Assumptions control the debate

The best way to win an argument is to poison your opposition with assumptions.

After an assumption is introduced, all future discussion is limited by what that assumption suggests is the truth. Where you were debating the whole field, now you’re debating how to apply the assumption.

It is so in academia, media, social settings and politics with the assumption of human equality.

We assume that all people are equal, and therefore if someone is poor or criminal, a social institution or policy was at fault. Maybe they just didn’t have enough money and that did it.

By saying that, we insult every person who has fallen on hard times and not let their lives fall apart or turned to criminality.

Even more, however, is that we permanently pare down the argument. We prune it to being a discussion of the equality of people and its violation, not the possible causes for behavior.

It’s a sneaky way of controlling minds without any tinfoil-hat style technologies. When you have a public voice, use it to insist on some assumptions which will then control all debates afterward.

Unsurprisingly this has a calcifying effect on political discussion. The two sides are literally talking about different things; one side is discussing the assumption while the other side hasn’t figured out the assumption yet. That lets them be mocked for not knowing the insider knowledge.

Instead of facing this problem, politicians try to change other others’ assumptions with memetic jihads that do little except obscure the issue.

This pushes the two sides closer to open combat, without either one having understood the other. Even as they think they win, the frustration of a controlled debate makes a violent collision certain.

18 Comments

  1. crow says:

    Assumptions are dangerous, nasty little things.
    They lurk in corners and leap out at innocence.
    People encourage and nurture them, without realizing they do.
    An unwitting production line of mindless manufacturers.

    Truth can be evasive, so why bother with it?
    Assumptions are as easy to come by as opinions.
    And once made, become monsters, savage and hungry, that rise up and walk, devouring everything in their path.

  2. Missy says:

    Criminality runs in families. It is genetic, not taught. I knew a family, of which 3 generations were petty thieves while still “earning” a living at various jobs and small farming. They stole things just because they could, not because they desperately needed the items or had no mental capacity to work. When they saw something they wanted, well, just turn your back and it was gone. In school, in public, neighbors’ property, stores, anywhere. They were “nice” and pleasant people in other ways.

    1. crow says:

      I am reminded of a saying that was current in the UK in the 50s and 60s in response to where something came from:
      “It fell off the back of a lorry”.
      This was a disarmingly witty and harmless admission of theft.
      I imagine many children heard this from their parents, and concluded that theft was a normal activity.

      1. Missy says:

        After years and years of believing that theft is normal, due to the kind of influence you refer to, most petty thieves likely can’t stop themselves. Other than a religious conversion, I can’t imagine what would do the trick. Jail, fines and forced restitution don’t change the mind or heart. I think what’s at work here is an inborn personality type that says, “If I want something, I deserve to have it, and I’m going to take it.”

        I came from a superhonest, upright family. The mere idea of taking what wasn’t mine lay outside my frame of reference. Yet when I left home to work, I met a chronic female thief, age 17, and we hung around a bit. I thought it was cool when she showed me how easy it is to steal (no CC cameras in those days!) I stole 2 or 3 cheap things but came to hate myself for it, and stopped. Now, it turns out that this girl came from a family renowned far & wide in these parts for…theft. How about that.

        1. crow says:

          What you refer to as a religious conversion, would, indeed, do the trick. And about the only thing that could. Although it might not be religious as much as a momentary flash of clarity. A glimpse of the larger reality, in which dishonesty simply does not serve the dishonest one, no matter how much it might appear to.
          It was like that with me, and you could certainly call it religious, although not in the normally accepted sense of Christian-style.
          I have never been dishonest again, in any sense.
          I can tell you: it makes a difference as profound as any difference can ever be.

          1. Missy says:

            Oh, I know. I sometimes watch some sincere-type, relatively unsophisticated religious programmes on tee vee. Especially the ones run by aboriginals whose lives were all about drugs, drink and crime. Their stories of conversion are deeply affecting.

  3. My mom always said when you assume it makes an ass of u and me; too bad she assumed she practised what she preached

    1. crow says:

      Almost nobody practises what they preach.
      That’s the nature of preaching.
      Best not to do it, unless it is your calling.

      1. I practise what I preach, but then again I’m the 1% the rabble keep banging on about

  4. NotTheDude says:

    Petty theft is a slippery slope. In my rural sub culture petty thieves are loathed, yet many o’ we have on rare occasion handled stolen goods offered to us I must admit. I have always felt uneasy about this. Assumptions including any about it being ok to be involved misdeeds can snag you. Assumptions have made debate almost pointless and a chore in modern society.

    1. crow says:

      Did ye mean tae sae: “many o’ we hae, on rare occasion handled stolen goods handed tae us, ah must admit…”?
      Are ye Scots, then? My guess, either that, or Belfast :)

      1. NotTheDude says:

        I am from the West Country, lookzee though I thought ‘ee wooden o’ underztood oi’. Then again they’m both quoit zimmler you! haha

        1. crow says:

          Sorry old bean, didn’t quite catch that, what :)
          Then agin, oi spunt loike sevrel yaars oop in Naarfolk, rown Cromer way, loike, an’ so oi sorta ‘ear wot youz sayin’…

          It’s a wonder anybody could ever understand anybody else in England, even without the modern West Indian/Pakistani influence.

          1. Lisa Colorado says:

            Oh pleaze. My grampa was from New Joisey and you could assume you better not ask questions about where he got cigarettes, cash, and sometimes furniture. Stuff fell off of trucks.

          2. NotTheDude says:

            HaHa It is easier to understand when you hear it. Barely spoken anymore. That was me humouring the speech. We’m all bilingual! Quite a lot of Old English words used. Anyway I’m talking rubbish now.

            1. Lisa Colorado says:

              I love that Old English. You’m funny. Thee mun not say sorry.

              1. crow says:

                If Olde Englifhe if what you wifh, here if fome more for you. There waf a time when all the ‘Ff’ were replaced with ‘Ff’…
                It makef for ftrange reading :)

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