Ben Affleck’s Melt Down on Bill Maher

Over the weekend, Ben Affleck had a total melt down on Bill Maher’s show. This post is not to bash Affleck or Maher; it is not to take sides in the debate; it is not to discuss the pros or cons of Islam. I want to break down the discussion, the interaction between the parties, so that when you have a discussion where you are in Affleck’s position, you can better understand what is happening, which could help you better navigate the discussion.

I want to start by breaking down the main points of the argument.

The Discussion

Sam Harris sets the base for his argument thus: “We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards muslims as people.” Before he can finish his thought, Affleck interjects, “Hold on — are you the person who officially understands the codified doctrine of Islam?”

Affleck is not even listening to the argument. He is so ready to defend his belief that he questions Harris’ authority on the subject. This diversionary tactic is common in conflict. Affleck then continues to drag the discussion off topic by claiming that questioning Islamic teachings is racist. As he continues to melt down he states that “we are endowed by our Fore Fathers with inalienable rights….” After agreeing that we (referring to Western Liberals) have to be able to question bad ideas, Sam Harris doubles down on his argument: “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.”  At this point, Affleck is so lost in his anger that he grasping at straws and while declaring his own evidence, that what Harris and Maher are saying is not true, and offering no evidence, he demands to know the evidence of the other side. When offered further evidence, Affleck simply gets dismissive. “Alright, let someone else talk. You’re doing a lot of talking.”

Michael Steele jumps in and re-frames Harris’ argument beautifully, “You’re saying that the strongest voices are coming from those who are jihadists and extremists and that represents a bigger piece of the pie than we often think is true.” He then goes on to state that what is lacking is the amount of national and even global news coverage of Muslims who stand up to radical ideals.

This begins to move the discussion forward but Ban Affleck cannot help himself and launches back into the fray. He demands to know, “What is your solution, to just condemn Islam?” Then, rather than waiting for an answer, he launches into his own set of points on why the West is to blame for radical Islam. Affleck’s final point is typical of this kind of disagreement, “I’m telling you that I disagree with you… and I don’t understand you.” He then cycles back into false claims and blame shifting. In so doing, Affleck reinforces Harris’ primary argument, that “We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards muslims as people” by accusing Harris and Maher of condemning muslims as people because of radical ideas.

Conflict and Identity

Ben Affleck presents several common diversionary tactics in this discussion that many people use when they fight or argue with someone else.

  1. Discredit the other party – “Are you the person who officially understands the codified doctrine of Islam?” Because if you’re not, I don’t have to listen to you and your argument is invalid. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. Have the patience to hear the other person out. It does you on harm to listen to and consider the other party’s point of view.
  2. Making grand claims – You’re racist! Insert prejudice, bigot or any other “othering” word here. There are around 1.5 Billion Muslims around the world. Exactly which “race” is being targeted? Making grand, false claims is a diversionary tactic designed to confuse the other party. The only reason I would need to confuse the other party is if I have NOTHING to argue with. Don’t fall into this trap. Listen, think, consider, then respond.
  3. Being dismissive – Dismissing the other party simply because you do not agree with them is childish. Denial prevents both sides from moving toward understanding.
  4. Blame shifting – Blame shifting is designed to move the discussion to another topic and move away from the topic at hand. It’s also a move designed to grab power in an argument because, when I blame shift, I control the topic, which means I’m controlling the discussion.

By avoiding these four diversionary tactics, we can move toward discussion and understanding. Building understanding is a corner stone of conflict resolution. If you find yourself doing one or all of these in an argument, as yourself, why am I doing this?

The answer might surprise you: the argument threatens part of your identity. This post is already getting lengthy so I’ll leave some links at the bottom for you to further explore the relationship of identity and conflict. I will leave the discussion on this thought. Ben Affleck appears to whole-heartedly believe that if you question the teachings of Islam, you are a racist. This explains his inability to even listen to someone challenge that. It threatens part of his identity (he is not a racist). If he listens and considers what Harris and Maher have to say, then he may have to admit that he is racist. This is a misunderstanding on Affleck’s part, but he won’t allow himself to get far enough to realize that his assumption is wrong.

When we fail to allow ourselves to listen to other points of view, we remain mired in our own world and deny ourselves opportunity for growth. When we allow ourselves to listen to other points of view and consider them, we allow ourselves the opportunity to better strengthen our own belief, or question that belief if we find it lacking.

Extra Reading

Unpacking things: This blog post was written at the end of my undergraudate studies and contains material from a capstone paper that I wrote.

Construction of Online Identity: This blog post is a portion of a paper written for one of my graduate classes, Social Dynamics of Communication Technology.

Books to Read:

  • Identity and Vilence: The Illusion of Destiny
  • Sitting in the Fire: Large Group Transformation Using Conflict and Diversity

Posted by on October 6, 2014 in Conflict Studies


Sacred Cows

Continuing the ongoing debate of 9mm vs. .45 ACP, I received an email from today regarding their contribution to the discussion.

I’m writing today to let you know about something pretty cool we just finished related to the great 9mm vs. 45 ACP debate that I think you’ll really like.

We quoted some fellow shooters and coded some unique tools to help folks understand the case for both 9mm and .45 ACP as the best caliber ever!

If you get a chance, I’d love to hear your thoughts – the case for 9mm is here:

The case for .45 ACP is here:

We really worked hard to make these a great definitive guide. If you think it’s of value, we’d love it if you shared it with your readers to help spread the word!

So here it is. Both articles are entertaining and pretty much encapsulate the debate. I carry and shoot a .45. I’m not a competition shooter, I’m not a large voice in the online firearms community. I’m just your average Joe. My contribution to the debate is, you shoot what you like and I’ll shoot what I like.


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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Guns, Lists, Self Defense


Blacks and Guns

Please read this:

Yet Vernon believes that African-Americans, of all people, should embrace the right to bear arms, even if they don’t want to carry a gun themselves. “Black people have been programmed to think that self-defense, our defense, is someone else’s responsibility—that good, honest, decent black people have nothing to do with guns, because guns are for white folks, police, and black criminals. I find it to be an absurd notion. The vast majority of gun laws in America have been aimed at trying to disarm black people.”

Education is key to overcoming the fear of the unknown.

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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Uncategorized


Historical Reasons for Ukraine’s Current Crisis

As part of a discussion on Facebook regarding the current events in Ukraine, one person commented,

I don’t even understand why these violent protests are occurring. Is it truly just because of the president’s refusal to join the EU? Images like the ones I’ve been seeing usually come from countries with starvation and government death squads. Is there some other motivation behind these riots that is being concealed?

I lived in Ukraine for two years and have been following the news with interest, just as I did the news of the Orange Revolution in 2004. My response to this comment was as follows:

[Please] do a quick review of Ukrainian history from 900 A.D. to present and you’ll see why maintaining independence from Moscow is important to Ukrainian’s. Kyiv Rus was THE political power in Eastern Europe until the Golden Horde destroyed it. Then, two powers rose from the ashes: The Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Since that time, Ukraine has been ruled by one or both of these powers. The Poles turning Ukrainians into surfs, the destruction of Kozak (Cossack) identity by Katherine the Great, the genocide committed by Stalin; Ukraine has been fighting for independence and self-directed government for 600 years. That is why the people fight. To turn away from Europe and toward Moscow is to turn away from freedom and toward tyranny. I lived in Ukraine for two years. Their culture, their history, and their language mean a great deal to them. This is about more than the EU and Moscow, this is about the soul and identity of a nation and a people.

If you have had similar questions about these events in Ukraine; if you have been wondering why the Ukrainian people are so outraged by the actions of their government, I encourage you to take the next few minutes and get the Wikipedia version of Ukraine’s history. This will give you enough of an understanding of the depth of history and culture for which the Ukrainian people are fighting.

Russia is nothing more than a bratty child, ungrateful for the gifts of a beloved parent. Russia even went as far at one point in its history to name Ukraine “Little Russia.”

As I said in my Facebook post. These riots, this fighting, is bigger than the EU and Moscow. The outcome of these events is about the soul and identity of a nation and a people.


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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


A Nice Email

I received an exciting email today:

Publishing Note

It’s still strange to believe that I’m done with school. To borrow the words of Inigo Montoya, “You know, it’s very strange. I have been in [school] so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”

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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


What Dick Metcalfe Doesn’t Understand

Via Sebastian:

He called for a specifically enumerated constitutional right to be conditioned on a requirement which is not been deemed acceptable for any other right.

That’s why he lost his job. Not because of crazy, extreme gun nuts.

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Posted by on January 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


Re: Dennis Prager’s Article

A few days ago I linked to an article written by Dennis Prager titled Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality.

Dennis Prager then re-tweeted, which caused a flurry of activity (for one of my tweets) and a 31 comment back and forth between two people, @azach79 and @Rx4nails. It is in this post that I seek to address the questions posted between these two, primarily @azach79.

In the article, Mr. Prager describes how Judaism restrained sexual activity for its followers and the positive consequences of this sexual restraint:

The  Hebrew Bible, in particular the Torah (The Five Books of Moses), has done more  to civilize the world than any other book or idea in history. It is the Hebrew  Bible that gave humanity such ideas as a universal, moral, loving God; ethical  obligations to this God; the need for history to move forward to moral and spiritual  redemption; the belief that history has meaning; and the notion that human freedom  and social justice are the divinely desired states for all people. It gave the  world the Ten Commandments, ethical monotheism, and the concept of holiness (the  goal of raising human beings from the animal-like to the God-like).

In so doing, he makes a broad claim that Judaism, and by extension Christianity, are the foundation of Western moral, value, and ethic systems, and thus have done more to impact the creation of modern Western society than any other civilization, including the Greeks and Romans. This appears to be where @azach79 disagrees.

The twitter conversation got off on a tangent and finally ended in

To @azach79 I believe that Mr. Prager would say, “Yes. Ancient sex practices derailed ancient civilizations. Jewish sex practices, monogamy (with few exceptions), fidelity within marriage, establishment of family as the central, or primary, unit in society, leads to social stability and strength. Even the Kingdom of Israel fell when the people moved away from these practices.”

I would support Mr. Prager in that argument. The leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints affirmed this position in 1995 in The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

All in all, the essay is not about how the Jews built a larger or more prosperous society than the Greeks or Romans. It is not about how the Jewish math, or science, or philosophy is/was grander than the Greeks or Romans. It is about how Judeo-Christian morals, values, and ethics have done more to influence modern Western society than other ancient cultures and that the primary difference was Judaism’s sex practices.

All I said was that the article was an interesting read.

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Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

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