Some thoughts on fanatics and how to fight them.

I’ve always liked Churchill’s definition of a fanatic. “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” Once you get past the witty aspect of the definition, there’s a deep truth in it too. They simply can’t change their mind.

I’ve seen a lot of debates in the blogosphere, where earnest attempts to show a fanatic not just a line of reasoning but the publicly documented facts about something, have failed utterly. They were never going to listen or be persuaded; they can’t change their minds. It’s as simple as that. Rational dialogue with them aimed at somehow converting them to your viewpoint is a losing strategy because it’s a waste of your time and does absolutely nothing to stop them anyway

There is also an insidious danger to this sort of interaction with them; you start to get imprinted by them. If you’re not careful, you soon start to take on the same fanatical traits that you’re fighting, which is an even worse outcome. If you look, you’ll see this has happened at some of the more combative blogs on global warming. If the point of blogging is to inform and persuade, then it’s readily apparent that such vicious gladiatorial displays will quickly alienate the average person. It’s for this reason and a lack of proper moderation, that so many once highly respected blogs, have become PR liabilities in the fight against eco-fascism.

So, if you can’t persuade them of anything, what does that leave? The answer is; you never did need to persuade them of anything and should never have even tried to in the first place. What you should be doing is persuading the average person that the fanatic is a fanatic. Any interactions you have with them, while nominally addressed to them, should always have the average sane person as the real intended recipient. I credit the common man with having common sense and while they may not be too bothered or interested in the latest subtle arguments, they can definitely spot a nutter, so it’s up to you to expose the fanatic as one. If you can do that, you’ve not only nullified the fanatic but you’ve also discredited whatever policies they’re advocating.

If you accept that as a workable strategy, then what are the tactics to be employed? There are many but they all rely on an understanding of your opponent. A fanatic’s real strength is that they’ll never give up, never rethink their position, are not proportionate and above all; don’t know when to stop. Their work is never done. Since this is their strength, it’s what you have to use against them, especially the “don’t know when to stop” bit.

Sometimes that’s as easy as just asking them to clarify whatever mania is driving them. They don’t think of themselves as excessive, so they simply don’t see a problem with expressing viewpoints or attitudes that the ordinary person quickly finds repulsive. The 10:10 video is an outstanding example of this.

Other times it’s just asking the right questions. The population control nutters always kick off with how they’re doing a greater good for humanity but just start asking a few questions. Who decides who can have a child? What happens if an unauthorised child is born? Will you introduce forced sterilisation? Will you introduce Euthanasia for the chronically ill, the elderly and the infirm? Will babies be aborted if they fail a genetic screening? What would count as a genetic fail? Is it only for the third world? I’ve asked these questions of fanatics with this particular mania and been stunned and repulsed with the candidness of the replies. I’ve no doubt that the casual reader of the exchanges was equally repulsed. Job done.

Another biggie you can always use is humour. Their belief is just too big and important to be laughed at. They rarely have much in the way of a sense of humour and absolutely none when it comes to their belief system. If you really want to see them lose it, this is your weapon of choice every time. A good example of this is the “won’t change the subject” bit of the quote above.

Any fanatic is potentially dangerous but it’s when they band together into a movement that they become truly dangerous. We have to fight them because if they ever get their way on whatever insane idea is driving them, then we’ll be the ones who’ll get hurt.

©Pointman

Related article: The death of the AGW belief system.

Click for a list of other articles.

Comments
17 Responses to “Some thoughts on fanatics and how to fight them.”
  1. meltemian says:

    Great analysis Pointman. It’s easy to see how the comments in the AGW/CC blogs develop a life of their own as the opposing posts battle back and forth getting absolutely nowhere! It’s not easy letting some of the posts go unchallenged though, and it’s easy to get ‘suckered-in’.

    • Pointman says:

      Hi Mel. I think there’s always some element of combativeness in any debate over a non-trivial topic; that’s natural I suppose but we’ve all seen much too often a decent debate being sidetracked into pointless invective by the appearance of a single fanatic on the subject. As you rightly say, you do have to engage with them, if only to protect the debate but if you’re sure they’re a real fanatic, keep the ideas above in mind and aim to shut them down by exposing them as a nutter. If anyone has their own particular way of doing that, please feel free to tell us.

      The average person has always got enough things to keep juggling and on a lot of areas, is prepared to go with the flow and accept without too much examination, the popular attitudes on certain topics. Where the case against the prevailing attitude is presented clearly, they do change their mind. In too many areas, the MSM simply does not present an opposing view so I think it falls to the blogosphere to do so.

      I have talked to people who’ve actually been brought around to the anti-alarmist view by following a blog for a few months. We do have an effect. Never doubt that. Too many people are not only bored with the uniformity of the output from the MSM monolith but also don’t trust it any more. The blogosphere is where they go to get the news and any meaty comment on it.

      Pointman

      • Ian says:

        I also think it’s worth putting links to realist blogs in the comments sections of MMA. The average person is quite likely to take a look, just through curiosity, and get the chance to see the other side to the story.

  2. Edward says:

    The worrying thing is pointy, is how susceptible folk can be, how open they can be to being indoctrinated with fanatical aims and dogmas.
    Propagandists, ideologues, extremely venal manipulators have known this well and for millennia, Blair was a good but there have been many, far more steeped, in the evil arts of ‘mass population control’.

    The EU know this [control and manipulation techniques] well too.

    The EU have fought a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign in our schools for years now, that is why the EU and it’s [supposedly] benign dictatorship, is blindly accepted by many [though not all] young people today.
    Coupled with a truly mendacious lowering of standards and academic rigour and the job to persuade people is or becomes ever easier.
    The aims and goals of the EU are in sharp contrast to the real needs of our nation but we have succumbed to the sweet whisperings of the Eurocrats – mouthing basically: safety in numbers and every thing’s better in a big trading bloc, what utter bullshit.
    In order to keep the people onside, an enemy is needed, a nemesis, an aggressor, in Galtieri Argentina, it was us [Britain and our possession of the Falkland Islands], in the Bruxelles Kleptocracy, it is AGW or whatever handle they attach to it presently.

    If you’re going to lie, make it a damn big one, AGW…………they don’t come much bigger than that – do they?

  3. Edward says:

    BTW, wotcha Pointy,

    How the hell are U??

    Hale, I do hope.

    Ed.

    • Pointman says:

      Hiya Ed, I’m good and the same to you too. Don’t go off the reservation so long mate. We were all getting worried.

      Pointy

      • Edward says:

        Blimey Pointy,

        Reservation, ha ha ha!

        They won’t have me back on it!

        Check your email sir.

        Bye for now, good to talk P!

  4. manonthemoor says:

    CENSUS Form on 27th March 2011

    For those who care please fill in your religion as:-

    – CAGW CHALLENGER

    – Your last chance to be noticed
    – You know it makes sense
    – Now is not the time to let up

    Thank you

    motm

  5. maria moura says:

    this report describes exactly what i think and have been trying to live accordingly.
    As a teacher of English i´ll give this text to my students in hope that they also fight fanatism w/o becoming fanatic.
    Real cool thanks!

  6. Truthseeker says:

    Pointman,

    This comment from a “Ross James” on Jo Nova’s blog is a beautiful example of letting the fanatic talk himself into a bottomless pit of bile and shines a light on said fanaticism and the stupidity of it.

    http://joannenova.com.au/2012/02/heartland-sends-out-first-legal-notice-about-stolen-and-faked-documents/#comment-977861

  7. 1957chev says:

    Reblogged this on Mothers Against Wind Turbines and commented:
    The gang green are the worst kind of fanatics!

  8. karabar says:

    Very timely advice. Your denial, anger, barter, depression, acceptance analysis is spot on. While those fanatics in the press appear to be entertaining the ‘barter stage’, there are many out there that are making the transition from denial to anger, and it is those fanatics that are prone to making fools of themselves. Quiet patient persistence will eventually win the day. There are so many sheeple out there that only get their information from the MSM. It is them that will be swayed one way or other by behaviour.

  9. Mac the Knife says:

    Pointman,
    Thoughtful analysis… kinda Sun Tzu!

    Back in the 80’s, i was an engineering student at University of Wisconsin – Madison. ‘Madtown’ was (and remains) a bastion of irrational liberal thought and activism. The anit-nuke kooks would try to blockade the Mechanical Engineering building, ’cause it had/has a nuclear reactor in it. The anti-apartheid folks built ‘shanty towns’ around the state capitol building, etc, etc, ad nauseam.

    My favorite fanatics were the vegan Animal Rites…. er, Rights folks though. They were sooooo sanctimonious and self righteous! A buddy and I decided to join one of their protests, as the MOST self righteous animal rights protesters they had ever seen! Our goal was to get face time on the nightly news shows in Madison, hoping some of our engineering friends would see us and realize what a spoof we were putting over on the protesters. We made up ‘protest signs’ that read Insects Are People Too! and Stop The Senseless Slaughter of Insects On Our Nations Highways!!! We wore black arm bands, in solidarity with slain our insect brothers…. We were righteously Holy!

    When the news cameras and reporters showed up, we were front and center with our soooo sincere outrage and insect empathy! We had brief scripted (sincerely over-the-top) responses we gave to any reporter that approached us and we kept moving to stay in the camera view as they were moving about.

    We achieved our goal! Folks who recognized us on ‘the news’ had a great laugh at the PETA folks expense and folks that didn’t know us just thought THAT was the most over-the-top, bat sh!t loony bunch of protesters they had ever seen!

    Yep – kinda Sun Tzu..
    Mac

  10. Caleb says:

    Reblogged this on Sunrise's Swansong and commented:
    This very wise crystallization of experience was shared by “Pointman” over five years ago. For you who have only experienced the exasperating arguments of Alarmists for a short while, it will be a balm. For those of us who have put up with their abuse for over a decade, it is a reminder of how tenacious an insurance salesman can be, even if their insurance is worthless. Alarmist’s vindicate the Englishman who came up with the doggeral: “No one’s got endurance like the bloke who sells insurance.”

  11. Caleb says:

    I re-blogged this on

    And I commented, “This very wise crystallization of experience was shared by “Pointman” over five years ago. For you who have only experienced the exasperating arguments of Alarmists for a short while, it will be a balm. For those of us who have put up with their abuse for over a decade, it is a reminder of how tenacious an insurance salesman can be, even if their insurance is worthless. Alarmist’s vindicate the Englishman who came up with the doggeral: “No one’s got endurance like the bloke who sells insurance.”

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