Has Slugger O’Toole ever changed your mind?

How can you test your open-mindedness?

A common theme characterizing responses to Turgon’s interesting question on how we might respond to monstrous and dangerous beliefs and believers like Anders Breivik got me thinking about this. Several commentors focused on Breivik’s ideas and how these might be challenged and exposed as weak. This focus assumes that the challenge with limiting the potency of extreme ideologies is essentially an intellectual one: Extreme actions are rooted in extreme beliefs; ergo, we should engage and expose (or isolate) dangerous ideas.

The problem with this approach is its faith in the role that thinking plays how we form our beliefs. In reality, never mind extremists like Breivik, none of us invest much time and effort in thinking – at least not deliberative, reasoned thinking.

Consider yourself: Are you generally a biased and close-minded person or a broadly open-minded person?

Wrong answer, I’m afraid. Think again – assuming you even tried thinking the first time.

Cognitive research suggests we don’t ‘think’ very often at all, if by thinking we mean carefully considering the merits of a proposition based on facts and evidence. Instead of processing information by thinking, in that sense, we tend to process information through peripheral pathways or ‘unthinking’ shortcuts. While its comforting to assume we carefully evaluate facts and opinions (especially relative to “most people”), we generally come to believe or act not through careful ‘thoughtful’ consideration –“central processing” –  but via, instead, “peripheral processing“; “triggers” or “cues” that appeal our biases. Unsurprisingly, these cues can be associated with the messenger as much as the message. Real ‘thinking’ is pretty rare –and pretty tiring.

Turgon poses an important question because if we’re all much less open to unwelcome, challenging opinions and even facts than we’d care to believe, how then should we deal with ‘extremists’ and ‘extreme ideas’ that pose great harm on others?

Take yourself and your SluggerO’Toole experience as an (unscientific) case study in point.

Is the whole Slugger site evidence that people generally don’t change their positions with criticism, however solid; rather, more often, they “dig in” with ever-increasing hostility and/or they disengage?

Let’s try an unscientific test (feedback very welcome). How many of us can point to a single issue that, thanks to access to contrary evidence or challenging opinion on Slugger, we’ve changed our own original positions? And I mean really changed, not just made a tactical adjustment.

Anyone?  Even one?

(For my own part, though relatively new to this parish, the only example I can think of, possibly, is marching. The more I read the arguments for curtailment, the less I think the price of limiting freedom of speech is worth it. But that’s just a starting point, not a position. And note to trolls: This is not a thread about marching; it’s a thread about the dynamics of persuasion and what motivates intransigence.)

Any personal examples that refute this ‘thesis’ that we’re generally (and not just on Slugger) closed-minded un-thinkers seeking affirmation rather than enlightenment are greatly appreciated.

If you can’t think of any, don’t become too depressed – you’re not a bigot necessarily, just a weak and lazy thinker sharing company with most everyone else, not least those who make decisions that will affect us all.

Here’s a wee illustration of the closed-minded (‘unthinking’) dynamics that operate at the highest levels of government. Ever wonder how Richard Nixon’s gang managed to make the unbelievably ill-thought-through calculation that breaking into the Watergate hotel in search of a few files and documents was worth the risk?

There were, as I recall, around a dozen conspirators who voted amen to the Watergate plan. Only one guy thought it was bonkers.

So, who was this dissenter and why did he think differently?

Our objector was the only guy who had not been in the room when even crazier plans were proposed, plans that allegedly involved kidnapping and utterly Don Mafioso stuff. This guy, therefore, was literally thinking, i.e. processing differently; he came to his decision with a different frame of reference. The only no-man among them was the only person thinking about the Watergate plan relatively clearly, i.e. objectively rather than by comparing the relatively mild crime of burglarizing Watergate with the really rough and dastardly stuff.

(I’ve since shuddered upon wondering whether the decisions that lead to some our own worst atrocities, both the calamitous blunders and the unequivocally evil, derived from macabre discussions where even worse alternatives were tabled and thereby lead to people unthinkingly ‘settling’ for the otherwise unconscionable.)

We rarely think clearly. We search for ‘reasons’ to do or believe whatever affirms our self-image, our values and our preferences. Having said that, maybe Slugger, rather than providing a tribal “fix”, is one vehicle and forum that bucks these natural instincts, at least occasionally?

PS: For a superb read on how our thinking – or lack thereof – is ripe for manipulation, enjoy George Lakoff’s, “Don’t Think of an Elephant!”.

  • Mister_Joe

    I can honestly answer “Yes”. Before discovering Slugger, I had a generally negative view of unionism. That has been greatly moderated by discussing, arguing and just chatting with unionist minded bloggers and commenters. Three in particular come to mind immediately, Fair Deal, Turgon, Drumlins Rock, and there are many others.

  • Mister_Joe

    Just to be totally clear, by unionism I meant unionist parties and politicians. When I lived in Northern Ireland, a majority of my friends in my working years were people who were undoubtedly unionist in their outlook.

  • Mark

    I was corrected by poster GerryvsCastro about 18 months ago when I said that I thought ” every Tom , Dick and Harry was in the OO . GerryvsCastro told me that only about 5% of Protestants were in fact members . I found this hard to believe . A former director in work was an Orangeman but we rearly spoke about it . Anyway 5% was what I was told until I think someone else said you had to consider the bands and that some band members weren’t members . Perhaps Lamhdearg you might give meyour thoughts . How many members of the PUL community would be in the Order ??

  • Mark

    or Between the Bridges if your reading .

  • lamhdearg2

    I cannot think (maybe I should leave it at that) of an instance or single issue on slugger that has truly changed my thinking, however generally speaking my time on slugger has had the reverse affect to joe’s, when I first came on a part of my thinking was, having come through what we came through, and having had some years of relative calm, we might start to move towards some common ground, learn to share Ulster, keep our differences but learn to put up with (at worst) or even respect each others culture, however reading the threads and comments on the parading issue in particular, has changed my view on this, my thinking is now more along the lines of irish nats are nothing but a shower of B*******. who wont be happy EVER and certainly wont be happy until they have push all non irish nats into the sea.

  • Mister_Joe

    lamhdearg,

    Just remember that the people you call “irish nats” are not a monolithic group. The majority are decent people with the same hopes for their lives and their families as you.

  • lamhdearg2

    mark I really do want to go of tangent so early on what could be an interesting thread,
    I believe O.O. memberships sits around 30,000 in Ulster, what % that is depends on whether your working out the % of ulster prods or peoples of the world.

  • lamhdearg2

    I know joe, I was deliberately being general, and I am prone to exaggeration.

  • Mark

    LD , I’ve never thought of it like that … re people’s of the world . I read Blood and Thunder on bridge’s recommendation and found it interesting . It would make a good thread .

  • tacapall

    When governments and their paymasters have control of the media when everything is taken as truth that’s aired on the television or published in newspapers then dangerous beliefs or opposition can be manipulated to seduce an unwitting public audience to have a biased predetermined viewpoint of people or their beliefs and even their way of life.

    Slugger hasn’t changed that it has reinforced that.

  • Mister_Joe

    Nonsense, tacapall; everyone can now be their own publisher in “free” countries, courtesy of the internet.

  • Greenflag

    ‘We rarely think clearly.’

    I would go further and state we rarely think at all . Most of our daily actions -thoughts -speech are ‘conditioned ‘ by whatever environment we find ourselves in .For the vast majority of people there is little time to ‘thimk’ never mind ‘thinking outside the box’ ! The Japanese dictum that the nail that sticks out must be battered down to the same level as all other nails is less true of western societies but in practical terms not by much . Change is resisted and even frowned upon at the DNA level . Most mutations don’t work and are soon removed from the gene pool .The few that do are increased and carried on -not too different from ideas , inventions .political philosophies -economic policies etc etc . .

    “We search for ‘reasons’ to do or believe whatever affirms our self-image, our values and our preferences. ‘

    Unlearning is the most difficult undertaking for any individual .Giving up older modes of thought -carryovers from childhood or adolescense can be wrenching for many people if not most -for it means no longer believing what is conventionally believed and thus risking ‘isolation ‘ or worse .

    ‘Having said that, maybe Slugger, rather than providing a tribal “fix”, is one vehicle and forum that bucks these natural instincts, at least occasionally?’

    I’ve never looked to slugger for a tribal fix -quite the opposite . As for slugger changing my ‘attitude’ or thinking re NI and other issues I can honestly say it has at least shown the other side -warts and all . I would have had a very negative view of ‘Unionism ‘ or ‘Unionists ‘ a decade or so ago and while my view of ‘unionism’ as a political force in Ireland is still negative I no longer see it as an alien imposition as it were and no longer view ‘unionism ‘ as a monolithic group . Having worked with people from an NI unionist background during the worst of the troubles was a palliative to any tendency to extremist views and or solutions to the NI never ending question. I’ve seen the enemy and he/she is us .

    ‘Its not what you don’t know that harms you -it’s what you know that ain’t so “as American Will Rogers said a century or so ago and it still holds even more so nowadays .

    But then to be honest it’s more than just slugger . The whole of Irish society has and is still undergoing a change of attitude to many issues which would in earlier years not have been imagined . And that in my view is a good thing and I don’t see why it would not be a good thing in NI as well for like it or not both North and South are being subjected to the same economic and political pressures brought upon by a rapidly changing world economy.

  • Greenflag

    @ lamhdearg 2,

    ‘my thinking is now more along the lines of irish nats are nothing but a shower of B*******. who wont be happy EVER and certainly wont be happy until they have push all non irish nats into the sea.’

    Wrong take . Irish Nationalists are not a monolithic group .There are several ‘nationalist ‘parties from FG to FF to the SDLP and even Labour has a ‘nationalist/republican wing’ .Republicans are also fragmented if less so than the more numerous ‘nationalists’.

    As for ‘pushing all non irish nats into the sea ? there might be a few crazies among extremists who would hold that view but I haven’t ever met any .

    Truth is in a perverse way worse than that -Most don’t care one way or the other as long as NI does not erupt into another generation of wasted lives and wasted development opportunities . So I’m afraid when push comes to shove if ever Lamhdearg 2 you’ll have to do the pushing yourself . Nobody else is going to do it for you .

    As for Nats never being ‘Happy ‘ I must confess I’m always reasonably happy 🙂 And I wish the same for you .

  • lamhdearg2

    thanks Greenflag,
    I was just of to bed there, then I noticed I had got a Yellow,

    lots of nasty hot headed stuff on there tonight, (mine above is tongue in cheek, but maybe thats lost in tranlation.) and I get the yellow (I am not calling for or wanting anyone else carded) I guess I just rub people up the wrong way,

  • Alias

    I doubt many of us are logicians or psychologists so we should probably leave the technical discussion to those who are rather than ‘borrow’ that waffle for vanity or practical purposes, such as to fallaciously present our own reasoning processes – and, by extension, our own opinions – as being more ‘scientific’ than others.

    Left-wingers are notorious for citing expert opinion when the expert is proffering left-wing dogma. They pull this trick to close the debate, decreeing that the issue is now settled to the satisfaction of experts (at least the ones who proffer the favoured dogma) and should no longer be within the remit of democratic decision-making.

    I would agree with Greenflag and Mister Joe in that I’ve also formed a less hostile (probably not the right word) view of unionists from reading Slugger, but I’ve also formed a more hostile view of nationalists. Prejudicial thinking is the norm, so you merely amend your prejudices as appropriate.

    Prejudices are essential in everyday life since they are a collection of assumptions about others that also assume risks where harm or other unwanted outcome could occur if no such assumption was made. They are subject to amendment as more information becomes available.

    As I pointed out to Mick before, Slugger is highly prone to group dynamics with very few individuals posting outside of particular groups:

    Incidentally, Mick, what is different about your board compared to ‘normal’ boards where individuals post is that it is more prone to group dynamics. While it is individuals posting here, it is primarily individuals formed into groups that are posting.

    There are a large number of existing and competing groups (national, religious, social, political, etc) which the individuals slot into, and where the group dynamics are always latently waiting to act as a counter to the individual given the right trigger. That is an area where there is a conflict between interpersonal behaviour and intergroup behaviour, and where social identity theory comes into play.

    With self-categorization theory, by way of example and contrast, the abstractions of ‘I, We, and We Humans’ is seen in an aspect of the Quinn affair that you focused on but didn’t identify: the ‘I, We Cavanmen, and We Irishmen.’

    That is probably why group behaviour is more prevalent on your board than other boards, particularly when it comes to ‘ganging-up’ on the members of other groups and why there is ambivalence when the group can’t identify which group the individual belongs to but recognises him as a non-member of their own.

    Group dynamics will bring about a level of behaviour that you won’t be able to explain by simply looking at the individual or interpersonal level of posting.

    To clarify:

    “That is probably why group behaviour is more prevalent on your board than other boards”

    Refers to this:

    “There is a large number of existing and competing groups (national, religious, social, political, etc)”

    Where one group threatens not just the values but the survival of another competing group then those dynamics are always going to be more intense that where they don’t. You see that manifest in the exchanges over zero-sum issues such as march/no march (social) support for violence/no support (political) and United Kingdom/united Ireland (national), etc. What other type of forum could possibly generate the interplay of those dynamics with that many (and plenty more) zero-sum issues? Where there is one meta-group it is impossible to occur (since there can be no threat to the group’s existence), but where there are two or more competing meta-groups, then it is impossible not to occur.

  • Greenflag

    So do I i.e rub people up the wrong way sometimes .
    Its slugger it happens. Don’t take it too personal . I’ve had a couple too a while back . And yes things get skewed in translation .

    Its an interesting thread subject imo but we’ll see how others develop it.

  • Dewi

    Not sure if it changed my views but sometimes its a laugh – which is precious.

  • Pete Baker

    “In reality, never mind extremists like Breivik, none of us invest much time and effort in thinking – at least not deliberative, reasoned thinking.”

    Speak for yourself, Ruarai.

    “How many of us can point to a single issue that, thanks to access to contrary evidence or challenging opinion on Slugger, we’ve changed our own original positions? And I mean really changed, not just made a tactical adjustment.”

    Wrong question.

    But then again, you are “relatively new to this parish”.

    As a number of commenters above have indicated, change can be a cumulative process.

    It’s often about, as you’ve indicated, acquiring “a different frame of reference”.

    Recognising the errors in your current “frame of reference” can be a key point in that process.

    “We rarely think clearly. We search for ‘reasons’ to do or believe whatever affirms our self-image, our values and our preferences.”

    Again, speak for yourself, Ruarai.

  • Ruarai

    (Lamhderg – not sure where your card came from or why but your contribution above was honest and welcome.)

  • tacapall

    Mister_Joe (profile)
    28 August 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Nonsense, tacapall; everyone can now be their own publisher in “free” countries, courtesy of the internet.

    Really Joe ! How come the comment I made to you at 10.16 pm yesterday is still awaiting moderation, there’s nothing in the post that could be deemed untruthful its all fact but obviously worthy of censorship.

  • Greenflag

    @ Alias ,

    ‘Prejudices are essential in everyday life since they are a collection of assumptions about others ‘

    Too often those ‘assumptions ‘ are based on prejudice , fear , lies , bigotry , racism, misrepresentations and religious or political propaganda which of course inevitably provokes ‘reaction ‘ from the ‘prejudiced’ which of course ‘confirms’ the bullshit assumptions which then reinforces the decline to civil disorder , conflict war, chaos and internment camps, extermination camps and gulags etc etc

    You should know the drill by now.

    .

    ‘Left-wingers are notorious for citing expert opinion when the expert is proffering left-wing dogma. ‘

    I could proffer that extreme right wingers are even more notorious for citing non expert opinion and extracting from the bat shit crazy Ayn Rand anything they can find which might make sociopathic levels of greed and sellfishness somehow smell nicer.

    But then that would be ‘prejudicial ‘eh even if its the truth 🙁

    Left-wingers are notorious for citing expert opinion when the expert is proffering left-wing dogma.

  • Greenflag

    oops last sentence is a copy/paste left over error.

  • Greenflag

    Back to Ruarai’s thread topic re ‘changing ‘ one’s previous views and fullmarks to Pete Baker’s revelation of his ‘thinker ‘status -I would’nt have doubted it – but alas or perhaps not ? most people by dint of their occupations -life styles or preferences or available time much less educational backgrounds and interests -tend to allow others to do their hard thinking at least in those areas of life where ‘answers’ are not easily found and those which are found may not be the answers desired

    . Goebbels was the first to apply this ‘phenomenon ‘ to the mass marketing of political ideology and was followed enthusiastically by Madison Ave and of course by the Stalinist Tass and Pravda disinformation machines in their day .

    We like to think that somehow we today are more ‘immune ‘ from what is effective ‘propaganda ‘ be it commercial , political , religious , ideological etc but the evidence seems to be that most of us all the time are not, and only some of us are able to break free from the ‘hype’ and form what we like to believe are our own personal opinions – even then one has to wonder sometimes.

    A couple of years back I had many a spat on Slugger with the bould Nevin on matters ‘religious’ not so much in the doctrinal areas for this is an area where my ignorance is world class but more in the ‘institutional ‘side of religion . I generally found or should I say used to find that Nevin was sometimes over the top in what I perceived as a minor paranoia re the RC Church organisation even though we all know Nevin is as dacent a man as you could find on this or the neighbouring island .

    Be that as it may I inevitably laid into Nevin on some of these occasions with the proverbial sluggerite equivalent of a baseball bat . In retro and given the revelations of the past few years of RC Church ‘institutional ‘ behaviour and not just in respect of the paedophile scandals and the Vatican’s almost ‘omerta ‘ethos I have to admit that the bould Nevin was closer to the truth than I was at the time . Being non religious probably skewed my interpretation .

    That said on the political front some Unionist commentators have done a good job of presenting ‘unionism ‘ with a human face for those who are largely ignorant or disinterested in the phenomenon .On the other hand a few throwbacks now and again both unionist /loyalist and or dissident republicans surface to remind us all that ‘progress ‘ is not always inevitable and neither is peace and we all need to be careful that in attempting to ‘protect’ our own side -we are not just relying on the limbic mode of knee jerk reaction -but considering the welfare of all sides in the dismal and brainless sectarian standoffs that sometimes spout up from trivial incidents.

  • Mister_Joe

    Tacapall,

    I didn’t censor your comment nor did I complain about it. I suspect a moderator thought it was off topic; happens to me from time to time.

  • tacapall

    I never said you did censor the comment Joe and how could you complain about it when you never saw it. The point I was making is when people control and censor the information thats put out into the public domain then a biased a predetermined viewpoint can be manufactured to suit the political or religious agenda that’s being set by those who control the media, websites, newspapers, tv stations etc.

  • Reader

    My perspectives on the structure of nationalism have changed – I used to view it as a simple (but shifting) split between SF and the SDLP, with dissident dinosaurs out on one wing and cultural-nationalists out on the other.
    It’s clear now that there is a lot more diversity than that, along more than one axis, with a certain amount of hate still bottled up in the SDLP and some of the most interesting contributions coming from the more peaceful sort of dissident.

  • Rory Carr

    This thinking business is all very laudable, or at least the “thinking” type of thinking espoused above.

    Trouble is while we would all be busily doing real hard, deep, “thinking” thinking in order to combat the ideas of fascist thugs like Brevik he would be busily closing down our thinking facilities with a bullet in the brain pan.

    Think about that.

  • wild turkey

    Has Slugger O’Toole ever changed your mind?

    well, yes and no.

    i admire concision in arguments. Those arguments which are logical, empirically based and challenging do cause me to reflect, And think.
    In this regard, the commentators that immediately come to mind are Turgon and Pete Baker. at the end of the day, quite often i do not agree with them. But i do respect their integrity and effort. so in a very real way, and regardless of the political bias of any particular post, slugger has enhanced the value i put on those qualities

    bottom line? slugger has quite simply put me off MOPERY. FullFuckingStop.
    As a result, i would be far more inclined to critically assess whatever is the au courant Sinn Fein thinking and policy (or lack thereof) on a range of issues. The mope menu du jour is no longer nouvelle cusine.

    ironically, the many repititive robotic heartless trolls who parrot the party line make the menu even less palatable.

  • Mister_Joe

    ..quite often i do not agree with them..

    Yes, same here. But the value is in hearing their point of view and thinking about it, leading to a better understanding of one’s own biases.

  • Neil

    I have on a number of occasions found myself agreeing with some Unionist commentors. But you wouldn’t catch me admitting such a thing.

  • Congal Claen

    Apparently, a group tends to have an evolutionary advantage if the members of the group form a consensus on issues. Most humans do go along with the group consensus and would feel akward to challenge the consensus. And in general, the group tends to maginalise those who stray from the consensus that the group has reached. BTW, going against the consensus tends to hamper your career. But, even though I know this, I can’t help myself. Which is really quite annoying. I’m guessing quite a few people on here also don’t tend to go with the flow. Which also leads me to conclude that they also tend to have shite careers. Which is why they can devote time to slugger.

  • Mister_Joe

    Non sequitur, Congal Claen, not to suggest arrant nonsense.

  • Mister_Joe

    BTW, at work I had a very successful and rewarding career. I always went against the consensus, initially, to make sure that each issue was fully considered. I am very proud of a photograph presented to me by my colleagues once; I was absent from a senior staff meeting and they made up a dummy with a sign around the neck saying “Joe says no”.

  • lamhdearg2

    hes got me right joe.

  • Mister_Joe

    I highly recommend any version of the play/movie “Twelve Angry Men”. You’ll piss yourself laughing at the Tony Hancock version if you have half an hour to spare.

  • Reader

    Congal Claen: Apparently, a group tends to have an evolutionary advantage if the members of the group form a consensus on issues.
    Not if the external environment contains a referee (The ECHR, the UN, NATO, the Secretary of State, Parades Commission etc. – some entity outside the competing tribes that can make a judgement and kick butt) In such a case, solidarity without proper leadership – going along with a consensus – just means that policy is made by the most impulsive, least responsible members of the tribe, and everyone else is dragged along.
    Well, sod that. I would sooner be seen as a Lundy, a tout or a fader than have my policy made for me by loud-mouthed halfwits.

  • Alias

    Well, Joe, as you were an engineer, thinking outside the box is a key part of problem solving. CC probably has a good career doing what others tell him to do. My dog also has a career like that.

    “I could proffer that extreme right wingers are even more notorious for citing non expert opinion and extracting from the bat shit crazy Ayn Rand anything they can find which might make sociopathic levels of greed and sellfishness somehow smell nicer.” – Greenflag

    You’re assuming that Ayn Rand created particular human dynamics rather than accurately defined them; and that they didn’t exist before her or wouldn’t have existed if she didn’t define them. But she was just an observer, not the visionary she’d like to have been. Business people don’t read Rand but academics some members of the political class do. Business people don’t pay any heed to what members of the political class think about business. She may still sell millions of books every year but I can guarantee you that the only business people who buy them buy them to display them, not read them. They just do what they’re good at, and it has nothing to do with Rand’s work…

  • I can not remember changing my view as a result of reading something on Slugger but wont rule that out as not having happened. I have a bad memory!

    Like the rest of folk, I have my tribal viewpoints but do recall changing my view on certain things during the course of my lifetime as a result of “real” thinking. I believe that real thinking is a slow and incremental process that can often run into many blind alleys before actually shifting. The beginning of a massive change in thinking can just start off with a relatively benign question. The biggest change of thinking in my lifetime was probably becoming an atheist.

  • babyface finlayson

    As Father Dougal might say;
    “sure you’re not supposed to take it seriously Ted”
    But if I was taking it seriously I would say I have learned a lot from reading Slugger and that knowledge informs my thinking about issues. Issues about which I have sadly not changed my mind.

  • BluesJazz

    “The beginning of a massive change in thinking can just start off with a relatively benign question. The biggest change of thinking in my lifetime was probably becoming an atheist.”

    Seymour, this happened to me when I was about 11. I queried the timeline of Noah’s Ark getting the polar bears and kangaroos on board at sunday school and was ridiculed by the ‘teacher’.
    Several years later read ‘The Selfish Gene’ and other similar books. However I then became like the sunday school ‘teacher’ with my new found knowledge. Trying to evangelise science among the ‘sheep’.
    Everyone has their comfort zone.

    But as Philip K Dick quoted. ‘Everything in life is just for a while’
    among others:
    http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/4764.Philip_K_Dick

    Carl Sagans ‘pale blue dot’ speech from wiki about the Voyager 1 photo sums it all up
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot

    From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

    The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

  • antamadan

    slugger is a bit like a marriage. You can get close now and again, and then you are just shocked at the blinkered views of ‘the other side’

  • DoppiaVu

    I would agree with the idea that the cumulative impact of reading views that regularly challenge your tribal beliefs can potentially modify your views. I think everyone should be encouraged to have their personal views regularly challenged – which is why I’ve been reading Slugger for longer than I care to remember.

    For my part, as a unionist, I’ve gained a better understanding of the nationalist and republican position on things such as Irish language, GAA, NI Football team etc. I’m also increasingly sympathetic towards their antipathy towards the OO.

    BUT…regarding the big question – UI vs UK – Slugger has actually made me even more convinced that NI should stay in the UK. The reasons being:

    1. I’ve yet to see anyone articulate a clear strategy for how NI would be incorporated into a UI. You’d have thought that nationalists/republicans would have figured that one out by now.

    2. It’s sometimes hard to ignore the underlying contempt for the unionist position (and unionists generally) that underly some of the comments here. In that regard, dumping unionists into a country where they will be very much in a minority and at the mercy of a majority that holds them in contempt seems like a very bad idea to me.

    BTW, regarding my second point, I’m not in any way trying to make out that contempt is only expressed in one direction on this site! I’m just noting how it affects my view of the national question.

  • Your political beliefs, just like your football team, are almost impossible to get a divorce from.

    So, whilst occasionally (very occasionally) a statistic (and it needs to be 100% objective and proven) may move slightly how you approach a question, it would take an earthquake of monumental proportions to make you change those beliefs completely. Nothing I have ever read on Slugger has shifted my belief on the Union one milimetre.

    Example of the kind of statistic which I have read on on here which has changed one of my political perceptions is when, many moons ago, someone went to the trouble of posting up every GAA club in NI which had a terrorist connection in terms of name of club, ground or tournament they’d organised. And it was a very small percentage indeed.

    More subjectively the Irish language activists who have argued their cause on here on the basis of the language alone minus the politics. Promotion of a narrow Republican agenda and the promotion of the Irish language are not one and the same thing in my mind.

    Numerous arguments with Fair Deal here and elsewhere over time have made me ponder more on the importance of “culture” and “community” in the future of the Union. He has not persuaded me that the “civic” road is the best one but I do at least see there can be a merit in the other(!) side of Unionism.

    On a personal level, probably the greatest help I received during the period I was operating my own blog came from Slugger’s erstwhile dissident, Mark McGregor. He was very kind in helping me dig myself out of potentially a very big hole. It didn’t change my opinion of dissident republicanism but it did made me realise that decency doesn’t remain within the boundaries of those who accept the system the rest of us have bought into.

  • Should have read:

    “He has not persuaded me that the “civic” road is not the best one but I do at least see there can be a merit in the other(!) side of Unionism.”

  • No……Slugger has not changed my mind.
    Some beliefs are more about “morality” than “Reason”. For example if a person is anti-racist, I doubt they would be so “open minded” as to consider a “reasoned” argument put forward by a Racist. Indeed even if it was “proven” that one race is superior, many would choose to ignore it.
    In other words their sense of decency would over-rule a sense of “reason”. Is an “open mind” not just a false God?

    Contentious political thought….eg grammar schools, free health care, minimum wage, tax rates…..might arguably be “reasoned” but in effect these are totemic issues which might well be a reflection of different issues.

    The Human Race…to its great credit…is not entirely dependent on Reason. “Emotion” is not lesser.

    Slugger O’Toole is a message board. And confrontational. Nobodys opinion has ever been changed by confrontation.
    A Blog……is a slightly different forum….usually only appealing to like-minded individuals. Arguably, a Blog changes……or at least amends minds…….because of the nuances.

  • Mister_Joe

    So, fitzjameshorse1745,

    Why do you post “messages” here?

  • Greenflag

    @ Alias ,

    ‘You’re assuming that Ayn Rand created particular human dynamics rather than accurately defined them; and that they didn’t exist before her or wouldn’t have existed if she didn’t define them. ‘

    I’m assuming nothing . My dog is aware that human greed existed back before the time of the worshippers of the Golden Calf . Ayn Rand did’nt define greed -She merely purports and recommends that human beings need to be more selfish in their own personal interests and disregard the rest of humanity .

    A nutter plain and simple if not as mad as Hitler . And irony of ironies Ayn Rand the Russian jewish atheist is held up for adulation by the born again evangelical gobshites of GOP USA ?

    But as we’ve recently heard from backtracking adulators of Randian nonsense eh ‘We only agree with some of Ayn Rand’s philosophy ‘

    And thats a story which you’ve heard a million times before .Some would have said

    “We believe in the bible but we don’t really believe that God spoke out of a burning bush or turned Lot into a pillar of salt . And yes there were some parts of Mein Kampf that were quite believeable and Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto were very accurate in parts ;(

    ‘But she was just an observer’

    With both eyes wide shut as to the human condition .I suppose one can forgive her ‘blindness’ given the trauma of her family’s suffering at the hands of the Russian Communists . But then the Tsarist regimes were not immune to perpetrating slaughter and terror on her people and on the millions of Russian serfs in their time .

    ‘Business people don’t pay any heed to what members of the political class think about business. ‘

    Which is presumably why the ‘business class ‘ pays 5,000 lobbyists in Washington DC to ensure that Senators and House Members are kept on side and don’t pass any legislation which would mitigate the ability of the financial sector’s criminal classes to loot their way to riches on the backs of the people of the world .

    Wise up Alias and heres a nice study from the university of Zurich among others about the ‘real ‘ rulers of the world .You may be familar with the names of some of them but the rankings are worth a glance .And no there’s no conspiracy just confirmation of what every one with half a brain should know and why the world’s elected politicians might as well be flushed down the john for they would all prefer to be gutless cowards than tackle the reforms that are long overdue to the world financial system.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228354.500-revealed–the-capitalist-network-that-runs-the-world.html

  • Greenflag

    addendendum

    ‘I don’t think theres any need for essays advocating selfishness among human beings —– somethings require no further enforcement ‘

    Christopher Hitchens

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wYR6e9Z6es

    Never mind the cult nuts of Ayn Rand alone but combining with this shower could be a ‘union ‘ as fruitful for humanity as that of a Hitler Stalin pact 🙁

  • Henry94

    It has certainly helped. How much was Slugger how much was age and how much was the evolving situation is hard to say.

    But it has all brought me to a place where my views are much more in keeping with the current Sinn Fein position whereas 20 years ago my thinking would have been much more aligned with the then Sinn Fein position.

  • Mr Joe,
    I dont post here to change peoples minds.
    I merely seek to express my own views, which may at times be either broadly supportive of…….or perhaps an alternative view to views already expressed.
    Id be amazed if anyone ever changed their minds because of anything I ever posted.

  • Mister_Joe

    fitzjameshorse1745,

    I always read your posts with interest and sometimes what you say makes me think a bit more deeply. Can’t say definitely if anything you said made me change my mind about anything but it’s not impossible.

  • Has Slugger O’Toole ever changed your mind?

    Frequently, during the first dozen or so posts.

    Then normal hostilities recommence; and I know why I keep three hundred miles safe distance.

  • Alias

    That’s it. As a rule, if a thread has more than 75 replies, there is a sectarian bun-fight within.

  • THE BRIGHT NEW POLITICAL BLOGGER: I post, I change other people’s minds”.
    THE EXPERIENCED POLITICAL BLOGGER: “I post, I do not change other people’s minds”.
    THE FLOATING VOTER: “I read, I change my mind”.
    THE PARTY HACK:“I read, I do not change my mind”.
    THE STATESMAN “I do not post, I change other people’s minds”.
    THE YOUNG: “I do not post, I do not change other people’s minds”.
    THE OPEN EARED : “I do not read, I change my mind”.
    THE BIGOT “I do not read, I do not change my mind”.

    Perhaps the only one that requires explanation is “The Open Eared” that is a person whose actions are determined by the last person to speak in his or her ear, oh and “The Young”, sadly, or is that just me being old.

  • 2010 INTAKE: I post, I change other people’s minds”.
    2005 INTAKE : “I post, I do not change other people’s minds”.
    THE LOYAL PARTY HACK (on the payroll):“I read, I do not change my mind”.
    THE INDEPENDENT MP(not on the payroll with a safe majority ): “I read, I change my mind”.
    THE WHIP “I do not post, I change other people’s minds”.
    1997 INTAKE: (not on the payroll) “I do not post, I do not change other people’s minds”.
    THE OPEN EARED : “I do not read, I change my mind”.
    THE TORY BACKWOODSMAN: “I do not read, I do not change my mind

    Tried this for UK Government, not sure if I’m brave enough to do it for Norn Iron and name names, it could be libellous.

  • Greenflag

    @ articles ‘

    Bloggo ergo sum ?

    Sometimes a bit more ‘cogito ‘ could be desired but on balance the slugger bloggerati are a thoughtful bunch and try and provoke thought where it’s needed .

    As a mere commentator I can only agree with Malcolm above and Alias (where did you get the 75 ? you’re not counting I hope ) that the descent to ‘normal hostilities’ is a bit off putting at times -sometimes one has to wonder at the sheer staying power of some of these 250 posts plus long ‘duels’ and all because of some stupidity or other most of the time.

    ‘ Not sure if I’m brave enough to do it for Norn Iron and name names, it could be libellous.’

    But fun no?

  • Mister_Joe

    Yes, Alias just changed my mind on the merits of civil disobedience.

  • Greenflag

    @ mister joe ,

    ‘Alias just changed my mind on the merits of civil disobedience.’

    me too

    LOL it’s the way you tell them 🙂

  • Alias

    Greenie, your contrariness is so well known to me by now that if you drowned downriver, I’d know to look upriver for your corpse. 😉

  • DC

    It’s made me think again, and also helped improved my writing skills. Except whenever i come on here drunk. Never a good thing, think it’s time for a new pseudonym.

  • DC

    or maybe not helped enough, by the looks of it.

  • Mister_Joe

    DC,

    Funny you should mention that; I have noticed my spelling ability deteriorate late at night. I did change my name from joeCanuck a few months ago but because of a near death experience abroad and meeting an Iraqi who had a similar event.

  • DC

    my spelling on here has been poor and i do tend to waffle a bit but have cut back on the flyposting that i used to do at work which was just counter-productive as the comments were rushed and not thought through. i don’t bother at work anymore too busy with stuff and even outside of it now.

    best not to rush as you make more mistakes. But yea the later it gets the worse i become too.

    also i find this site has the worst comments zone box ever, like a little square box, i find i make the most mistakes on slugger than any other site. Rarely muck up on the guardian site when i used to post there, much better layout and the commenters are valued there and the design of the comments zone proves that.

    Re changing my mind about things, I guess the financial crash has had a significant impact on me politically, perhaps I have become more right wing in that i would favour illiberal actions on bankers, perhaps bordering on fascist in terms of the state taking hard action on them, freezing their personal bank accounts and pulling the money out of their accounts and back into the banks now bankrupted as a result of their actions.

  • Greenflag

    @ Alias ,

    ‘Greenie, your contrariness is so well known to me by now that if you drowned downriver, I’d know to look upriver for your corpse. ‘

    Good one I’ll remember that .Alas I became aware about age 5 that Ireland was an island and thus learning to swim was an imperative . While I’m no Michael Phelps I can float indefinitely in the Irish sea and could no doubt walk across the Dead Sea while reading the newspaper 😉

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    The process of writing your thoughts down in public definitely affects them – or affects mine at least. It’s made me question and ultimately move away from the weaker parts of my own case. I think, ‘No, I can’t write that because that’s an open goal for anyone with half a brain” though it hasn’t stopped me completely of course …

    I think Slugger has also given me a lot of useful information too – invaluable for someone like me who lives outside the province these days. Information and links on Slugger has definitely led me into thinking differently about a number of issues – for example on the relationship between politics and sport, Irish cultural issues and even parading.

    But on the whole I came to Slugger after 30 odd years of churning over the issues that interest me and it’s true my views aren’t that different now from a few years ago. But that’s not really what it’s for, is it?

  • Greenflag

    @ DC

    ‘the financial crash has had a significant impact on me politically, ‘

    And so it should . And the next crash probably before April 2013 may have an even bigger impact for in truth the various governments have done little to prevent a recurrence .With interest rates at near zero the climate is perfect for fiancnail speculators of all ilks and for ‘spendthrift ‘ governments and fiat money printers .Meanwhile for savers , people on fixed retire ment incomes or similar the outlook will remain bleak .

    The much lauded Frank Dodds reforms are next to useless in restoring ‘confidence to the system and none of the major financial powers seem prepared or even willing to push for the major changes to the international system which are needed .

    I read that the Occupy Wall St movement is being ‘restarted ‘with marches planned for New York’s financial district .Whether this will remind voters in the coming election that neither Obama nor Romney have opened their mouths on what either of their future policies will be for the financial sector is to be seen . We can hope that the movement resparks debate across the USA and further afield for what we have right now is a worldwide cache of weapons of mass economic destruction albeit in fiat paper money format and in the hands and control of a tiny minority of ‘greedy ‘and irresponsible international sociofinancopaths 🙁

    The link below is confirmation of the current reality which should point to moves by governments to reform a broken system . But don’t hold your breath .We may all have to wait until the USA election is over and theres blood in the streets before governments act decisively in defence of our ‘democracies’.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228354.500-revealed–the-capitalist-network-that-runs-the-world.html