Get It Quietly

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Location: Enfield, London, United Kingdom

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Court Of Popular Opinion

If there's one thing I hate in the world, and it might seem like an odd thing to single out while there is so much horror and injustice in this world, but the one thing that provokes my rage more than anything else is sophism. Wikipedia gives a reasonable description of sophism, as follows :

"A sophist is a user of sophisms, i.e., an insincere person trying to confuse or deceive people. A sophist tries to persuade the audience while paying little attention to whether his argument is logical and factual."

In general, this happens when people start with their position and then try to come up with the arguments supporting it. If anyone is actually paying attention (unusual but occasionally it happens), of course this eventually (or sometimes quite quickly) leads to ridiculous hypocrisies and/or contradictions. Here's an example.

Harriet Harman on Fred Goodwin's pension, 1/3/09 :

"[I]t might be enforceable in a court of law, this contract, but it is not enforceable in the court of public opinion and that is where the government steps in."

Harriet Harman on MP's expenses, 8/5/09 :

"The claims are assessed and only paid out by the House of Commons Fees Office if they believe it's a claim within the rules and that the MP is entitled to be paid out on that claim." [1]

Now OK, that one was a bit of an open goal. But this is everywhere. There are so many professions now in which this position-first-arguments-later line is required : politicians, lawyers, PR wonks, football managers :-). At least we haven't yet gone as far as the US, where they actually teach their kids how to do this, under the heading of "Debate". Even in America, people wouldn't stand for it [2] if colleges offered "Lying 101" as a course, or had big national lying competitions. But that's basically what this is. It's intellectual dishonesty and it is absolutely rife in our society.

Not just in the macro-society either. On having a break from 2+2, I can actually see that the sophistry of the wannabee lawyers on there was driving me round the bend. You have Chainsaw kicking up shit when two people exchange a word in Russian at his table, but insisting that stalling is fine because it's within the rules [3]. You have Jurullo kicking up shit when someone steals his blinds heads up when he's disconnected, but a month later in another stalling thread saying "It's plus EV and within the rules, so it's fine". You have Shaun Deeb almost bragging about how he 8-tables on his laptop while driving, and his mates defending it because there are other bad drivers on the roads too. You have Negreanu ... well, just being Negreanu, he does this constantly.

Sticking with the poker analogy, there are basically two roads you can go down. Socially Responsible or, as one poster so eloquently put it, "if it's plus EV then fuck everyone else". Again it's only after some time off that I really figure this out, but one of the best arguments against stalling, for example, is that if everyone did it, the game would become completely unworkable (try a $50 Turbo MTT on Party and you'll see what I mean). So most people don't do it, but a few ... I was going to be derogatory there but let's just say a few people do. OK. That's the path you chose. But when you take that path, you cannot credibly complain when someone else steals EV from you in a way that's "plus EV and within the rules".

It's linked to something else I've mentioned on here before, the situation where someone's "apology" actually makes them look worse than if they'd just said "yeah I did, so what". And there's been more of that on 2+2 lately as well. Just choose your path, accept the consequences and stop trying to bullshit us. Eventually more and more people will realise that when you change your argument to suit which side you're on today, you don't believe what you're saying. So why should we ? And then the Court Of Popular Opinion will bang the hammer and rule Guilty.

[1] Incidentally this story, from January, is most amusing in the current context.

[2] Would they ?

[3] The really laughable part is that he spends most of the rest of his time complaining about structures and tournaments being "crapshoots", when (for readers who aren't familiar with poker) in practice one of the main contributory factors to blind pressure in tournaments is slow play, including stalling.

3 Comments:

Blogger Andy_Ward said...

"Why are so few people lambasting the Fees Office? It's human nature (unfortunately) to see what you can get away with and the Fees Office has obviously been encouraging this system, even advising people that they could get away with more than they were actually claiming! And the woman who did exercise control was sacked.....While holding no brief for those who were blatently milking the ststem, surely there should be other, and higher up heads rolling too?"

From my mother, via Email. Thanks Mum :-)

9:43 PM  
Blogger Sean Landis said...

Here, here! I care deeply about this issue!

11:49 PM  
Blogger Calculus said...

"It's linked to something else I've mentioned on here before, the situation where someone's "apology" actually makes them look worse than if they'd just said "yeah I did, so what"."

There was a prime example of that this week from someone called Steve Cohen, who is a British ex-pat living in the US, and who appears to have carved out a lviing for himself as a football pundit.

It all started with this (and if the picture in that link alone doesn't make you think "c***" then the rest surely will): http://www.epltalk.com/steven-cohen-blames-liverpool-fans-for-hillsborough-disaster/5915

After a huge furore, outraged complaints from football fans, and sponsors withdrawing from Cohen's show, he offered this:
http://www.worldsoccerdaily.com/archives/1942#more-1942

To which I can't really by way of comment offer anything better than what a friend had to say about it:

"So... he apologises for causing offence, but makes it clear that he still believes what he said, and has not grasped the point, which is that this viewpoint is contradicted by easily-verifiable facts. He frames this as a freedom of speech issue, rather than a "being ignorant and wrong in an offensive way" issue, as though the problem is that he holds an unpopular opinion, rather than him needing to educate himself on a highly emotive subject. Not only has he not grasped this distinction, he seems rather defiant on this point, boasting of his time in the US Army defending everyone else's freedom of speech. And he finishes off by lecturing other people on what is and isn't acceptable to say.

Super!"

12:43 PM  

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