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Engaging in online debates.

Getting ready for the USA elections 2020.

Floris Koot
Jan 23 · 7 min read

As the elections are starting up, online discussions are becoming heated. And I don’t know why, I mingled a bit in the Youtube streams. Part of the ‘battle’ seems to be fought here. And I tried to find out what worked and what didn’t. Here’s my tips, that I found out. But first, what do I see as the actual problem:

This is the sick issue in US politics: All thinking of the current elite is based upon power politics as chessboard. When politics becomes an ‘us vs them’ power game then: Everything that may take power away must be seen as an attack! And everything you can get away with to increase it, becomes a smart move! While we still have some check and balances in place, and people who actually care, or want to improve things, some limitations to playing dirty are still in place. Also some scrutiny by leaders, press and main stream population may soften some actions. The tone though, has gone overboard. Some people engage with open mind, many just shout or insult all that is perceived as other. And the elite playing chess sinks logical step after logical step in the mud hole of their collective undoing; all the time thinking they are winning, much like the unscrupulous bankers did in 2007. And sadly many fans just follow this attitude, mocking, screaming, lying online. The world should be more than a power game. Politics should not be played as chess, but as an investigation in how to serve the most people and country the best. Sadly money in politics, bought opinions and think tanks consciously frame issues towards manipulating convictions protecting the interests of a few. Too many are blind to see that the best move on the chess board, is a big issue in itself that hurts.

A: General Tips

1: Better not lose (too much) time over it. Few people read deeply, few care, and you’ll hardly reach anyone. So your impact is hardly ever worth the effort. And still, many people will decide based on what they think everybody else thinks. Many will decide their opinion upon what seems to be the ruling opinion. And many others fight for what they think should be the dominant opinion. In this we act more like dancing swarms of bees then we’d like to admit* (*see note at the end).

2: Stay civilized. Any insult, any angry tone, proves the other side (whatever your and their side is) that your side is nasty, stupid, aggressive & dangerous. You will be triggered, you will be tested. Staying calm is hard, and essential. The world needs more civilization, not sharper differences and bigger gaps.

3: Some people do engage civilized and will have good points. I actually had some interesting or insightful moments, however short. The news tends to focus on the monsters, but there’s lots of curious normal people online too. Try to listen. Research their statements, but be careful with opening links (I saw a few that might lead to virus infected websites).

4: Always seek to add something of value. Offer arguments, facts, information. “Trump is dumb” is a as dumb statement as “Trump is a stable genius”. When there’s no proof, no facts, no motivation why your point holds merit, it mostly will be regarded as non information. You’ll get a few thumbs up for that.

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B: To Engage More Impactful.

5: Considering listening, wondering and, if possible, find common ground. Most people want peace, a better planet, feel good. This means some may behave online as assholes, but that’s because they don’t feel any relation to you yet, or never really met someone outside their box. , a black man, turned over 200 people away from the KKK through listening and relating to them. He did what attacking them never could.

6: Try not to win. Yes, if winning or being more funny is your shtick, be a comedian, but let go of any impact. It can help to admit what you like in an argument, before you burn down the rest. At the least that feels as dialogue.

7: Have clear evidence from reliable sites. At times right wingers have a habit of linking to small obscure conspiracy sites, as if that’s valid proof. That doesn’t work. A google search action that leads to several big newspapers and video links might make a more valid impression. And still a: “#fakenews!” may follow. Best if of course to find a source the people you speak to believe in, sharing your point. Hell, even FOX news has some sharp attacks on Trump.

8: Mirror either their own logic back to them, or put their logic in another cliché situation where it doesn’t hold up. (So the GOP wants no witnesses in the impeachment trial or claims a trial is just a waste of time? “Suppose OJ Simpson would have claimed witnesses weren’t allowed, or said: ‘I’m innocent, so why do we need a trial?’” Or if the trial is a waste of time, “Why worry about the outcome? Why shout it’s a coupe, or refuse a real trial when Trump has nothing to worry about? Wouldn’t the Dem’s lose face when all their proofs fall flat in front of the nation?” Etc.)

9: Phrasing your points in questions may be more powerful than strong statements. Not getting an answer might be good news. Either they haven’t seen, or read it. Or you fried their logic and they need to recuperate. or you got them thinking and they won’t, can’t, will not acknowledge it. I assume the last thing is in less than 0,05% of all cases, as a wild guess. See point 1.

10: Bring in a wider scope. When people make a seemingly good point, read something they invested in, try to offer a wider perspective. “So free basic income, or free education, would mean billionaires get it too!? That’s insane!” “Well yes, but regard the costs. Paying free tuition for a few billionaires on top of everyone who needs it, is better for all of us, than shoot it down over a few wrong beneficiaries.” or “Everyone has free speech? Should we deny it to some? Then why deny something for everyone to a few?” or “Socialism means we’ll get Gulags!” “We already have them. The USA has 4,3% of the world population and 22% of all global prisoners, in our corporate prison system. You also might call it enforced slavery for big corporations.”

11. Totally agree, way over te the top. Irony doesn’t work towards people who are on the other side. They may understand you literally anyway or feel mocked. Often getting defensive triggers more attack. But over agreeing may have a surprising effect. “You socialists want to change the world in one big Venezuela!” “Man, you’re right. You caught me. We had a secret meeting with all, and thought, yes, Venezuela. I’m so sorry we thought that was a good idea. Would wanting to be more like Denmark an acceptable idea?”

Added tip. If you’re late to a discussion go to comments and react in a very active discussion. That get’s noticed more than a new comment in the main section, as most people will see only the first five most popular comments.

If you have additions or more strategies, then add them in the comments.

*) Why understanding the deeper layer is important.

There’s science behind this: Bees who discover a field of flowers will go back to their hive and message their discovery in a dance. The bigger the field, the bigger, more enthusiast, they dance, and consequently the bigger the dance the more bees will take a look. Lesser dances will attract less bees, which is a good thing, because there will be less flowers anyway. In their book “Think like a Freak” two economists find people are much the same. We are way more likely to act for a better environment when our neighbors do so, rather then, what we tend to claim, because it’s the right thing to do. So now we can understand all the shouting online. People try to make their truth, read bee dance, the dominant one. They seem to feel their reality is at stake. Few of them seem to realize that with bees and with us, it’s not how loud or dominant you are, but how enthusiast and real you are. Some truth has to be there; not a perceived imagination you happen to wish true. And boy do we tend to accuse the other side of imagining things. Too rarely we investigate the reality of our own convictions.

All our discussions create one big field with dancing ideas. Most wish those to be true, peaceful and healthy for all of us, at the least themselves. Some believe their idea should win over all others. Some even believe all dirty tricks to win are justified. This is a minority. This minority however will engage harder online than others. But from the bees we can learn that we need several ideas in dialogue to have a healthy society. We need truth, investigation, curiosity and fact checking. Because if we decide based on domination, power, let alone lies based on a drive to win at any cost, everyone will suffer. And as we’ve seen with non violent protests engaged by Gandhi, Marten Luther King or Nelson Mandela, they all overcome a dominant power that used suppression. Those were not easy wins, nor a matter of one big moment. Race issues plague the USA to this day. All big issues may cost years. End of Slavery, women’s vote, women’s right to study, end of segregation, etc And slowly all of those have increased civilization, through truth, dialogue, investigation, innovation, science, and listening to the fears of those, that feared they’d lose all when the other side would get their wish fulfilled.


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The Gentle Revolution

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Floris Koot

Written by

Play Engineer. Social Inventor. Gentle Revolutionary. I always seek new possibilities and increase of love, wisdom and play in the world.

The Gentle Revolution

Towards a revolution we all want to dance in, for a flourishing planet.

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