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You know, I've been online for a very long time.  Started back in '91, pre-web, where the now nearly defunct USENET was the white-hot global hub of activity, and where e-mail was still a novelty for most people.  Got my ass handed to me nicely, plenty of times, and came to really see the value and personal strength it takes to engage people online.

This isn't a short diary, but I do think it will be a fun and interesting one.  I also don't promise that you will like or agree with all of it, but I think you will respect it.  That, folks, is really as good as it ever gets on this kind of thing.

I've got some troll fighting, advocacy quality improving, flat out fun things to share, but before I do, I need to say a few things....

This is a meta-diary big time.  I'm writing it to empower all of us by sharing some observations I've made, and some truisms that I have come to understand from my time online here, and elsewhere.  

This is not about targeting specific users, though the device I used in this effort does center on some users.  The reason is I am focused on Health Care Reform right now, and because of that focus, that's where I am at here most of the time.

The Health Care diaries have been extremely ugly.  Lots of carnage, people hauling off with a GBCW, only to return, somewhat jaded, reserved, tired, and just battered, but wanting to carry on.  Again, that's where my mind is at, because that issue matters to me, and because of that, the discourse matters to me, and what I saw was just not ok.

On one of my earlier advocacy meta diaries, I was asked for a diary on how to win the argument.  Frankly, I've thought about that a lot while watching the carnage going on in the HCR corner of Dkos.  And folks, there was a lot of carnage, but there is less of it now!

You win an argument, by not losing!  This diary is about not losing, thus keeping the potential for a win, or conversion on the table.

Resolution is then a matter of will and character, not overall skill.

Now, of course most of you being the slightly smarter bears are going to cry out, "What kind of Zen, potato-shit is that?"  Please entertain me for a while on this, is all I ask.

In formal debate, it is often possible to come to a resolution on something because the rules of debate are well structured, as is the sport.  In science, we can do similar things, because we have enough structure and precision to render judgement.  And in law, it's there too.

Here, we do advocacy.  Advocacy is different.  It's different because it's a mixture of facts, emotions, ideas, strategy, and that all boils down to value judgements, where we weigh it all and commit on various levels.  The key point here is that none of us can actually force any of the others to see it our way!  Advocacy is like selling things.  Selling is all about helping the other person buy something.  Advocacy is about helping the other person, or people to commit to an action, or share an idea, join a movement, or come to believe something is just and true.

Only the target of the advocacy can come to acceptance.  This is not under the control of the advocate, but is under the influence.

Now, we do debate on Dkos, and we do just have fun, and we share facts, and check them, debug them, and so on.  It's not all advocacy, but an awful lot of it is, so that's the focus here.

Let me share a few truisms, that will seem rather obvious.  Forgive me for that, but after what I've experienced, these things absolutely need to be said:

1.  Nobody makes anybody else feel anything they don't want to feel.

2.  We cannot be held accountable for those things, or actions we do not have control over.

3.  Successful advocacy involves both the emotional and the rational.

4.  There are few absolutes in this world, opening the door for advocacy.

5.  When it becomes a fallacy, you lose.

6.  When it gets personal, you lose as well!

7.  We are peers here, each worthy of the consideration we grant to others.

The Health Care Reform discussion is very interesting to me on this level because it's actually debatable as to which advocacy path is the better one!  We have real tension here, because the matter has real ambiguity!

Where this is true, the magic of online advocacy comes into play, and that is quite literally why our American Founders created the First Amendment.  We resolve this condition through just, true and robust discourse, eventually reaching consensus, then movements, then action!

The interesting thing about this is the conflict not only being unavoidable, but it's completely necessary!  If we don't entertain it, we risk going down a non-productive path risking any number of things, with no real return on that risk being possible!

Now, as we render judgement on a matter like this, factions form, little pools of consensus build, and we get invested in them on many levels, both emotional and rational, and when a greater consensus begins to form that is not aligned with the one we favor, that's a threat, and our natural inclination is to fight threats!

When we fight, we generally need a goal, or some conclusion that makes sense, that we can point to and validate our actions, where in the most simple sense, that goal is "winning" the argument! Because this is advocacy not debate, we often experience considerable frustration over not being able to "win", largely because the matter being an advocacy one means the other person has to come to acceptance, and we don't control that no matter how well we present our "case".

Here is an ugly list of things I saw people do when confronted with others not only failing to come to acceptance in a way that was favorably aligned with their view, but were building a whole consensus movement that was badly aligned as well!

When one of these things is done, you lose!

It's that simple.  

The reason you lose is because doing one of these things is an expression of your acceptance that the other side just isn't getting sold, and rather than go and do the work to build a better case, or consider acceptance, it's easier to entertain some denial this way, avoiding the reality of the situation.

There will be a few people here not happy with this list, for obvious reasons.  I can only offer the reality that I am focused on HCR advocacy, not participating in a lot of Dkos discussions, and that I mean only to shine the light on this with the goal of ending most of it.  I did not target people specifically.  It just happened to be this issue, this time, these comments.

Finally you won't catch me doing this crap, and if you do, I'll own it.  Ask the Kossack that has a potatohead, "god I botched it" marker about that.  I took my lumps, and will take some more before it's over, but you will see me take that to heart, learn and grow from it, model it, and we all are better for it.  I believe in this absolutely.  I hope to make the advocacy case for you too.

When we fail in these things, we often get personal gratification that cannot be denied, but we are worse for it too, and that's the brutal truth.  

1.  Claim of association with controversial figure.

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  FDL, Sheehan, etc...

The idea here is that the target of the advocacy must be failing to come to acceptance, because they have some artifact of this association that makes their intent self-serving, and not just and true.

2.  Claim of less than mature outlook, or diminutive

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  Ponies, stars, rainbows, purple

The target(s) of the advocacy effort are characterized as childish, or do not have a reasonable grasp on the norms and expectations typical for the scenario at hand.

3.  Threat of implied violence!

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  Implied violence / threatening

The target of the advocacy is presented with the idea that the advocate is a real bad ass in real life, and a meeting would result in a hostile and violent interaction with consequences.  Folks, this one is really low.

4.  Claim of self-serving or nefarious intent to manupulate

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  claim of nefarious intent to manupulate

The target of the advocacy is tagged with their arguments being self-serving in some way that is harmful to a discussion, movement or consensus at hand, often coupled with number 5

5.  Full on personal insult!

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  Dumb, Simpleton, Thick, ass[hole]

The target(s) of the advocacy effort are tagged with their character or person being devalued in some basic ugly way.

6.  Invoke bull-shit, cliche' meme

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  Lemmings, train wreck, bus...

The target(s) of the advocacy effort are characterized in a way that is commonly accepted to be futile, foolish, worth reproach, without actually backing the claim in a way that is of note, or merit.

7.  Claim of exclusive membership required for participation of note

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  Exclusive Membership Required

The target(s) of the advocacy effort are characterized as not being "in the club", whatever that club may be.  Club of "smart" people, people who get it, etc...

8.  Claim of poorly characterized intent being true

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  "Kill the bill"

The target(s) of the advocacy effort intent and or motivation is distorted to appear counter-productive, hostile, futile, etc...

9.  Claim of willful ignorance or denial

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  Willful Ignorance [ignorant]

The target(s) of the advocacy effort intent and or motivation is distorted to appear counter-productive, hostile, futile, etc...

10.  Repeated queries to incite non-productive conversation

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  Threadjack! / Trolling

The advocate engages in contributions known to be inflammatory, incite passers by to conflict, disrupt, render discussion futile / moot

11.  Undesirable label attached

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  Shitty Label Attached

The advocate labels the target(s) of the advocacy in a personally unpleasant way, without bringing the claim to merit*

*This one isn't a loser, if the label is just and true, but the advocate has a very high burden on that, and could easily see community moderation.

12.  Claim of indifference due to privilege

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  Claim of indifference

Target of advocacy is characterized as a person "out of touch", "in the bubble", or of a station in life that marginalizes their commentary

13.  Claim of inability to contribute further

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  GBCW threat

Target of advocacy, or advocate threatens to leave community, with the intent of harm to reputation of another, or group

14.  Claim of paid activity

eg:  "THERE IT IS!!!  Blogging for dollars!

Advocate claims the target is not acting from a true, personal advocacy position, instead contributing material on paid basis, failing to demonstrate how the payment differentiates said material from being personal advocacy.

In a prior advocacy empowerment diary, I detailed ways that others try to marginalize either you, or your advocacy.  On a personal level, those ideas work to push back and empower you to continue with few worries. Use them.

On a greater community level, different solutions are needed.  

The list you just read is the best of all solutions

, and

it's the same thing our President has learned to do with Republicans

; namely,

Put some daylight on it!

Group dynamics are a funny thing.  When people don't have a high risk of standing out, it's easy to pile on for a bit of cheap entertainment and personal gratification.  We've all been there.  It's quite a bit different to stand out, because then the attention on that builds right on a person, fueling inhibition, and that desire to not be seen as one of the negative elements of the community.

We all have an interest in being excellent to one another.

Winning the argument then is all about engaging with others in a just and true way, doing the work to bring a compelling case to them for their consideration, and being a good enough human to follow through, until some resolution is arrived at.  Perhaps you make your case and see consensus!  Perhaps, you find they made their case with you, or you are mutually unconvinced and continue on.

The only thing that really matters is the passion, the friendships, community bond, and simply not losing.

Originally posted to You can call me spud on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 08:15 AM PST.

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