Mapping ‘whataboutery’

For as long as I’ve been reading Slugger, it’s been fairly rare for it to carry a post without someone using the comment threads to reawaken some historical grievance or other. Mick (or someone?) calls it ‘whataboutery.’

There is as good an example as any three comments in, on Pete’s post earlier about P&J.

According to the logic offered by ‘Marty McG’ there, no-one who is currently a member of Sinn Féin can ever be involved in any discussions about violence towards women because of the fate that Jean McConville suffered.

The thing is that – for the purpose of this post – it’s not an entirely invalid argument. But it’s not original either. It’s not intended to move a discussion on, to persuade people who are going to be a factor in the debate. It’s the equivalent of having someone bounding into a room screaming MURDERER! MURDERERS!!

No-one would put up with it offline. They would just find somewhere that they could talk without being interrupted.


It doesn’t acknowledge any of the material facts that a schoolchild would include in explaining Northern Ireland’s current political settlement. You just know that, if someone else has the energy, they will be able to come up with an accusation of some equivalent brutality or an external ‘root cause’ behind IRA violence. If you’ve ever been here before, you can already imagine the sequence such a argument can take.

The more likely possibility is that it just becomes a conversation stopper. And what can we do about this?

Well, for one thing, if we could have a shorthand that would show where Mrs McConville – or any other victim or perpetrator from Ireland’s history – can fit in, then at least the whataboutery can be diverted off somewhere else. So here’s a suggestion: Next time you’re on this site and you feel the need to apportion blame entirely to one factor in Northern Ireland’s society, have a look at this debategraph image and contribute to it. If you think that one of its nodes is invalid, say so. Others can say why it is. Give examples – turn it into a huge galaxy of reasons why everything else is someone elses fault. I’ve only made a start and I’m sure there is someone who was totally responsible for everything that I’ve forgotten to blame, so please feel free to add them.

And Debategraph isn’t the only tool that can be used for that either. You could find a few dozen people who agree with you that one section of society is entirely responsible for everything bad that has happened in Northern Ireland (a quick trawl through the comments threads here should do it) and you could use ‘Mixed Ink’ to convene and agreed statement of why you and your allies are the exclusive bearers of The Truth in these matters. There is no reason why a document couldn’t be convened for each of those nodes. Or it could be a suitable project to trial Google Wave with?

So there you go folks. Log in to Debategraph and get your side of the story out there.

  • Marty McG

    You’re dead right Paul Evans….Sinn Fein/IRA have not right to talk about domestic violence whilst not apologising for what they did to people like Jean McConville. Sinn Fein / IRA are pariahs and shouldn’t have the opportunity to speak about such things….many of those who are in Stormont, including McGuinness, should be in jail rather than enjoying the British largesse they currently enjoy.
    Sinn Fein are the scum of the earth and should be treated as such.

    As for you….I wonder are you the Paul Evans of BBC fame? If so perhaps you’ll recall you’re old home area where 3 bombs killed 9 people on 31st July 1972 rather than criticising my disgust for the murderers of Sinn Fein / IRA.

  • JR

    Protestants have no right to talk about domestic violence because Henry the 8th beheaded his wife so there.

    Stick it on the graph Marty.

  • I am indeed no relation to the Paul Evans that you’re thinking of, and I don’t believe that there is any way that you can personally implicate me in any IRA murders. I wonder if you know any other line of argument or have you totally shot your bolt Marty?

  • Different Drummer

    Well Paul

    The so called problem of ‘whatboutery’ is a liberal approach and it is deliberately self defeating.

    Why?

    Because it assumes everything to the left and to the right of
    liberalism and it’s own position in society can be rhetorically (politically) cancelled by holding up a mirror to the ‘extremist’ and asking them to notice that they have similar (and thus irrelevant) characteristics to their opponents.

    But Norn Iron is NOT a liberal democracy therefore this act of modeling in itself must be questioned.

  • Breeco

    Yea let’s all forget the past. Just because someone (and that’s anyone) murdered in the past there’s no need to call into question their present day moral standpoint.

    No need to worry about them not saying sorry or even reflecting on their personal history and how it may affect others. An expression of a little bit of ‘heartfelt’ “regret” when pushed should be more than enough.

    Let’s burn all the criminal records, scrub the Sex Offenders’ Register, let the pedophiles become teachers.

    Bin the ‘whataboutery’. What is it they say, ‘Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life’.

  • Not suggesting anything of the sort. Just pointing out that – if you introduce every argument with an historical accusation, it’s a game that your opponents will play and it won’t get you anywhere.

    Different Drummer – I have no idea what you mean. Northern Ireland IS a liberal democracy of sorts. Not a perfect one, but one in which people with polarised views can and do have constructive conversations.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Paul Evans: “Not suggesting anything of the sort. Just pointing out that – if you introduce every argument with an historical accusation, it’s a game that your opponents will play and it won’t get you anywhere.”

    Sure, but the rub is that all sides arguments are, to one degree or another, rooted in the injustices and their poor historical fortunes. There are few, if any, folks with clean hands. Most sides use the same rhetorical devices — that some (usu. their) history is important, whilst some history (usu. the other guy’s) history is less so.

    Add to that that some of the players, based on their personal histories, lack the moral authority to use the bully-pulpits of their offices and you have a recipe for stale-mate.

  • Sean

    Marty McG
    so the oo has no right to complain about political violence because of Drumcree? The UUP has no right to complain about political violence because of Berntollet? The DUP has no right to complain about guns and politics because of the third force?

    Just some what aboutery for you

    PS Paul no need to thank me for providing the perfect example of what you are talking about

  • Different Drummer

    Paul Evans Writes:

    ” Just pointing out that – if you introduce every argument with an historical accusation, it’s a game that your opponents will play and it won’t get you anywhere.”

    Yes mmmmmmm that’s right no moral point of view can be ‘proved’ in rhetoric.

    If that’s the only point you would like to make here and now then it is game over for YOU because it is a politically useless observation in a class society and I might add on a site devoted to (cultural) Politics and NOT rhetoric.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Let me thank you Sean. It would be good if you could try to follow your own advice. You play by the rules here, and you’ll find your posts stay up.

    Slugger’s glossary entry is one of a couple of Google toppers we have: http://www.sluggerotoole.com/archives/2005/02/glossary_what_i.php

    I don’t think there is a moral imperative (nor even a political one) to recognised the beggar thy neighbour characteristics of this popular ‘strategy’. As I’ve noted previously:

    …the BBC quoted Cardinal Cahal Daly as having described Whataboutery as “the commonest form of moral evasion in Ireland today”, referring to how both communities use the terrible burden of past events to lay obstacles in the way of peace.

    It’s a form of self entrapment, in that you remain so focused on ‘taking out’ the opposition you barely have time to get your own arguments manufactured and/or developed, never mind ‘off the ground’.

    I’d be very interested in seeing some of the more open policy based conversations mapped and for us compare the patterns between the two.

  • RepublicanStones

    Christ in Allah’s shoes….talk about self-fulfilling. How about (notice the absence of ‘what’) we just blame God….if he exists*

    *I here subscribe to the Liam Gallagher method of belief.

  • Reader

    Paul Evans: Mick (or someone?) calls it ‘whataboutery.’
    Next week – ‘yesbutery’

  • Different Drummer

    Back On Topic…

    Kind Admin Writes:

    On the above model of social interaction..

    It’s a form of self entrapment, in that you remain so focused on ‘taking out’ the opposition you barely have time to get your own arguments manufactured and/or developed, never mind ‘off the ground’.

    For what it produces as I have said countless times is:

    An Equality of Misery

    It’s like The Two Nations theory of Conor Cruse O’Brien and the Stalinists:

    “Northern Ireland is a place of two competing nationalism’s and nationalities each being valid”

    Therefore they are only two ‘competing points of view/aspirations/identities’…
    – There is no politically oppressed nationality/ dominant nationality….

    Which side steps the question of who is **actually** politically dominant…

  • Sean

    LOL Mick I only posted that to prove Paul’s point.

  • Different Drummer

    …Sean it ‘proves’ nothing

    Mick Kind Admin indicated that debates on the quality of debate should attempt deeper meanings and not just politically useless observations.

  • Turgon

    Although I have a great deal of time for Mick I must disagree with the central premise that “taking out the opposition” is a bad thing.

    I am proud to attack and catch out certain individuals of both loyalist and republican persuasion over their support for murderers. I will continue to do so until I am removed from this site.

    It does matter to many people here that certain politicians were involved in heinous acts and nothing they can do subsequently will absolve them of their crimes especially if they actually glory in their crimes. Their previous acts speak more powerfully than any words they might ever thereafter say. I am proud to point this out and proud to slam their cheerleaders on this site.

    Yes it may close down debate but maybe they in their anger and frustration just might begin to see that many in the unionist and also nationalist community will never accept the murderers or their fellow travellers as if the murders had not happened.

    It may be whataboutery but I am afraid there are a lot of people who think it should be repeatedly raised.

  • anne warren

    Turgon wrote “many in the unionist and also nationalist community will never accept the murderers or their fellow travellers as if the murders had not happened”.

    ” I am afraid there are a lot of people who think it should be repeatedly raised”.

    I can see where Turgon’s coming from but unless this mindset is abandoned, particularly the last sentence, (community counselling?) no progress can or will be made.

    Unless we all decide to shoulder some of the blame, regret the dead (on all sides, surely?), show compassion to the survivors (haven’t we all suffered?)and embrace a full human rights agenda for all, none of us is going to make it as a fully paid up citizen of 21st century Europe.

    I had a look at the blame apportioning debategraph game. Is there any box for ALL? Couldn’t find one or couldn’t make it work!!

  • Turgon

    anne warren,
    What blame? I bear no responsibility for the murders here seeing as I never murdered nor celebrated, nor wanted the murder of anyone. Now if you killed someone or colluded in someone’s death and feel guilty about it you should go to the police and confess. If you supported murder you should hang your head in shame. However, if you did none of the above (and I suspect that is the case) then stop wallowing in the self righteousness of self appointed guilt.

    As to regret the dead: I have repeatedly said that I regret all the deaths. I honestly wish none had died. However, I will not condemn the off duty UDR man who killed an IRA terrorist who attacked him and was trying to murder him.

    The terrorist who died whilst committing his crimes is a very different moral proposition to Marie Wilson or Kathryn Eakin. For anyone to fail to see that suggests a deliberate and wilful moral blindness which is reprehensible and should be repeatedly pointed out. In my view to pretend no distinction between Marie Wilson and the likes of Thomas Beagley is actually itself gravely morally wrong.

  • Different Drummer

    And as I said to use other peoples deaths as a moral lever to build your own ultra reactionary party is not defensible either..

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Turgon, if you did not protest against this sectarian carve up then one can presume you supported it and it’s gangs of statelet sponsored murderers and it’s integral discrimination. So whose hands are clean?

  • RepublicanStones

    I will not condemn the off duty UDR man who killed an IRA terrorist who attacked him and was trying to murder him.

    Ahh but Turgon, WHATABOUT the UDR? Not exactly a nice bunch of boyos themselves, particularly if you came from the nationalist community. You see Turgon, herein lies your problem, no condemnation of British crown forces murders and collusion in such. The ‘few bad apples’ excuse is laid bare by even the most cursory of glances at British military history. The same military which has always enjoyed unqualified support with the likes of our Turgs.

    I now invite the Pointus Pilate routine.

  • Turgon

    RS,
    I have repeatedly condemned collusion which I am sure did occur. I would like to see the colluders of the British and Irish state investigated, prosecuted and gaoled for their crimes as well.

    I do not give the military unqualified support. However, they were colossally better than any of the murder gangs.

    As to opposing the “sectarian carve up” to what are you alluding? I agree the current system is a sectarian carve up but you may have noticed in my three plus years here on slugger I am an opponent of the current dispensation. If you mean the 1920s settlement well I was born in 1971.

  • RepublicanStones

    However, they were colossally better than any of the murder gangs.

    Turgon, murder was army policy, they WERE a murder gang. Colossally better at convincing others they weren’t. When will you admit that to nationalists there was little difference between those in uniform and the Yabba Dabba Do crowd.

    (As an aside, the lure of this ‘whataboutery’ is akin to that of a child being told not to press that big red button….sometimes you can’t help yourself.)

  • Turgon

    RS,
    Had the army been a murder gang like the assorted actual murder gangs there would have been an overwhelmingly larger number of deaths. Who knows the violence might have ended sooner but I am glad that in actual fact the army was vastly different from the yabba dabba doo types of both sides..

  • RepublicanStones

    Turgon how many murders does a group have to commit before they earn the epihet ‘murder gang’?

    Your defence of a group with an indefensible history is endearing.

    And yes Turgon, the way to stop violence is with more violence. After all sons do not grow up to hate the murderers of their fathers and brothers.

  • Different Drummer

    Dr T

    Do you think there will less violence against minorities if the TUV replace the DUP as *the* Unionist Party .

  • Turgon

    Different Drummer,
    I am unclear why I have gained a doctorate. I am sure it is unearned.

    I do not think the TUV replacing the DUP will much affect violence against minorities. I am opposed to such violence and condemn it. In actual fact I think you will struggle to find me condoning violence towards any minority or for that matter find an example of me issuing a blanket condemnation of any minority group.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Turgon, what age were you when Jesus was nailed to the cross by the Roman Army (of occupation)? For a fella only born in 1971 you seem to take it pretty up close and personal, like. I do, indeed, refer to the ‘settlement’ of the 1920s when the colonial fascists, backed by the British fascists in Britain, promised all sorts of murder and mayhem if anyone dared to stop them from enclosing nationalists in their sectarian carve up. We did not want to be part of this statelet. We will not be loyal – ever. And youse left 80,000 of your fellow travellers to the tender mercies of the southern catholic cannibals. As well as that, the members of the Boundary Commission took an oath of secrecy regarding all deliberations.Guess who leaked all back to the fascist leader?

  • joeCanuck

    The taking of another person’s life without just cause is murder.
    There were an awful lot of murders in the past 40 years in N.I.
    And in case anyone asks me to define “just cause”, I can only paraphrase what a certain judge said about pornography, I know murder when I see it.

  • Different Drummer

    Dr T Dr or No

    Well defender of the current disaster that is our hospitals that’s for sure! Remember that exchange where you maintained that centralization of the hospital system was the best and the safer way forward?

    So in the last analysis its about YOUR policy NOT how you would characterize reality.

    The dramatic increase in violence against minorities and hate crimes occurred when your former party was in power and Jim-Ulster-Alsiter was still in the DUP.

    When they increased their influence on Lisburn council they began a hate campaign against the gay community. Now those in the professional Equality industry say that the DUP is still responsible for Equality. Jim Alister has a different take on that he says that the DUP had promised to stop funding to gay groups but they failed to stop the funding.

    So his policy is to stop the funds… if that isn’t discriminatory and return to the status quo anti then I don’t know what is.

    You said on the occasion that you wanted to redefine the meaning of what a ‘fundamentalist’ is – there is no question that the TUV will do that and it won’t be for the minorities gain or benefit.

  • Turgon

    Different Drummer,
    It is difficult to know where to begin in those ramblings.

    Yes, I have previously advocated a more centralised set of hospitals. The current problems may in part stem from having so many tiny hospitals. I think I advocated changing away from as you put it “the current disaster that is our hospitals.” I believe a hospital consultant advocated exactly the same on Spotlight a few weeks ago and just maybe he knew what he was talking about? He actually is a doctor I suspect.

    As to the rise in hate crimes. Well I condemn it but I was never in the DUP. Maybe try relying on what I say and do rather what you wish I said or did.

    I am unclear why trying to save money on funding assorted minority groups equates with supporting violence against them.

    Now as I said: find me an example of me supporting violence against a minority group. Alternatively I would be a little careful if I were you regarding the laws of libel.

  • Mick Fealty

    You guys are missing the story in the debategraph. There is ample opportunity in their to demonstrate ‘whataboutery’ in the actual graph itself.

    The only one of those primary statements that is underpinned with evidence is the fact that the first murder of the troubles was committed by Loyalists. THEREFORE Loyalist paramilitaries must have started the Troubles

    Are you going to let him get away with that?

  • barnshee

    I blame Dermot the poof –asking in that bastard Strongbow -(no not the cider)- start of the whole thing –one thing after another after that

  • Different Drummer

    Mick if you are interested in running a thread on The Origins of The Troubles please do so.

    And don’t rely on ‘tamagotchi’ approach to politics – where the ‘whatabourtry’ is all about keeping the device- the debataograph alive and not people under thread of a deeply reactionary future.

    So I will say now that a TUV victory WILL mean more violence against minorities and not less as it did when reaction triumphed under the DUP (as I said Mr T it is not about **you** but the implications of your polices and no court can gain say that).

    In wanting the debate to conform to to the whataboutery model says a lot about Mick and the political direction of this site – its time Mick stopped playing with the device and declared your interest.

  • Only Asking

    Alternatively I would be a little careful if I were you regarding the laws of libel.

    You’d have to come out into the open for that.

    I agree with DD, but don’t think the actual debate is necessary. The TUV won’t get far, I doubt they’ll ever get an elected MP/MLA.

  • RepublicanStones

    Are you going to let him get away with that?

    Mick, to be honest I thought you were above that. Your now at the level of the schoolboy shouting “Aggie Agggie Aggie Fight Fight Fight”

  • Different Drummer

    Just Because Jim-Ulster-Alister and the TUV is absurd doesn’t mean they won’t have a very significant political effect on our polity.

    In any case Only asking your are behind on the latest analysis on the progress of the TUV vote done by the Unionist Party – who analyzed the returns for North Antrim in the Euro election – Jim-Ulster-Alister beat the DUP in their own back yard.

  • Sean

    LOL Pan Nationalist Front?!!! the desperation in unionism to deflect blame is on full display

    PS Mick as much as tou bitch and moan about my posts they are more honest if more direct than most of your prefered posters. You just do not like that i crawl under you facade and nestle in

  • I’m a nationalist and have found Turgon to be unwavering in his condemnation of terrorists from both sides. I applaud this.

    I fully understand that people want to move on from the past but I do agree with Turgon that the past actions of terrorists currently walking the streets or in politics should never be glossed over or forgotten for political expediency. Young people need to be reminded that the peace that exists today came at a terrible price and was delivered by some who have very bloody hands. It can open ugly wounds to bring it up but it would be an insult to the victims to ignore the price they paid.

    It’s tragic that the road to political power for some in NI was paved with the bodies of the dead but that’s the reality. Acknowledging this need not stop political progress but does require strong stomachs for some.

    It’s essential that this and future generations know that never again will terrorism be rewarded. That is the very least we owe the victims.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sean,

    To frank they *mostly* playing the man, and therefore useless. Challenge it in the graph, not here.

  • Mick / Sean,

    this is one of the rare occasions that getting people to play the man is a good thing. I would have added ‘Pan Nationalism’ myself if I’d thought of it.

    The point is to use it to flesh out the arguments for and each contention and how they are inter-related.

    It would almost be worth making this a series where we put up a post asking how strong each contention is and mining the archives here for the best arguments in favour and against each one in a systematic way.

  • Fascinating to hear a senior Catholic churchman refer to whataboutery as “the commonest form of moral evasion in Ireland today”.

  • Bored of all this

    I wrote the following as the conclusion to an undergraduate essay, several years ago.

    The complex issue of where the blame lies for the conflict is impossible to answer. Each of the actors is part of a mutually reinforcing environment where no one actor is individually responsible but each contributes in a way which affects the others. The British government’s colonial legacy, partition of Ireland and use of British troops to reinforce that partition alienated the Catholic population of Northern Ireland; The Unionist government of Northern Ireland was complicit in discrimination against the Catholic minority which amplified their complaints; Republican rhetoric and large civil protests made the unionist population feel threatened; and violence perpetrated by some in the unionist community reinforced the Catholic community’s feelings of oppression. Depending on one’s own personal opinions a justification could be found for assigning blame for the conflict on any actor, yet overall no single group is completely liable. Attributing responsibility to one group serves no useful purpose but to those making the accusation and should therefore be avoided.

  • Different Drummer

    Hello Bored – thanks for that post..

    But we have moved on since you wrote that. You see what you don’t realise is – is that if Austen Currie had Debatograph we would not be in this mess…now that we do we can see the opposition and despair at our chances of making any real change here – ever…

  • Mick Fealty

    Bored,

    That’s a good description of the prisoners dilemma we picked out in A Long Peace six years ago near the beginning of Slugger… Something which I will add to the graph as a result of your post…

    And under other circumstances I would agree. I’ve never banned whataboutery as such, but have consistently warned of that very circularity problem in just running the past over and over… instead of the moving on into the future…

  • Mick Fealty

    Even scraping under that thick layer of sarcasm, I am still not sure what your concerns are DD.

  • Mick Fealty

    Bored,

    Just before I move on, one of the things that Turgon touched on earlier is that although I agree with your pragmatic conclusion in the context of the Peace Process, individuals are/were responsible for the things they did, even if they believe it was justified.

    The map allow both sides of that equation to be acknowledged, not just this anodyne grey sludge we get to with the ‘whataboutery truce’.

  • Greenflag

    barnshee/joecanuck

    ‘I blame Dermot the poof—asking in that bastard Strongbow -(no not the cider)- start of the whole thing—one thing after another after that’

    Well earlier joecanuck blamed the Normans for 1066 which inevitably led to 1169 but yiz are both wrong;) or should I say ‘short sighted ‘ ?
    For in truth the Normans would never have gained the power they did in Normandy had Charlemagne not divided the Holy Roman Empire between his three sons with the one who took the West Frankish Kingdom being a weakling who allowed the mixed descendents of viking warlords carve out a fiefdom in Normandy , from where they mounted the invasion of England . With the Pope’s imprimatur and promises of ‘booty’ to his international band of cutthroat mercenaries from as far afield as Sicily and Lombardy and Brittany not to mention Flemings among others , the Norman William the Bastard carved out a new ‘colony’.

    But even that begs the question of Charlemagnian ultimate ‘responsibility ‘ for Northern Ireland’s travails . For in truth again had it not been for the warming of europe starting circa 650AD then increased crop yields in Scandinavia would not have caused the ‘overpopulation ‘ which pushed the excess population overseas in search of a living and which ultimately led to the creation of Normandy .

    So there you have it -Global warming – which brings us back neatly to today’s Copenhagen ‘debate ‘ The ‘little ice age ‘ 1300 to 1860’ can’t be allowed to get off scot free either for it too helped with the ‘driving ‘ of starving Scots and border reivers from the North of England to Ireland as living conditions worsened in those northern areas due to reduced agricultural yields . The same climatic conditions helped to cause later mini famines in Ulster which along with political reasons drove many Ulster Scots/Irish to the new world and elsewhere in the hope of relief .

    ‘It’ll never end of course which is why a lot of folk just prefer to blame their favourite ’cause ‘ which is why prefer to blame the ‘unionists’ and the ‘unionists’ prefer to blame the ‘nationalists’ and the ‘english’ get blamed by everybody else including the Scots and Welsh and the bicycle riders .

    But here’s a thought for the day . As it’s now accepted generally that the ‘species’ i.e humanity never learns from history at least in political and economic matters why bother to look back at history at all at all ? Not much point really unless it’s an academic interest or for playing what if scenarios ?

    There is of course no end to the question of ‘who started it’ apart of course for those who still lay the blame at Eve’s door /human nature, for taking the forbidden fruit – but then here’s a chap who has another take on that one .

  • Mick Fealty

    I was going to do a follow up to this to keep the ball rolling, but I see one of the people who said he was bored with this subject has been beavering away..

    There’s some really good stuff there… Keep it going lads and lasses… Remember you can link things up relationally and help deepen the context…

  • Paul

    Mick, the graph thing is not going to work. Unionists, unlike Nationalists, do not have the same amount of zeal to keep going on and on and on about the past in order to keep their “struggle” alive. That, added with the typically Nationalist demographic of Slugger doom it to failure. A similar problem exists with the inherent Nationalist bias on Wikipedia wrt NI.

    The only way I could see this being useful, is if such a graph were compiled by a professional historian, trying to be as objective as possible, and collecting the information from each viewpoint.

  • Mark McGregor

    That’s a bit of craic once you start linking them up like I did with the religion one.

  • kensei

    Mark

    Doubt it’s uefulness as a tool, but it’s an excellent videogame

  • Christ, if you could search for an example of sly whataboutery, you wouldn’t find a better example of it that that Paul.

    The idea is ‘doomed’ to failure because Nationalists will make sure it doesn’t work.

    I’m neither a nationalist or a unionist – I’m agnostic on the matter. I’ve listed a bunch of claims that I’ve heard being made with varying levels of conviction by different people – including people who are – like me – fairly neutral on the matter. Without listing them, I suspect that there are a fairly even number of claims that you would be able to identify as serving a specific nationalist or unionist narrative.

    There are plenty of nationalists that would partially agree with some of the claims that are more likely to serve a unionist narrative than a nationalist one and vice versa. The point is to map them all and then argue about the weight and proportionality of the argument.

    If there are any missing, please let me know. If you can’t work out how to add them, then I’ll do it for you when I get a moment. If there are any large observations that you have that either contradict or support a particular claim, likewise.

    I’ve no idea where this idea comes from, by the way, that Slugger has a nationalist demographic. I’ve never known Mick to refuse posting rights to anyone as long as they have a constructive case and a reasonably civil manner about them. But then you think that Wikipedia has a nationalist bias as well. WTF?

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, I hear what you say. But who is going to pay for that? This method is rough and ready and flawed. And in fact there are some unionists in there doing some good work and some nationalists doing some good work. I would say that what people need to do is look for absences (for what is not yet being said) and colonise it…

  • Adolf

    It depends on what weight you put on each of your datum points/variables. Unionists believe their blood is purer, their sh-t more valuable and their lives more precious than the Catholics they systematically abused. That being so, they will always complain.

    There is no doubt that the Fatherland has suffered greatly since we liberated Westenr Europe. But now, as the Orangies rape their way into Central Berlin, naysayers are blaming me, that I am somehow responsible for Stalin’s rapists.

    I reject that. Let’s blame the Pope. Let’s get back to the good old days when the Croppies lay down. Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Rangers.

  • RepublicanStones

    and colonise it…

    I think we have a winner !

  • Mick Fealty

    The weight is variable and is not dictated entirely by the person entering the particular datum. Each accumulates context and weight by the counterpoints and arguments which grow around it.

    Another interesting thing about the process is that some key arguments employed in one direction can be easily reverse and used in the other. The capacity to match one datum with another on the other side of the map makes fascinating new linkages.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Mick Fealty: “The weight is variable and is not dictated entirely by the person entering the particular datum. Each accumulates context and weight by the counterpoints and arguments which grow around it.”

    So, if I follow this, it is a graphical representation of the aggregate of the almost wholly subjective perception / understanding of the issue at hand… F’r’instance, “The Famine” completely neglect, oh, I dunno, the effin’ fungus, maybe?

    Mental masturbation of the lowest sort — a collection of folks arguing over who has the biggest lump of belly-button lint.

    Mick Fealty: “Another interesting thing about the process is that some key arguments employed in one direction can be easily reverse and used in the other. The capacity to match one datum with another on the other side of the map makes fascinating new linkages. ”

    Given that most of the whataboutery involves finger-pointing about a series of recriminations and reprisals of one stripe or another, parallax views and images are almost inevitable.

  • Mick Fealty

    DC,

    Your remark is the single most nasty thing I have come across since Paul started off the map. So I really don’t think people have got too much to worry about.

  • Only Asking.

    I’m not sure what its purpose is. Is this simply for fun or is there a serious side to it? I dunno. I don’t wanna do history, play video games – or both over who started the troubles. It’ll only be more of the same old same old..

    I’m more of a Brian Walker fan, a good read, maybe something to say about it, and thats it really.

    Not for me, but its great that someone went to all this effort for folks.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Mick Fealty: “Your remark is the single most nasty thing I have come across since Paul started off the map. So I really don’t think people have got too much to worry about. ”

    Unpleasantness does not equal inaccuracy.

    The more folks pick at scabs, the longer the infection lasts.

  • Still hanging out with a bunch of wankers Dread?

    Part of the object of this exercise is to park issues. It’s not like they won’t get picked over anyway. If you read the original post, that’s my reason for starting it in the first place.

  • Mick Fealty

    Maybe the subject was little bit too taboo, but it was a good chance to work the software. And there is some genuinely interesting segments on the map.

    Might be worth blogging with a few screen shots pin pointing a few particular hotspots.

  • RepublicanStones

    I’ll eat a little humble pie Mick. Whilst not fully convinced of this application’s potential to advance anything to Slugger or debate at large, it was interesting to dip in and see the tangents certain arguments take you off on.

    (sorry about the pisstakes…couldn’t resist)

  • Mick Fealty

    Another problem is that too few of our unionist commenters want to play ‘whataboutery’ (who knew?) so on that basis alone the ‘findings’ will be flawed.

  • RepublicanStones

    Not sure what ou mean by ‘findings’ Mick. A bunch of bubbles with well documented historical grievences in them isn’t exactly a science.

    Whatabout a debategraph with unionist hestitation to take part in whataboutery debategraphs as the subject.

    Christ, the possibilities for this game are endless…..

  • exile

    [i]Maybe the subject was little bit too taboo[/i]

    The subject is far from taboo: it’s discussed, whether directly or by proxy, every single day by everyone, but most especially, our elected representatives.

    Seriously, what the f*ck did you expect from this: Reasoned logic that would separate the wheat from the chaff in an incisive and clear manner thus allowing us to take a step back from the fray and blame one single person or group of people for a decades-long conflict?

  • Mick Fealty

    Exile,

    Yes. And I’d venture a guess you have not the least clue what you’re talking about. Let me explain what I mean.

    I go along with RS and say that it’s been fun for those of us who have used it, but that, as it stands, it is not a lot of use for the detached reader. It needs to ‘mature’ to stand a chance of becoming remotely ‘definitive’ of the problem.

    At the very least need a wider opinion set to engage with it. Although I did sense that at times people were dipping between ‘colonising’ and trying to answer their own propositions.

    When you have one line to refute an argument it pares your options right down the point. It is nigh on impossible to play the man. And you can’t resort to a long form of words to duck the bullet.

    This from the home page of Debategraph.org:

    “Every debate map is provisional and open to iterative improvement by anyone who participates.

    “Over time, the debate maps will mature into the definitive articulations of each debate.

    “Every change you make—whether correcting a text, adding a new argument, or starting a new debate—contributes towards the fulfilment of this social promise.

    “So be bold as a first time visitor—and safe in the knowledge that a full editing history provides a safety net.”

    I’d like to see this debate ‘mature’. As it stands it needs the ‘other’ voice to make it functional.

  • exile

    [i]And I’d venture a guess you have not the least clue what you’re talking about.[/i]

    Yes, Mick. I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about. In fact, anyone who disagrees with [i]anything[/i] that you argue or suggest hasn’t a clue what he or she is taking about.

  • MenaMna

    Paul Evans – great idea. Will be interesting to see graph when it’s developed further.

    Has opened up interesting debate. Am lovin’ some of the comments. Especially the ‘it’s not fair’ winge that not enough unionists will contribute therefore the results won’t be ‘fair’. What a geg.

    O, and the the way it shines a light on, and brings to the fore the ironic school of thought displayed by the self-righteous here who say, for example, some murder gangs are better than others. Umm, four legs good (criminal, atrocious, evil, monsters), two legs better (not too bad at all, actually, thank god they were about – yis siree – a great bunch altogether).

  • Exile,

    When Mick says that you haven’t got a clue what your talking about, what he means is that you’ve not read the f**king post and then come along and said “are you trying to achieve ?

    Read the f**king post.

    MenaMna,

    I’ve found it’s raised some historical questions that I hadn’t considered before.

    For instance, someone has said that the question of religion isn’t relevant because it masks a root-ish cause – the British state’s role.

    That made me wonder: If – by the 1990s – most sides were saying that the British no longer had any selfish strategic interest in remaining in Ireland (and I know that this is a contested contention in itself), was there an earlier point in history at which the British decided that they didn’t have that interest? Was it a calculus that they made and monitored? And when was the point privately conceded? Was it before the late 1960s?

  • Mick Fealty

    Then why have you not referenced the map?

    My guess is you have either not looked. Or you HAVE looked so cursorily that you have not actually observed what’s actually been happening there.

    Once you get into the outer nodes you can point out consistency and inconsistency in opposing statements. And sub divide arguments (as opposed to bald propositions).

    It forces you to think about the stuff that’s coming at you, not to wallow in it. That is a very long way from the fear people have expressed earlier in the thread.

  • exile

    Calm down, Paul: I have read your post several times. I still think it’s a load of crap.

  • MenaMna

    Paul Evans – yes, you’ve raised a few very interesting questions there, no doubt. (10 Dec. 11.55)

    However, I question how anyone could concede that religion isn’t relevant. It’s far too political, the two are intrinsically linked. Surely it boils down to power struggles? And no matter how far back in time you go the struggle to exert control has and always will be utmost to the church, government & dissenters alike. No getting away from it.

    So, even if history had played out differently – most likely, other, different (two legs better – or should i say, four legs good?!) shit would’ve hit the fan. Quite possibly in a much less sorry way than what we’ve experienced here but whatever it might’ve looked like – essentially the players would have been church, state and dissenters. Much like the many other conflicts in the world.

    I’m maybe talking at cross purposes as there are two separate issues being considered here, i.e. the big question of, ‘who’s fault is it any way’, and then the, ‘how do we discuss, engage and attempt to move forward without all the whataboutery?’.

    Certainly, with the latter – there is no doubt, time and again religion plays an integral part. And the concerning thing is – it’s in the interest of all said parties to maintain the status quo. Unfortunately.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Paul: “Part of the object of this exercise is to park issues. It’s not like they won’t get picked over anyway. If you read the original post, that’s my reason for starting it in the first place. ”

    Feh — half the “issues,” probably more, aren’t really issues, Paul. They’re pisstakes on history, more in line with “traditional” Japanese opinions of Koreans, learned at their grand-parents feet, than anything sufficiently rational to be called “an issue.” For the two sides, there’s nothing to debate, since these things are the verities on which the sectarian divide is created, as sure as water is wet, children lie and the sun rises in the east. They don’t need to be parted, they need to be run through the crusher and the grinder, en route to a reclamation plant.

    At most, at its best, this is an aggregation of the oral, subjective histories of both sides, done in four-color cartoon form. I can argue the facts from either side of the divide, but the scab-picking makes me… ill isn’t the right word, but it will serve for the nonce.

    In one of Turgon’s threads, a long time ago, the usual remembrance of this victim or that — I can’t remember and it scarcely matters, followed by the usual whataboutery. I’ll ask you the same thing that I asked then — what the hell are people going to talk about in N.I. when they’ve run through all “honored dead” and great victories and terrible defeats and have picked the last scab?

  • Brian MacAodh

    I blame the British cabinet for backing down during the Ulster mutiny of 1912. That ensured that Protestants would never have to compromise and accept the Home Rule bill.

    The rest was inevitable.

  • Turgon

    Paul,
    I am sorry to disagree with the whole premise of this post but, having looked at the image, I am afraid it is pretty pointless. A series of statements which can be found in a history book or indeed in many people’s experiences does not help understanding. It is nothing witout explanation and context and a line on a computer screen does not do that.

    The perceived weight or relevance of any given link: the weight given depends on one’s predefined views. That cannot be accounted for by the lines.

    Any attempt to reduce something like the Troubles here to a series of lines and blobs is so stupid as to be pretty childish.

    I note already that one republican cheerleader (kensei) has put up a comment “Don’t tell Turgon.” Now that shows the level of sense of the project. Yes you could remove it as it is clearly irrelevant to the troubles but someting just as stupid can be said. For less overtly and more subtely stupid remarks who will deem them invalid? That person will not be imaprtial as no one is.

    I note one or two posters are supplying all the blobs and arrows which shows that what will happen is that a very small number of anoraks will monolipise the thing and use it for their own agenda (c.f the Turgon remark above).

    I am also rather concerned with this comment: “The more likely possibility is that it just becomes a conversation stopper. And what can we do about this?”

    I regard one of the major functions of slugger to attack and oppose the cheerleaders of terrorism. To point out the wicked deeds of terrorists is a vital part of debate on slugger to many unionists. The fact that whataboutery ensues is not a problem. If it is legitimate then fair enough. More usually it demonstrates the moral vacuity in the cheerleader as in (to take an extreme example) one commnetator once said that Marie Wilson’s death was fair enough because the unionists were commerating Rememberance Sunday and Enniskillen was a “garrison town” etc. People could make their own minds up about the commentator and indeed I remember than I repeatedly reminded him of his comments. Now you could call that a conversation stopper. I call it calling to account the supporters of the murderers.

    We do not all want to “move forwards” in the same direction. As such some of us want to keep reminding the cheerleaders that there are those in the unionist and indeed nationalist community who regard the murderers turned politicians as forever scarred with the mark of Cain and we will continue to protest that they rule over us. Now that may not be what you regard as a useful contribution to debate but I assure you that unless and until Mick removes me from this site I will regard it as one of my major functions here. That will mean that I will repeatedly remind people about what republican politicians supported and frequently did.

  • exile

    [i]o point out the wicked deeds of terrorists is a vital part of debate on slugger to many unionists. [/i]

    Whereas, of course, nationalists are cheerleaders for terrorism and the terrorist doesn’t happen to be named Torrens Knight: for the love of God, man, leave him alone!

  • Turgon

    exile,
    All I can do is quote the first part of my first comment on this thread: comment 16 on page 1:

    “I am proud to attack and catch out certain individuals of both loyalist and republican persuasion over their support for murderers. I will continue to do so until I am removed from this site.”

  • Dread Cthulhu

    exile: “Whereas, of course, nationalists are cheerleaders for terrorism…”

    Cheerleaders? Nah… Whatabouters?

    Whatboutery is probably the one non-sectarian trait in the region.

    Of course, you do get a few interesting anomalies in this comic-book version of Irish history — one fella tries to defend / deflect / blow smoke re: the massacre of Protestants in 1641 by bringing up Cromwell — can’t talk about the massacre without bring up Cromwell… sadly, Cromwell’s rampage through Ireland was from 1649 to 1650, meaning that, unless someone is suggesting that the Catholics had access to Mr. Peabody and the Way-Back machine, logic takes a back-seat to passion in these “discussions…”

  • Dread Cthulhu

    pardon — didn’t *start* until 1649-50…

  • exile

    [i]I am proud to attack and catch out certain individuals of both loyalist and republican persuasion over their support for murderers[/i]

    Yes, Turgon, for your attack on Trevor Collins was stinging, incisive and deafening.

  • Turgon

    Well yes I condemned him and what he had done: Comment 18 here, comment 20 here.

    However, if that is not enough: I do not know Trevor Collins but I condemn what he has done in signing the petition on Torrens Knight unreservedly. His comments are deeply offensive in view of Knight’s murderous past. If Mr. Collins feels that in some way Knight has been hard done to he should reflect on what Knight has done and how in any other judicial system a mass murderer like Knight would be looking at spending most if not all of the rest of his life in gaol. That is exactly where he should have been for many years both before and from here on in; in my opinion.

    Now maybe just maybe Knight was trying to stay out of criminality: if that had been the case he should not have gone assaulting two women. The reality is that Mr. Collins, even if he had some motives which to him seemed honourable; has done something morally reprehensible which was and is wrong.

  • Turgon
  • The Spectator

    Turgon

    I don’t doubt the strength and genuine nature of your feelings (though I’ve expressed previous doubts, as you know, to their relevance).

    But what are you actually achieving, or even realistically likely to achieve? Is anyone persuaded to a view different to that before the read you?

    The problem with actively seeking to shut down discussion, and even defending whataboutery is that the conversations don’t cease, and your enemies don’t go away; they just move one door down the street – but with an added verse of “Turgon’s a bitter nutter”.

    Thus your writing risks becoming an echo chamber, increasing its own irrelevance. I find it hard to believe that’s the aim?

    In the final analysis, I don’t really think any of your ‘opponents’ or ‘enemies’, on slugger or elsewhere, care an awful lot about your moral judgements, or mine or anyone elses for that matter. You will never stop them talking, and you’ll never win any debate by simply declaring that in your view they should be silent; because they don’t really care about your view. They hold it to be, in reality, worthless.

    So, the question becomes, Why?

  • latcheeco

    The Spectator
    “the question becomes why.”
    Perhaps you’re right, but surely, given that if Slugger has proved anything it has proved that you’re not going to change anyone’s mind, especially regarding the North, because nobody’s open to persuasion (more cerebrally cogent debaters and conversationalists please feel free to produce a single convert to your opinion as proof I’m wrong and the Alliance unionist that joined the other unionists doesn’t count) then the same question could be asked of those who bemoan and look down their wee noses at whataboutery. Why waste your time? Cathartic whataboutery is Slugger’s premier attraction, and it saves wives (because they don’t have to endure it).

    Leave Turgon alone. He’s got conviction (as opposed to convictions).

  • The Spectator

    Latcheeco

    In which case, why waste bandwith on Slugger?

    I happen to think there is actually a very strong argument that there is no realistic ‘solution’ in the North, that we will inevitably slip back into awfulness given time, and that the only realistic advice one can give anyone of talent or hope is “Get out fast!”

    Presumably Mick disagrees. Otherwise, it seems an expensive way to facilitate the tribal venting of a few dozen keyboard warriors.

    I would agree on this, Latcheeco. My time spent on Slugger has tended, I find, to harden my various, occasionally contradictory, attitudes, not challenge them. I tend to find that people commenting here are even more venal, spiteful and illogical than I in my instinctual cynicism, expected them to be. Indeed, I am probably one of those very people. It may be funny, but it’s a black sort of comedy.

    I wonder if it hardens the attitudes of people who start out more radical and dangerous than I?

    My only personal consolation is that as a general rule I don’t vote for any of the usual suspects. I may be a hopeless cynic. But maybe not an enabler.

  • Dave

    “…please feel free to produce a single convert to your opinion as proof I’m wrong…”

    I think I’d be horrified if I converted anyone to my idiosyncratic opinion(s) about NI. It would be a bit like adopting someone by accident. I’m completely baffled by the place. It defies a linear narrative. But I am grateful to the bloggers and posters on this forum a like for sharing their understanding of the place. Paradoxically, I wouldn’t be baffled if I didn’t ponder their understanding but if I wasn’t baffled by it I wouldn’t have a better understanding of it. I think if you’re looking for converts or to be converted then you’re in the wrong place.

    Most of this political outworking is deterministic but is designed to look like it is emergent. Read the Downing Street Declarations and you’ll see what that means. That mapped it all out. The opinions most folks have are just the opinions that are given to them in order to support a process that the state has designed. They think they arrived at them by their own volition but that is way wrong. If the state wanted them to have a different set of political opinions to support a different political process then they would have then and likewise think they arrived at them by their own volition.

  • latcheeco

    The Spectator,
    Those even more cynical and unkinder than us might suggest that the motive is primarily personal profile and relevance as opposed to conversations toward reconciliation. The same cynics might use as proof the enthusiasm for getting one side to attack the other over their historic grievances on the above pcgame just to prove its efficacy.

  • latcheeco

    Dave,
    It could be argued then that the same architects would have an interest in a medium like Slugger with its general ethos of tutting exasperatingly and rolling eyes at the crazed non-believers and their lower class ways
    or conversely
    they despise Slugger as an unfortunate outlet for (albeit at times incoherent)voices in the wilderness.

    But Jesus didn’t use the shepherd metaphor for nothing: sheeple are sheeple.

  • Turgon

    The Spectator,
    I think others have answered you already. I do not seek to convert people to my view. I seek to contend for my views; there is an important difference, if I ever did convert someone so much the better.

    All I can say is anecdotally that surprisingly large numbers of real people read slugger. When I get into conversation with people it is surprising just how many of them read regularly or irregularly.

    When I say who I am (admittedly usually to unionists) few criticise what I have said; certainly not in my confronting and attacking republican and loyalist cheerleaders. I think many, many unionists are deeply unhappy about the revisionism about the troubles which is being visited upon them and many, even those who vote UUP and DUP, are still deeply unhappy with the people who bombed and murdered their kith and kin being in government. They may not agree with all my ideas for the future but in all honesty I have never had anything other than support (and at times thanks) for standing up for my views.

    Now maybe I am creating my own platform but it seems to have some currency with people with whom I discuss it. If in some tiny way that gives people a voice it has value. In addition if I can show that a hard line unionist can also oppose loyalist paramilitaries then that also has value.

    I do not seek to advance to some sort of liberal nirvana and indeed I agree that violence is likely to recur (the historical precedent both here and in other conflicts is very strong). I seek to non violently confront the supporters of violence and hopefully frequently show them up as the cheerleaders they are.

    Here I stand I can do no other.

  • The Spectator

    Turgon

    Thank you for your response.

    1. I mean this gently, but with sincerity. You aren’t Luther. There is no comparison in the importance of what he did and what you are doing.

    2. I seek to contend for my views.

    When I say who I am (admittedly usually to unionists) few criticise what I have said…

    …but it seems to have some currency with people with whom I discuss it…

    Turgon, there’s that echo chamber again. Leaving aside the possibility that people are not entirely frank with you when you open up on this kind of thing (I have no means to gauge that) – at best you are preaching to the converted. Which may be comforting, but the world goes on around you.

    3. If in some tiny way that gives people a voice it has value

    Does it? If no-one outside the laager is listening to the voice?

    I know Jim Allister reasonably well on a personal level. I wonder about the cult building around him. I wonder about the nihilism of it.

  • Turgon

    The Spectator,
    Of course I am not Martin Luther. However, I have a right to state my opinions.

    You say I am talking to an echo chamber: well 66,000 people seem to be in that chamber at last count and a lot of UUP and DUP supporters have pretty similar views on terrorists: that chamber seems pretty full to me.

  • The Spectator

    Turgon

    1. Of course I am not Martin Luther

    That goes without saying. But not only are you not Luther. You’re not in any particular way like Luther. In particular, with respect, your ‘stand’ bears no comparison with the courage of his. That was my point, and I suspect you know it.

    2. However, I have a right to state my opinions.

    Of course you do (though to do so on this site is a privilege, not a right). The problem for you is that so do all the people you despise, and so do all their ‘fellow travellers’. And all we end up with is this white noise. Echo chamber.

    3. Well 66,000 people seem to be in that chamber at last count and a lot of UUP and DUP supporters have pretty similar views on terrorists: that chamber seems pretty full to me.

    There were 126,000 people in the specific chamber you consider unworthy of discussion, who you openly want to silence. There were 372,000 who knowingly voted for parties who will, work with ‘those people’. Indeed, if you’d convinced every single UUP and DUP voter to your view (and clearly you didn’t), you’d still not even make half the voices who spoke at that election.

    66,000 is still an echo chamber, Turgon; and frankly, not even a terribly impressive or large one in regional, never mind national, terms. Again, I ask, why?

    Is the height of your hopes to reach 50%+1 unionist votes? Tactically sound, perhaps, but morally bankrupt.

    I made a point in the ‘debateograph’ that responsiblity and culpability overlap, but thatone can be culpable without being directly responsible. A view you seem to share.

    Sometimes.

  • Sean

    Turgon

    You are conflating the number of people who appear to agree with you for the moral righteousnous of your position

    Godwins law invocation here

  • latcheeco

    It appears then that the three (not necessarily exclusive) views on why punters use Slugger are

    a. It’s quare craic but not to be taken seriously unless you’re a conceited twat.

    b. It’s a space where bored and otherwise ineffective civil service lower management, in the midst of mid-life crises, can earnestly negotiate the future of the universe from their office computers without fear of interruption from their boss or a leathering from spides

    c. It’s a place where you get to finally hand out long overdue salutary lessons to the other team about what morally degenerate and hypocritical pseudo-nazis they are, while reaffirming your own personal (and that of the vast majority of your team mates)superiority and absolute inculpability.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    The Spectator: “Is the height of your hopes to reach 50%+1 unionist votes? Tactically sound, perhaps, but morally bankrupt.”

    Uh-huh… and Republican aspirations for a 50% +1 vote for re-unification someday — is that equally “morally bankrupt?”

  • latcheeco

    Dread Cthulhu,
    I could be wrong but I think he was refering to the TUV achieving 50+1 within unionism as a tactic to exclude any elected nationalist representatives that they don’t approve of from powersharing because of course they already have a 50+1 majority in the gerrymandered morally bankrupt north eastern counties.

  • Turgon,

    I’m quite pleased with this so far. I really don’t take some of the Jeremiah comments about it doing any actual harm very seriously, so beyond that, you can look at it as a curiosity if nothing else.

    A few points. Firstly, this is partly a bit of fun. I had no idea how it would pan out and I started it partly to see. I think it’s way too early to form any final verdict on whether it is a fantastic idea or a dangerous destructive waste of everyone’s time, though

    I’m certain that it won’t ever be perfect either – I’m just keen to see if anyone else is interested in trying out a process here.

    Politically, I like the idea of involving people in reaching conclusions – not by asking them what they think should be done in their opinion – but instead by asking them to provide a better description of the problem. Politicians usually say that they like this suggestion but they’re crap (and, I believe, deeply unwilling) when it comes to actually doing it.

    Also, doing it is very interesting if you’ve recently read people like Clay Shirky, Cass Sunstein and James Surowiecki- there’s a lot of original and interesting thinking going around asking ‘now we can get easy feedback from more people, what does it change?’

    I wanted to see where it would go partly because Slugger is very unusual in this respect. It sometimes has surprisingly civil and oddly productive conversation involving lots of people around a fairly narrow shared but strongly contested history. There isn’t another site that I can think of that could pull together an awkward task like this.

    It’s also showing a lot of people a tool that they may conclude ‘it’s useless for this kind of discussion but it might be useful for a different kind of issue’ – perhaps something that falls outside the Unionist / Nationalist bunfight.

    This is only getting started. It’s only been up here a few days, after all. I think that the debategraph needs a bit of tidying up and loads of other things adding to it. Some of the comments do need to be tested and checked. I’d like to keep pecking at it in the coming months whenever an argument that I’d forgotten / didn’t know about comes up. It may be an idea that students find more valuable than protagonists in the argument – who knows?

    Your question of ‘weighting’ is a good one. I think that you need to get all of the arguments out on the table and maybe look at other ways of weighting them and I’ve got a few ideas on how that could be done.

    People who have done other projects like this in the past have often been concerned about the way that participants ‘game’ it (which is what I think you are partly accusing some Nationalists of doing here) and that is something that can be addressed as the idea matures a bit.

    I’m sure that the question of ‘nationalist bias’ will disappear as more data goes in because whatever you say, there is no shortage of commenters on this site who regularly raise new issues that can go onto that grid.

    Also, there are lots of other software tools (Mixed Ink, Google Wave, Wikis, various mapping / photosharing / videosharing sites) that this info can be moved into to. It’s a start.

    Because we’re all new to the tool and the software itself is a work in progress, I can see a few points where people have put things in the wrong place or classified them incorrectly.

    I’m also not sure that you *can* find anything like this in a history book and as far as I know, no-one has ever tried to develop an agreed text providing an account of an argument in NI’s context.

    People who disagree on things can often agree on a description of what they’re arguing about. I think that it is possible for a bunch of people with dramatically different perspectives to jointly describe an issue to a third party – if you like, a ‘Martian’s Guide’.

    If, for instance, we were to convene lots of Slugger’s readers to do an anatomy of the arguments using the Wikipedia software (presenting a map of arguments rather than the more concrete data that Wikipedia is intended for) I defy you to claim that no-one would learn anything from the process.

    Mick often characterises this site as being the repetitive account of a the same confusing story to a drunken man. Maybe this is just a manifestation of that?

    Finally, JR’s comment (one of the very first in this thread) almost made the whole thing worthwhile on it’s own 😉

  • The Spectator

    Dread Cthulhu

    I think any argument that relies primarily on headcount rather than merit is morally fairly empty, regardless of providence.

    The only point I would make is that trying to get 50%+1 of the whole territory (whether pro-union or pro-united ireland), at least in theory, considers every voter to be equal.

    Aiming only for 50%+1 of your own tribe, and thus by definition a small minority of the territory, is more or less an admission of contempt for democratic equality. So yes, I think its worse, but it’s a matter of degree only.