Saturday, June 10, 2006

Clarke's Rules of Social Discourse

1. Nobody cares how funny or ridiculous you are when drunk, with the possible exception of those present at the event at which you saw fit to become inebriated. Any story dependent upon the level of your intoxication should therefore be erased from your portfolio. Please note that this rule does not apply to those stories that are funny anyway. Thus, for example, "when I was drunk I threw an apple through a frat-party window and it exploded" qualifies as legitimate, as the removal of the "drunk" qualifier would not be seriously detrimental to the story's humor value. "When I was drunk I threw up on the subway" does not qualify and never will.

2. The disqualification of another person's argument solely on the basis of their vocabulary is unacceptable. Provided that your opponent has the requisite ability to make their point understood, you are honor-bound to accept and respond to that argument. Thus, refusing to engage in discourse with someone because they curse and you do not is not, as many would like to believe, a mark of your innate superiority. Rather, it is an indication that you are unable to defeat your foe in fair combat - in other words, a cop-out. You are more than welcome to attempt to steer the rhetoric of the debate in any particular direction based on the composition of your answers, but not through outright dismissal or criticism of your opponent. This also counts for typos and l33tspeak, as annoying as I find them.

3. Unless the discussion has specifically to do with religious doctrine or a specific topic for which mainstream society has deemed religious belief relevant (ie. evolution), invoking religion is also a cop-out. Using "well, it'll all work out according what God has decreed anyway" as a retort indicates that you have no idea what you are talking about. This is not to say that there is not necessarily a divine plan, nor does it imply that you don't know what that plan may be (although in my opinion there is not, and thus you don't). It means only that, when discussing earthly problems, one must use a universally-accepted, earthly fact set. Not everyone believes in your god, so you cannot drag your god in. You may use those universally-accepted facts to come to a little-accepted conclusion, though. "Flagellates are too complex to have evolved naturally, thus there must be a God" is an argument that makes me grit my teeth, but it derives from a biological fact about the complexity of flagellates and thus I am honor-bound to respond to it.

I expect to attract some criticism for this rule.

4. Being a jerk is not necessarily being assertive, and to be assertive you do not have to be a jerk. Let me be more clear. I have run into a number of situations lately on the intarnetz in which a commenter will make a statement like, oh, "all people who have children are lazy, fat, and stupid. They live on a diet consisting wholly of government cheese, are a drain on society, and detract from my quality of life. I, having no children, am inherently superior to all those women who have elected to spend their lives as breeders". Then, when the commenter is called out on the fact that her statements are not only incredibly offensive but patently untrue, they will respond with something along the lines of "I see no one here is willing to listen to alternate opinions. You are all fascists". These people fail to grasp the distinction between expressing strong opinions and being offensive. Thus I say to them that it is entirely possible to have concerns without impugning a large group of people. The fact that you have gotten called out for wandering into an argument guns a-blazing does not mean your ideas are unwelcome; it means that you, personally, have made yourself unwelcome. For example, had the original comment been phrased along the lines of "I've chosen not to have kids because I really worry about the impact our current rate of population growth is having on the environment, and I also enjoy having a lot of free time on my hands," the general response might have fomented a useful conversation rather than a slagfest.

Clarke's Rule #4 can boil down to the following: in general, the more secure a person is with their argument, the less energy they need to expend insulting those with whom they disagree.

5. Fishing for compliments is never under any circumstances acceptable. Acceptable self-deprecation is a skill at which one should be practiced in order to avoid the illusion that one is searching for positive feedback about onesself.

6. Comparison of one's opponent to a Nazi, horse, Ann Coulter, or someone's ugly mom indicates the immediate termination of the debate in question, with the win awarded to the opposite party.

7. (internet only) Anonymous commenting immediately negates the argument of the person in question. A pseudonym and legitimate email address, at the minimum, are required to be taken seriously. The obvious reasoning behind this statement is that if you're not willing to put your reputation behind what you say, you do not deserve recognition.


Blogger Chris Clarke said...

Comparison of one's opponent to a Nazi, horse, Ann Coulter, or someone's ugly mom

is, however, completely apropos if your opponent is Ann Coulter.

6/19/2006 7:09 PM  
Blogger :D said...

which, from what I understand of Ann Coulter, is probably a frequent occurrence.

(excellent rules, Allies)

8/18/2006 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


#6 contains the already well-established Godwin's Law.

10/24/2007 9:31 AM  

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