Guest Post: The Argument Industry - Hyping Controversy And Avoiding Solutions

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

The Argument Industry - Hyping Controversy And Avoiding Solutions

The mainstream media has always loved controversy and wars, military and cultural alike. Now we have an "Argument Industry" that thrives on keeping problems insoluble.

That much of the "news" is artifice and propaganda is a given. How can a society make good decisions about its future when the "facts" such as the unemployment rate are massaged and manipulated, and so many of the "reforms" are simulacra designed by the very wolves supposedly being tamed? Answer: it can't.

The same question can be asked of a society in which the "editorial" side of the mainstream media is dominated by an "Argument Industry" that pours gasoline on every conflict and avoids solutions like a vampire avoids the Cross and garlic.

Finding solutions would decimate the "Argument Industry" and slash profits.

That leaves us with the same question: How can a society make good decisions about its future when every challenge is conflated into extremes that cannot abide compromise or even recognize "outside the box" solutions? Answer: it can't.

Correspondent Kevin F. coined the term "Argument Industry" in this incisive commentary:

While pondering the gay marriage vote in North Carolina, I thought of how that is one among many issues we could solve once and for all in this country, but somehow we've decided not to. I wonder how much of the resistance to solutions* is caused (intentionally or subliminally) by the need for an "Argument Industry". For any hot-button issue, there is an ecosystem of lawyers, pundits, bloggers, journalists, lobbyists, community organizers, protesters and many others who feed off the issue. Each argument provides steady work for hundreds, if not thousands, of people, mainly in fields (political science, TV news, etc.) that would founder or collapse if the arguments didn't exist. Without gay marriage and abortion, half of all talking heads would be out of work.


It seems to me that the Argument Industry is one of the many consequences of the global shortage of legitimate work, a large pocket of the "make work" you described earlier this month. Conveniently, it also stirs people's passions, and drives them to rally around the politicians that argue the same way they do, encouraging loyalty in the system and the Status Quo.


* For "gay marriage", why not abolish the concept of marriage within government? Replace it with a "civil partnership" for everyone: you may select anyone as your partner, provided they are over 18 and also select you as their partner. Partners get all the rights previously afforded to holders of "marriage licenses", and all marriage licenses are converted to partnerships. Your religion (if any) may limit who you can marry (and pressure you to not make certain choices of partners), or limit when you can call yourself "married" (only after completing a special ceremony), but it's not the government's problem. Marriage wouldn't exist in the eyes of the government, only the concept that many people choose a partner and want them to have special rights and privileges.

Thank you, Kevin, for an insightful explication of the Argument Industry. It could be argued (heh) that I am part of the Industry that profits from maintaining ideological and cultural deadlocks and dead-ends, but my view is that adaptation requires transparent experimentation and dissent, in which the "better" ideas (i.e. the ideas that work better in the real world than the alternatives) out-compete the failed ideas of the past.

I see this blog and my books as efforts to honestly contextualize our situation and sketch out a practical framework for moving ahead.

For example, the various special interests and protected fiefdoms in financially troubled Vallejo, California, claimed without any shred of compromise or reason that bankruptcy would destroy the city, etc. They were flat-out wrong.

After a transition we might describe as "we only change when we absolutely have to", Vallejo, Calif., once bankrupt, is now a model for cities in an age of austerity (Washington Post).

The number of neighborhood watch groups jumped from 15 to 350. Citizen volunteers came together monthly to paint over graffiti and do other cleanup work.


And the city council struck an unusual deal with residents — if they agreed to a one-penny sales tax increase, projected to generate an additional $9.5 million in revenue, they could vote on how the money would be used. The experiment in participatory budgeting, which began in April, is the first in a North American city.

Solutions exist, but neither the vested interests profiting from the failed Status Quo nor the Argument Industry can abide practical solutions, because such solutions destroy both "profit centers."

Now that Vallejo is leading the way, it's dropped out of the news for the most part; this MSM article is a rare bit of solid reporting. Once the conflict and trauma could no longer be fanned by the Argument Industry, coverage evaporated.

One of the key take-aways is that solutions are local, not national. The Argument Industry loves to keep gay marriage front and center in a "national debate," where I see the solution is to let the issue be decided on a county level. People will move to counties that align with their own views, rather than have a "solution" shoved down their throats.

The same can be said of "drug wars," healthcare, etc.: solutions sought at the national level are already doomed by the bureaucratic costs and political corruption in Washington. Devolve the problems to the local level and let a thousand flowers of experimentation bloom. Those that work will quickly stand out and be copied by others seeking real solutions rather than clinging to a failed Status Quo.

Kevin offers an interesting solution to the heavily hyped "gay marriage" controversy. It's worth recalling that in rural Colonial America the government also had no role in controlling or officiating marriage. In rural America, churches and preachers were scarce, with many communities served by itinerant clergy.

To get married, a couple declared their marriage "in the eyes of God" and moved in together. When the preacher came round, they might, if they and their families chose to, conduct a church ceremony. If not, the marriage stood as declared and consummated. The local government (such as it was) might record the marriage as a census factoid much like ownership of a specific parcel of land, but it did not regulate what lay outside the boundaries of State control.

In Peak Government, the Central State seeks to control everything; there is nothing that is not within its purview and grasp. Perhaps that in itself is the "problem" that needs fixing.

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Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:28 | 2462444 TonyCoitus
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Fuck you Tyler, you're just causing trouble!

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:35 | 2462475 Gully Foyle
Gully Foyle's picture

From day one in the US we are sold a bill of goods.

It started with "all men are created equal".

Tell that to the Blacks, Indians, Women and indentured servants.

I'm always stunned at the amazing stupidity of people assuming propaganda started yesterday.

Those people who think our freedom was suddenly eroded just didn't bother to pay any attention. Or read any unfiltered american history.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:39 | 2462498 john39
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what i find interesting about Americans is that they believe its the "other guy" (other countries) who use and fall for propaganda... ie, the chinese, the russians etc.   but that everything they hear from the gov. or MSM in the U.S. is basically honest.   because we live in a free country, right?

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:46 | 2462525 LULZBank
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what i find interesting about Americans is that they believe its the "other guy" (other countries) who use and fall for propaganda... ie, the chinese, the russians etc.   but that everything they hear from the gov. or MSM in the U.S. is basically honest.   because we live in a free country, right?

Okay, but whats your argument here??!

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:47 | 2463299 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

My arguement is with industry...



Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:46 | 2462531 Harbanger
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After the blatant non vetting of Barry, most people already figured out that the MSM is the propaganda wing of the Democrat party.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:52 | 2462568 john39
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come on man, there is only THE PARTY.  the democratic wing and the republican wing just trade off taking turns to keep the masses distracted into believing that they have some say in how the country is run.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 12:10 | 2462668 12ToothAssassin
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Fri, 05/25/2012 - 12:00 | 2462612 Sean7k
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It could be your understanding of, "all men are created equal" is different from the founders. Blacks and indentured servants were not men of property, and thus had not rights. Indians were savages and women were, well, not men.

Your next mistake is to assume a chain of understanding exists between the Declaration of Independence, which was treatise that pointed out the differences between English law and Colonial law regarding men of property, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. There is no such chain.

Freedom existed for men of property, just as the merchantilists wanted it. They feared the passions of democracy and wrote the Constitution to insure they were mitigated. 


Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:17 | 2463170 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Not in case of FFs. They left too many notes, comments and acts to allow that rationalization.

'US citizenism' did not part along property. It parted along human condition, sub and non human condition.

Cheap propaganda.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:31 | 2463226 TheFourthStooge-ing
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Same crap from same crapper.


Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:39 | 2463251 AnAnonymous
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Impressive argumentation? Running away much?

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:48 | 2463306 TheFourthStooge-ing
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Made me laugh, especially coming from someone who offers mere assertions and fantasizes them to be argumentation.

Assertions are not arguments.


Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:56 | 2463340 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Sure. Especially in this case, the assertion that I offer mere assertions and fantasizes them.

Might be good to apply the stuff to yourself first before thinking of applying it to others? Huh, no can do, US citizen nature at work.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 16:29 | 2463636 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Ah, yes, falling back on the tired old bromide of US citizen nature. Such a surprise. Totally unexpected.

Unfortunately, your assertions regarding "US citizenism" will always be imaginary constructs of your diseased mind.

Your error is in not recognizing that words have meaning. The term "US citizen" has a specific meaning to sane people who use the english language.

You like to define "US citizen" in a variety of different ways, none of which coincide with the way that sane people define the term. That may be fine in the fantasy world which you inhabit. Nobody else inhabits your fantasy world, though, and no matter how hard you wish it, you cannot redefine the term "US citizen" for everyone else.

People born in France are French citizens. Bear with it. People born in Germany are German citizens. Bear with it. People born in England are British citizens. Bear with it. People born in Holland are Dutch citizens. Bear with it. People born in Denmark are Danish citizens. Bear with it. People born in Ireland are Irish citizens. Bear with it. People born in Spain are Spanish citizens. Bear with it. People born in Greece are Greek citizens. Bear with it. People born in Mexico are Mexican citizens. Bear with it.

People born in the US are US citizens. Contrary to your previous assertions, this does not automatically make all people born in the US duplicitous, nazis, racists, extortionists, warmongers, glorifiers of theft, or supporters of slavery.

To claim that a person is a certain way or is not a certain way based solely on where they were born is an absurdity. You claim that my usage of the term "Chinese citizenism" is a fantasy. You are wrong. It is not a fantasy, it is a parody, a parody of the ridiculous absurdities you spout regarding "US citizenism".

I have nothing against people from China, or indeed people from any nation, because I understand that in any such arbitrary grouping of people you will have the same two basic types: people who just want to live their lives, and assholes. When I use the absurd and ridiculous term "Chinese citizenism", I am not criticizing Chinese people or Chinese culture; I am criticizing you and your "US citizenism" derangement.

You are the only person that cannot see that "Chinese citizenism" is a joke, because you cannot see that "US citizenism" is a joke.


Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:38 | 2463250 AnAnonymouses
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Man speak like confused screw puzzle!

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 15:29 | 2463460 Sean7k
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Well, I've read them. This is exactly the conclusion to come to. Try:


"An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States" and

"The First American Republic 1774-1789"

That should give you a start.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 15:52 | 2463516 Harbanger
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I don't agree with anything you're saying but know one thing, "Freedom existed for men of property" is why you're buying PM's before TPTB fry your money.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:36 | 2462479 Dixie Rect
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Look, I came here for an argument



No you didn't

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:52 | 2462565 Dr. Engali
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Another Monty Python classic.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:54 | 2462584 DeadFred
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Ah, the one true advantage of schizophrenia, you always have someone to talk to.

Sat, 05/26/2012 - 02:59 | 2464735 StychoKiller
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"I know the voices aren't real, but they have some great ideas!"

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:29 | 2462448 SheepDog-One
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Who even pays attention or cares anymore about anything? After all, we've got an American Idol winner declared! Some guy with the same first and last name. Thats all that matters.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:36 | 2462477 Gully Foyle
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What's American Idol and why are you aware of it's outcome?

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:29 | 2462449 El Viejo
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My sentiments for sure, but I was surprised to read in Gary Shillings book "The Age of Deleveraging" that he thought the CPI was pretty close.


Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:32 | 2462458 Dan The Man
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the age if distraction


Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:54 | 2462581 Harbanger
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The Lefts Art of Distraction.

Democrats cannot help themselves.  They've exhausted their ideas and now are falling all over themselves to distract America from three plus years of an ideology gone awry.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 12:12 | 2462680 12ToothAssassin
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Of course, because the right would never distract and obfuscate about anything. The left and the right are the two sides of a single coin.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 12:21 | 2462721 Harbanger
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That's the Leftist argument used when they are about to lose an election.  Truth is, left and right are opposite sides of the same coin.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 12:31 | 2462774 blunderdog
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You should go ahead and summarize "leftist" ideology so we can all see your ass.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 12:43 | 2462833 Harbanger
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Summary:  We are here to save you with our proper planning.

1st Exhibit: Europe.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 12:50 | 2462868 blunderdog
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Lose some weight, brah.  And pop those zits.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 13:10 | 2462946 Harbanger
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Good argument, I would'nt expect any better.  btw- wtf is brah? R u hawaiin or a south cal lib?

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 13:50 | 2463090 blunderdog
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There's no argument to have here.  You're just not at all educated about what liberalism is.

You've confused it with authoritarianism, which is a common feature of what you'd probably call "the right" as well. 

I don't "argue" with idiots.  I just mock them.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:19 | 2463175 AnAnonymous
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You must enjoy spending time with yourself.

Laughing is good.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:34 | 2463236 TheFourthStooge-ing
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"Strictly anchored in reality human beings might exist but I am not one." - AnAnonymous


Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:40 | 2463257 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

And? I am not a strictly anchored in reality human being and still enough to admit it. Where is the problem?

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:50 | 2463311 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Good for you. Admission is first step to recovery.


Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:54 | 2463330 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Recovery from what?

Running away again? Unable to string one argumentation?

US citizen eternal nature at work.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 16:33 | 2463654 TheFourthStooge-ing
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Recovery from your deranged fantasy that you call US citizenism.


Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:27 | 2463207 Harbanger
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I know perfectly well what liberalism is, and I know perfectly well that modern "liberals" are not liberal at all.  They are progressive authoritarians.  So if you want to start a truly liberal party. I'm on board.  btw- It would look closer to what the modern tea party is.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 14:45 | 2463286 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

     So if you want to start a truly liberal party. I'm on board.

"A truly liberal PARTY"?

There's no political solution.  There never was.  It's a fairy-tale.  Grow up and take some responsibility of your own.

Sat, 05/26/2012 - 03:02 | 2464740 StychoKiller
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"Politics is ruled by passion and prejudice, otherwise we'd ALL go stark, staring sane!" -- R.A. Wilson

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:32 | 2462462 SheepDog-One
SheepDog-One's picture

'Perhaps the Central Peak Govt's total control of everything down to taking a dump might be the problem that needs fixing'? GEE, ya think??

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:33 | 2462464 rehypothecator
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Another reason for the conflict is the coercive nature of government-based decisions.  If government decides to do something one way as opposed to another, those who manage to sway the decision their way win, and the others lose.  Therefore, much is spent by both sides, and bitterness and vengence are guaranteed either way.  Should, instead, market freedom be permitted, the situation turns from a win-lose situation to a win-win, and far fewer resources are spent on the conflict itself to boot.  (Which can instead be spent on the differing solutions by each side.)  Then again, there are two groups of people in the world: those who want to be left alone, and those who can't leave others alone.  Conflict seems a given, and much will be squandered.  Pity, really. 

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:36 | 2462476 The Big Ching-aso
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The plan is 4 everyone to lie to one another until no one can ever tell what's the truth.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:39 | 2462497 Gully Foyle
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The Big Ching-aso

Dude, all people lie all the time.


Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:48 | 2462545 SubjectivObject
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Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:42 | 2462504 greyghost
greyghost's picture

oh so right....the lies have been going on so long, they wouldn't know the truth if it slapped them up side the head with a baseball bat.

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:42 | 2462508 bdc63
bdc63's picture

In 1984 they called it "The Ministry of Truth" ... we call it the "Bureau of Labor Statistics" ...

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