Disagree? Sure, Why Not?

What do you expect?  Occasionally (ahem), I take a position here with which someone disagrees. Hard to imagine, I know, but it happens. And contrary to popular opinion, it’s fine by me.  No rational person expects everyone to agree with them, or to agree with every view held.  People I hold in high regard disagree with me at times. People I don’t hold in high regard disagree with me at times as well.

It’s fine. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. It doesn’t make me angry that you disagree.

But what exactly do you think I am going to do about it?  There are times when someone will post a comment disagreeing with me, and I realize they are right and I’m wrong. Not often, but it happens.  Almost invariably, they offer a well-reasoned point and, upon reflection, the merit of their reasoning prevails.

So why not you? Not every argument made here changes my mind. There are often two (or more) valid perspectives to an issue, and just because you have a different view, supported by valid reasons, doesn’t mean that anyone, including me, is compelled to adopt your argument. Yes, you have a point. No, it doesn’t make me abandon mine in favor of yours.

Then there are those who proffer poor reasoning, or no reasoning at all.

I feel X.

Who cares what you feel? Your emotions are yours. Everyone else has their own, and yours are no more special than anyone else’s.  While you may be absorbed by the importance of your own feelings, it’s utter narcissism to expect anyone else to shift their view because of your feelings.

While there may be empathy shown, because others can appreciate the sincerity of your feelings, this isn’t the same as embracing those feelings as our own. No one cares what you feel for the purpose of taking a position. They may say they do, but they don’t. They are yours. Keep them to yourself.

I believe X.

This is the religious argument, where your belief simply is and, well, others should accept the premise of an invisible zombie in the sky in charge of everything because you do.  This isn’t to deny your right to believe any damn thing you want, no matter how personal or ridiculous, but to deny that it has any significance to anyone else.  As with feelings, your beliefs are personal. Have all the beliefs you want, but no one is going to convert to your religion because it’s your religion. To “believe” otherwise is batshit crazy. Don’t be batshit crazy.

I think X.

This is where persuasion begins, but its just the beginning. Why? If you are going to rely upon facts or personal experience, then you have to support it. If you’re anon, then you don’t get to rely upon your experience because anyone can claim any experience and there is no way to ascertain its validity.

If you rely on facts, especially outlier assertions, no one is going to simply accept your encyclopaedic brilliance. I know, links would make it much easier to support factual assertions, and I don’t allow them. That doesn’t prevent you from providing the source for your assertion. You just have to use words. You can do it. I know you can.

But most of the time, people just assert: Most cops do X. Maybe so, usually not, but this isn’t going to persuade me (or anyone else with half a brain). Yeah, I get that you think so, but that’s not good enough to compel me to revisit my position.  If you want to be persuasive, back it up.

Even when you do, there’s a good chance that it’s something that I’ve already considered and, nonetheless, decided otherwise.  That you reach a different conclusion is fine, but doesn’t mean I have to agree with you.

The mechanics of disagreement, however, seem to be particularly elusive, so I will explain.  My position is stated in my post. That’s because it’s my blog, and I get to say what I think. You then leave a comment expressing your disagreement with my post.  Assuming it’s not just totally off-the-wall, I will post your comment so that others can read it, see that there is disagreement, consider your argument, and reach their own conclusion.

More likely than not, I will not respond to your comment with, “oh yes, you are so right. This changes everything and I now abandon everything I’ve written and agree with you.” Does this offend you?  Most of the time, yes.  So you reply with, “you can’t take criticism,” or worse, “you’re an asshole for not agreeing with me.”

When you disagree with something, you are not entitled to “win” the point, no matter how strongly you think you’re right. Nor is repeating your point, nor calling me names, nor stamping your feet and insisting, going to change this. Just as my post may not persuade you, your comment may not persuade me. Acting like a three-year-old isn’t likely to make your point more persuasive.

The notion that your disagreement or criticism should somehow overwhelm whatever thoughts I have on an issue reflects poorly on you, and frankly, is tiresome to me.  I read your argument. It didn’t move me. That’s that. Just because you made it doesn’t mean I have to accede to your point. Not acceding to your point doesn’t mean I can’t take criticism, but that your criticism changes nothing for me.

So why disagree?  For most of you, nobody knows who you are, and you don’t have a soapbox of your own to make your point. So you use mine. If you think I’m wrong, this is your opportunity to say so, and hopefully to say so in a thoughtful way. Even if your disagreement doesn’t cause a paradigm shift in my views, you’ve expressed your view and other readers will see it, weigh it and decide whether your argument is better than mine.

It doesn’t really matter whether I agree with you or not, any more than it matters whether you agree with me. Every person who reads your argument will reach his own decision as to its merit, and whether you have the better argument than I do regardless of whether I agree with you or not.

But disagreement doesn’t entitle you to behave like an asshole after you’ve made your point. It doesn’t entitle you to murder 10,000 words repeating yourself or take a swan dive into the gutter. You don’t get to persist in arguing until you “win” the internets. Make your point and it will either persuade others or not. That’s all you can do, and all I will allow you to do. Take it or leave it.

12 thoughts on “Disagree? Sure, Why Not?

  1. Thomas

    Insert appropriate Monty Python reference (no links, I know):
    SJ – “Look, I came here for an argument!”
    Internet – “Oh! Oh I’m sorry, this is abuse. You want room 12A down the corridor”

  2. William Doriss

    And then there’s Carl David Ceder, down in Texas somewhere, who wanted to go mano a mano. He was the Best in the West. Disagree with SJ? The thought never occurred to us!
    Now what, pray tell, prompted this essay on the eve of Daylight Savings Time? Don’t miss the three planets lining up in the Southern sky these days. Glorious!

  3. Rendall

    “Not that I agree with everything that I have said in this essay. There is much with which I entirely disagree.”

    1. SHG Post author

      I was thinking about including a point about how I find some comments utterly incomprehensible. No doubt the commenter has some idea in his head that he wants to let out, but he just can’t find words to express it so anyone can get his point.

      Thank you for providing an example.

      1. Grum

        “but he just can’t find words to express it so anyone can get his point”
        Kinda the point of the reference. So what? I like the contrast betwixt the humane posts and the grumpy comments. Not going to have a fit because someone on teh internets took issue. At least you take the time (mostly) to reply.

  4. Patrick Maupin

    You must not have understood me the first time. Let Me Type Louder And Try Again. CAN’T UNDERSTAND PLAIN AMERICAN? WHAT ARE YOU, SOME KIND OF FURRINER?

    Oh, New York. Yeah, that explains everything.

    1. SHG Post author

      Corollary, someone commenting for the first time with poorly written sarcasm, except that it’s impossible (not knowing anything about the commenter) that it’s sarcasm.

  5. Timothy Knox

    I feel I believe I think I disagree. 😉

    But seriously, thank you, very much for this. And your post reminded me of an XKCD titled “Duty Calls.” No links, but you might enjoy it.

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