September 7, 2010

Time Wasters: Obfuscation

"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance,
baffle them with bull."
— attributed to W.C. Fields

Buona sera. Yes, I know that several of my "Time Wasters" articles are similar in nature because they deal with arguments, but discussion is a part of life. Especially on the Internet. And I wanted to warn people about the methods that some miscreants use to make discussion into a miserable chore instead of a potentially exciting exchange of ideas.

Taking out of context. Context is king, especially in biblical discussions. But it is easy to take things out of context when discussing politics and other potentially volatile topics.

Deliberately misunderstanding. This happens a great deal when talking with obstreperous Internet atheists (and atheists pretending to be agnostics). Ray Comfort has to deal with a great deal of that codswallop ("Ray Comfort, not only a racist and a pervert but homophobic too!", "'How foolish is it to believe that God changes and His Law disappears, simply because we imagine Him to be something more congenial.' Cool! So it IS still Ok to own and beat slaves! Yippee!", and more are here, for example.) This is a tactic used by trolls, not by people who want to have an intelligent discussion. Obviously, deliberately misunderstanding something is a form of taking things out of context, but it is more vindictive.

Ignoring evidence in favor of bias. No, I'm not referring specifically to evolutionists, although that applies just as well. It is easy for me to use a couple of examples from my own experiences. First, I was accused of manufacturing entire discussions in the "Comments" areas of this Weblog. Imagine the surprise (and dismay) of my accuser when the other party came along and said, "Yes, I'm real"!

Another time, I was accused of creating someone else, and by the same cafone that did not learn his lesson before. I tried to tell him that this guy even has his own Website. I gave up before I bothered to tell Mr. Cafone that the individual he assumed that I manufactured on the spot had commented on other Weblogs in which both people had participated. (The one I have in mind is here, but it contains strong obscenities because I posted comments that atheist trolls attempted to leave on this site).

Demanding credentials. First, they appeal to authority; Stephen Hawking is too important to have a commoner point out a flaw in his logic; if you're not a respected evolutionary atheistic physicist, clam up. Arbitrary standards for credentials for posting. Also, they demand some level of credence for I've seen people insist that Open ID accounts are somehow inferior to Blogger/Gmail accounts. Get real.

Intellectualizing. Mr. Thesaurus drops word bombs and throws in pseudo-intellectual arguments. Obviously, he's right due to vocabularitizing and philosophizing. (Yes, I made up a word or two so I could have emphasis. Deal with it.) No, people don't want to be distracted by his nonsense. When they do not answer him, or do not deal with everything he threw at them, he claims victory. Agonizing.

Irrelevance. Joe Scripture writes a post demonstrating that Christians are not required to keep the Sabbath. A few people respond and deal with the issue. Barney Blowhard constructs a lame link attempting to support the now-debunked Global Warming fiasco. Or even posing a question about the age of the Earth. Or criticizing someone about a completely different discussion. At any rate, it's irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Post a new thread or write your own article, Cupcake!

Majoring on minors. (I like that expression. Tommy the Knocker taught it to me.) One is "typo pouncing", a very juvenile method of attacking the person rather than the topic. Other times, I have seen (and experienced) unfortunate wording upon which someone leaps, turning your article about gardening into a flame war about "spades" and "hoes" being racist terms that you should not have used.

Disinformation. That's kind of easy to spot, especially if you are skilled in your topic. It's dishonest, despicable and desperate.

Being called a liar. Sure, people get things wrong. Honest people make mistakes. But having your integrity, morality and so forth insulted by cowards hiding behind keyboards is inexcusable. I'm not talking about sincere differences of opinion. Instead, the same trolls that use these obfuscation tactics will resort to ad hominem attacks, especially when you've caught them in their own lies and disinformation.

I hope you can learn from my observations and experiences. If you find that you are being distracted, misled, confused or otherwise trolled, I suggest that you disengage. As I've said before, sincere questions deserve honest answers (including "I don't know"), but nonsense should be (a) called, and then (b) ignored, capice?

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