Sunday, September 25, 2011

How to argue like a Conservative.

As I've already written in a previous post (see 'open letter to a troll'), I was pounced on recently by a couple of neo-conservatives in an online debate on a friend's Facebook page. Statistics were on my side, and I thought I'd made a clear articulation of my views, yet I was the one who had to turn away from it.

It started when I wrote that I had time with our Liberal candidate and found her accessible. In my second post I pointed out that Ontario class sizes had decreased since Harris, and that hospital wait times had improved. (both statistically true.)

In the end, a mere two posts later, I gave up. It would have taken me months on a PhD-thesis-sized document to dig my way out of the web of tangled misnomers, attacks, slights, prods, and false accusations that were thrown at me in such a short time. Even after I withdrew, saying that I couldn't continue after it got so personal, they continued arguing, as if the sheer volume of their words made what they were saying true.

So like the true geek and societal-interaction wonk that I am, I analyzed the pattern of their argument and have come up with a few rules on how to argue like a Conservative.

1. Attack.

Within two posts they had written that:  a) I am biased because I am in a union. (everyone has bias, get over it.) b) that I am a Liberal supporter, and so this is the only reason why our candidate spoke to me (she didn't even know who I was at the time) c) that I couldn't possibly have been a Liberal supporter for twenty years, but only recently supported our local candidate. (it didn't occur to them that I lived in other cities), d) that McGuinty broke promises about not raising taxes (which is true) e) that my Union's pension and benefit plan are paid for by their taxes (false), and f) that my Union is "in bed" with the Liberals, (also false) and g) my Union is "elitist." (I'm still not sure how guys making $18-$26 an hour building roads can be seen as elitist. Really I don't even think, with his chosen party's stance on corporate taxes, and use of our military jets, he knows what 'elitist' means ... maybe another post someday on definitions...)

2. Pretend it's not personal. Feign shock at the offended person, as if attacking their character wouldn't cross your mind. It leaves you open to get all kinds of other jabs in, and puts you in the position to be condescending.

The attacks themselves were harmless. I've been called worse. It was that it was so personal so quickly, without provocation. This seems to be the pattern Conservative mantra though, if you don't agree, you're either misled or part of a special interest group that nullifies your opinion. One just needs to look at Harper and Hudak's televised ads to see that it actually works.

3. Ignore statistics.

When I posted two official websites about class size and hospital wait times, I was told it was 'propaganda', and that it 'didn't matter'. One of them apparently has a buddy who knows someone who is in a class right now and it's no different from under Harris. Pffft, statistics. Who needs them anyway?

4. Use the terms 'Liberal' and 'Socialist' as if they are lower than dirt. Call them 'fiberals', and 'pinkos'. In fact, the more ridicule you can direct at someone, the more likely they are to give up, and make it look like you won.

Another post will soon be coming about why 'socialist' and 'liberal' have become bad words in North American society, even though socialism is the only reason we have a middle class, healthcare, forty hour work week, minimum wage, etc.

5. Pretend to speak for the majority. Even though Conservatives have seldom, if ever, enjoyed near 50% popularity, pretend you are speaking for a 'silent' majority, that liberalism is just an abberration, created by special interest groups. In fact, blame special interest groups for everything that goes wrong, like the economy.

Conservatives are outnumbered two-to-one in Canada. Hell, 27% of working people work in a Union setting, and Tim Hudak still insists he is trying to support working families. If he did, he'd support collective bargaining. It's the only thing protecting our middle class.

6. Keep up the myth that Conservatives are good with our money. It's the only thing older voters believe, that tax cuts are coming because Conservatives are frugal.

The past four Conservative Prime Ministers have also coincidentally been the four largest spenders, accounting for more than 85% of our country's debt. Two of the Liberal PM's actually ran budget surpluses, while bailing out our social safety network.

7. Don't be afraid to contradict yourself. One response in the aforementioned argument was: "class sizes haven't changed at all since Harris. Well, maybe in elementary school but for high school kids are on their own." So, have class sizes changed? What does "on their own" mean? Even in admitting that the core of my argument was correct, he has still made it look as if he's right. Well played.

All kidding aside, it's about time we broke down the myths about the Conservative party that keep them getting into power, when they are not fiscally responsible, and gut our core services and accountability in office whenever elected.

How do we change this? Vote. Get other people to vote. Get informed. Read about the actual policies the parties propose, and make sure you know what you'll be getting if you vote them in. As people get older they realize how important politics are. As parents, also, it's never to early to teach your kids politics, especially the basics of democracy.

I put a quote up on my twitter, and it was retweeted many times, but I think it would serve well here. "If under 45 year old people voted with the same regularity as over 45 year old people, we would at present have an NDP minority government in Canada, and a stable Liberal majority in Ontario."

The real 'silent majority' are young people who don't believe politics is important. We are better than this. If all eligible voters actually made it to the polls, we wouldn't have this Conservative debate. It is only through apathy they get into power. The true test of our system will not be Liberal vs. Conservative. It will be if we have a system at all. If people lose enough faith, and the majority don't vote, then we truly will get exactly what we deserve.

 My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:
Cleverly Disguised as Cake

A teaser chapter for my current novel is now up!
Seven Gates

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:
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