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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Twitter Arguments

The president uses Twitter as a direct means of communication to the American people and the world, and his tweet will be preserved as historical documents.

Twitter is an opportunity to reduce and refine arguments to their essence. Users are invited to offer research to support their arguments. Sometimes pics or comics further reduce the argument into visual terms that communicate effectively.

Twitter can also diminish the power of meaningful debate. One danger is relying on rhetoric instead of addressing specific arguments. A focus on detail can distract from the big picture. Assumptions about the definition of labels can trigger misunderstandings and inappropriate stereotypes. And then there are the trolls and bots whose only agenda is to promote their agenda.

Chat with those who disagree with. Mindful use of Twitter by connecting with those who avoid the dangers can be illuminating, providing resources and cites previously unexplored. It's really okay to change your mind.

And please - avoid name-calling and driving the


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Dictionary Fallacy


Dictionaries are a useful tool for learning the definition of words, but may not be enough to understand their meaning. Words that express strategies, philosophies or other big picture concerns require more than a few phrases.Using simple definitions in arguments makes for simplistic arguments.

In today's short attention world, it's easy to get caught in the trap of simplistic thinking, The brevity of expression required in social media can turn complex concepts into rhetoric such that words lose their meaning. Assumptions of meaning can make for misunderstanding and poor communication.

The current use of "liberal" and "conservative" in today's political environment is a prime example. Rather than delineating differing strategies of governing, these two terms have become identities that assume no middle ground, overlap or shared values. Sadly, win/lose arguments in governing mean everyone loses.

Relying on dictionaries for understanding complex ideas undermines finding resolution, whether in argument or problem solving. Taking the time to better understand ideologies and strategies requires work but is worth the effort.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Confirmation Bias


Confirmation bias is bending evidence to fit one's beliefs. Arguments that use confirmation bias can sound reasonable. Evidence is provided and conclusions are made. However, the evidence can also be manipulated to conclude something else or even the opposite.

Politicians are especially skilled at using confirmation bias. Sound bite rhetoric reinforces the claims made. When fear-mongering is added to the mix, arguments turn into tirades. This is one reason for the current bipartisan divisiveness. Each side manipulates the facts to confirm what they believe and support their thinking with emotional drama..

Want proof of this phenomenon? Try this:

  • Go onto Twitter and calmly engage in an debate with someone who disagrees with you. 
  • Ignore the name-calling and focus on the arguments
  • Manipulate their evidence to prove the opposite of what they are claiming
  • Some will respond with more rhetoric that can be picked apart. You can bombard these folks with facts, but it likely won't make any difference. 
  • Others may offer new information and resources. Investigate, assimilate and/or discard. You may discover your own confirmation bias in the process.

Thinking people want to find a meeting point so they can walk away from a debate without rancor. Yes, there is always a meeting point because we are all human.