WHAT IS POLITE DISCOURSE?

 

It is wise to direct your anger towards problems - not people; to focus your energies on answers - not excuses. [William Arthur Ward]

 

Polite is: showing regard [to have or show respect {courteous regard for people's feelings} or concern] for others in manners, speech, behavior, etc.; and discourse is: A formal, lengthy discussion [an exchange of views] of a subject, either written or spoken. Impoliteness tends to be conceived as an active disregard for others.

 

To show respect for others one should: stick to the subject of the discussion and focus on exploring viewpoints or solutions rather than upon personal attacks or hate speech leveled by adversaries against one another.

 

A rule of thumb is to disagree with someone's words or (in-)actions instead of being disagreeable with that person. Note the idea is not to stifle criticism or debate as one can have polite discourse and still challenge others' points of view, their record, their statements, their actions, their behavior, and their opinions.

 

Personal Attacks

 

Constructive debate needs to focus on solutions which are most likely to be successful, and not upon personal attacks leveled by adversaries against one another.

 

Personal is: of, pertaining to, or coming as from a particular person; and Attack is: to subject somebody to unfavorable criticism or attempting to bring an entity into disrepute by criticism or ridicule.

 

A personal attack is likely when one introduces personalized statements or images about an opponent. Such personal statements can include statements concerning ones character or personal qualities and circumstances; name-calling; personally directed conclusory allegations/opinions; and personalized smears/ridicule. A personal attack is committed when a person uses abusive remarks about his opponent. Such remarks can be direct or indirect - true or false. Such attacks are often rationalized as just being legitimate criticism or prefaced by “just my opinion.” One should ask whether there is any point to the personal attack other than to distract the opponent or change the subject. If the attack has no bearing on the evidence or adds nothing to the discussion it is extraneous. Putting the focus on the arguer or person being discussed can distract us from the issues that matter. Sarcasm can also accomplish this type of distraction, adding no value to the discussion. Thus sarcastic asides and snide comments should be kept to oneself. To be a personal attack the discussion must be focused on pointing out faults or shortcomings about a person rather than an issue. In other words the person themselves cannot be the issue unless we are dealing with testimony in support of a fact or assertion.

 

Some actually believe that a there can be no personal attack if they think what they say is true. However, personal attack need not be false but can be a fact, substantiated, or even an observation. A personal attack can use either true or false statements [including sounds or images] but it is still a personal attack. Others will argue a personal attack is appropriate in order to discredit the testimony of the opponent. This may be fine in a court of law to challenge eyewitness testimony but as part of polite discourse one should challenge the facts or claims presented that rather than focusing on the person who makes those claims and their past behavior.

 

Personalized statements can also be by reference - attacking or ridiculing, let’s say, the chairman or “person A” or “that loon” for their views.

 

The subject can be changed to focus on a person in a thread (be it directly or through an URL), by adding a new thread, or threatening to make such personal attacks elsewhere.

 

In a public discussion some members use the tactic of changing the discussion to be about the person presenting their views, sometimes by just making things up, specifically to avoid addressing an issue under discussion. Such diversionary tactics are usually employed where ones claims are shown to be incorrect or one finds the topic uncomfortable. An ad hominem is one in which the thrust is directed, not at an argument, but at some person who defends the conclusion in dispute. Ad Hominems are fallacious when an attack against some person is not directed to the merits of the argument that the person has put forward. The comment in the original AUG “Personal attacks on others will not be tolerated” was specifically written to help mitigate this specific tactic that tries to derail discussion by attempting or threatening to make the person advancing an argument the subject of the discussion. Note a clever variation of this approach is to keep claiming that the discussion of a topic one finds uncomfortable is a personal attack on them or another thus diverting addressing the subject of the discussion.

 

An Abusive Ad Hominem occurs when an attack on the character or other personal qualities of the opposition—such as appearance—is offered as evidence to ignore their position. Such attacks are often effective distractions ("red herrings"), because the opponent feels it necessary to defend herself, thus being distracted from the topic of the debate. A very common approach is to call someone dishonest, claim they have acted in a dishonest way or asking “does your nose grow longer.” An example includes “Why has this convicted felon been allowed to resume sullying the reputation of others on this forum?” Another common approach is to suggest someone may be exhibiting sexism, racism or smearing another.

 

A Circumstantial Ad Hominem is one in which some personal circumstance surrounding the opponent is offered as evidence to ignore the opponent's position. This fallacy is often introduced by phrases such as: "Of course, that's what you'd expect him to say"; “they have something to gain”; or “they are not a member”; or “they have not proved they exist”; or “they have no experience.”

 

Tu Quoque is a very common personal attack in which one attempts to defend oneself or another from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser. You did it too or did it first is the tell tale sign of this type of diversion. A key identifier of this attack is to show an item that is inconsistent with something else a person has said or what a person says is inconsistent with his/her actions. To poison the well is to commit a pre-emptive personal attack against an argumentative opponent. As with regular ad hominems, the well may be poisoned in either an abusive or circumstantial way.

 

Name-Calling: verbal abuse, especially as a substitute for reasoned argument in a dispute. Usually just a set of labels such as dumb, idiotic, illogical, dishonest, incompetent, liar, curmudgeon, criminal etc to distract us from the issue (see conclusory allegation). Very disrespectful to use about a person and adds little value or is rude when used about another’s statements or actions.

 

A Conclusory Allegation consists of or relates to a conclusion or assertion of fact for which no supporting evidence is offered. Note an opinion is a personal view -- the view somebody takes about a certain issue, especially when it is based solely on personal judgment.

 

Smear: attack the good name and reputation [the opinion which people in general have about a person etc, a person's abilities etc] of someone. A smear is a lot more than simple criticism. A smear is usually an unsubstantiated negative charge or accusation against a person or organization. Libel: A false and defamatory publication, as in writing, print, signs, or pictures that damages a person's reputation. Ridicule is to reduce or dismiss the importance or quality of somebody in a contemptuous way. 

 

Abusive: expressing offensive reproach 

Offensive: characterized by attack or name-calling: an attack or assault; to treat or speak to insolently or with contemptuous rudeness.

Rudeness: discourteous or impolite, esp. in a deliberate way; lacking civility or good manners including sarcasm and personal abuse

Reproach: to find fault with; blame; censure

Unfavorable criticism: disapproval expressed by pointing out faults or shortcomings

Defamation: false accusation of an offense or a malicious misrepresentation of someone's words or actions; an abusive attack on a person's character or good name  

 

 

Personal Ad Hominem attacks are rarely appropriate however (short of defamation) using an elected USCF official’s [or candidate’s] character or personal qualities as well as circumstances as the subject of a discussion may be sometimes permitted in an appropriate context as long as it is done in a very respectful manner. This is because we are governed by people - not just their platforms. We should explore: How relevant is an official’s or candidate’s character or action to his or her ability to perform in office? How pertinent is any person’s past or group affiliation to the claims that person makes or to that individual’s expertise in a specific domain? What competing interests exist that may potentially inhibit a person’s objectivity on behalf of the membership?

 

Making statements about a group to which someone belongs is not a personal attack if the statement is appropriate in the context of the debate. It does not matter that any group consists of a finite number of individuals, as a group is sufficiently diffuse to not have the statements pertain to a particular person. Also there can be certainly a difference between saying conservatives/liberals are contributing to the downfall of society (including why) and saying liberals/conservatives are a bunch of stupid idiots while not sharing the reasoning.

Personal attacks most often consist of ad hominems, personal abuse (name-calling), or sarcasm/ridicule. If you feel another member personally attacked you, it is important that you not respond to the attack in the topic. Report the post, and the situation will be addressed.

 

Logical Rudeness            Character Attacks: How to Properly Apply the Ad Hominem          Ad Hominem Arguments and Personal Attacks            The Meaning of Civility            What is a Personal Attack?

 

Hate Speech

 

Hate Speech Will Not Be Tolerated.  Hate Speech is bigoted attacking or disparaging of a social or ethnic group, or a member of such a group. It is hostility and aversion usually deriving from ignorance, fear, anger, or a sense of injury. It involves extreme dislike or antipathy. Hate speech is intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence, discrimination, or prejudicial action against people based on:

 

·                     race,

·                     ethnicity,

·                     national origin,

·                     religion,

·                     sexual orientation,

·                     gender,

·                     age,

·                     medical condition, or

·                     disability.

 

Hate speech includes degrading or otherwise prejudicial action or statements against others for the exercise of their constitutional right of association, including such things as religious affiliation, union membership, party affiliation, or participation in strikes, boycotts, or demonstrations. Hate speech can be either written or oral communication. Submissions that include hate speech or intend to encourage discrimination against people based upon any of the classifications above will not be tolerated. Ethnic slurs are included. Individuals who repeatedly submit messages that include hate speech will have their accounts closed.

 

If you believe a particular message on the site includes hate speech, please report the message.