Actually, Someone Is Arguing That

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 4 2015 @ 9:46am

Freddie has grown tired of one tactic for shutting down debate:

There are all kinds of arguments in the world — right ones, wrong ones, constructive ones, destructive ones, sincere ones, disingenuous ones, funny ones, serious ones. But at this stage in my life as an arguer, none is as consistently, exhaustingly unhelpful as “no one is arguing that.”

This has become an absolute stock response in my comments section in the last couple of years. I will say “X is a bad idea.” And commenters will spring up to say “Straw man! No one is arguing for X!” This is particularly odd because almost always I’ve pointed to a particular argument for X, with a link. I’ll then say, in the comments, actually here’s argument X, coming from this person and this person and this person. Then, the argument immediately changes: “oh, well, sure, that guy argues for X, but hardly anybody argues for X.” Or, even more often, some version of “nobody important argues for X.” The goal posts shift massively and quickly and yet the tone of condescension endures.

Well, look: ideas are worth rebutting even if they are not popular, there are many unpopular ideas that we take as perpetually worthy of fighting thanks to their former prevalence in history, and frequently the arguments aren’t actually that unpopular as people claim anyway.