Seven levels of disagreement

Many people these days think name-calling is argument (thank you, Newt Gingrich*), so here’s a handy picture of seven levels of disagreement.

Image by abagond 26 July 2010, from How to Disagree, by Paul Graham, March 2008.

There’s nothing like a good discussion, with actual arguments on facts, theories, or context. But we really don’t have time for name-calling or ad hominem here on the LAKE blog. As noted in our submissions policy, you can submit anything you like, but “LAKE reserves complete discretion to select, edit, and annotate submissions, and to delete blog or facebook comments that are spam or personal attacks, or for any other reason whatever.” Name-calling and ad hominem are personal attacks.

The source of the above image includes some useful examples, and the original source of the levels further elaborates, for example for level 5 Refutation, “If you can’t find an actual quote to disagree with, you may be arguing with a straw man.”

No simple schematic like this can be complete, and I would argue that above the top level of refuting the central point is refuting a mistaken context. For example, lots of people argue that genetic modification of crops is not bad, because there are lots of kinds of genetic modification. But that misses the main context that 90+ percent of corn, soybeans, and cotton in Georgia and much of the U.S. is grown with Monsanto GMO seeds, deliberately designed to resist Glyphosate, which along with other pesticides is sprayed in massive quantities, drifts, runs downhill into watersheds, and is found in the urine of school children from Kansas to Manhattan, plus those are monocrops that risk the same kind of failure as with the boll weevil and the dust bowl of the 1930s. Feel free to disagree with any of those points, by supplying actual arguments. Continuing to repeat there are more kinds of genetic modification is just tossing a straw man into the pesticide drift.

* Newt Gingrich: see Language: A Key Mechanism of Control, FAIR, 1 Feb 1995, which quotes a 1990 GOPAC memo that recommends applying words like these to Gingrich’s opposition:

“decay… failure (fail)… collapse(ing)… deeper… crisis… urgent(cy)… destructive… destroy… sick… pathetic… lie…”

and words like these to Gingrich’s own party:

“share… change… opportunity… legacy… challenge… control… truth… moral… courage… reform… prosperity…”

That sort of framing via surreptitious ad hominem and name-calling has become very widespread. It doesn’t help communities build on their strengths. And it doesn’t help communities fight off their real enemies, such as a corporation from Houston that wants to build a fracked methane pipeline through here for their profit at our expense.

So, feel free to post comments. And we’ll feel free to ignore, not approve, or delete those that resort to name-calling or ad hominem, or for other reasons.

Feel even freer to post real arguments. Those often lead to real discussion, with more evidence dug up and new conclusions reached. Sometimes they even lead to action that helps the local community, which is the point of this blog.


2 thoughts on “Seven levels of disagreement

  1. Travis Joiner

    It appears to me that John is a hypocrite of the highest order. He’s willing to call for local government transparency yet once someone has that audacity to disagree or challenge him as my friend did the other night, he deletes it. Great community service John! Spout your left wing nonsense and restrict anyone who actually has a brain from responding to you. Transparency my arss….thanks for showing everyone your true colors!

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