Some reasons why arguing and “debating” politics in the US is generally futile:
1) Historical illiteracy: we have been deliberately taught propaganda and disinformation in place of most history in the classroom, and throughout our culture. The main reason that the capitalist ruling class has done this is to keep us compliant and loyal to the system that keeps them in power. Those of us doing the work to investigate the history we’ve been lied to about trying to argue with people who still believe the lies is a waste of everyone’s resources. In order to have a productive debate, all parties must be familiar with the subject matter. Otherwise the historically literate person argues rooted in material reality, while the other parrots establishment preserving talking points they’ve heard, often from #2:
2) Demagogues: many people in the US have been convinced that they are already doing the above simply by listening to a talking head telling them what’s true, and are unwilling to accept that they may have been tricked by someone with an ulterior motive to stirring up their understanding of injustices. Anyone unwilling to examine their beliefs for falsifiability is no different than a religious cult member doing the same. And I grew up in a religious cult that I escaped in 1996, so I speak from experience here.
3) Logical fallacies and critical thinking skills: Most people who have wanted to engage me in a debate are not aware of logical fallacies, and when they have these brought to their attention they either lean in to further logical fallacies or try to dismiss the fallacy as the work of “the other team.” We are deliberately not taught how to think critically and are instead conditioned to see things through an us vs. them, black & white, DESTROY your enemy lenses. While there are some things that are binary distinctions, the notion that things are mostly or always binary opposites has been used to create divisions among the working class. Many times the people who demand debates are not looking to resolve those contradictions through intellectual discourse; rather, they are looking to help reinforce those divisions and feed their own ego.
4) Unreliable Metric: Ultimately, two people debating one another is a measure of each person’s argumentation skills, and is not a reliable metric of the veracity of the subject matter being argued. It’s really more like a personal rivalry, such as in boxing. Some people are more skilled at debate, others aren’t, but their individual skill level doesn’t determine whether they’re presenting the subject matter correctly. Many are willing to deceive the audience in order to “win.” Besides, it’s often the case that the subject matter has already been debated by far more qualified people in the past, so why not go back and re-examine those debates? Ultimately a debate is not the determination of whether something aligns with material reality or not, though. What value does the debate produce, and is it worth your resources being invested in it?
5) Lazy Excuse For Continued Personal Ignorance: Debates also seem to be a work-shy way for the audience to justify making their choices based on debate outcomes, rather than actually doing the work to learn about the subject matter(s) being debated. Oftentimes people watch debates having already decided that their favorite participant is correct and victorious, regardless of the content of the debate. It allows people to feel like winners and view the people on the other side as losers, reinforcing their pre-existing biases. Because the focus is on the individual participants and their performance, most audience members will not be any further along to understanding what is correct and what isn’t, according to investigated material reality.
There are surely more reasons than this, but those are what’s on my mind tonight.
If we are actually interested in learning, we must be willing to do the work of reading, listening, and watching primary and secondary sources, while continuing to develop and use our critical thinking skills as we examine those.
We must also be willing to admit when we are wrong, or we don’t know something. We can’t learn if we aren’t willing to correct faulty ideas we currently hold.
There are several groups doing collective reading of historical and revolutionary texts. Some of these groups do so online. If you are interested, please leave a comment.