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How to deal with denialists

 
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Old 24-May-2010, 08:14 PM (20:14)     1        39502
Mr. Creosote
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Question How to deal with denialists

On a lot of forums that deal with science, skepticism and rationalism, some recurring themes concern denialism or conspiracy theorieshypotheses, where a thread is started by a denialist of some flavour. Examples of the types of denialism/conspiracy lunatics I have encountered:
  • 9/11 denialism: the Government let it happen, the Government made it happen, no planes hit WTC1/2, it was all a media cover-up
  • AIDS/HIV denialism: the HIV virus does not cause AIDS, or does not even exist
  • JFK conspiracies: well, you all know the shit they're promoting; the CIA did it, Oswald was not alone, etc.
  • Holocaust denialism: perhaps the most annoying and sickening of the lot; there were no gas chambers, it was all a Zionist conspiracy, etc.
So, the stereotypical denialist enters the scene, starts asking innocent questions in a polite manner, and then finally reveals his/her true colours, under the disguise of "Just Asking Questions" (JAQ). The whole thread then deteriorates into a disgusting mess of Gish galloping with knowledgeable people bringing forth their rebuttals as well as they can, while the denialist avoids facts and consistently only refers to fringe science papers and crank web sites, while continuing to "just asking questions".

One strategy that seems to help somewhat is to force the denialist/conspiracy lunatic to concentrate on only one question at a time. Given enough discipline among the other participants in the discussion, this can work remarkably well. But every so often, a denialist/conspiracy lunatic enters the scene that does not seem to let him/herself get affected by this, and just spew out their s**t, without any regard to the other participants or moderators/administrators. This can result in a ban on the person or a thread that could otherwise be interesting deteriorate into a mess, all depending on the forum and the administrators.

So, do you guys have any hints on how to best handle this kind of people, other than just kicking them out of the forum?

(Btw., what's the "Random Question" thingy? Spam bot prevention?)
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Old 24-May-2010, 08:31 PM (20:31)     2        39504
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I think the best thing to do is first of all work out if the person is a committed denialist or not. If not, they can be argued with.

If the person is in fact a committed denialist, the only way I have really discovered to work in the very long run is simply to pick one factual answer or question, and to keep on insisting on that one simple fact or factual question.

And thereby never ever let yourself be distracted by anything new, or any abuse.

Of course, that means giving up on the person completely. If they are a committed denialist, they're a dishonest person in argument most usually. There are lots of dishonest folks around; by far many are in fact not denialists, but simply looking for a fight, or someone to dump on, and so on. All the time on all the boards I post on I'm simply trying to work out if the other discussant is someone honest or not (or if they are having a bvery bad phase); can I and the discussant disagree in a reasonably civil and productive manner, or is it simply time to go back to repetitions of the facts?

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On the admin side: as admin, I have to work out if someone is a spammer denialist. It happens, especially with Holocaust denial, but sometimes with other forms.

If I finally decide (in conjunction with Never, the other admin) someone is merely a spammer denialist, the offender gets one or two (at the most) warnings, and then gets the boot.

______

The Random Question is something I put in to stop a flood of spambots armed with the newest spammer OCR tech. The answer to the Random Question is always "Heathen", exactly as typed but without the quotation marks. Now the only spammers who get through are the human or the human-assisted spambot ones.
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Old 25-May-2010, 12:24 AM (00:24)     3        39515
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Tell them to STFU and ignore them? Or flame, I like flaming... Not here, but I do like flaming sometimes.

Roasted troll of any stripe is delicious and nutritious. *cannibal!*
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Last edited by Makbawehuh; 25-May-2010 at 12:24 AM (00:24). Reason: I can spell at the end of the day when my coffee is wearing off. I can, I can...
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Old 25-May-2010, 08:14 PM (20:14)     4        39517
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I don't have enough experience with this to comment intelligibly, but this is interesting. When people start arguing in circles or Gish galloping I usually just stop responding.
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Old 25-May-2010, 10:04 PM (22:04)     5        39518
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Instead of arguing, try asking your own questions. Specifically, skip the litanies of facts and my proxy is better than your proxy routine for a moment. Ask about implication. If there was no "whatever" and all was conspiracy then what does this signify for us now and in the future. The answer may give you a pretty good idea of what the posters beliefs and motivations are and you can then procede to argue or not.
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Old 25-May-2010, 11:57 PM (23:57)     6        39519
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Annoyingly, many denialists and conspiracy teorists* (CTs) are very verbose, and are rarely discouraged by being proven wrong (either by logic or by facts or sound scientific arguments), and just continue on their mission, spreading their disinformation. I have seen forums where a single user have been posting conspiracy theories and denialism at a phenomenal pace, much faster than even 10 trained forum debaters can handle. Ignoring them is in my opinion not really an option, as certain denialist/CT propaganda is outright dangerous, like vaccine and HIV/AIDS denialism, or destructive (in the sense that they're spreading lies or hate) like Holocaust denialism or 9/11 conspiracy theories. Therefore, these should not be met with just a wall of silence, as it can then be perceived by onlookers that these views are factual.

On web forums that have a policy of supporting freedom of speech (as in no opinions are censored, with the possible exception of hate speech and/or outright hostile behaviour and threats) and that have a very high threshold for banning users, this can represent a problem, as these debates just go on and on and on. I have only seen a very few cases where the denialists give up, but that have only been after very long threads (with recycling of arguments) where they have been met with an array of highly disciplined rebuttals from actual experts on the field in question. Naturally, these cases are very rare.

So, I guess what I'm looking for are alternative strategies to stop the insanity at an early stage before it grows out of hand.


* Actually, I hesitate calling them "theorists", as 1) they hardly ever present theories, but rather unfounded hypotheses, and 2) they hardly ever present any original thought, but instead just repeat pre-digested statements.
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Old 26-May-2010, 05:40 AM (05:40)     7        39520
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Just a thought: fight fire with fire. Respond to their crazyness by saying there are more important issues, like verifying ESP, secret governments, and shadow people; then bombard them with links to Coast to Coast. Also, be sure to PM them with advice on why they should invest in gold.

That's probably too much work though. I'd rather just ignore them and allow them to make fools of themselves.
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Old 30-Jul-2010, 06:38 PM (18:38)     8        40315
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Expanding on the above point, get a Denialist and a Nihlist in the same room and watch the microverse implode...
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Old 30-Jul-2010, 07:04 PM (19:04)     9        40317
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Howso?
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Old 30-Jul-2010, 07:49 PM (19:49)     10        40324
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Well a denialist is someone who, say, bases their ideas on the twisting of fact to remove another elements existance. A Nihlist believes that nothing is real. At all. In the slightest.
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Old 30-Jul-2010, 08:22 PM (20:22)     11        40326
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I know this. I'm failing to see how it would cause an explosion.

Sounds to me more like something that would fizzle. Either that, to the nihilist would troll the denialist for the shit of it.
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Old 30-Jul-2010, 08:41 PM (20:41)     12        40328
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Ye, your outcome's got more logic it to than mine ha.
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Old 09-Aug-2011, 04:32 AM (04:32)     13        44387
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It's rather nice to have a conspiracy theory guy around, everyone should keep one, and a preacher too.

When it get's out of hand offer them 'A' single thread, and it is spam if they get out of the thread or references back to it to much.

Had one(money type) in another forum at one time where it was libertarian, and while Mods was tried (against my desires - I'm pro self filtering) for a bit in the end it was rejected as it ultimately turned out to be to much problem/power for some, so it went back to being mod'd by one slacking libertarian dictator who never showed up or mod'd and was fine. Most there were adult enough to know when to start ignoring, of course the occasional tasty tidbit that was to hard to let go.

There were some truths to what the guy said but boy could he go at it, luckily he kept primarily to one thread. We had a preacher too, wanted to convert/show the light type, kept it to his own thread. So we had two respectful type and one that wasn't that was mainly ignored when needed.

(Edit: oops- forgot , we had most likely a racist too although he'd waffle about it, but kept to his thread mainly too. Probably not the only winners we had but the ones I remember. Had the discordians try to rock the joint once , but they were to family so that was just fun.)

Last edited by ajw; 09-Aug-2011 at 04:36 AM (04:36). Reason: added
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Old 09-Aug-2011, 06:13 AM (06:13)     14        44392
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajw View Post
...Had the discordians try to rock the joint once , but they were to family so that was just fun.)
Are we ever not fun?

Well, I guess jake day isn't fun for the person being jaked.
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Old 09-Aug-2011, 06:18 AM (06:18)     15        44395
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Jake me not, Jakewoman.
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Old 09-Aug-2011, 06:21 AM (06:21)     16        44396
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gurdur View Post
Jake me not, Jakewoman.
Don't worry, you don't strike me as the sort to need 101 sheep erasers in the mail, Gurdur.
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