Guest Commentary: Intelligent debate requires facts

While some maintain a steady disinterest in political processes, there is a segment of society that is passionate but that is exerting a negative influence on intellectual discussion. The majority of this group is composed of participants active on the Internet, and their emotional, often lazy approach to debate reduces the general level of insight produced,†spreads misinformation and creates unnecessary polarization among the parties involved.

It is unclear to me whether this is exclusive to political debate or a subset of a more widespread phenomenon, but it seems many people in our generation are unable or unwilling to analyze information beyond a sophomoric level. Once laziness is introduced, then emotions must be relied on more heavily than thought when expressing opinions. Take the discussion of President Bush, which typifies this brilliantly. It is much easier to call Bush the Antichrist, a war criminal or any number of insults simply because various aspects of his domestic or foreign policy may be disliked.

Much more tedious is the compilation of data that has been thoroughly validated to support one’s grievances against the president.

This lethargy is evidenced in the hundreds of Web sites†that contain†derogatory images and†statements about†Bush. The most popular group on Myspace†under Government and Politics is an anti-Bush group that boasts†nearly 120,000 members. It functions as a source of proliferation for falsities that then spread to other audiences who swallow it as "fact." Even bumper stickers offer cheap witticisms such as "Bush Lied, People Died" or "Buck Fush."

Engaging in discussion with someone who has been driven to this level of emotion will reap only†inconsequential results because all they have to offer are arguments not based on reason that cannot be substantiated or refuted.

People operating through such irrationality should be dismissed as irrelevant, even detrimental, to political discussion.

We should discuss differences in a systematic manner that constructs valid arguments based on truthful statements. Only if knee-jerk emotions are discarded as fallacious will intelligence in debate reach a level that allows for compromise and solution in the crises that divide us.

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