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There should be a profession called an arguer. This would not be like a lawyer, because few of their arguments would focus on the law. They would be called in when a company made a controversial decision and expected a lot of public discourse. They would accept jobs on a case-by-case basis so that they only argued for things they believed in (some wouldn't operate that way, but the good ones would).

Their job would be to engage with the public. This would be nothing like a Public Relations guy giving a statement, customer service giving a run around, or a press release. They would spend their time reading comments by the public -- both in public places and sent directly to the company -- and having conversations with those people. They would not give a statement and move on, instead they would actually engage with what the person was saying.

In some circumstances, this would be a far more effective use of money than advertising. There are all these people who want to interact with the company. So why not hire people to tell them a personalised version of the company's point of view?

A good arguer would persuade a few people that the company was right, and a fair amount would become less hostile. But more than winning arguing points, he'd show the company *has* arguing points that can hold up in a sustained debate and don't fall down after a few back and forths. He'd be demonstrating that people seriously believe the company is right and have thought it out.

Another part of his job would be to relay any opposition to the company that he considered especially interesting or thought had a good point. A company has a hard time reading and filtering a huge in basket, but when you cut down incoming arguments by a factor of a thousand or so (removing duplicates and bad arguments and fluff) it gets way more manageable.

Unfortunately the primary problem I see with this idea is the difficulty of hiring qualified, competent arguers. Letting people speak for your company is risky, so you need to be sure they are good at it. And the arguers job requires a lot more skill to avoid mishaps than a press release writer's job. The arguer will write a thousand times as many words, but every single one could end up quoted by the press if he messes up.

One day in the future, arguers will not be expected to be perfect and if they messed up now and then the press would realise this doesn't reflect badly on the company.

Elliot Temple on February 7, 2006

Messages (2)

*sigh* man, I wish.....
but you do realize that it might be propel us back into a form of rhetoric in which he whoa rgues best is right? One fo the reasons that lawyers exist and that people accused have a right to an attorney is that some people can't speak well for themselves, and being able to speak well is representably hugely advantageous... therefore, the companies which are the richest will have the biggest advantage because they will buyt he best Arguers for themselves.
hmmm, maybe this doesn't amtter so much in your view, since theres only one right argument for you, but in mine, where truth is non-existent, convincing people of your argument is that much mroe powerful and not neccesarily good.
Course, thats just one vague scary possibility: I still think its a very cool idea

Sitraahra at 11:54 PM on February 9, 2006 | #37 | reply | quote

The richest companies can *already* buy the best public relations, so I don't see that my idea introduces a (new) problem.

It's true that some people find arguments persuasive independent of their truth. But I don't think that's a criticism of arguments in general. It just speaks to the need for more widespread knowledge about how to be intellectually discerning.

What's the alternative? Not giving reasons to stupid people? At least give them a chance to think about which arguments are best! (I'm not trying to suggest that was the alternative you had in mind.)

Elliot at 12:04 AM on February 10, 2006 | #38 | reply | quote

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