Thursday, 7 March 2019

Thoughts on Peterson, Zizek and debate as a concept

Peterson V Zizek: Dawn of For-Profit Clickbait Debate! An enormous thank you to my now over 1000 subscribers! That number means a lot to me, and I appreciate everyone sticking with me thins long. Now an apology for my sick, sad, slow mumbling. I was home ill and had a day to kill, and considering I have no hobbies or interests in general, made a video about the latest internet buzz. Note: While some tickets sold for $80, those tickets were some of the earliest available and sold out fast. I realised this and wanted to use the most extreme price point in my video, but understand I should have said something along the lines of "cost some people up to $1000". If you want to see more of me follow me on twitter @The_Infranaut or check out my website at Some clips from Community's "Debate 109" episode. Opening Diddy is "Your Parent's Cocaine" by the Coup. The rest of the music is courtesy of Youtube, including "Flow" by MK2, "Sad Sunday" by W's Jammy Jams and "Acid Jazz" by Kevin Macleod.
So, Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Zizek have decided to have a debate. Can't say I'm surprised both of them are as aggressive self promoters as Niall Ferguson. This caught the parts of the internet I like to frequent by storm, and many are eagerly awaiting the massive defeat of the arch enemy. I can't see the future but I suspect they'll either be disappointed or think they've gotten just what they've wanting and ignore that the other side of the audience will be thinking much the same.

The video I've linked above has demonstrated a lot of the problems with debates. I used to canvass debates at university and in my community, it was very depressing. The audience was dominated by supporters of the two sides, with the remainder being made up of the curious. Unless one debater was very poor, and I don't mean his argument was weak I mean poor in style, there was very little change in audience. Largely it seemed to be an exercise in group validation, partisans attended to here one of their idols speak and they always regarded their side as having "won" the debate.

But what surprised me was that there didn't seem to be much movement amongst the undecided group either. If there were some people changing their minds and favouring one speaker over the other the reason given was usually personal, like their charisma or ability to make the complex seem simple. I can't recall a single person saying something like "I was on the fence until the pros mentioned ____ and I realised their argument made a lot of sense" or " I don't think the Cons side had a very good grasp of the figures, and their conclusions seemed very optimistic".

There's also a very interesting case study of how little impact debates have on changing opinions,  BBC Question Time is a very old weekly show that's a debate between politicians and social commentator types, novelists, journalists, comedians etc.

I know many of the local politicals in my area, including current and former council and parliament candidates. They all watch it weekly, and scrabble to get tickets to sit in the audience when it comes to our area, and I can't think of a single person whose political views have shifted as a result of the program. They just watch it to agree with their side making points and sneer at the opposition making theirs. The only real change I've noticed is that some of them over the years have gotten sick of the program.

Infamously in an attempt to boost ratings the show hosted Nick Griffin the then leader of the far right British National Party (BNP). The whole program was essentially just everyone on else on the panel taking pot shots at him and ridiculing and challenging his horrible views. The liberal types like to congratulate themselves on a thorough debunking and humiliation for the would be Fuhrer, but this is just hot air. The elections that took place after that Question Time episode the BNP enjoyed their best election results. In terms of vote share they came in fifth place out of the parties that stood throughout the UK.

So, I'll probably be ignoring this one assuming they do make it viewable online for free anyway. I'm sure many people will make supercuts of the best bits if I get curious.

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