A very interesting and on-point article appeared a few days ago in Coyote Blog: “Things I Have Learned as a Libertarian. In his posting, “coyote” observes a pattern of argument that characterizes discussions between liberals and others, an opening observation (“socialized health care is costly”), the liberal response parrying with an attack not responding to the original subject (“Don’t you know how evil Cheney was?”), all resulting in a complete change of subject, the original subject (“government health care”) forgotten.
This pattern reminds me of my experience as a software developer/publisher when success or failure depended to a large degree on the opinions published in computer magazine reviews. A favorable review could launch a product, an unfavorable one could sink it. So the reviewer’s opinion was vitally important.
Inevitably, the first question the reviewer would ask is “What is your software like?” to which I would respond, “It is original, not like anything else on the market.” I really hoped that the reviewer would judge the product on its unique merits and benefits, rather than a checklist feature-by-feature comparisons of something it was “like.” But no. It further became apparent that the real motivation for the “What is it like?” question was that, knowing what it was like would also provide the reviewer a reference to a ready-made opinion. The reviewers would do almost anything to avoid forming an original opinion on anything. I realized then that the reviewers, like most of the world’s people are in fact
herd social animals.
In an earlier post (here) I observed that the press has adopted by conventon “a decision was taken” over the previously more common “a decision was made” and observed that the latter form is more comfortable to those avoiding responsibility. And similarly, like decisions, opinions can be “made” or “taken” depending on one’s ability or willingness to do his own original thinking.
With this in mind, the pattern of political dialog discussed in the Coyote Blog post, most probably results from a group-think mentality from which opinions are “taken.” Thus, absent a pre-made opinion the only alternative for the group-think arguer is to change the subject so as to steer the conversation into his group’s territory of pre-defined opinions. consideration of anything else is out of the question.
In essence, then, conversations within these bounds are meaningless and unproductive. So how is democracy achieved under such circumstances? One can only hope that a few good ideas become embedded in the group-think, and these “groups” will gain following and momentum so that we can prosper in spite of it all.