Disinfectants, Debates, and Deplorables – Part 1 of 2

You may want to view the video prelude to this post which explains some new developments in the disinfectant debacle.

In Facebook discussions this week regarding President Trump’s April 23rd White House briefing and his comment/question* on injection of disinfectants as a possible way to deal with COVID-19, I found myself thinking time and again about a bit of wisdom from my high school debate teacher. She taught that a good debater can argue both sides of an issue.

* Which was it? A comment or a question? That’s actually one of the things that was up for debate. There is a vast difference between saying we should inject disinfectants into the human body to fight COVID-19 and asking someone if that’s something that could be studied. President Trump asked the question.

Why is that? Well, if you want to win people over to your viewpoint, you need to understand their arguments, anticipate their questions and rebuttals, and speak to those things. You do not win a debate by merely saying, “Here’s what I believe. I’m right and you’re an idiot if you don’t agree with me.” And you don’t even win by simply proclaiming the talking points that resonate with you. You have to understand what’s in the hearts and minds of those you’re communicating with to know which of your arguments might be most effective with them.

If ever we needed to be competent at debate it is now when most of our discussions regarding politics, health, and safety are online, in written form. In this medium, we don’t have the benefit of “reading” someone’s demeanor or having them read ours (for example, to know when we’re being sarcastic or saying something in a more questioning manner). There is also the strange phenomenon where we feel more liberty to be meanspirited when we are not having to deal with someone face to face. Add to that the general level of stress in our society right now and you have a situation that is ripe for misunderstanding, anger and intolerance.

Most people who have been involved in formal debate and been assigned to argue for a position that is actually opposite of their own would attest to the fact that there are benefits to the process. Even if you do not change your overall opinion on the matter from that type of debate preparation, you do come to realize the other side has some valid arguments that need to be considered.

At a time when we could all use some stress relief, while also addressing some truly important matters we are facing, I hope this series of blog posts will foster more productive and less angry conversations.

In Part 2 of “Disinfectants, Debates, and Deplorables,” I will share more specifics about the Facebook conversation that sparked me to write this post. I will provide examples of smart moves by some involved in the debate that helped me to change my mind on some things, as well as tactics from both sides which were detrimental to their cause.

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