January 01, 2009

Why Argue With Strangers

Every now and then the Shmata Queen and engage in a conversation about blogging. More specifically we have a back and forth about the merits of engaging in dialogue with people who are unlikely to agree with our politics, let alone those who should rightly be labeled as trolls.

My answer to this question is relatively simple. On certain topics that I freel strongly about I readily engage for a number of reasons. For the purpose of this example we'll focus on religion and politics.

I am Jewish and a Pro-Israel blogger. The opposition and I use that term loosely is constantly spewing out hateful material. Some of is easily identified as being over the top and completely ridiculous, but not all of it. Some of it is clothed in finery and disguised as if it is the legitimate work of academia. In this guise the less informed may be fooled into believing that it is accurate.

Let me clarify two things. I do not believe that being Jewish makes me better or that Jews are above criticism. I do not believe that Israel is above criticism. There is legitimate criticism of both Israel and Judaism.

But we aren't talking about legitimate criticism. We're talking about gross mischaracterizations that are designed to delegitimize and dehumanize. We're talking about an agenda in which the opposition does their best to wreak havoc for terrible purposes.

Oftentimes when I engage it is not with the goal of convincing the person on the other side. There are two other groups that I am reaching out to.

1) The lurkers who are undecided about their opinions on a particular topic. I want to provide them with a reason to align with my side.

2) Those who are already on my side but are afraid to engage because they feel like they do not know enough to argue or are too shy to participate.

The other reason that I engage is because I appreciate the intellectual exercise. I appreciate the stimulation of trying to formulate an appropriate response. Part of the reason I read the opposition is because I like to see what they are saying. I like to be informed so that I can come up with an appropriate counter argument.

Second clarification. There are many people out there who are smarter than I am. Many who write better or are more insightful. I do not want this post to come off as bragging. It is merely an explanation of why I do what I do.

What do you think? Is it a waste of time to argue online or are their benefits?

3 comments:

Jay said...

Interesting question. I think most often arguments help to reveal one's predisposition but that's it. I find it useless to argue with people in the expectation to change minds because belief trumps logic. But it does help to sort through one's own idea, and to bond with similar minds in the same time perhaps.

Leora said...

FrumeSarah (FrumeSarah) did a good job of answering to her annoying person, point by point. I think it was more for anyone else to read. You're not going to convince the actual annoying person. That's why the point by point argument should be done publicly.

But I don't have the guts to get into those kind of conflicts myself...I'll be happy to support others, like Frume Sarah.

Intellectual exercise is another good reason, yes.

Jack said...

But it does help to sort through one's own idea, and to bond with similar minds in the same time perhaps.

That makes sense to me. Part of why I blog in general is to sort things out.

Leora,

Well that speaks to my point about writing for the lurkers. You never know who is going to be reading. So you just might catch someone who is undecided.