Winning Hearts and Minds

In his book, How to Make Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie wrote, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” While I found the entire book to be informative, that particular quote was by far the most important bit of information I gleaned from the entire publication.

Today, with social media being “all the rage,” it’s also our primary source for news and information. Thanks to the social media age, long gone are the days when people were capable of civilized discussion, or moreover, civilized disagreement.

Frequently, friends tag me in posts, or send me links related to some anti-2A babble, officer involved shooting report, lethal force encounter by an armed citizen, or the malicious prosecution of someone who successfully defended themselves. I’ve also been asked, multiple times, why I don’t engage in conversations associated with similar stories and online posts. Because it’s pointless, that’s why. No person in the history of mankind has ever been convinced they were wrong about anything, unless they were first willing to admit that their position on any given matter was improper. Simply “winning” an argument is not changing hearts and minds, and rendering an opponent speechless, causing them to resort to name-calling, or causing them to “block you” is not a victory in debate. All that serves to accomplish is to fuel their fire and inflate your own ego – giving you a sense of “Yeah, I showed them!” – which accomplishes nothing for the greater good.

Furthermore, the people who most frequently engage in arguments and debates (especially online) seem to be the people with the least amount of competence as it relates to the topic at hand, whatever that topic may be – a prime example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Some people are too concerned with being offended while others are too concerned with appearing offensive – both of which make a person an ineffective communicator. Online, just as in most other settings, it’s imperative that you know your audience before you speak. You waste breath and keystrokes trying to convince an inconvincible person that they are wrong. For example, anyone who claims it’s possible for a boy to be a girl or for a girl to be a boy, cannot be reasoned with.

Unfortunately, we see similar examples of willful ignorance and stupidity when it comes to guns, gun accessories, gun regulations, and gun laws. There are far too many gun laws on the books at all levels of government. However, I’m not some right-wing nut job that thinks “EvEry guN LAw Is aN iNfringeMent.” That notion is absurd – equally as absurd is believing that regulating arbitrary things such as barrel length, bullet type, magazine capacity, or any other firearm accessory or modification does anything besides pad the deep pockets of the government. For example, if you want a rifle with a 14” barrel, you must give your government a non-refundable $200, in HOPES that you will get their permission to possess such a weapon. However, if you want a rifle with a 16” barrel, you just go buy it at the store, no questions asked – aside from the mandatory background check. How do you spell “stupid?” Some would suggest its spelled “A-T-F,” while others might spell it “C-O-N-G-R-E-S-S.”

I’m not suggesting that you give up your rights or even that you remain silent on the issues most personal and important to you. I’m simply suggesting that we all learn to pick our battles and use our energy for the things (and at the times) where our voices will be most effective. I’m also suggesting that we listen intently to the “other side” of things before drawing a conclusion or speaking out, whether in opposition or support of any given matter. How can anyone defend a platform without understanding what they’re defending it against? Like it or not, the people you disagree with have just as much right to say what they believe as you do. Stifling anyone’s freedom of expression is wrong, unless and until their freedom of expression infringes on someone else’s right to life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness.

American writer, Robert E. Howard once wrote, “Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.”

How true is that statement in modern society? Today, in the most enlightened / civilized time in human history, people are wholly unrestricted in their ability to be either offensive OR offended – hiding behind the vast expanse of cyberspace, or even taking their anonymity a step further by hiding behind fake names and fabricated profiles. Imagine if you will, a social media platform designed for only libertarian or centrist minded people. There would be zero activity because everyone would be busy minding their own business. Doesn’t that sound glorious? It sure does to me.

There are certain actions, if committed against me or my loved ones, where splitting a skull would not only be an option, but it would also be the most appropriate response – a response that I would not hesitate to deliver. I’m not yelling. I’m simply telling you where I stand, in a direct and forthright manner. I’m willing to have a civilized discussion with anyone, in person or otherwise, about my line(s) in the sand, and I’ll listen intently to the point of view of anyone who can articulate their position. However, if you engage in name calling, or shout at me because you think being loud is synonymous with being correct, then our conversation will be short-lived. Leaving a loudmouth to his or her own devices can be a very effective debate strategy. Eventually they’ll just be yelling at themselves – but only if we stop giving them an audience.

If history really does repeat itself, and I believe that it tends to, I look forward to a time where the wisdom of Voltaire’s quote “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is again the sentiment of the majority.

Avoid what you can. Defeat what you can’t.


(Ryan Barnette is not a licensed attorney or a medical provider, and no information provided in “Slicing the Pie,” or any other publication authored by Ryan Barnette should be construed, in any way, as official legal, or medical advice.)

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