OPINION

The Discussion Doctor: Syndromes, Symptoms and Succor

June 03, 2007
Aditi Nadkarni

I will be travelling for almost a month from now on and email access if any will be sporadic. I will miss the hectic debates on Desicritics that get my intellectual juices flowing and sometimes even my stress levels escalating.

Before I left, I wanted to leave somewhat of an open discussion that I hope other authors will be kind enough to keep going in my absence. So that when I return next month I will be delighted to see a nice long thread.

I racked my brains quite a bit on what topic would constitute a good discussion and then I realized: the topic of "discussion" itself makes fertile ground for discussion. Did I say "discussion" too many times? Confused? Let me explain.

Ever since I started writing on this forum, which is suitably blessed by the freedom of speech awarded to authors as well as commentators, I have begun to wonder about what really constitutes a good discussion and what kind of an article leads to this type of productive exchange. Sensationalism, satire, media coverage, current topics and ones that involve either politics, religion or of course, how can we forget feminism, are ones that receive the most attention.

While ocassional movie reviews receive some responses, the more debate worthy topics are ones that affect human beings in general and are open to perception. Why? Because only then we do have disagreements. Interpretations, perception, different takes and individual opinions should ideally be molding aspects of any fruitful discussion.

Through this post, I attempt to address some of the common fallacies that marr good discussions on Desicritics. Since my own experiences of such fallacies were from discussions about feminism on Desicritics, my examples will be heavily biased by those illustrations. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

1. My favorite is "Argumentum ad hominem" No, no, don't get bowled over by the Latin! This term simply implies that the person guilty of this fallacy has lost grip of rationale and has begun attacking the author or commentator for lack of a better logical argument. I sometimes like to call it "winging a blind baseball bat". On a public forum such fallacies are committed mostly by people who have been named "trolls". Before this writing experience, trolls for me were the large, scary ones in Harry Potter books. But the only thing scary about internet trolls is their infectious and distracting lack of logic. Beware, this fallacy is contagious. An "ad hominem" carrier can frustrate you until you end up using the F-word or return the vitriolic attacks. The only known cure is: Ignore. It is difficult to achieve desirable doses of this painless drug without losing one's patience but hey it works!

2. The second one in line has to be the mind boggling "association fallacy". A most common example of such a fallacy widely observed on Desicritics is as follows: "You are a feminist. A political leader who screwed over several men in India is a feminist. So you will screw over several men and are anti-male." Sadly the perpetrators of the association fallacy by virtue of their horrendously farfetched assumptions in the final stages of their disease, succumb to the "ad hominem fallacy" (#1) and eventually get dismissed as trolls. Unfortunately, some of the "association carriers" in the folds of faulty logic have a point to make that gets lost because of over-generalizations that end up alienating everyone. No known cure is available however some symptomatic relief can be obtained with low doses of ignoring.

3. The "bandwagon fallacy" affects many and as the name suggests sheds light on the groupism phenomenon in human. An example of this fallacy on the forum is as follows: "There are many people who believe that feminism is a curse on men and families. Hence it proves me right". The symptoms of this fallacy are long and meaningless rants which include examples, references and excerpts from authors or people who support the theory. But since they are other people's ideas, not to mention they are fearfully repetitive, nobody bothers reading them unless they seem remotely relevant. Also, unfortunately, the ocassional bouts of claiming "Majority wins!" succumb to logic. It only holds true if you are up for a political election of some sort. And even in that case you cannot reference other people's views and will at some point have to defend your own. Discussions infected by this fallacy often die a slow death because people continue to hope that breathing some logic will revive the feeble, one-ended debate.

4. The "cognitive fallacy" at some point of time affects all of us. As humans, we judge based on our experiences or perception. But it is when we begin to extrapolate a few stray experiences and then apply them systematically to someone else's view, the cognitive fallacy syndrome kicks in. In short, if we take our own experiences which may be limited to lets say ten odd cases and then refute someone else's experience which of course will probably be different from our own, we have successfully lost sight of a key element of human interaction: respect for other people's views. A slight variation of this syndrome can cause a severe form of "confirmation bias". This form of the syndrome makes one compulsively, even obsessively, scour through internet websites and dig statistical information that specifically proves only their view, thus ignoring any other conflicting piece of evidence (statistical, rational or scientific) because it doesn't fit their own take. The only known cure is shutting up that requires strict compliance on part of the fallacy carrier.

5. One of the worsts fallacies that I have seen is "sophism". It is loosely based on the "If you cannot convince them confuse them" policy. Symptoms include verbal diarrhoea, comments containing explicit jargon, technical and highly specialized terminology which will send you reeling and might even affect your own self-esteem since let's face it not all of us have heard of "pseudohypoparathyroidism" or ""Antidisestablishmentarianism". Carriers of the sophism fallacy are usually harmlessly trying to distract you with such words and overcompensating for their lack of rationale. Their logic itself is a bit hollow. The only known and effective cure for this fallacy is simplification.

6. Now this last fallacy is not a formal fallacy. In fact, I confess, I came up with it. I have decided in honor of simplification to name it the "You are an idiot cause I know everything and I am right" fallacy. The symptoms of this logical gaffe includes long condescending sermons about religion, scriptures, social and political issues from the perspective of a pathological know-it-all. A common example "You should read the books and find out...", "You don't know what statistics indicates...", "I have researched and studied such and such...". Carriers of this fallacy are inclined to ignore other people's credentials and their knowledge of the field while claiming that their own is superior, the bottomline of their argument being "I am right because I know better". The "I am right" claim is soon drowned by a swift "Please prove your point". This cure is a bit unrelaible but has shown some success in people who have some base levels of humility to begin with.

This list could go on but there are certain fallacies that are currently under investigation for cures or even prevention. Researchers hope to find means of increasing the life span of productive discussions by these findings. Until then, they would appreciate if each one of you would be so kind as to provide your own examples of fallacies or fallacy carriers to aid in case analysis. I do not mind if I am one of them. I can get myself tested and possibly even treated. The ultimate goal should be to ensure the longevity and good health of human interactions.

Have a good discussion, be nice and I will see you all next month (unless I get my hands on a computer before then).

Warning: The contents of this article requires a healthy sense of humor before consumption, the absence of which may lead to serious side-effects.

Aditi Nadkarni is a cancer researcher, a film reviewer and a poet; her many occupations are an odd yet fun miscellany of creative pursuits. Visit her blog for more of her articles and artistic as well as photographic exploits.
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#1
Anand Menon
June 3, 2007
06:41 AM

Like someone once said..."opinions are like assholes....everyone has one..."

#2
Mohnish
June 3, 2007
09:11 AM

Haha, whatta hilarious post =) laughed through some of the cures and "Antidisestablishmentarianism". Twas funny and vert appropriate. Nice way of gettin back at the trolls and irrationals.

#3
Diganta
URL
June 3, 2007
09:13 AM

Is this phenomena restricted in desicritics only?

#4
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
June 3, 2007
09:22 AM

Good morning y'all! Glad to have a few comments to respond to before I leave:

@Anand: Lol. I've heard that one before.

@Mohnish: Glad you liked the article. I had as much trouble finding long and technical jargon. I tried atleast 6 times before I could actually say "Antidisestablishmentarianism" :D

@Diganta: Nope, my phenomenon and the examples I have listed however are restricted to my experience at desicritics. It is one of the few forums as I stated that allows freedom of expression to both authors and commentators. But Discussion Disease Control (DDC) reports that practically every dying discussion is infected by one of the above syndromes and should be reported immediately! :D Heehee.

#5
Swati
June 3, 2007
10:25 AM

My mother used to say "Never mess with journalists/ writers no matter how famous you becum.Theyll put your misbehavior in their next article as an example" This is probably why :-) You have a way of making your point Ms.Nadkarni! Funny and true. My hubby n I had fun reading the examples. Everytime we argue we have some of the "symptoms" :-)

#6
Chandra
June 3, 2007
10:39 AM

Excellent piece. The best i have read on DC so far....great show

rgds

#7
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
June 3, 2007
11:05 AM

Swati: Lol, as long as your fallacies stay between the two of you, you guys shouldnt be contagious :D It is a rare form of immunity enjoyed by squabbling couples. Hehe.

Chandra: You made my day! :) Glad you enjoyed it! Thank you.

#8
smallsquirrel
June 3, 2007
11:51 AM

loved this, nice analysis of the analysis, ya? really good look at how humans behave in discussion and debate, and how they obfuscate and derail.

BRAVA! :)

#9
AmitC
June 3, 2007
12:01 PM

"A slight variation of this syndrome can cause a severe form of "confirmation bias". This form of the syndrome makes one compulsively, even obsessively, scour through internet websites and dig statistical information that specifically proves only their view, thus ignoring any other conflicting piece of evidence (statistical, rational or scientific) because it doesn't fit their own take. The only known cure is shutting up that requires strict compliance on part of the fallacy carrier."

hahaha. Laughed my head off for this one.

Hilarious!

#10
Seema
June 3, 2007
01:36 PM

That list of syndromes and cures is SO funny aditi! :) Was laughing all thru.

#11
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
June 3, 2007
01:45 PM

Ok, people, my last comment before I take off. Glad you guys found it funny.

Thanks SS. Whenever a discussion derails because of bad logic, I literally mourn like something has died a quick and untimely death :) So couldn't think of a better topic to write about before I left.

Glad you enjoyed it Seema!

Bring on your own examples of fallacies (even if you've invented the name:))...thats what will make this more interesting!

#12
Siffer
June 5, 2007
05:55 AM

The lady seems to be so much hurt being labelled a misandrist radical feminist that she has come out with another way to defend herself.

It is certain that she will never recover from what got planted in her brain. She will never be able to forget her experience in DC.

This experience will remain with her whenever she writes an article related to gender or feminism. This experience will put a demand on her mind forcing her to think in a balanced way.

Because, she will always have that "Pavlovian Dog" Syndrome with the question looming "what if a bunch of masculists turn up....".

She will also think twice before making any claim on gender issues in a conference or meeting.

This is how people's blindfold's are removed. Thousands of "biased" Indian Journalists have lost their blindfolds and we can see its effects.

SIF Masculists have achieved their goals. They wanted to remove blindfolds. Women's issues are important. Women's empowerment is important.

But, the surgery was done to the mind of an author and that will certainly stop biased misnadrist rants.

A person can not be creative without being truthful. Biased feminists who get surgical treatment get truth implanted in their minds.

Three Times more men compared to women die every year due to accidents, suicides and murder. So, misandrists have no rationale to claim that men have a good time at the expense of women.

The battle will continue till feminists carry on with rhetorics on "girl power", False Statistics, irrational tantrums and lies.
(ncrb.nic.in)

References:

"Who Stole Feminism" by Christina Hoff Sommers.

#13
smallsquirrel
June 5, 2007
06:07 AM

... and yet, the overinflated sense of self-importance just keeps coming!

#14
Siffer
June 5, 2007
06:10 AM

Is lying rational or irrational?

Is failure to acknowledge "some" lies of feminism a rational behaviour?

Is avoiding questions related to "abortion rights" a rational behaviour?

Aditi,

Please tell me, do you support "abortion rights" (are you pro-choice)?

Please answer Yes or No.

Do you support 50% child custody for fathers?
Please answer Yes or No.

These questions are very relevant as you used the word "feminism" couple of times here.

Please remember, if it extremely illogical and irrational, if you claim that feminism has nothing to do with abortion rights, child custody rights or any legal issues.

#15
Siffer
June 5, 2007
06:47 AM

Here is a sample how irrational and illogical feminists are:

SIF article in TOI containing irrational feminist's rant.

It says:
-------
Not that women's rights activist Shalini Mathur, founder of Suraksha, would agree. According to Mathur, "These laws cannot be gender neutral, because our society is not gender neutral. Has a man ever been hanged for killing his wife?"
-----

The retort is:

Has a woman ever been even jailed for driving husband to suicide?

Feminists are irrational.
It is funny that they are teaching rational behaviour to others when the tables are turned on them.

#16
Sandeep
June 10, 2007
08:27 PM

Hahahahahahah...........

There she proves her point again.

Now do we have to go anywhere else to find the victim??? I guess Not.

Have a great trip Aditi.

#17
Why Siffer Is An Idiot
June 27, 2007
07:50 AM

Siffer #12 and #15: Please refer to fallacies number 3 and 4 (bandwagon and cognitive fallacy) in Aditi's article. You are making a fool of yourself by proving her point;she actually cites these habits of yours!! Do u know how funny it is for a reader to see her citation and then see your comment that demonstrates the very fallacy she described. In Aditi's words: strict compliance for low doses of "shutting up" might help your failing case :)

#18
Anon
June 27, 2007
12:48 PM

Every time a feminist picks pen she cries hoarse about women being abused, maltreated using concocted statistics and false propaganda...Now, How is that any different from the "bandwagon and cognitive fallacy" which is the author is trying to so hard to portray. The only difference is that you feminists had been doing it for good 30 long years, such that people have started accept you as you blabber.

#17...Wash your face before you spit on others. It is so easy to castigate what others have pointed about feminism, as trash... The fact is that the feminist troll of much higher magnitude runs unabated in internet/print media trolls all over world and nincompoops like you continue to believe (under some kind of self assurance) that your are intellectual humanists even as the hoax of women victim hood is served to you on platter.

To realize the myth of woman victim-hood you have to come out of your cocoon and stop feeling great about yourself at being able to accentuate the hoax of "only women" victims. I know it will take some time for idiots like you, but it surely will be done one day and that day will be well before your extinction.

#19
FF
June 27, 2007
02:09 PM

Another(apparently more extensive and popular) set of discussion features on this board.

This time it is about how two or more feminists snug together.

1) If we agree on another post we almost certainly agree here too. Shame 2 Shame .

2) However if it is about a story about "only women" sufferings we agree regardless. If we are feminists we anyway agree beyond doubt(and without any reason). Birds of same feather e.t.c.


3) If we together get swayed with and contribute to feminist hoaxes, we share same opinion. However, there is nothing cognitive about it.

4) If we feminists are able to see with just one eye then we are single-eyed organisms. Dare not call us blind or squinted. Frog in the well e.t.c

5) If we choose to put up a block here(as authors), we are super natural beings with extraordinary ability to present ideas however useless they may eventually turn out to be. If you write comments you are short sighted. Neighbors envy owners pride.

6) If we authors quote pointlessly incorrect information, it is our personal experience and credentials which obviously can not be challanged by others since they never went through it. Others even if they produce creditable statistics(leave aside countless personal anecdotes) are exaggerating, are ignorant of viewpoints by others, have tunneled vision and are oblivious of stature of the self proclaimed esteemed authors. Tumhari kameeze(comment) meri kameeze(article) se safaed kaise.

7) No matter what the reality is and what the statistics say, I am right because I have always believed in it. How could I be stupid, foolish and wrong for so many years? Statistics are false and misleading. I can come up with my concocted set. We have been doing that for years. A Bad works(wo)man quarrels with his(her) tools..

#20
bharati
URL
July 2, 2007
03:58 PM

To add the harry potter sample. Feminists are just like Professor Umbridge in harry potter novel hating all men and women who support men just as umbridge hated werewolves and halfbreeds and halfhumans. Maybe in the todays Umbridges ( a.K.a. Feminists ) minds men and their families are half humans anyways so not at all worthy of justice available for others.

The 498a is nothing but umbridges special Quill

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