29 June 2011

Disallow - Overrule - Unfair Questions & Accusations

Continuing from the post Washing Away the Mud to Gain Clarity in Thinking.

In a court room, there is a judge to decide, to allow, disallow and to overrule unfair questions and objections.

How could a question be unfair?
I first encountered such a question in English class in high school days.  Our English teacher from the US Peace Corps taught us. He gave an example of such a question.

A lawyer asked the accused husband, "Have you stopped beating your wife?".

The lawyer in defense quickly stood up to say, "Objection!".

The Judge said, "Sustained." and ask the accusing lawyer to rephrase the question.

Firstly, let us understand why the question is unfair just to make it clear.

We can tell from the answer we give.

If we say 'yes' then that means we have been beating our wife.
If we say 'no' then it is even worse, we continue to beat our wife!
No matter how you answer, you got the worst part.
That is the unfair question.

A Unfair question is one that pre-supposes you have done it. The interpretation and the judgment has already been reached even in the proceedings of trying to find out the truth. Hence, it is unfair and should be disallowed.

Unfair questions are not easy to detect since they work on our thinking inertia. Under pressure and stress, we will be caught. It comes in many forms and there are people trained to know how to use them to their advantage.


There is NO Judge or Referee in Social Network
The sad thing is that in the Social Network, there is no judge or referee to blow the whistle and disallow or overrule unfair questions or statements. It has to rely on the readers' clear thinking and for them to point them out with the attached risks of incurring the wrath of the persons who posts the unfair questions and statements or his supporters. There are now team of people who work together to attack anyone they dislike.

We find quite a few of such unfair questions and statements in all elections. Here are some of them:


"There is no smoke without fire" or in Chinese version, "There is no wave without wind".

Why it is unfair?

It prejudges that there must be something wrong already otherwise where did the such rumor comes from?

So it is easy to smear people by just telling some story with some hear-says, lies, partial facts,  misinterpretation of facts and so forth. In such story, the facts are not as important as the 'believe-bility' of the story. If you can link up some seemingly facts (those that could be verified are even better. Always be as less specific as possible. Use so-and-so etc) and tell a juicy story, you will get people to believe in you.  Strangely, we are all ready to believe in some juicy and bad story about people, sometimes, even our closed friends!

What should our attitude be towards such unfounded juicy rumor?
We should always adopt the basic judicial principle of "One is always innocence until proven guilty".  If not, there is no purpose in having the case heard. This is not easy for most people as we all have the tendency to interpret and judge quickly. We want the answer fast.

We should ask whether the rumor can be verified? In what ways can we find out whether the rumor is true or not. Can we answer the 5W1H questions for the rumor?

We can perhaps take a step further volunteer information that we know to be true to invalidate the rumor.  A true friend is one who will defend for you in the midst of lies rather than believe in the lies and doubt your friends. Unfortunately, in my experience, there are few true friends that will stand with you against the rumor about you.

The Other Unfair Statement is Labeling or Categorizing.
If you are following Taiwan political scenes, you find them using terms like painting them red, blue or green. Any action, whether good or bad, is being labelled as "betrayal to Taiwan" (卖台) or "not loving the Taiwanese" (不爱台湾).
The label is stronger than the action or fact and people are drawn towards the stronger emotion and will forget to check on the reality of the action or event.
These are common, simple and yet powerful tactics to use against the opposition or to draw people for support.


Accountability is Needed.
To prevent Singapore political scenes to degrade to smearing and mud-throwing, divisive and disharmony, we must uphold the standards of truth and level-minded, open and fair thinking.

These can be done through everyone in the Social Network following some codes of good conduct, questioning the unfair postings, and volunteering true and complete information to refute the lies.

It can also be done by the victims seeking justice through legal means and taking a libel suite. But taking a legal case may be too late to stop the damage when the election could be already over and the victimized party lost.

When you come across any juicy story about so-and-so or slogan type labeling of candidate, please be on your guard to validate the story yourself and not be taken for a ride.
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