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[P]
Keywords

By Paul Dunne in Culture
Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 01:52:09 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

The International Medical Tribune recently carried an interesting paper on a phenomenon it calls "Delusionist Syndrome" which I think is though t-provoking enough to reproduce here in full.

An excerpt:

The central symptom is this: since the Delusionist of whatever stripe does not argue, but merely asserts, after their intervention it becomes impossible to conduct a reasoned discussion. The basic tenets -- for example: "freedom is guns" (often coupled, bizarrely, with the seemingly-irrelevant "RMS is a commie" (Note 2); "world-wide Jewish conspiracy"; "if the earth was round, the Australians would fall off" -- are simply repeated, over and over. This resembles the classic conditioned response, in being pre-rational and evoked by certain stimuli.
Read on for the whole thing, and more...


Delusionist Syndrome

Delusionist syndrome is the name given to certain behaviours commonly seen on, though not limited to, weblogs, mailing lists and other forums intended for civilised public discourse.

The central symptom is this: since the Delusionist of whatever stripe does not argue, but merely asserts, after their intervention it becomes impossible to conduct a reasoned discussion. The basic tenets -- for example: "freedom is guns" (often coupled, bizarrely, with the seemingly-irrelevant "RMS is a commie" (Note 2); "world-wide Jewish conspiracy"; "if the earth was round, the Australians would fall off" -- are simply repeated, over and over. This resembles the classic conditioned response, in being pre-rational and evoked by certain stimuli.

In particular, the conditioned response seems to be triggered by the occurrence of certain "key words", printed or spoken. For a gun-nut, these might be "freedom", "gun control", "gun-nut" (Note 1) itself, or "RMS" (a surprising one at first, but see Note 2). Similarly, the neo-Nazi responds to "Israel" or "Holocaust", the flat-earther to "round-the-world cruise" or "Copernicus".

It matters not at all in what context the keywords occur. For our fanatic, as for the public bar bore, all conversations are one conversation. Like Uncle Toby, they are stuck on their hobby-horse, and they can't get off.

Once launched on his (Note 3) spiel, the Delusionist will continue until the cows come home, reusing his limited stock of "arguments" over and over.

Certain basic documents are consistently referred to, but the content of such a document will rarely bear any relation to what is said. For example, a gun-nut will have no qualms in praising the American Declaration of Independence in one sentence, and in the next asserting that "there are no natural rights".

Is there a cure? Sadly, no; no treatment has been discovered to date. Happily, the condition is not contagious, and the only danger posed to the general public by these distressing cases is one of boredom. This risk can, however, be minimised by the simple technique of ignoring them. They will mostly likely then go away, if only to find someone else to pester.

Note 1.

gun-nut /g^n-n^t/ n. person with a differently-aspected attitude to projectile weaponry.

Note 2.

The link between gun-nuts and anti-free-software fanatics is one that needs closer examination. In this respect, ESR (Note 4), though often labelled as one, is far from being a typical gun-nut. The typical gun-nut is a "private property über alles" man, although not such a consistent one that he refuses to use services paid for from the public purse. Anyone who challenges any aspect of sacrosanct "private property" is a "commie". Hence, the GPL is not just a software license, but part of an International Communist Conspiracy. Since no one can deny that the rights of private property in the US are indeed heavily-regulated and restricted by Federal and State governments -- the IRS is particularly hated by gun-nuts -- the gun-nut alleges, as indeed he must if he is not to lapse into absurdity, that the USA is de facto ruled by communists. The blame for this sorry state of affairs is commonly laid on a secret world government, a New World Order if you will, usually, though not always, alleged to be in the pay of "the Jews". It is interested to note here how two different forms of the syndrome tend to converge. Not enough work has been done to determine whether such convergence also occurs between other forms of the disease, for example flat-earthers, hollow-earthers, Gods-from-Outer-Spacers, etc; this would make a good PhD thesis for somebody.

Note 3.

For reasons not yet determined, Delusionist Syndrome occurs almost exclusively in males, although some rare female cases have been documented (see the sad case of Ayn Rand).

Note 4.

It should be noted in passing that there is no evidence that ESR suffers from Delusionist Syndrome, though he does occasionally Let His Mouth Run Away With Him.

OK, OK, you're maybe thinking, funny, funny, ha-ha-ha, Paul doesn't know when to stop flaming. But, wait a minute. I'll admit that the piece above didn't really appear in the IMT (had you fooled for a minute though, eh? No? Oh.) It was indeed written to let off steam after a bout of flaming which I thought better of continuing. I make no claim for its objectivity or fairness, nor would I have posted it on its own. But, if you peer beneath the jet of burning petroleum, and listen hard past the crackle or burning flesh, there are some valid points there.

It is a fact that there are certain keywords which are almost guaranteed to elicit a quasi-Pavlovian response on a weblog or on Usenet or on a mailing list. To take an extreme example, there are certain newsgroups where an incautious reference to the Holocaust can get the innocent poster inundated in a flood of neo-Nazi propaganda, which is then answered by not-always-temperate, and sometimes not even factual, "denial-denials". On and on it will go, claim and counter-claim, any shred of reasonable discourse being torn away as the fight becomes increasingly vigorous and irrational. And there's the real point: forget, for a moment, the rights and wrongs of the matter: *neither* side comes out of such virtual fist fights looking well.

There is a Monty Python sketch which features an enthusiastic newly-wed couple (straight from the church round the corner, if we're to believe the sound effects) in an attempt to buy a bed in an English department store. Unhappily for them, the only salesman authorised to help, while otherwise "perfectly alright", is compelled to place a bucket over his head at the mention of the word "mattress". The difficulties in which this places our hapless hero and heroine can be imagined, particularly as the word which they have been advised to use as a safe synonym for "mattresses" -- "dog kennels" -- elicits from the mattress salesman merely a puzzled request that they visit the pets department on the second floor. It all ends in chaos, the mattress salesmen with his head in a bucket, the other sales staff singing "Jerusalem" in the fish tank -- this being, the couple are assured, the only way of extracting their colleague from the bucket -- and finally, when at last order is restored, another couple appear, utter the dread word, and the whole cycle starts again. All very funny; but it's not at all what we want from a real department store.

Now, I'll fight anyone who says a web-log can't be just as useful as a department store. I remember being really knocked back by how useful I found slashdot (which in my prejudiced way I had at first dismissed as some sort of chat-board á la AOL), when I first began reading and posting (as an AC to begin with, then as, wait for it, you'll never guess, "paul.dunne" -- back then I didn't know you could have embedded spaces in your user name). It was a place where you could learn and discuss, and maybe even pass on some of your own knowledge in return.

However, the keyword syndrome soon set in -- probably there from the very start, but in recession perhaps. The major factor in slashdot's decline? Perhaps not. But not negligible. Mention the GPL on slashdot today, for example, and you will -- there's no maybe -- have a comment attached to yours denouncing RMS as a "commie" and the GPL as, if not the work of the devil, then certainly the end an honest programmer's livelihood. Whether this be true or no, the real harm is that this rant will be emitted regardless of the actual topic of discussion -- we might, for example, actually have been having a perfectly-civilised editor war, vi vs emacs for example (everyone knows vi is better, of course, but bear with me for the sake of the example). A mere mention, in passing, that emacs is under the GPL whereas nvi (let's say) has a BSD license, will be enough to unleash the deluge.

I've used slashdot as an example, not because the disease is limited to there, but because it's the biggest and best-known of web-logs, and because almost everyone reading this will have engaged in or watched a keyword-generated flame-fest there at one time or another.

To bring matters closer to home, let's look at a recent outbreak of keyword fever on kuro5hin. Yes, I'm talking about my ESR article. What started out as an attempt to check the facts on ESR, and then bring people's attention to his version of them, and his attempts to attribute his own, ah, singular political views to the free software world as a whole, took off on a rather unexpected tangent. Yes, I started it, I am the Idiot Boy who dropped the keyword: "gun-nut". it was a flippant remark made in passing, and God knows had little enough to do with the subject under discussion; but boy did I start something.

By the next morning, the comment count had clocked up another 20 or 30, the majority nothing at all to do with the matter at hand, but rather a classic bout of what I parodied in my "paper" above: someone with a bee in their bonnet who won't let go. Though I poked rather vicious fun in my "medical report", here let me say that I'm every bit as much to blame. I should have watched my mouth in the first place; after all, I'd seen what happened to /., where this sort of thing is out of control; and, after inadvertently having dropped the bait, I should above all else not have responded . It takes two to make a flame-war -- well, the more the merrier, but no one will flame themselves (although I do think some antagonists on /. have very similar writing styles -- but nay, that way lies madness). If no-one responds to the initial twitch, it must all die down very quickly.

What is to be done? We can't avoid keywords, they are important (that's why they're called key -words). But, just as there are two sides to the starting of a flame war, so there are two sides to its prevention. People with particularly-strong views might perhaps think twice before posting: stop, and think: "does what I'm about to write actually have a bearing on the subject; or am I just responding to a keyword as Pavlov's dogs to his bell?" And those who see such a response should likewise think twice before posting: stop, and think, "do I want to continue the discussion, or do I just want a flame-war?". Everyone has the choice, you see, because none of us are just conditioned animals, after all.

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Display: Sort:
Keywords | 38 comments (38 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
so?... (1.80 / 5) (#3)
by davidu on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 05:44:00 PM EST

davidu voted -1 on this story.

so?

I'm just assuming here that there w... (none / 0) (#11)
by Arkady on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 05:50:37 PM EST

Arkady voted -1 on this story.

I'm just assuming here that there was a mis-post and you will be re-submitting a copy with contains to "Read on for the whole thing, and more..." bit, so I'm voting down on this one in order to vote with more interest on the complete one. I could, of course, have misunderstood this.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


<moderation comments> ... (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by abe1x on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 06:12:26 PM EST

abe1x voted -1 on this story.

<moderation comments> Please, please. please learn how to edit. There may be some brilliant stuff there but no way could I wade through all that rambling. </moderation comments>

Nice to see a reasonably well thoug... (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by modred on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 06:23:07 PM EST

modred voted 1 on this story.

Nice to see a reasonably well thought out piece. As for the previous story that prompted this the lesson learned seems to be that in order to promote discussion the writer needs to make a conscious effort to put together a well written piece - not just state a fact and make a flippant remark about it (re: Slashdot - how many people read the article that is being commented on in the initial posting?). I think that style will inevitably lead to flamefests - you end up with a chain of disucssion that gets further and further offtopic based on a single remark that is secondary or tertiary to the story. In order to have discussion the assumption is made that the original article being commented on has been read by the participants but that is decidely not true. I don't know if it is Pavlovian response that produces the comments that start the flame war but it is human nature and laziness to comment on the comment rather than reading the story and adding something useful.

Unfortunately, I don't know that I ... (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by adamsc on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 07:13:30 PM EST

adamsc voted 1 on this story.

Unfortunately, I don't know that I can agree with that last paragraph. The kind of people who need to question their motivations the most tend to be exactly the sort who would *never* question them. Gun control is a classic debate in this regard because you get "guns == good" on one side, "guns == bad" on the other and the only thing they have in common is the zeal of the Spanish Inquisition. There's no interest in hearing on either side and so the real goals (e.g. lowering crime) are completely ignored in the debate over a side issue.

Re: Unfortunately, I don't know that I ... (none / 0) (#33)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 11:01:34 PM EST

You presume that a link exists between crime and gun ownership. This is obviously incorrect.
On the other hand, it should be noted that the argument that gun ownership promotes good citizenship or has any influence on the government is way out there.(cognitive dissonance anyone ?)
Geeeez, from where I am standing you are all having this bizarre argument and both sides are utterly wrong....And I am being sucked into it........

[ Parent ]
Re: Unfortunately, I don't know that I ... (none / 0) (#34)
by adamsc on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 11:22:17 PM EST

You presume that a link exists between crime and gun ownership. This is obviously incorrect. On the other hand, it should be noted that the argument that gun ownership promotes good citizenship or has any influence on the government is way out there.(cognitive dissonance anyone ?)
That's exactly what I'm talking about. I don't think there's a link between crime and gun ownership. The mere mention of "guns" and "crime" causes people like our Anonymous Hero to jump into these flame-fests.

The real problem is that almost nobody other than a few religiously anti-gun types really wants gun control. What they want is lower crime - safer schools, safer streets, etc. There are many ways in which these goals might be achieved that do not involve gun control which get little attention because so much time is wasted on gun control debates. Personally, I tend to think gun ownership is basically a neutral - criminals will do bad things, law-abiding people will do good things; guns only make things more convenient for either sort of person.

(Or perhaps I have just been trolled. It's hard to tell.)

[ Parent ]

If you can't discuss just refute. A... (1.00 / 1) (#17)
by typo on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 07:22:24 PM EST

typo voted 1 on this story.

If you can't discuss just refute. Australians don't fall off because of gravity and freedom is about your rights not interfering with those of others (and guns do interfere with not only rights but personal physical integrity). And ESR stick with opensource advocating. Discussion is all nice and cute but to counter malformed facts just show them to be incorret.

Uh, that doesn't work. (none / 0) (#36)
by marlowe on Tue Jun 20, 2000 at 08:34:15 AM EST

Try it sometime. See if it makes a difference.

--- I will insist on my right to question ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
I think maybe we're dealing with bo... (1.00 / 1) (#8)
by marlowe on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 08:11:50 PM EST

marlowe voted 1 on this story.

I think maybe we're dealing with bots. Artificial stupidity is way easier to code than artificial intelligence.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --

A worthy observation, but, it being... (none / 0) (#7)
by sus4 on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 08:17:04 PM EST

sus4 voted 0 on this story.

A worthy observation, but, it being a forgone conclusion amongst reasonable folk that Knee-jerk Thoughtless Responses Are Bad, I don't see what kind of useful discussion it could provoke.

Jeez, a semi-original article, who'... (1.00 / 1) (#14)
by deimos on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 09:03:58 PM EST

deimos voted 1 on this story.

Jeez, a semi-original article, who'da thunk it? It must be those commie GPLers. :P /me dons the asbestos suit just in case.
irc.kuro5hin.org: Good Monkeys, Great Typewriters.

At last, a real article with a good... (1.00 / 1) (#10)
by End on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 09:29:49 PM EST

End voted 1 on this story.

At last, a real article with a good topic and an actual write-up, even if somewhat long-winded as far as weblogs go. And no, the IMT gimmick didn't fool anyone - the RMS reference took care of your credibility there :-)

-JD

So people say illogical things. Ig... (none / 0) (#1)
by Fish on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 09:44:07 PM EST

Fish voted -1 on this story.

So people say illogical things. Ignore them, they're not worth your time or effort!

I call Godwin's Law! You lose. :)... (4.50 / 2) (#9)
by inspire on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 10:46:26 PM EST

inspire voted 1 on this story.

I call Godwin's Law! You lose. :)
--
What is the helix?

heh..nice to see the story finally ... (1.00 / 1) (#2)
by driph on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 10:50:58 PM EST

Driph voted 1 on this story.

heh..nice to see the story finally up.. my reply pending..:]

--
Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave

A trolling flamebait rant.... (2.00 / 4) (#18)
by the Epopt on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 11:13:58 PM EST

the Epopt voted -1 on this story.

A trolling flamebait rant.
-- 
Most people who need to be shot need to be shot soon and a lot.
Very few people need to be shot later or just a little.

K5_Arguing_HOWTO

Yer wrong - 'keywords' *can* and *o... (none / 0) (#4)
by Pelorat on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 11:15:23 PM EST

Pelorat voted 1 on this story.

Yer wrong - 'keywords' *can* and *ought to* be avoided, since they're almost always the catalyst in those virtual fistfights. You admitted as much yourself just now. People use them to avoid having to think about or deal with the other side's opinions or arguments - they're a dismissal, they're a fast-n-easy way to 'poison the well' (much like your fake IMT paper above...), and they're an open call for crispy rebuttals: dismiss someone's opinions as crap, and you *will* receive retaliation.

If one can't respect someone else's opinion, one has no right to insist they respect one's own. Thus, flame wars. The solution: except for that first bit about the alleged necessity of keywords, your last paragraph sums it up nicely... 'stop and think' wins the race.

You can't just avoid certain words ... (none / 0) (#5)
by Imperator on Sun Jun 18, 2000 at 11:45:45 PM EST

Imperator voted 1 on this story.

You can't just avoid certain words because they lead to Pavlovian reactions. The solution that everyone learns eventually (usually the hard way, too) is to completely ignore these people. Very few humans will stick around when no one is even acknowledging their presence or communications.

The trouble with that is... (none / 0) (#37)
by marlowe on Tue Jun 20, 2000 at 08:36:46 AM EST

there's always a fresh supply of newbie suckers. You just can't get everybody to ignore someone at the same time.

--- I will insist on my right to question ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
I almost went with the -1, consider... (1.00 / 1) (#16)
by Logan on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 12:08:01 AM EST

Logan voted 1 on this story.

I almost went with the -1, considering the low-quality of the writeup itself, but I suppose the content itself makes up for it.

This should get some flam^H^H^H^H e... (none / 0) (#21)
by Blueshade on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 12:12:21 AM EST

Blueshade voted 1 on this story.

This should get some flam^H^H^H^H er, discussion going.

Till I got to the middle part, I wa... (1.00 / 1) (#13)
by keto on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 12:25:19 AM EST

keto voted -1 on this story.

Till I got to the middle part, I was asking myself why a medical journal would cite RMS as an example :P gullible me! It was interesting to read but doesn't seem relevent enough. We already label those who are incapable of thinking but only of annoying everyone with their soundbites, i.e. trolls. Nothing really new here.

Re: Till I got to the middle part, I wa... (none / 0) (#27)
by Morten Liebach on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 10:50:49 AM EST

Don't be sad, I was just as gullible.

I did like the Pavlov Dog thing, we are just animals sometimes, and I find it very amusing :-)
Next time I see a flame I'll just start talking about dogs ...

Have a nice day!
http://m.mongers.org/weblog/
[ Parent ]

I am now utterly confused. But I'm ... (1.00 / 1) (#12)
by PurpleBob on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 01:52:05 AM EST

PurpleBob voted 1 on this story.

I am now utterly confused. But I'm giving it +1 in the hopes that someone gets what he's talking about (the only example I've seen is the GPL one), and because it's a high-quality rant.

That's all well and good, but we al... (none / 0) (#6)
by bobsquatch on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 01:52:09 AM EST

bobsquatch voted 1 on this story.

That's all well and good, but we all know that Paul Dunne is a commie gun-nut. :)

Ahh, irony. (4.30 / 3) (#22)
by Loki on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 03:52:32 AM EST

"The central symptom is this: since the Delusionist of whatever stripe does not argue, but merely asserts, after their intervention it becomes impossible to conduct a reasoned discussion."

"For example, a gun-nut will have no qualms in praising the American Declaration of Independence in one sentence, and in the next asserting that "there are no natural rights"."

Really? Speaking as a "gun-nut", this seems like an inaccurate, baseless assertion, in my case at least.

Yes and . . . (3.50 / 2) (#23)
by duxup on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 03:58:31 AM EST

I almost died reading this. I kept praying something new would be asserted that anyone who spends any time on the Inet or a public discussion isn't already is aware of. My prayers were not answered. We already have one word who's definition covers this awfully long discourse . . . Troll.

The joy of Boredom (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 05:25:33 AM EST

"do I want to continue the discussion, or do I just want a flame-war?".

I take a somewhat different view. To me, it seems that people pass through a number of stages as they try to communicate online.

Initially, there is a kind of nieve trust, a feeling of "Wow, this is really great! Lets talk!".

After you have been irritated to the max a few times by someone who want's to pick a fight ( for whatever reason ), you go into the "lets give them hell" phase, where you jump up and down and scream at anyone who dares to disagree with you ( ie, the troll phase ).

Finally, you just get bored with the whole thing and you start asking yourself - what's the point of all of this? You then settle down and start looking for *quality* discussion.

At this point in time there are still a lot of new people comming on line. Anyone who has been around for a while knows that it isn't worth the effort of getting into a screaming match with people, so I tend to regard it as being more a problem with newbies and/or people with a definate agenda to push and/or very young people.

For me personally, it's fairly simple. If I'm so inclined, I'll express an opinion. If I'm in the mood to talk with someone and I find the conversation interesting, I'll continue it.

If people want to be abusive, that's there problem. I can allways skip down the page and ignore them. After all, there are plenty of people out here that you can talk too and there's no law that says that you have to respond to every comment that someone makes to your postings.

You might be strangling my chicken, but you don't want to know what I'm doing to your hampster.



Re: The joy of Boredom (none / 0) (#32)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 10:52:19 PM EST

And I am still looking. (although this does seem to be rather less strident than Slashdot.) Or maybe I am just getting too damn old.....

[ Parent ]
The first interesting thing to be said (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 09:15:51 AM EST

You know, this is why I actually personally prefer The Other Site. There are filters on this site, restrictions on the discourse. It actually has some good effect on the quality of the posts, but not that much. On TOS, I can flame away if I wish, if I'm just in the mood to, and often in flames you see information that people give away in their little fury of passion.

Signal vs. noise? Sometimes you just have to accept noise as the precondition to finding the best signals. Just like in real life, it is useful to get very good at going through noise. In fact, be inspired by it. Unlike a company who doesn't realize that flames against them are useful, passionate bits of information.

Re: The first interesting thing to be said (none / 0) (#30)
by rusty on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 01:13:57 PM EST

There are filters on this site, restrictions on the discourse.

Such as what? All I filter is the pure noise, and that almost never happens. Other than that, there's no karma system here, deciding who gets points and who doesn't, and the rating system is totally democratic-- everyone gets one vote as to what a comment's rating ought to be. You can even order by reverse-rating, i.e. lowest rated first if you want to. So what are the filters?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

blah rant blah (1.00 / 1) (#26)
by CodeWright on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 10:41:36 AM EST

CodeWright voted -1, Troll.

rant blah blah rant yadda yadda rant rant rant.



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

Who voted for this? (3.30 / 3) (#28)
by KindBud on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 12:04:23 PM EST

It's nothing but a big rant. Ayn Rand? C'mon! You can disagree with her writings, but to dismiss her as some kind of nut is... well, delusional! And what value or insight is offered by accusing ESR of being a motor-mouth?

You say you want to avoid flame wars, well, this article starts 'em again! I think YOU'RE the motor-mouth! Even when you "try" to be uncombative, the gloves are off: gun-nut /g^n-n^t/ n. person with a differently-aspected attitude to projectile weaponry. What is this? I think we all know what you meant by "gun-nut" the first time around. Couching it in these terms is just accusing K5 readers of being too "PC", and it came off about as well as George Bush the Senior's campaign remarks last decade about "the little brown ones" (his supposed nieces and nephews of Latin descent).

You're not nearly as clever as you'd like to think you are. I could go on, but - why bother? Physician, heal thyself!

--
just roll a fatty

Pinko Commie Gun-Nut Libertarian Dog Loving Bastar (1.50 / 2) (#29)
by 3than on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 12:42:32 PM EST

The earth is hollow. I'm posting from the catacombs right now. I you people knew something. Honestly, I don't think that it's a big issue. It's simple enough to screen that crap out automatically. And when people are getting into those issues, at least they're interested and posting. It's not the greatest, but it's not that big a problem. Read /. with a threshold of 2 if it really gets to you. And stop aiming your death ray at my head.

This would almost be worth reading... (3.00 / 2) (#31)
by TheDullBlade on Mon Jun 19, 2000 at 02:13:03 PM EST

...if it didn't contain such an obvious personal bias. Mindless assertion is just as common, if not more so, among gun-control-nuts as among gun-nuts. And probably way more common among free software supporters than free software detractors (if you don't believe me, go read slashdot.org for a few days...).


Yes this happens:

-A criminal with a gun can obviously do a lot more damage than a criminal without one.

-But guns give us freedom, and they're private property, and they're in the constitution. You're part of the commie conspiracy aren't you? I bet your grandmother sucked Stalin's balls!


But so does this:

-Why should we trust an armed organization (the government) run by people we know are dishonest and unethical (politicians) to obey the general population if the people are unarmed and therefore unable to overthrow the government? We've certainly seen a pattern of disarmament leading to dictatorship in the past.

-The best way to get shot is to own a gun. You know you're more likely to shoot your children than to shoot a criminal. We've got an army and the police to protect us. You must work for the NRA. I bet you take it up the ass from Heston!
Visit Boswa Bits, now with 99% less evil!
Commentary (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 20, 2000 at 02:58:36 AM EST

Comments:
This is my first kuro5hin.org post.
I've read /. for a long time-- pre-"registered user" era.

Please note that I've reread the article several times now, and that the commentary below doesn't reflect my views of the article currently. Rather, the portions in quotations present some of my thoughts as I read through the article.

"-Presenting a fake research paper to support your argument, then following it up with "Well, that was fake. But hey, I had you fooled, didn't I? See? That's what I'm dealing with here." Doesn't help your cause. Why?
*It doesn't follow the standard form. Using slang such as RMS and ESR immediately identifies it as an imitation.
*The paper compares people who have a different opinion than that of the writer to racists and people who refuse to acknowlede a basic geographical fact. While the author may find it a humorous and witty comparison, and even possibly consider it an accurate analogy, it completely alienates the people who disagree with him, to whom the author should be adressing. It also has the potential to alienate those neutral to the debate. For example, calling the local City Councilman a fascist and a Hitler-wannabe not only insults the localCity Councilman, but the victims of the real Hitler. Do you really consider the responsibility for hundreds of millions of deaths equivalent of failing to grant you a rezoning? Or disagreeing over the second amendment to supporting a fascist dictatorship?

The end result is that people fail to see the rest of the article, which is a decent commentary on the 'hotbutton' issue."

O.K.-- now that you've read my first reaction to that, here's my final response:

Reflexive Association (i.e. keyworditis) is hardly limited to 'gun nuts'; say ANYTHING controversial, and people twitch. I read a discussion board system at another site (not /.); and one of the best ways to get a flamewar going is not mention whether (situation X) or (situation Y) are better, the supposed focus of (said board); instead make a comment about gas prices or the current (U.S.) administration, far off topic-- but often the most active discussions. It's Pavlovian, and almost everyone has a "hot button issue."

Most likely I just did the same thing; people are reaching for the "Reply" button before they finish the whole post, already preparing to tell me I'm an idiot.

The solution? They're really isn't one. There are things you can do to avoid a big war. First: Don't Katzize your commentary. Realize that antagonistic writing is fruitless. Explaining your point to someone who already agrees with you is like talking to yourself; yeah, it may be the only decent conversation around, but it's a waste of breath. :)

Paul, you and I come from about the same /. era. I remember what /. was. I know why you don't want kuro5hin becoming what /. has become. Landmines like this don't help.

-call me expat-e.

It's not just online, either (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by Denor on Tue Jun 20, 2000 at 10:42:10 AM EST

  I've long seen the 'keyword' phenomenon happen among non-connected folks as well. For instance, recently in my city, there was a shipment of radioactive material scheduled to go through (note - not 'stop in', but 'go through') the city en route to somewhere else. The papers, televisions, and radio stations were up in arms almost immediately with people citing the horrors of 'radiation' and how they couldn't allow this to happen, in the excruciatingly small possibility that the delivery truck crashed, caught fire, caused a breach of the /many/ safety containment devices, and exposed people to the horrors of ratiation.
  These are the same people who go out to the beaches without sunscreen, the same folks who take a flight from New York to LA (nevermind that you get more radiation from that than you would living next to a nuclear power plant your whole life), and the same people - I was betting with a friend of mine - who would panic if you told them that their smoke detectors contain a small amount of radioactive material.
  The knee-jerk keyword syndrome isn't limited to weblogs by any means. Try any of the following words in a mixed crowd:
  1. Nuclear Power
  2. Genetic Modification
  3. Microsoft (amazing the amount of people who have an opinion on the ruling, yet never followed the trial at all)   Maybe I'm a bit cynical, but I think it's simply human nature to behave this way. Everyone has their issues that they're willing to take up and argue to the death (I, for instance, choose #3), the most we can hope for is to argue in a coherent fasion. Because that's what discussion is about... I purposely try to start conversations about #2 above, to try to see other sides of it, but rarely am I able to get past the knee-jerk reaction. I'd love to have an intelligent argument on the topic.
      In short, there's a fine line between debate and flamebait, and it's the people who do the arguing that make the difference. :)


    -Denor


Keywords | 38 comments (38 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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