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How not to run a political debate

edited June 2013 in Politics
Last night I attended a philosophy talk called "Privacy in the Modern World". I checked out the similarly named thread here to consider the issues that might come up and have a think about the wider topic.

The event was in a pub and hosted by the local university philosophy society and “PPUK”. I was invited by someone I thought was being friendly who I’ve spoken to before at many parties. We even hung out once at a naturist event a few years ago.

It turns out the PPUK was in fact a political party, the Pirate Party. I thought it was a philosophy group or maybe a polling group (maybe Poll Position). I’m in the UK so it’s not surprising to have “UK” in the acronym.

It was awful.

I started off by saying that I was concerned with the unexpected political affiliation of the majority of the group (they'd put on party t-shirts). I explained that I was unaware that this would be the case. I was called politically ignorant. I’d heard of their group and values before but never with the PPUK acronym, if anything that’s their branding of themselves to blame.

I took a time out of about 10 minutes to calm myself down as I wanted to remain rational and I know that my behaviour would be affected by my anger if I’d engaged at that point. I only observed for that period.

The speeches then started up and they were about the injustice of what happened to the creative commons guy and how the government can abuse all "your" data.

It then went to questions. They’d prepared the questions. They’d prepared answers for all of them.

I wanted to talk about google glass and implications of when your meat dies. But it was considered off topic.

I asked a few questions and gave a few points but I was an individual and had to think in real time and they were armed with their answers and in a group.

Despite it being in a pub, nobody drank any alcohol. I was driving so naturally I didn’t either.

After the second round of questions I got up, said it was nice to meet them, and left.

I was mad about it. What a waste of time and discussion. What an abuse of trust from my “friend”. I’m completely giving up on my previously aspiring friendship with her.

The thing is I might have been sympathetic to their ideas but the forceful presentation has completely undermined their credibility as the people to enact them.
Post edited by Totally Guy on


  • That sounds about the same as most "political" debates that happen in uni. Everyone there all agrees with each other, and those that don't are remorslessly hounded out. If you don't agree with their very selective interpretation of the theory then you are obviously a monster who hates the world/freedom/them/everything under the sun. The lesson to learn is always ask before hand, you can spot the crazy in the description.
  • What a sad situation, man. I would have left immediately, so some admiration your way for at least trying to engage. That wasn't a talk or a debate at all. Sounds more like the rally scene in Invisible Man... or a trap.
  • I wanted to leave immediately but I fought that instinct because I'd be doing so in anger. Maybe in the future I could have avoided being angry entirely but for now this is good enough.

    I perhaps made a mistake by putting "political debate" in the title of the thread. I was only expecting philosophical discussion. Some bleed into each is natural and expected but one totally overwhelmed the other.
  • I've been in that place before. It's not just college, you'll get that when going to a small town political rally just the same. In my experience, that's the general level of political discourse in most of the world.

    With a small enough group, you can pick them apart for it and level the playing field. Once you reach a certain critical mass of like-mindedness, the level of discourse drops towards 0 relatively quickly.

    Not that I'm for or against whatever this particular groups ideals are, but I've seen those environments on every side of every political aisle.
  • yea, most public events like that are solely to get out whatever message they want to get out. You can disrupt the event by being loud and obnoxious but really you are never going to get anywhere when it's a group against one. Better to have a conversation with your "friend" personally than get into a big group. That or bring a bunch of like minded people to the event and start the debate. Otherwise your just there to be preached to.
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