Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Doggerel #106: "You're Just Being Defensive!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Though relatively uncommon in my experience, this is one of the old fall back lines of woos after having their arguments torn apart. Like many, many other forms of doggerel, this one is a subject change.

Referencing psychobabble may be fun for either side (boy, do I love pointing out projection, as you may see before this post is done), but it doesn't alter the one important thing when seeking out the truth: Who's got the evidence?

One thing that I've seen far too often are people who talk about emotions about an argument, rather than the argument itself. It's like saying that poor sportsmanship on one side will affect the scoreboard, regardless of how big the difference is between the players' abilities. What's worse is that woos often don't realize that they're behaving very badly: Depending on the topic, they often condone the immoral actions of opportunistic "psychics," government-led censorship, effective inaction in the face of crippling medical conditions, etcetera. In short, the outcome of the argument is vital to knowing whether or not evil is taking place, and yet, we're often vilified or derided for even having the argument. Why shouldn't we be defensive?

Another nasty aspect of it is that woos often try to assault the wonder of the universe and science's ability to reveal it: "Don't be curious. Don't ask questions. We already know everything we can know. Don't probe into this handful of 'mysteries' and 'big' questions because we need to keep going in circles instead of solving them and moving onto the rest of the universe." Personally, I think that's what woo's really about: Protecting false mysteries because, for some bizarre reason, ignorance makes them feel better. So to defend their egos, they try to launch preemptive attacks on curiosity.


Tom Foss said...

Woos also like to use this tactic the same way as "Looks Like I've Touched a Nerve," where they claim their position to be validated and vindicated by the fact that you're arguing with them. By framing the skeptic as "defensive" they can attempt to convince people of their position, since the only reason you're arguing is because you feel threatened.

Infophile said...

Boy, do I love pointing out projection, as you may see before this post is done...

I actually ran into an argument just today where a skeptic noted that the other guy made some ridiculous projection, and the other retorted with "No, you're the one projecting!" It's not enough to simply project; they're projecting projection now.

On a related note, I was thinking that a generic "Well, you too!" might be a good Doggerel.

Dikkii said...

Speaking of projection, does anyone remember that bizarre fad amongst (insert practitioners of almost any humanities discipline here) in the nineties, "critical theory"?

They'd write papers deconstructing texts - of which scientific writings seemed to cop an inordinate amount of attention - and usually attempt to paint the writer as a misogynist/homophobe/racist?

Plenty of projection, I thought at the time.

Thankfully Alain Sokal killed that peculiar practice off.

Bob said...

I've read some of that stuff.

Anonymous said...


I was an English/Writing major in undergrad (Appalachian State Univ. 2001), and literary deconstruction was the bane of my existence.

Out of my four years there, I can count the number of times we discussed the text read in terms of theme, plot, etc., on one hand. More than not, the discussion was aimed at how the author's supposed "ethnocentrism" and "love of the patriarchy" played out in the text.

They had no problem attacking the authors, but voicing frustration with deconstruction was seen as a counterattack. Their view was the correct one and any other was evidence that you too were part of the "insert oppressive evil here."

I still get the urge to punch a hippie every time I think about it.