Results 1 to 22 of 22

Thread: Is it possible to discuss politics constructively on the Internet?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    5,443

    Is it possible to discuss politics constructively on the Internet?

    Nearly every forum I join has a provision against discussing politics or religion. I don't blame the admins for this, certainly a forum where such topics are left off the table is a far more tolerable environment than one without. But I have to wonder, is there a way to construct a situation in which a constructive political or religious debate could be had online without devolving either into an echo chamber or an ad hominem snake pit?: Because if not that does not bode well for the future of discourse.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    1,408
    I don't see it happening unless all the members are already in agreement on their views. So it would be boring.
    Depending on whom you ask, everything is relative.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    12,232
    Give me time to formulate a proper answer Para.

    (Posting so you don't think you're being ignored.)
    Time wasted having fun is not time wasted - Lennon
    (John, not the other one.)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    12,232
    Mr. Kline,

    yeah, that's called an echo chamber.
    Time wasted having fun is not time wasted - Lennon
    (John, not the other one.)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    The Great NorthWet
    Posts
    13,675
    Unfortunately, Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies to the thread title.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Norfolk UK and some of me is in Northern France
    Posts
    7,900
    one way is to restrict it to history at least fifty years ago, preferably more and then discuss parallels from a historical perspective.
    If everyone agreed about politics there would be no politics, but at least with history you have some idea of how things worked out.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    1,408
    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    one way is to restrict it to history at least fifty years ago, preferably more and then discuss parallels from a historical perspective.
    If everyone agreed about politics there would be no politics, but at least with history you have some idea of how things worked out.
    Political history always seems to work out best for the winners, and yes they would all agree that things worked out best for them. Others, though, often disagree and sometimes try for generations to change the results.
    Depending on whom you ask, everything is relative.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    The beautiful north coast (Ohio)
    Posts
    48,014
    As I've noted before, I have a hypothesis that the less an Internet discussion is based on facts, and the more it is based on opinion, the more heated it gets, whether the discussion in on politics, the effect of the observer in Quantum Mechanics, or proposed heavy lift vehicles. Most political discussions seem to center around political philosophies, and not facts, and thus the heat.

    I suspect this is also true in the real world, but the lack of face-to-face contact seems to exasperate the problem. I think it is just easier to be angry and provocative when you are typing (particularly if you are not taking an extended time to think about and review what you are typing) than it is when you are face-to-face with someone.
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

    All moderation in purple - The rules

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Olympia, WA
    Posts
    30,461
    My political discussion group is mostly quite reasonable. You could say, I'm sure, that it's because we all mostly agree with each other. And yesterday, I had to step between two people because one of them kept insisting that something was "not an improvement" when what he meant was "not enough of an improvement," and if he'd said that, there wouldn't have been a fight. (I like him, but that guy is not the best at seeing other people's views anyway.) But the group has existed for over two years now without any major flame-out. I'm not sure anyone has even been banned, though I know some people have left of their own accord.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    12,232
    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    As I've noted before, I have a hypothesis that the less an Internet discussion is based on facts, and the more it is based on opinion, the more heated it gets, whether the discussion in on politics, the effect of the observer in Quantum Mechanics, or proposed heavy lift vehicles. Most political discussions seem to center around political philosophies, and not facts, and thus the heat.

    I suspect this is also true in the real world, but the lack of face-to-face contact seems to exasperate the problem. I think it is just easier to be angry and provocative when you are typing (particularly if you are not taking an extended time to think about and review what you are typing) than it is when you are face-to-face with someone.

    Wow Swift.

    I had to sit for hours to come up with basically the same thing you said.
    Time wasted having fun is not time wasted - Lennon
    (John, not the other one.)

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Norfolk UK and some of me is in Northern France
    Posts
    7,900
    Quote Originally Posted by mkline55 View Post
    Political history always seems to work out best for the winners, and yes they would all agree that things worked out best for them. Others, though, often disagree and sometimes try for generations to change the results.
    I am not sure I understand that. They say history is written by the winners, of wars that is, but if you look at history since the world war, it's documented by all sorts of observers. A different cynical view is that voters in democracies are never satisfied so there is an oscillation. Another source of oscillation, maybe a different period is between the old and the young voters. And all that is without considering facts at all!
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Posts
    23
    I don't think we should conclude that something is impossible, simply because it has never actually happened.

    Any controversial policy makes some people better off, and some people worse off. If it didn't, nobody would argue about it; you'd just go ahead and do it (if it made everyone better off) or not do it (if it made everyone worse off).

    Practically every political argument I've ever seen (including some at other boards made by people with the same IDs as some of the participants in this thread) are efforts to prove that subjective opinions or objectively correct (or incorrect). Some commonly used tactics are strawman arguments or ad hominen attacks. That's the sort of thing that must do, because it is impossible to prove a subjective opinion to be factually (in)correct by valid logical methods.

    If we recognised that nearly all political questions are subjective, political arguments would be rather short. "I am in favour of this policy because that is my preference." "Well I am against the policy, for the same reason." "I guess there's nothing else to say then, is there?" "No, there isn't."

    If we ask why people hold certain subjective opinions about political issues, I find that self-interest is a strong explanatory variable, even among those who are loudly denouncing the self-interest and greed of their opponents. But it's less than 100%.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    4,002
    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    But I have to wonder, is there a way to construct a situation in which a constructive political or religious debate could be had online without devolving either into an echo chamber or an ad hominem snake pit?: Because if not that does not bode well for the future of discourse.
    Maybe by restricting such debates to heavily-moderated forums. More than the lightest of violations of civil discourse gets one suspended for a cooling-off period and the offending content removed; if you're bad enough, you get banned.

    To sign up for a forum, maybe one has to pass "Are you a flake?" multiple-choice tests to filter out the fruitcakes on either end of the horseshoe. This would only be partially effective, though--respondents could give answers that the test makers want to hear, not their true views.
    Calm down, have some dip. - George Carlin

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    The beautiful north coast (Ohio)
    Posts
    48,014
    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    Maybe by restricting such debates to heavily-moderated forums. More than the lightest of violations of civil discourse gets one suspended for a cooling-off period and the offending content removed; if you're bad enough, you get banned.

    To sign up for a forum, maybe one has to pass "Are you a flake?" multiple-choice tests to filter out the fruitcakes on either end of the horseshoe. This would only be partially effective, though--respondents could give answers that the test makers want to hear, not their true views.
    People are also not uniform in their beliefs. They may be cool and calm on most things, but have a single issue which they are passionate about.
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

    All moderation in purple - The rules

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Peters Creek, Alaska
    Posts
    12,324
    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    To sign up for a forum, maybe one has to pass "Are you a flake?" multiple-choice tests to filter out the fruitcakes on either end of the horseshoe. This would only be partially effective, though--respondents could give answers that the test makers want to hear, not their true views.
    How about the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory? I proctor the exam for prospective air traffic controllers. The number of questions alone...567 as of last count...should weed some folks out.
    Forum Rules►  ◄FAQ►  ◄ATM Forum Advice►  ◄Conspiracy Advice
    Click http://cosmoquest.org/forum/images/buttons/report-40b.png to report a post (even this one) to the moderation team.


    Man is a tool-using animal. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all. — Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

  16. #16
    If I need to pass a personality test I might fail to have one.
    From the wilderness to the cosmos.
    You can not be afraid of the wind, Enterprise: Broken Bow.
    https://davidsuniverse.wordpress.com/

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    13,028
    Quote Originally Posted by fullstop View Post
    Any controversial policy makes some people better off, and some people worse off. If it didn't, nobody would argue about it; you'd just go ahead and do it (if it made everyone better off) or not do it (if it made everyone worse off).
    That might be true, but I think that some controversial topics have a different aspect, in that the might make everybody better off in some way, but worse off in another way. Maybe a simple example might be a vaccination program, where more or less everybody receives a positive effect (better health) but a negative effect (higher taxes and the trouble of having to go get the vaccination).
    As above, so below

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    13,028
    Regarding the original question, I think it might depend on what you mean by politics. If you just mean electoral politics, then maybe it's pretty tough unless the participants are in the same party, and even then it can be difficult. If it's people discussing a specific political issue, say a group of engineers discussing patent law, I think it can be more civil.
    As above, so below

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Central Florida.
    Posts
    5,657
    Of course, if they're eminently rational people of moderate views, who can calm down and pay respect to both sides.

    You know: like me. And you.

    Then again, there's what d'ye call him — Thing'em-bob, and likewise — Never-mind ...
    And 'St— 'st— 'st— and What's-his-name, and also You-know-who ...

    Watch out for them!

  20. #20
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Posts
    23
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    That might be true, but I think that some controversial topics have a different aspect, in that the might make everybody better off in some way, but worse off in another way. Maybe a simple example might be a vaccination program, where more or less everybody receives a positive effect (better health) but a negative effect (higher taxes and the trouble of having to go get the vaccination).
    That's OK, we can just make it net benefit. If everyone thinks that the benefits are worth more than the costs, then there is no debate. If everyone thinks the benefits are not worth more than the costs, then there is also no debate. If some think it's worth it and others do not . . .

  21. #21
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Posts
    5,935
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    That might be true, but I think that some controversial topics have a different aspect, in that the might make everybody better off in some way, but worse off in another way. Maybe a simple example might be a vaccination program, where more or less everybody receives a positive effect (better health) but a negative effect (higher taxes and the trouble of having to go get the vaccination).
    Well, and the other issue is that people are not perfect at assessing what the positive and negative aspects of some action might be. Even for something as straightforward as a vaccination program, we find some people that don't actually believe that the health benefits exist, or are convinced that there are negative health benefits that outweigh them, in spite of pretty solid evidence to the contrary.

    For choices of political action, where it's harder to know the outcome of some action (maybe we should try doing double blind studies of the results of political actions! ), the issue is even stronger. It's not just that some people will benefit from the proposed action and others may be harmed, so there end up being people both in favor and opposed to the action. It's that people won't even agree about who might benefit or who might be harmed. Sometimes this is the case even when the outcome seems obvious to another person. I've certainly seen cases where it seemed clear to me from watching political conversations that someone might vehemently support an action which would nevertheless be detrimental to them (or oppose an action which would provide them a clear benefit). Or of course, maybe I'm the one that was misguided about what the outcome would have been, and they had the right of it.

    I absolutely agree with Swift's assessment that the further away from clear facts you get, the more heated a discussion can become, and that it's much easier to become angry and hurl vitriol sitting at a keyboard, as opposed to doing so when facing the other participants of a discussion in person.
    Conserve energy. Commute with the Hamiltonian.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    10,969
    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    As I've noted before, I have a hypothesis that the less an Internet discussion is based on facts, and the more it is based on opinion, the more heated it gets, whether the discussion in on politics, the effect of the observer in Quantum Mechanics, or proposed heavy lift vehicles.
    I resemble that last remark...

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •