“Persuasion” by Intimidation? Forget It

In response to my recent article on how alcoholism is not a disease, it’s less interesting to learn that some people disagree than with how they disagree.

When somebody disagrees with me, I try to identify where they find the flaw in my argument. That’s often difficult, because people tend to disagree via emotion. It’s more than emotion. It’s threats, intimidation.

I’m not referring here to personal or physical threats. I’m talking about the “argument” from intimidation, from someone who disagrees.

For example: “You are responsible for the deaths of thousands of people who will now die, of alcoholism, thanks to your article against Alcoholics Anonymous [AA].”

How? No defense is given. It’s as if that horrible accusation is supposed to stop my thinking cold, and lead me to submit and agree.

Perhaps that works with some people, but I have not built myself that way psychologically, or intellectually. The moment someone argues from intimidation and tries to “make” my mind shut down, to go in the direction of their conclusion, I simply hold stronger to my own conclusion. My basic attitude when I hear something like this is, “Prove it.”

Of course, the proof never comes, and the person arguing from intimidation doesn’t think it’s necessary. In fact, that seems to be the whole point. An attempt to arouse a particular emotional state within you — fear or shame, most likely — is supposed to replace your current intellectual position based on the facts you point out and conclusions you propose.

My claim that alcoholism, while not a simple choice in the usual sense of the term, is not a disease over which the person is helpless, either, seems to throw some people into a rage. In their rage, they seek to intimidate, but they never advance anything new.

It’s ironic, because what they usually most object to is my premise that there’s free will. But if there isn’t free will, and the alcoholic is destined to succumb to his problem or not, then why are we arguing in the first place? It’s nothing more than the ancient religious idea of predestination, dressed up as something scientific and “new,” which AA most certainly is not.

As best as I can tell, such people seem to resent my advancement of the idea that there is such a thing as free will, i.e. that free will resides in our choice to either think or evade that effort — and that a problem like alcoholism (or criminal behavior, as I addressed in a different article) is basically the accumulation of many errors in thinking, rationalizations, evasions and mental double talk (to oneself) over time.

While I never deny that alcoholism (or something similar) can be a genuine struggle for a person, I also refuse to cave into the idea that it’s a disease, either. And since diseases require proof, through blood tests, brain scans and the like, I demand proof (or at least evidence beyond the theoretical quest for a genetic “marker”). The only counterpoints I ever seem to get are ones of rage.

This argument from intimidation comes from people in all kinds of contexts. All of us have known people in personal or business associations who try to argue with the goal of intimidating you — not necessarily about intellectual issues, but issues related to money, personal choices or preferences, how to spend your day, where to travel, what to eat, etc.

People who argue from intimidation have confessed something very important about themselves: That they’re unwilling to utilize rational thought and deliberation in matters of complex issues or daily life. They have dispensed with reason in favor of unreflected emotion (most often, as I said, guilt, anxiety or shame). They expect you to do the same, and if you don’t, it threatens them to no end.

When you demand facts or evidence of them to back up their claims (whatever the subject), they become frightened and rageful. Their primitive, child-like reply is simply to respond in a way designed to intimidate. It’s as if they don’t know what else to do.

Intimidation is a sign of weakness. As a method of thinking or conversation, it only appeals to weak people. It’s of no intellectual or metaphysical value whatsoever.

I pay it no mind, and neither should you.


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