters and against private gun ownership.
Unfortunately, this type of intellectual bankruptcy isn’t limited to social justice warriors on Twitter and Facebook. No, it even extends into the halls of Congress. Noah Diekemper gives us the details:
Last Thursday the Washington Post published an impassioned appeal from Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) imploring Americans to ban guns. You might think that hearing a senator from Illinois sing the praises of gun control laws to the rest of the country would border on high satire if only it weren’t so tragic a subject.
You’d probably be right, but you wouldn’t know from Duckworth’s editorial: she spends 700 words roping her audience into the agonizing realities of the problem and suggesting her detractors have been bought off. She expends zero effort to show how gun control laws are practical, effective, narrowly tailored, or apt—or that they work at all. She does not even allude to her home’s bleak but deserved reputation for gun violence even though a state-level analysis ranks Illinois as having one of the most draconian gun-control regimes in the nation.
Instead, Duckworth maligns those who disagree with her: “What I don’t understand is how some politicians can consider the National Rifle Association’s dollars more important than our kids’ lives.” This kind of accusation makes political persuasion and rational discourse impossible: bypassing every single argument, fact, narrative, and alternative course of action offered by your opponent, you make it clear that the well is poisoned. Their motive is self-interest that weighs their campaign dollars against children’s lives and finds the latter wanting.
Communicating that she considers serious arguments not worth addressing and her opponents wicked people, Duckworth makes it clear that trying to persuade her would be time wasted. A distinction recently articulated by stats maven Nate Silvercomes to mind: “Some people are good at making it not worth your while to argue with them—which can be a useful skill. But I wonder how many of them operate under the delusion that they’re skilled at *persuasion*, which is a totally different and indeed somewhat opposite phenomenon.”
What does it say about our country when even Senators can’t have have a calm rational discussion about an issue addressing the nuances of the situation but resort to avoiding real debate and hurling insults instead?
Maybe the first step in dealing with anti-gunners is to get them out of their emotions and into thinking and reasoning. That could be an effective first step in waking people up from their knee-jerk conditioned responses to guns.