A Lesson in Argumentation

Politics is a serious matter where serious problems and cases are disputed and solved. Politics are about creating a society where we all can live, and hopefully thrive. When every politician is able to master his or her role, it leads the society on a road to positive development, which benefits us all.

However, there are times (understatement) when the disputes de-rail. The politicians, who are burning for their cases, are unable to control themselves, and fight with, what I would say, irrelevant attacks at each other. Because politics is not only about building society. It is about power, influence and collecting votes. When you consider the stakes, there is no wonder, someone, sometimes, use drastic means to spread their opinions in the fight to gain votes.

This is very obvious in Western politics. We can easily see that one of the most common tactics is undermining the opponent, rather then forwarding arguments beneficial to the relevant case. Sometimes it is more important who carries the case, rather then what the case is about. You can sometimes see elected politicians vote against cases they are pro, just because it was an opponent that was putting the proposal forward.

When the political environment is behaving at this level, the people are better off turning their backs to the politicians. Hide your tax money, and take care of your own. Do not give them legitimacy by giving them votes. They are not worth it.

When you look at the political environment it is easy to see these kind of conflicts leading to an enormous polarization. The politicians are creating devastating hostile images about each other. And their argumentation is only designed to widen the gap. Anyone making a public statement, automatically becomes the enemy of one side, and is pushed to the other side. Rather then arguing about the important cases, looking for solutions, they charge at each other, driving each other further towards the edges. It usually ends in a war between the left and the right wing.

I’d like to show an example, that probably all Norwegians are up to date on. It was when our previous Justice Minister, Sylvi Listhaug, failed at getting trough a proposal that would give the administration power to strip Norwegian foreign fighters off their nationality, without a decision by the Court. The proposal was stopped by the Labor Party. She retaliated by posting this cute little picture on Facebook:

Cute picture by Sylvi Listhaug. Copyright infraction.
Translated: According to the Labor Party, terrorist’s rights are more important then the Nation’s security. Like and Share.

It was not very nice and adorable by her, but she did it anyways.

Of course the Labor Party had to reply to this. The answer was a massive campaign, connecting the picture to the 2011 Norway attacks. Then claiming that she was supporting the ideas of the offender. This was not very nice and adorable either, but they did it anyways.

This led to an escalating war between the two parties. It ended by Sylvi Listhaug having to resign from her position as Justice Minister to save the government. The people that wanted serious argumentation did not get heard. The only thing crawling out of the scandal was a number wounded and resentful people, and a noticeable amount of voters moving from left to right.

The question is, what could the politicians have done in order to avoid the scandal? On behalf of Sylvi Listhaug, it is an easy answer the question. She could have just not posted a picture which was provoking to such a degree. It is a utter lie that the Labor Party values terrorist’s rights higher then the nation’s security. But, she have had similar posts in the past, and they have earned her a lot of votes. It is understandable that a young woman wishes to be popular, but she should have tried to use some more relevant arguments. That is all there is to say, really, she went too far. We can only hope she, and other’s learned a lesson from it.

Anyways, it got posted. The question then is, what could the Labor Party have done differently? The post was nasty and not true, and had to be responded to. It is not OK for the Justice Minister to attack an opposing party in this way.

The first thing they could have done differently was to save themselves from the campaign to connect the post of the Justice Minister to the 2011 Norway attacks. It was nasty and not true, just like the Justice Minister’s post. But, then, how could they attack such an outrageous post, if not with an aggressive blackening campaign? This is where the secret is buried. This is what is so hard to understand:

You deny it! You say it is rude, and not true.

Once that is done, you can explain the case. Explain why you are against the proposal. Preferably by simple and relevant arguments. Then everyone can see that the Labor Party in deed do value the nation’s security above terrorist’s rights. If they did, the entire country would have seen that the Labor Party are a responsible and trustworthy party. And they would have lowered the conflict down to an objective level. That would probably have prevented the loss of voters to the other side.

If the Labor Party had solved the problem this way, the entire case may have played out a bit more like this:

Listhaug: According to the Labor Party, terrorist’s rights are more important then the Nation’s security.

Labor Party: That is rude and untrue. We are against your proposal because a Court decision is an important element in a rechtsstaat, and the nation’s security can be covered by other means, such as custody.

Listhaug: Custody is not sufficient. These cases sometimes won’t be solved for years. And it is not OK that they can live on social security money payed by the state during that time.

Labot Party: We are willing to introduce an emergency institute where these cases can be processed by the Court at a high speed. The social security payouts may also be suspended for the duration of the case.

Listhaug: OK, but there are some additional problems.

Labor Party: Let us talk about them.

Then, after a while, with discussion using relevant and constructive arguments, they may have found a solution the entire country could live with (that is what we pay them for). In worst case, the people would have gained knowledge about why the two parties have different opinions. That again, would have led to enabling them to make an enlightened decision about who to vote for in the next election. That would have been constructive politics, that would have benefited the society. It would have grown trust between the parties. It would have grown trust between the politicians and the people.

But, if they are unable to run responsible and constructive politics, they are a burden to the society. I do not want politicians that are stimulating conflict. I hope everyone else also will understand this, and turn their backs to these kinds of politicians. They may return when they have something relevant to say. But till that day, they are not worth the time and the money.

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