Once again with Facebook

 Day 25. 51 pages, 23,080 words.

I’m afraid it’s time for another wall of text, but hopefully this is interesting. I feel the format is a bit limited and there’s definitely problems with hitting the right tone and communicating effectively with people through text, as always. And conveying meaning and subtext to people who don’t know you … okay, this is all old news to anyone who has posted on forums or newsgroups or comments threads. This is a basic skill that I hope they’re starting to focus on in schools.

And speaking of schools …

Without further ado, the Argument on the Internet (Part 335,917,002):

Argument on the Internet, Part n.

You’re welcome.

I don’t think I was too out of line here. And it may just be my crabby mood talking, but I think I was considerably nicer and more compromising and explanatory than I could have been. How is “schooling is better than fighter jets” a “really bad argument”? Over-simplified, sure – but bad? Really bad?

And – I’m no mathematician but you tell me, was I wrong or somehow absolutist in my use of the “<” symbol?

I appreciate Fay’s attempts to play Devil’s advocate here, but was it really necessary? This looked very much like a knee-jerk reaction to someone else’s argument that she was still trying to get closure on. I understand the frustration but you need to look at the big picture sometimes.

Like she said, she was actually in support of this larger point but was arguing over the minutiae because she felt that it … what? Eroded the effectiveness of the argument against runaway military spending? Is that true? Does pointing out how ridiculous 1.5 trillion dollars is, in a country that already has more military might than it will ever need (relentless pursuit and creation of new USA-hating extremists on a daily basis around the world notwithstanding[1] of course), and suggesting the more worthy things it could be used for, somehow decrease the chances of this point of view gaining traction and bandwidth?

[1] And let’s face it, isn’t it just possible that not spending the money on these jets – spending it (yes, all of it!) on education or housing or humanitarian support instead – is going to do more to reduce the number of people who want to destroy the US than a bunch of jets ever will? That creating and using these jets will in fact increase the need for jets in the future? Of course, this is basic-level Nineteen Eighty-Four stuff, so never mind.

No, I think the only thing limiting the effectiveness of reduced US military spending is the firmly-entrenched political powers with a vested economic interest in the budget being this way. I mean, given that the possible effectiveness of this sort of share-campaign is limited anyway, isn’t all you can hope for a spreading awareness and a growing and increasingly-universal outrage at the small group of grossly wealthy warmongers growing fat on the bodies of dead innocents? Oh yeah, now I’ve got the rhetoric engine ticking over nicely.

Anyway, this is exactly why I am sharing this here, essentially. And maybe this was why Fay was objecting – as a cunning way to stimulate debate and keep the story alive, in which case well done Fay! I hadn’t been aware of the US military’s new planes before now, although I was aware of their terrifyingly bloated budget and assorted other problems, living as I do in “the rest of the world”, which is that place the US military likes to blow the living fuck out of with their super-expensive planes[2]. Sooner or later, this will affect all of us. Sooner or later, it has to stop. Or we are all going to die.

[2] I don’t live in an area directly at risk, although naturally if Russia continues to be as colossal a prick as it is currently being, Finland might get the living fuck bombed out of it by a US eager to “offer their support”. Also it will make action movies easier to write again because they can go back to making Russians the baddies.

Yes, this money could have gone somewhere else. That’s a no-brainer. Yes, a nation like the US will need to spend some money on defense even if utopia starts tomorrow. That’s a no-brainer too. No, I’m pretty sure not all this 1.5 trillion will go towards the planes, and will in fact go into some fat cunt’s pocket. That’s a no-brainer. And yes, even if most of the 1.5 trillion does go towards the planes, their arrival will spell the retirement of lower-level military toys, which last time I checked were being re-gifted either to developing countries to blow the living fuck out of each other with, or to the US’s domestic police force to better enable them to trample all up and down on their own citizens in the name of protecting and serving. And whether or not this is a good thing, that’s a no-brainer too.

In fact, is there any part of this that requires a brain?

And now, to lighten the tone, Word Crimes by Weird Al Yankovic.

The man’s still got it.
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7 Responses to Once again with Facebook

  1. JonathanBloom says:

    Every once in a while I consider the possibility of going back to Facebook, then I remember what it was actually like. Urgh.

  2. dreameling says:

    Man, I would’ve had such an appropriate, so-missing-the-point reply to contribute to the mix:

    I totally agree. Spending 1.5 trillion dollars on the F-35 is plain stupid. They should spend it on the F-22 instead. The F-35 is basically a cheaper, inferior version of the F-22 anyway. You’d get fewer units, sure, but they’d be better ones! F-35 < F-22. The End.

    BOOM!

    Seriously, though, I can see where both you and Fay are coming from. I know you and can read you, at least more often than not, so I get what you're saying and I agree (you could definitely invest a good portion of that $1.5 trillion to something more valuable and meaningful than fighters, a no-brainer there). But I also get Fay: She's [1] more about the meta and the mechanics / philosophy of argument, and she doesn't know you or your snappy rhetorics, so I can see why she would read you as "flippant and dismissive" in the beginning. In short, seems like a classic case of two people talking slightly past one another. (That she then persists on her meta approach, even after seemingly getting you, is maybe a bit questionable. But people do like to defend their positions.)

    [1] Could be a "he". Sorry.

    I gotta say, though, that I mostly agree with her about these types of infographics: Simplistically reducing the monetary value of a seemingly unreasonable big-ass project to cheaper and more reasonable projects or investments is not a good argument. It's not really even an argument. It's just a statement, and more emotional than rational at that. (In this case, it's probably justified to get people emotional about insane government spending and attempt to sway public opinion that way, but you could as easily (mis)use graphics like this to campaign for something less justified (however you define that).)

    Btw., really liking the term "sharegreement". Did you just coin that?

    And now, to lighten the tone, Word Crimes by Weird Al Yankovic.

    Hah, saw this the other day and loved it, and was about to email a link to you (and a few other TWs), but should’ve known that you already got it.

    • stchucky says:

      Man, I would’ve had such an appropriate, so-missing-the-point reply to contribute to the mix:

      I totally agree. Spending 1.5 trillion dollars on the F-35 is plain stupid. They should spend it on the F-22 instead. The F-35 is basically a cheaper, inferior version of the F-22 anyway. You’d get fewer units, sure, but they’d be better ones! F-35 < F-22. The End.

      BOOM!

      Damn, see, if I’d known a darn thing about fighter jets, that would have been a real ace up my sleeve.

      But I also get Fay: She’s [1] more about the meta and the mechanics / philosophy of argument, and she doesn’t know you or your snappy rhetorics, so I can see why she would read you as “flippant and dismissive” in the beginning. In short, seems like a classic case of two people talking slightly past one another. (That she then persists on her meta approach, even after seemingly getting you, is maybe a bit questionable. But people do like to defend their positions.)

      Sure, agreed on all counts. She did continue after this, basically saying the same thing over and over (“I agree with you / I’m not arguing the point / this tactic is never going to work and is counterproductive” … these statements contradict one another! But whatevs) and not really addressing what I was saying.

      I closed by asking her what (since you agree with her[1]) I will also ask you: this is all well and good, but if you agree with the sentiment here, then what would be an effective action to take or communication to launch?

      [1] Although this is not your fight any more than it is mine. I’m talking as a hypothetical USian here.

      I’m yet to hear back from her about any alternative to Occupy-style fist-waving and meme-sharing.

      Now we know about this ludicrous budget imbalance. Meme goal achieved. What do you think should be done about it?

      Simplistically reducing the monetary value of a seemingly unreasonable big-ass project to cheaper and more reasonable projects or investments is not a good argument. It’s not really even an argument. It’s just a statement, and more emotional than rational at that.

      This is exactly what I said.

      Of course it’s not an argument. This is a series of no-brainer statements of fact. What to do about it – sure. Then we can have an argument.

      And boy am I ever tired of the USian “oh, you prefer beef to chicken, you must hate chicken” thing. Jesus fucking Christ, learn about middle ground sometime. Until you do, maybe you shouldn’t have fuck-off destructive jets.

      Btw., really liking the term “sharegreement”. Did you just coin that?

      I’m sure it’s been around. Like “meanderthal”, which I was amazed to hear on Qi recently and to my annoyance not get credited with the creation of the term (basically a slow-walker who annoys people on crowded streets). But it seemed appropriate here, since it’s really all I’m doing. Like I say, it’s not activism, let alone action. For that, we gotta throw to the experts.

      • stchucky says:

        And boy am I ever tired of the USian “oh, you prefer beef to chicken, you must hate chicken” thing. Jesus fucking Christ, learn about middle ground sometime.

        And obligatory disclaimer: Not All USians, Not Only USians.

        Heh, I’m tired of that little act, too.

      • dreameling says:

        I closed by asking her what (since you agree with her) I will also ask you: this is all well and good, but if you agree with the sentiment here, then what would be an effective action to take or communication to launch?

        I’m not sure. (FYI. I understand that pointing out a problem in a solution without providing an alternative solution or suggesting a fix to the problem can be lazy and unproductive, but I maintain that it can also be valuable. Cuts both ways. But I do have something to offer way below.)

        Let’s backtrack and reiterate a bit: The problem with the F-35 infographic is that it slaps you with a bunch of numbers without any context and explicitly tells you that you should not like what you’re seeing (“blow $1.5 trillion”, “we need to get our priorities straight”, a list of conventionally positive and humane things you could instead spend the money on). The infographic makes a value judgment — constructs a perspective — that you’re supposed to simply accept (as it doesn’t provide the full facts that would actually allow you to judge for yourself). In short, the infographic is rigged for a specific emotional response. Like Fay said, it’s an appeal to emotion. Not a logical argument. Not even an argument.

        If we’re talking about 1.5 trillion dollars, shouldn’t we start with the facts and the reasons behind them first and only then get emotional if appropriate? The infographic basically skips the facts (and any arguments) and goes straight for outrage. This is just not how you help people to form opinions and make informed decisions.

        What specifically does the $1.5 trillion cover? How many fighters does it purchase? Over how long a time period? Does the US really need that many new fighters? What’s the strategic military rationale? What happens to the legacy fighters that the new ones are replacing? Can or should they be sold for profit? Instead of spending money on new fighters, why not upgrade existing ones? Does the R&D contribute to other areas of science and technology? How efficiently is the $1.5 trillion put to use? How much of it goes toward the planes and how much to line the pockets of one-percenters? How much money has already been spent? Will there likely be need for even more money beyond the $1.5 trillion? How does government budgeting even work? How easy is it to channel funds where you want them? And so and so forth. (You could also question what the positive substitute figures in the infographic are based on.)

        I for one would like answers to questions like these before fully making up my mind. Or I should at the very least be interested in questions like these. Even though it seems obvious that $1.5 trillion is excessive and a good portion of it should go towards something more constructive than military hardware, I would not want to base my opinion simply on a gut feeling or (as it currently stands) a very naïve understanding of the situation. I would want to know more before getting emotional.

        Should each and every citizen do a lot of independent research, then? Fuck no. Most people are not inclined that way and even those that are do not always have the time or the energy or even access to the appropriate sources. Luckily, there’s a shortcut we know that works:

        Professional, critical, analytic journalism. (Preferably complemented with critical thinking at the receiving end.)

        That’s how you inform masses of people so that they can then form informed opinions, make informed judgments and, for example, vote more or less rationally. Sounds a bit utopian or at least a little unrealistic given how people generally behave, I know, but that’s my suggestion for a solution.

        And we wouldn’t even need to drop the neat infographics entirely. They are still really really good at putting big numbers into practical perspective at a glance — and catching people’s attention. I would just drop the bias (as much as possible) and link to some constructive source of further information (like a piece of good journalism). Let people make up their own minds from there. (A reasonable question to ask here, though: If it’s not emotionally charged, will it get people’s attention?)

        Btw., I retain the right to change my mind about the above, since this is really the first time I’ve thought about this stuff at this length. I’m making this shit up as I go along so it’s not thoroughly thought-out. (I know, a cheap caveat, but there you go.)

        Now we know about this ludicrous budget imbalance. Meme goal achieved. What do you think should be done about it?

        Proper discussion. Getting all the facts. Rational arguments. See above. (If you meant what to practically do about the $1.5 trillion, shit if I know. I would need to learn way more.)

        Of course it’s not an argument. This is a series of no-brainer statements of fact. What to do about it – sure. Then we can have an argument.

        Well, they’re not really no-brainer statements, because they lack context. They’re just statements (and potentially inaccurate ones). What we need are more facts, the full facts (see above). Then we can have that argument.

        And boy am I ever tired of the USian “oh, you prefer beef to chicken, you must hate chicken” thing. Jesus fucking Christ, learn about middle ground sometime. Until you do, maybe you shouldn’t have fuck-off destructive jets.

        […]

        And obligatory disclaimer: Not All USians, Not Only USians.

        Ditto. And definitely not a USian exclusive. I see this everywhere all the time: either this or that, and not a goddamn thing in between. I’m thinking it’s because as a species we’re such natural binary thinkers. Or we’re just lazy and dumb. (Could be the same thing.) But yeah, this sort of absolutist thinking where everything is either black or white is just inane. Easy and quick, but inane.

        Also, “you used to like chicken but now you say you like beef better, what a fucking turncoat”, as though people couldn’t or shouldn’t change their minds along the way.

        Like “meanderthal”, which I was amazed to hear on Qi recently and to my annoyance not get credited with the creation of the term (basically a slow-walker who annoys people on crowded streets).

        I goddamn hate meanderthals.

      • stchucky says:

        All good points, I sadly don’t have time to go into it but yes, I agree.

        Real journalism would be great.

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