Don’t Bother Me With Your Hypotheticals — Frank Soto

 

Ever have a conversation with a friend that just leaves you ready to scream by the end of it? I just had one of those myself and my faith in humanity is falling fast.

As the topic of Donald Sterling came up, I made an off-handed remark that it is scary that everything private can be used against you publicly these days. A friend — who we will call Bob — replied that he didn’t see anything wrong with it.

I pointed out that on our mumble server (software for communicating while playing games and the like) I have personally heard him using numerous racial slurs in a joking fashion. I asked him to imagine if one of us had recorded him doing so, and released it to his employer at a later date. The example left him unmoved. What danger was he in at his low-paying job? The idea that he might one day in the future be more successful than he is today must not have occurred to him; perhaps for good reason.

I asked him to forget the example of racism and consider the case of Brendon Eich. He was unfamiliar with what had happened, but once I explained hit he had no problem with Mozilla forcing Eich’s resignation. When I probed him about the reverse scenario…if Eich had been a supporter of gay marriage and Mozilla had forced him out for opposing Prop 8, he reluctantly stated that that would also be ok. It was a tacit admission of the kind you make when you’ve been caught with your intellectual pants down. He clearly didn’t believe it, but he knew I had exposed an inconsistency in his thinking.

Here I should have backed off, as it was clear he had dedicated no serious thought to the issues at hand. Instead I asked him if it is morally acceptable to fire an employee for being black. Outraged, he drew a distinction: race is what you are, whereas Brendan Eich example, he was fired for things he believed. He chastised me for the comparison.

With the trap laid, I asked a follow up: If he wanted to draw the line for discrimination at what people believe versus what they “are,” would it be morally acceptable for a company to drive a CEO out for being a Christian, or an Atheist? After all, these are things you believe, not who you are.

Anger followed. Some of his response was literally incoherent. I was criticized for blurring lines or some nonsense. At first he felt the need to be consistent, and stated that it would be a “dick move,” but  would be okay if a company did that. He scrambled to find a new line to draw that would allow him his preferred outcome in these scenarios (Donald Sterling and Brendon Eich drummed out), while still retaining something that resembled intellectual consistency.

While he was reeling, I pushed on another comparison. I’m a conservative. Would it be okay for my socialist boss to fire me because we have differing political views? Can we even have a civil democracy when citizen feuds about politics spill over into our jobs in the form of retribution for having opposing political beliefs?

“No” he declared. It would be wrong for your boss to do that. He now scrambled to a new distinction: There is a difference between a CEO and a regular employee. Apparently, if a boss fired you for your religious or political beliefs, that would be an example of a powerful man abusing his status, whereas a CEO is chosen to represent the company, and it’s different — for some ineffable reason. “But the CEO is an employee too. Why do they get less protection then other employees?” I probed.

By now he was yelling, and his sentences rarely contained both noun and verb. He didn’t appreciate my hypotheticals, and criticized my very use of them. I asked how one is supposed to form a comprehensive world view if you don’t consider the consequences of your beliefs in other scenarios aside from the ones directly in front of you.

The conversation had escalated in volume every time I offered a hypothetical that destroyed the positions he would try to stake out. Shouts of “That’s….that’s not the same!” were abundant. At one point, he asked what I wanted to do about this, as if I was calling for government action. I replied that I wasn’t asking him what should be done about it, I was asking him what was right.

At this point he muted me. Shut up he explained.

Early in the conversation he had casually and confidently asserted the rightness of his position. By the end, my silence was required to prevent cognitive dissonance from setting in.

At times I wonder what it would be like to not have a fundamental curiosity about the world, to just take things from the media and teachers and absorb them without thought to how they all fit together. Seeing it in a friend is a somewhat frightening spectacle to behold.

Who else has had a brutal conversation like this with a friend or family member? Do you regularly encounter people who refuse to address hypothetical challenges to their views?

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  1. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Franco:

    The basic trouble is that these people have arrived at their views because it’s a belief system and a system of “cool, good and smart” identity they have crafed for themselves . Any upsetting of those beliefs is an attack on their identity. Who he or she IS is being called into question. This is why the react so emotionally.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

    • #31
  2. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Frank Soto: Shut up he explained.

     This has become my favorite phrase.  I don’t know if Jonah Goldberg coined it, or he stole it; but it is the best description for how liberals engage with people with which they disagree.

    • #32
  3. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    There’s another lesson here for us, I think. I’d like to see conservatives defending, say, Alec Baldwin for his statements (I know it’s hard) instead of exhibiting glee at  seeing the left eat their own with this crap. The reaction should not be glee but principled sympathy.That would be far more instructive. It seems I’m hearing more “racist” and “homophobic” charges from the right these days when the left is caught saying some of these things. Yes, they are pointing out the hypocrisy of the left, but it begins to feel like these people want to destroy their enemies with the same weapon of ‘thought-crimes’. I don’t like it.

    • #33
  4. user_240173 Contributor
    user_240173
    @FrankSoto

    Didn’t expect this to get promoted.  I was mostly just venting.  I pity the editor who had to clean this up.

    • #34
  5. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Franco:

    There’s another lesson here for us, I think. I’d like to see conservatives defending, say, Alec Baldwin for his statements (I know it’s hard) instead of exhibiting glee at seeing the left eat their own with this crap. The reaction should not be glee but principled sympathy.That would be far more instructive. It seems I’m hearing more “racist” and “homophobic” charges from the right these days when the left is caught saying some of these things. Yes, they are pointing out the hypocrisy of the left, but it begins to feel like these people want to destroy their enemies with the same weapon of ‘thought-crimes’. I don’t like it.

     Disagree.  Until the rules change, we need to make them live up to their rules.

    • #35
  6. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    It’s a damned shame that we’re stuck defending people who make repulsive comments because we think people shouldn’t be punished for thought-crimes. But that’s part of the whole “Disagree with what you say, defend your right to say it” principle that was once prominent in this country.

    And that’s why we need to focus on the principle and not the comments made themselves.

    • #36
  7. J Flei Inactive
    J Flei
    @Solon

    Sounds like an awful conversation.  Sometimes people just can’t believe there is another aspect to an issue, that someone might have ….. another point of view!!!   I’ve been in similar situations.  It sucks.  I completely support venting on Ricochet.com.

    • #37
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    J Flei: Sometimes people just can’t believe there is another aspect to an issue, that someone might have ….. another point of view!!!

    Meanwhile, those of us exposed to them have the sudden realization, “So this is what they mean by low-information voter!”

    • #38
  9. La Tapada Member
    La Tapada
    @LaTapada

    I could have had this conversation, but I instead bit my tongue. A leftist friend phoned me to ask about the medical cost sharing organization I had joined. She needed to get insurance as required by the Affordable Care Act. She had signed onto the Obamacare website and found that there was no plan that she could (or wanted to) afford. I wanted to ask how the poor people or the sick people will be covered if “supporters” of the Act don’t want to make their contribution.

    • #39
  10. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    KC Mulville:

    No one ever admits to being slapped down and proven wrong – at that moment. If you’re lucky (and you happen to be correct), your opponent’s recognition comes later. It usually comes slowly, and usually subconsciously. Even if you’ve “scored points” and “won the battle,” you’re probably never going to see the reward.

     I disagree, I have changed my mind in an exchange. If the other person is right, they are right. In fact, I can change so fast, that people think I am lying just to end the debate.

    However, this does not happen often.

    Sometimes,  is like I had with Frank, where he and I find what we can agree on, and where we differ in a peaceful way.

    Speaking of which, we need another Atlanta Meet up.

    • #40
  11. user_240173 Contributor
    user_240173
    @FrankSoto

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    Speaking of which, we need another Atlanta Meet up.

     Indeed.  

    • #41
  12. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    In conversations like this one, I’m usually the one angry and sputtering at the end. I find certain things — like collectivist economic and social systems — so self-evidently immoral, that I often can’t keep myself composed enough to respond rationally. Appeals to authority (e.g., “98% of climate scientists agree”) also drive me to distraction.

    • #42
  13. J Flei Inactive
    J Flei
    @Solon

    Son of Spengler:

    In conversations like this one, I’m usually the one angry and sputtering at the end. I find certain things — like collectivist economic and social systems — so self-evidently immoral, that I often can’t keep myself composed enough to respond rationally. Appeals to authority (e.g., “98% of climate scientists agree”) also drive me to distraction.

     Ditto for me!!!  I remember when I was a kid thinking that people should see the inherent wrong-ness of communism/socialism; but if they didn’t, they would certainly change their mind when the Soviet empire fell and was exposed for what it was.  25 years later here we are with basically the same arguments!! 

    I mostly lose it when people start hating on America, saying that our military is the cause the world’s problems.  Actually, I lose it over lots of other things, too.  Basically, I  cannot stand it when people misrepresent right-wing positions.  It is hard for me to admit that many people, even friends and family, are probably never going to seriously entertain any idea that seems right-wing to them.

    • #43
  14. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Son of Spengler:

    In conversations like this one, I’m usually the one angry and sputtering at the end. I find certain things — like collectivist economic and social systems — so self-evidently immoral, that I often can’t keep myself composed enough to respond rationally. Appeals to authority (e.g., “98% of climate scientists agree”) also drive me to distraction.

     92% of members here would agree with this.

    • #44
  15. user_240173 Contributor
    user_240173
    @FrankSoto

    skipsul:

    Son of Spengler:

    In conversations like this one, I’m usually the one angry and sputtering at the end. I find certain things — like collectivist economic and social systems — so self-evidently immoral, that I often can’t keep myself composed enough to respond rationally. Appeals to authority (e.g., “98% of climate scientists agree”) also drive me to distraction.

    92% of members here would agree with this.

     I’m not immune to this either.  The bigger one that drives me crazy is when people won’t allow you to develop your point before interrupting.  If you can’t get a concept across to them in 2 sentences, they don’t want to hear it at all.

    As if all of reality can be so easily understood and explained.

    • #45
  16. user_137118 Member
    user_137118
    @DeanMurphy

    That phrase is great.  It might have originated with Ring Lardner.

    • #46
  17. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Dean Murphy: That phrase is great. It might have originated with Ring Lardner.

     Which phrase?

    • #47
  18. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    Confronting issues with well-constructed hypothetical questions often makes people uncomfortable because they force a person to reexamine their premises.  It can be very effective:  that’s precisely what Socrates/Plato did in the dialogues.

    I believe it’s the essence of reasoned argument. 

    If another person wishes to engage me in good faith in this manner, I’m usually willing. On the other hand, there are people I just won’t engage because they aren’t engaging in good faith.  Life’s too short to waste time on them.

    • #48
  19. user_1029039 Inactive
    user_1029039
    @JasonRudert

    tabula rasa:

    Confronting issues with well-constructed hypothetical questions often makes people uncomfortable because they force a person to reexamine their premises. It can be very effective: that’s precisely what Socrates/Plato did in the dialogues.

    I believe it’s the essence of reasoned argument.

    If another person wishes to engage me in good faith in this manner, I’m usually willing. On the other hand, there are people I just won’t engage because they aren’t engaging in good faith. Life’s too short to waste time on them.

     TR: contact me or Randy me or Randy Weivoda about the SLC meetup!

    • #49
  20. I. raptus Member
    I. raptus
    @Iraptus

    Which games do you play (or not, as it sounds like in the case of this argument)?

    • #50
  21. user_240173 Contributor
    user_240173
    @FrankSoto

    I. raptus:

    Which games do you play (or not, as it sounds like in the case of this argument)?

     Recently a lot of Payday 2.  Previously a lot of TF2 and Minecraft.  Numerous others.  Anything multi-player and cheap on steam usually gets played by us.   

    • #51
  22. user_989419 Inactive
    user_989419
    @ProbableCause

    People buy on emotion and justify with logic.

    • #52
  23. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Something I have noticed when having discussions with those of opposing viewpoints is that it is rarely a good idea to debate their views head on. All too often people have internalized their politics to such an extent that any questioning of their views is seen as an attack on them personally, so what could be an easy back and forth quickly escalates into a passionate fight. 

    I try keep an old quote from The Count of Monte Cristo in mind when it comes to a charged discussion:

    When you wish to obtain some concession from a man’s self–love, you must avoid even the appearance of wishing to wound it  

    • #53
  24. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    You think you had a rough conversation? I recently had dinner with a group of childhood friends that included a bored housewife with an obsessive interest in PETA married to a GM CFO responsible for opening factories in the only non- right to work state in the Southeast. Needless to say, that evening didn’t go well.

    The most frustrating part of this is exactly what you mentioned- it is literally impossible to have intelligent discourse with rabids. To add insult to injury, I was hosting the dinner at a four star restaurant (@Arahant- The Townsend) where I am somewhat known, was embarrassed by their boorish behavior and had to pick up the tab.

    Just got the credit card bill today for this fiasco; liberals certainly don’t mind running up a bar bill on somebody else’s dime.

    • #54
  25. profdlp Inactive
    profdlp
    @profdlp

    Proverbs 14:7

    Frankly, I think you’re doing more good by motivating the squishes to grow a spine.  The Left is pretty darn near hopeless.  I no longer seek to convert, just try to up the conservative turnout.

    • #55
  26. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Frank Soto:

    skipsul:

    Son of Spengler:

    In conversations like this one, I’m usually the one angry and sputtering at the end. I find certain things — like collectivist economic and social systems — so self-evidently immoral, that I often can’t keep myself composed enough to respond rationally. Appeals to authority (e.g., “98% of climate scientists agree”) also drive me to distraction.

    92% of members here would agree with this.

    I’m not immune to this either. The bigger one that drives me crazy is when people won’t allow you to develop your point before interrupting. If you can’t get a concept across to them in 2 sentences, they don’t want to hear it at all.

    As if all of reality can be so easily understood and explained.

     Unfortunately, the lefties I work with immediately go on the offensive (we’re lawyers) to push whatever conservative position I’m trying to suggest to its illogical extreme – any doubt about the wisdom of some regulation means I want anarchy; any question about whether schools go too far in forcing thought conformity means I want students bullying each other; etc.  Bleah!

    • #56
  27. Grendel Member
    Grendel
    @Grendel

    Arahant:

    Dean Murphy: That phrase is great. It might have originated with Ring Lardner.

    Which phrase?

    It was one of my father’s favorite tag lines.  In the Ring Lardner story, a man recalls  a time when his father was trying to maintain the appearance of being in control of the situation.  The boy asks a too perceptive question and describes his father’s response:  “Shut up”, he explained.

    • #57
  28. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Grendel: The boy asks a too perceptive question and describes his father’s response: “Shut up”, he explained.

    That just reminded me of another book to put in the comedy thread.  In Ferroll Sams’ Run with the Horsemen, a boy has just destroyed a couple of acres of crops through his fertile mind and his father comments, “He’s a good boy.  He minds well.  I just can’t think of enough things to tell him not to do.”

    • #58
  29. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Frank Soto: Ever have a conversation with a friend that just leaves you ready to scream by the end of it?

     Who hasn’t?  This is what works for me.  If the friend (or coworker, or relative, etc.) is militant, there’s almost no way you’re going to be able to convince them to change their position on an issue.  If the person is reasonable, I fall back on that old technique of getting him to come to the conclusion himself his position is wrong, or at least has serious questions.  From your post, it looks like this is what you tried to do.

    One problem is that when someone is confronted with facts that contradicts his position, he either denies they are the facts, or simply chooses not to believe them.  At some point however, reality will catch up with him and he’ll be forced to deal with it – like writing that first Obamacare premium check.

    Whatever you do: stay calm, civil, smile a lot, and fight the urge to choke the living %#$%@ out of him!

    • #59
  30. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    La Tapada: She had signed onto the Obamacare website and found that there was no plan that she could (or wanted to) afford.

     The reality checks have started for millions of Obamacare supporters.  Not only is writing that first Obamacare premium check painful, but not ever reaching the deductable could be even worse.  My worry is that voters will fall for the Democrat slogan “Mend it, don’t end it” and keep voting the wrong people into office.  After all, the underlying election strategy for the Democrats has been “We promise to make it work right.”  And they never do.  And they never will.  And I’m stuck starting sentences with “And” . . .

    • #60
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