The Contrarian Argument & the Decay of Political Discourse

The contrarian argument fallacy

Bullshit, (bo͝olˌSHit) noun: what other people passionately believe.

Whenever discussing issues of controversy or politics, it is a popular trend to deflect a charge against one’s own political party/ideas by a deflection. It usually follows the same pattern in the discourse. Whenever you are discussing the shortcomings of A, a supporter of A, instead of answering the charge, will assume the contrarian argument and deflect the charge. Instead of addressing A’s behavior, the response to it is to bring up the behavior of B, and therefore avoid any responsibility of actually having to answer any difficult questions about one’s own political or philosophical opinions. A common method in the modern discourse is to bring up a negative quality about, say, a particularly beloved/hated politician. Now, to defend them, a contrarian argument may form as accusation against the person whose argument it is; they will neglect to address any issue involved with their own party and instead rebuff you with the “well, maybe he did kill a flock of California condors, but at least he didn’t bathe in the blood of virgins to retain eternal youth.

Now, the problem with this should be obvious: it reduces and degrades the discussion to a series of accusations, substantive or not, and by lowering the stakes (as to whether or not one should bear the full responsibility for one’s behavior) the conversation changes to: so what? Your [insert party/cause here] does this. It is the modern political argument equivalent, I know I am, but what are you? Look for this: whenever someone cannot answer an honest charge with a grounded defense without contrarian charges, their fucking argument is built on quicksand, if that.

Now, the problem with this isn’t just a matter of argument or semantics: degrading the discourse limits the opportunity for those of differing opinion to find common ground or compromise, and you end up with the argumentative equivalent of two fingers in your ears shouting about how bad the person to whom you’re talking supports Soandso McExample and how terrible they are. This is problematic: as far back as ancient Rome, in the senate, the policies of state and the nation were largely left to the debates of senators; whoever had the argument that carried the day carried the motion. It was like this in the French Revolution: speeches and discussions are a part of the body politic, the mouth, primarily, and without this give and take of honest and genuine scrutiny we reduce ourselves to a nation of ear-pluggers, no more willing to listen to anything outside of our own bubble than we are willing to stare into the sun.

The importance of civil discourse is what underpins the authority of a government. When that government’s authority is reduced to contrarian attacks, the foundation turns from concrete into quicksand and dissolves beneath its feet, taking everyone with it into the mire, braying like a flailing horse, unintelligible, and those who hear remain unconcerned, unless the horse was their mascot. Then a state funeral will be held, dedications made, and passionate eulogies read. The only way to solve differences of opinion is not to destroy another person’s opinion, but to find a common ground where two seemingly mutually exclusive opinions can co-exist with something resembling mature thinking. So, whenever someone criticizes a point you’ve made, don’t resort to the fallacious “well, my point may be untenable, but all of your points are FUCKED.”

By waving the response to a charge, you aren’t denying it, rather you are making the presumption that the charge doesn’t matter, even if true; as long as this mentality persists, nothing will be solved, and we will have nothing but a crude, miasma of dissent, with ears plugged on all sides, with no progress, no middle ground, and no resolution.

PS. That politician you like is a total asshole.

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