Re: MEMES: Pigeon-holing your opponent

From: Harvey Newstrom (
Date: Thu Jan 25 2001 - 14:41:57 MST

At 7:37 PM +0000 1/25/01, Bryan Moss wrote:
>Harvey Newstrom wrote:
>> [...]
>> I swear that for every valid disagreement I have had on this
>> list, I have been attacked 10 more times for views that I
>> never espoused. I don't know how to prevent this. As you
>> will soon discover, in response to your question above, that
>> your claims will fall on deaf ears. People will try to
>> justify their representation of "your" position and will
>> even argue with you about what you "really" believe!
>If you carefully spell out the logic of your position and I
>disagree then what other choice do I have but to think your
>logic is flawed? If I think I have identified the flaws in
>your logic, shouldn't I point them out? And if you deny my
>allegations, aren't you just being arrogant?

Very true. I was complaining about the times when this doesn't
occur. These are the times when someone either misunderstands a
position or assumes a position that isn't there. Then the position
being attacked is not one that has been pointed out.

The most common example of this would be in the clone-copy problem
where both sides accused the other of believing in mystical souls.
Nobody ever espoused this view, yet people project this view on the
other side and fought against it many times. When the other side
objected that they don't believe in mystical souls, the attacking
party would try to logically prove that they *must*.

> > Let me know if anybody has any insights on this problem or
>> knows a way out of it.
>I think one major insight is: generally, both parties feel the
>same way. I don't think it's a case of one person pigeon-
>holing the other - it's more like argument entropy: You slowly
>pigeon-hole each other until you end up arguing with yourself.
>(I'll admit that, personally, I sometimes find bits and pieces
>of another person's argument that I find compelling and attack
>those rather than what the person is saying. So, in effect, I
>end up arguing with the wrong person.)

Very true. Most of us respond to our interests and not the original
poster's interests. Thus, conversations veer off wildly into
unrelated territory, leaving the original poster abandoned and

>Take your own post for example: You probably just saw an
>example of an argument that reminded you of this phenomenon
>and compelled you to post about the general case. However, it
>could quite easily be taken as an attack on those defending
>Microsoft, who, upon reading this, might think you're accusing
>them of using rather underhanded debate tactics. In other
>words, your own email could be seen - from one point of view -
>as pigeon-holing your opponents. (For example, your first
>paragraph was spent defining the tactics of "them" and by
>quoting Samantha - who in turn mentions "Eugene and others" -
>you have effectively defined "us".)

Yes, this is another meta-problem with this kind of communication.
We are trying to hold a conversation where we may or may not have
heard all the previous pieces. This means that any post is really
taken out of context and may not mean what its stand-alone text would
seem to convey.

Harvey Newstrom <>

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