General Question

bolwerk's avatar

Why do people try to dismiss things they don't like as "hilarious" when they have no cogent argument against them?

Asked by bolwerk (10305points) January 23rd, 2014

Anyone ever notice how when people don’t like a point of view, but don’t actually have a cogent case against it, they make a last-ditched attempt to belittle the argument by dismissing it as “hilarious”? And occasionally employ hyperbole to drive the point home? Examples abound on Fluther and other crowdsourced commenting sites on the Internet. Is it caused by people experiencing cognitive dissonance upon hearing information that contradicts their view of how reality should be, but lacking the critical thinking skills, vocabulary, wit, and/or grasp on reality to make a cogent counterpoint? This is especially seen in political discourse.

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34 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Dismissive behaviors are part of ego that cannot handle engaging on the levels you mention.
Fragile egos have no choice except to be dismissive and/or bluff their way along in matters they find too threatening of their belief systems, failing to realize that EVERYTHING is subjective. Fear and inadequate understanding is my best guess.

thorninmud's avatar

It’s an old rhetorical tactic designed to diminish one’s opponent (applied just as frequently in religious discourse, I’d say). While it doesn’t have any argumentative weight, it packs a strong psychological punch, since nobody wants to be the unintentional target of derision. Calling a point of view hilarious puts people on the defensive, but without any real way of countering. Everything goes south from there.

josie's avatar

It is a version of the ad Hominem fallacy.

kritiper's avatar

They don’t want you to appear to be smarter than they are.

ibstubro's avatar

It’s generally a ‘head in the sand’, thing, and generally indicative of ignorance.

What truly astounds me is “Why those people bother to participate?” I mean, why bother? What the flock are they getting out of the experience?

If you’re dismissive of every point of view but your own, why come to an online forum?????

Alternately, it’s a form of “misery loves company.”

Coloma's avatar

^^^ Agreed, bluffing is not something I care to do.

Jaxk's avatar

It’s the old Alinsky trick from his rules for radicals. Attack the person rather than the argument. If you can discredit the person, you’ve destroyed their argument. It is extremely common in today’s politics.

Berserker's avatar

I think a lot of people take it personally, as in, an attack towards their person when you disagree with them, or dislike something they enjoy. Therefore, dismissal seems to be the common behavior, used as some kind of defense mechanism. I base this on the fact that even if they can make a stand or defend their piece, dismissal always seems to be the first reaction.
(although for this, I am speaking more on the grounds of real life occurrences, rather than online disscusions, where you can usually take the time to craft an answer)

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
elbanditoroso's avatar

Cogent isn’t a particularly definable term. What’s logical (cogent) to one person may be utterly ridiculous to someone else.

I understand what your point is, but cogency isn’t the yardstick that I would measure by.

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
Coloma's avatar

We’re also dealing with feeling vs. thinking functions. Many feelers cannot debate without getting irrationally emotional and many thinkers are perceived to be insensitive. Brain stack function certainly contributes.

jerv's avatar

If an argument is based on false premises, uses spurious logic, and/or is easily disproven by observation or history, it will be dismissed, and quite possibly laughed at. And often times, it’s not worth wasting breath to point out the flaws in an opposing argument since the flaws are “obvious” enough that the only way they cannot be seen is either willful ignorance or blatant stupidity, both of which preclude the possibility of ever seeing them even when they are shoved in one’s face.

So, instead of debate which will go nowhere, there are times where a dismissive laugh is actually the best counter as it prevents a flame war that goes nowhere.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Humor can be used for many purposes and in some cases where people are attacking other opinions or pov’s, perhaps it’s an attempt by the user to get back to more common ground, diffusing the situation or making the ridiculous less painfully obvious.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

There are many things; in cloud communities and bedroom communities that people do not like for no reason other than they were taught to believe that way. I can point out quite a few examples, to vilify the action, thought, or whatever without having to logically prove or point out why one believes it is, they just have to say and get a few others to believe it was hideous, repugnant, nasty, etc. and discredit anyone that believed different as vile, perverted, or worse. I have to agree with @Jaxk, if you can’t discredit the idea or statement, discredit the author of it, thus if they are flawed, their logic and believe has to be flawed.

gasman's avatar

One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent.—H.L. Mencken, from The Iconoclast

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

Probably for the same reason people who don’t understand semantics dismiss attempts at clarification as “semantics”.

bolwerk's avatar

@Jaxk: this has nothing to do with attacking people. It also doesn’t really attack the argument, except to dismiss it. And what the fuck did Alinsky say about attacking people?

@elbanditoroso: because all opinions are the same and carry the same weight? You’re basically arguing that we can’t cast a critical eye on people’s opinions because of mere differences of opinion.

@jerv: I see nothing wrong with using incisive humor, but being unable to come up with anything but “LULZ ur funny” would seem to be imply not having anything. I’m sure I could offer you several hundred billion examples to illustrate!

jerv's avatar

@bolwerk If you tell a non-car person about someone running 40 pounds of boost on an engine with 12.5:1 compression ratio on pump gas, they won’t get it. To a car guy, the fail there is obvious. So obvious that having to explain it is almost demeaning; you either get it, or are utterly incapable of getting it.

So until you can tell me why telling a CNC mill G0 Z-100. is generally a bad idea, I think it best to leave it at this; what’s obvious to some goes far enough over the heads of others that sometimes it’s not worth explaining or arguing, and best to just laugh.

ucme's avatar

When a particular point of view leads to intelligent, considered, healthy debate, then it’s all good. However, when faced with blatant, unwavering ignorance, where one party clearly lacks the skills required to grasp even the most rudimentary of intellects, then there’s little option other than to laugh in their faces. Saves a lot of time & energy otherwise wasted bashing ones head against the proverbial brick wall.

bolwerk's avatar

@jerv: I’m not even sure I see what’s funny about someone not understanding something if the point is “obvious” to you. I agree that engagement may not make sense, but there is nothing particularly odious about having an uninformed opinion on pump mechanics to make it worth laughing about. It literally affects nothing or nobody.

jerv's avatar

@bolwerk Uninformed opinions lead to uninformed votes that can lead to laws that affect us all. Uninformed opinions lead to hate crimes. While the specific examples I point out are of no consequence, carry that logic over to an argument over an important issue.

Get it? The problem is obvious to me….

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@jerv 12 pounds of boost with 10.5 to 1 on 93 octane

jerv's avatar

@Tropical_Willie Obviously not fail.

Berserker's avatar

lawlZ there’s a personal attack in here, go figure.

Silence04's avatar

It’s also a simple trolling technique.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@rexacoracofalipitorius It seems that people on different sides of arguments often argue semantics, like the Rep vs Dem debates, theist vs non-theist non-debates, etc… The meaning of different words is different for various parties.

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

@KNOWITALL What they are doing is rarely arguing semantics, which requires an actual understanding of semantics. I rarely hear the names Korzybski, Sapir-Worf, or Chomsky tossed about in such arguments; and when Chomsky is mentioned it’s in connection with his political writings rather than his academic works. In a way, this could be an example of the sort of namespace collision you’re talking about.

Except it isn’t. In most political arguments, the interlocutors aren’t trying to reach a common ground or discover a truth, but only to score points off one another. Sometimes this mean-spirited point-scoring is one-sided, sometimes not; but all participants, in order to engage in a fruitful discussion, have to choose to avoid that species of gamesmanship.
It’s also necessary that they agree on the meanings of things. Meanings of words may be different for different parties at different times, but there’s a wonderful invention called a ‘dictionary’ that is available for rationalizing these differences. If you can get the involved parties to agree to use the same dictionary (good luck with that) then the range of possible meanings for a given word gets narrowed down to one or to a relatively short list. Let the participants agree on an element of that list and Bob may be defined as the male sibling of your parent.
If parties don’t agree on terminology then communication is muddled and only possible at a basic rhetorical level, as for example what happens when I unilaterally decide that the concept “I respectfully disagree” may be represented by the symbol-string “You poopypants doodyhead!!!”

bolwerk's avatar

@jerv: and that’s funny? It sounds, well, dangerous to me.

I guess I can see where a good train wreck can be funny. But that has to go way beyond just stating an odious opinion.

jerv's avatar

@bolwerk Sometimes dismissive laughter is the only way to avoid slapping the shit out of someone for being too stupid to live.

bolwerk's avatar

@jerv: unfortunately that’s probably not what I was talking about in the post. These people aren’t laughing at all, but saying they’re laughing as an escape mechanism.

jerv's avatar

@bolwerk Escape mechanism is one reason people could laugh, yes.

Some things actually are funny until they have a chance to adversely affect us. You know how somethings young children have the most outlandish ideas? Ideas that would never work in the really real world, but that make perfect sense to their unknowing minds? And you know how many people think it’s cutely naive when a kid does that sort of thing? And how kids amuse us with the same sort of things that would anger/disturb us if an adult did them?

Look at the general population. We have a lot of toddlers wandering around in adult bodies. So, in order to avoid a double standard or punishing children for uneducated beliefs, we laugh at adults who have certain opinions/thoughts.

ibstubro's avatar

Seems to me that the “Hilarious” as mentioned is meant to be a show stopper when applied to a serious discussion: it’s closed ended (does not invite reply), irrefutable (individual humor), and out of context (jarring).

Back to the OP:
In hindsight, I might ask, “During a serious discussion is it appropriate or productive to respond “Hilarious!” to a sincere question and provide no substantive follow-up?

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