The enemy is never a villain -- or a psychopath -- in his own eyes


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Oleg Volk
October 14, 2006, 12:57 AM
I recommend reading Psychoanalysis as a Weapon (http://mises.org/story/2330) by Murray N. Rothbard. It would give us some food for thought on our ways of dealing with antis. You need not change your views of them, but do consider changing the way you communicate to them.

My own comments on the same topic from about three years ago:

Winning hearts and minds: effective debating techniques

Sometimes, we get a chance to talk to people opposed to gun ownership. Debates turn into angry arguments and, more often than not, the two sides part failing to convince the other. Yet, from the advertising point of view, debates with individuals or small groups are ideal for transmitting ideas, changing hearts and minds. What can we do to succeed?

We can begin to succeed by not insulting the opposition. Can you imagine a Coke commercial which would call Pepsi drinkers degenerates and try to shame them into giving up their loathsome vice? It would hardly be the vehicle for conversion of the target market. Yet people on our side often say: "I really gave that damn anti a piece of my mind!" and then wonder why the other party failed to reform.

Personal contact with other people gives us certain opportunities denied to mass marketers and media. The foremost advantage is the ability to find out exactly what the other person thinks. Instead of launching into a rant, why not begin by asking questions? Most people are very fond of telling their views to others, especially if the questions are open-ended and non-adversarial. "What do you thing about..." or "How would..." are good basis for such inquiries. Formulating the answers to such questions also allows the other person some soul-searching in the privacy of their own mind. Showing a genuine interest in the foundations of someone's views provides us with a good understanding of his thought process and background. It also puts that person in charge of the conversation and emotionally comfortable.

The answers provided would give you a good idea of the others' views. When facing a staunch and active opponent, debating to impress the onlookers would be a more realistic option than trying to convert a person set in his beliefs. Conversely, if facing a fence-sitter, you should help that person arrive to his own conclusions by supplying facts and posing logical questions. The first step to succeeding in a task is knowing the goal, be it persuasion of the other debater, impressing the audience, or convincing an opponent to cease a particular activity without necessarily endorsing your views.

For your efforts to yield positive effects, you must conduct yourself in a polite, cordial and civil manner. Scaring or annoying the audience into quitting is a loss of an opportunity. Because we and "them" do not always speak the same language, avoid hyperbole in your explanations. The listeners may take an exaggeration for effect quite literally. Likewise, avoid slang or argot terms, such as "perp" or "goblin". Those may sound fine to us, but would emphasize the divide between you and your audience. Speak their kind of language instead.

When it comes to marketing methods, several standard approaches can work. One of the simplest and most effective is authority endorsement or reference. Keep in mind that the definition of authority has little to do with competence on a specific subject. Although an obvious and respected figure for us, John M. Browning would not be known or well-received by people who are not firearms enthusiasts. Conversely, Dalai Lama or the Pope or some popular entertainer may know little of the topic but be influential by the virtues of other credentials.

Another approach centers around benefits to the person with who you are debating the issue, or to his immediate family or friends. Illustrate relevant points, using simple analogies, such as the comparison of seat belts, fire extinguishers, firearms and other emergency management tools. Demonstrate how long it takes to dial a cell phone compared to drawing a sidearm. For the demonstration, a cell phone would make a fine stand-in for a pistol.

Since emotion, rather than logic, drives many decisions, appeal to that. Prompt an ethical stand on such topics as equal treatment before the law, right to personal safety from harm and coercion, the evils of collective responsibility and prior restraint. Point out the lack of logic in the laws. A typical logical chain can go like this: "Do you think that off-duty or retired police officers should be able to carry side arms for self-defense?" If they reply in the negative, that off-duty carry does not serve the interest of the state, then you know that the respondent cannot be converted and endeavor to impress the bystanders instead. If the answer is "yes", then ask if it is the training, rather than the badge, that makes a person eligible to carry a weapon. Then suggest that similarly trained people who are not cops ought to be able to protect themselves also. Tailor the specific question and answer sequence to the situation at hand.

The main advantage of the Socratic method is that it allows a polite, non-confrontational debate with people who agree only on the most basic of concepts. Do not press the others to admit to being influenced by you or to changing their minds. The process is usually gradual, and tends to come as a part of a greater philosophical re-alignment towards greater respect for individual freedom. In my case, the evolution from an ignorant person with neutral to negative views towards gun ownership to an educated positive view took about six years. The change came from the combination of conversations with friends, reading books and personal experience. We can help others learn at their own pace.

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Mulliga
October 14, 2006, 01:42 AM
Great post Oleg. :)

I was talking to a friend of mine who is a fence-sitter. When it came up that I had a CWP, we had a nice chat about concealed carry. He seemed to approve of guns for self-defense in the home but didn't see the need for carrying them.

I pointed out that you could be attacked anywhere, not just your home. He contradicted himself a lot (good old cognitive dissonance). Apparently a cousin of his was shot and killed in a barroom brawl, so I'm guessing a lot of it stems from negative emotions.

Sometimes I think people (myself included) feel the need to "win" an argument immediately, in one fell swoop. Rationally, of course, we all know that rarely happens, so it's really a slow process like you mentioned.

Sylvan-Forge
October 14, 2006, 02:28 AM
...help that person arrive to his own conclusions...
I find this to be most helpful.

As well as reminding myself of the saying:
'You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.'

El Tejon
October 14, 2006, 10:30 AM
Outstanding! We more need of this.:)

beaucoup ammo
October 14, 2006, 10:46 AM
Since being T-Boned by a drunk driver over 30 years ago, you'll find me using a cane, crutches or power scooter depending on the level of pain that day.

This affords me a degree of immunity from "Antis" as everyone understands the "disabled" are prime tagets for scum bags, lacking the ability to fight or run. Concealed carry is seen as the "equalizer" it truely is so far as the "handicapped" community is concerned. I use this "edge" to further the argument that everyone has the right to carry.

Even the most zealous "Anti" understands the value of Concealed Carry for a disabled person. It's been my experience anyway. Once they accept MY reason for Concealed Carry, I have a relatively smooth opening for " supplying facts and posing logical questions."

Oleg is correct. Deal with them factually and calmly. Once you lose control of your emotions, you lose any chance of making points much less converting.

jfh
October 14, 2006, 11:44 AM
ought to be reposted as a sticky, Oleg--in all forums, and with an appropriate header.

Thank you for putting it up again.

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