Being someone who used to make bad faith arguments in the opinions section of this paper, I feel particularly qualified to comment on Robert Lattus’ Oct. 18 column, “An alternative perspective to the Ben Sasse situation.”
First, let’s talk about the tone; you’ll notice that a lot of bad faith arguments ring with the same kind of staid narcissism a medieval priest would probably exhibit while lecturing the local serfs about their holy duty to tend the land. His line “maybe if the protestors listened more and shouted less…a childishly illiberal way of confronting opposing viewpoints.” proves as one example of this. This isn’t only a function of the kind of person writing the argument, but also an intentional choice by the author to both elevate themselves from arguing altogether and to engender more of a reaction from detractors.
And don’t be fooled, a reaction is really all the bad faith arguer is looking for. Writing haughty decontextualized drivel and having it published certainly strokes the ego of this kind of person. You can almost hear the heroic music playing in the author’s head when reading “I stood up and walked through the wildly agitated masses…It concerns freedom of belief and academic liberty here at UF.” *Gasp!*.
But what they’re really hoping for is someone to sincerely engage —negatively — with what they’re putting out into the world. I can say that when I was doing this, I envisioned myself “shaking things up” at UF, due to all the sincere objections I saw published in response to my columns. Of course, I wasn’t shaking things up, I was desperately looking for some external confirmation that my opinion mattered, even if I didn’t care to 100% understand the situations I was referencing.
Because a reaction is all that’s desired, you’ll notice that the bad-faith argument has some glaring holes. For example, in this column, the author posits that the candidate merely addressing the varied concerns that the UF community has with his selection should placate them, regardless of what the candidate has actually done in the past to show his positions.
However, while in most instances a flawed argument should be met with detailed analytical objections, in the case of the bad-faith arguer, it has no effect on them. The bad-faith arguer doesn’t even fully know if they believe what they’re saying, so you pointing out logical flaws isn’t going to deter their confidence.
Am I suggesting then that these kinds of arguments should go unchallenged? Of course not. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that bad-faith arguments are called out for exactly what they are.
What I am suggesting is that, when you see this kind of seemingly unhinged-from-reality writing, be it in a newspaper, Youtube comment, etc., don’t let it “get” to you. Yes, the author is being childish, yes, they have a public platform, yes, their arguments fall apart with even the slightest dusting of context and scrutiny, but you don’t need to make any of that your personal problem.
Object, call out, denounce, but don’t let it make you mad. Not just because that’s what they want, but because the author and their argument are not worth your emotional energy. As a reasonable, moral person, your energy is valuable, theirs is not. Don’t feed the trolls.
Nate Rushing is a UF administrator.