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Rules for Public Discourse


Rules for Public Discourse apply to public statements by those in government and those reporting on those in government. People (and businesses, for that matter) making statements for public consumption need to be held accountable. To be held accountable there needs to be some generally accepted standards for making public statements. These Rules for Public Discourse are proposed as acceptable standards of behavior in this regard. They are based on formal logic and the basic principles of reality.  It is incumbent upon people seeking integrity in government to see that these rules are enforced.  How they can be enforced is the subject of a chapter in the book, Rules for Public Discourse

Following are the Rules for Public Discourse: *

I. Nobody should be prevented from speaking out.

Everybody has the right to be heard, to make a statement and to change or retract it.

II. Do not evade a question by addressing another issue or by responding to a question with a question.

Respond to another person by addressing the issue raised by that person.  Do not try to justify bad behavior by citing other bad behavior (says Bill O'Reilly).

III. Do not make unsubstantiated claims.

Any person making a categorical statement, asserting one or more facts has the obligation to provide proof of the truth or validity of the facts asserted.

IV. Do not make a false statement or advance a false position.

Everybody has the obligation to tell the truth.

V. Do not deliberately misrepresent any point of view.

Everybody has the obligation to understand an opposing point of view and to represent it correctly.

VI.  Opposition statements must be acknowledged.

Any person has a right to disagree with the position(s) and/or statement(s) of any other person.

VII. Always distinguish between a person and the statement or argument of that person.

All parties have the obligation to distinguish between a person and the position and/or statements of that person.  Trashing the proponent of a position is a fallacy, an argumentum ad hominem.

VIII. Do not impute.

No one has the right to impute to another person beliefs, knowledge, ignorance, feelings, thoughts, understanding, intentions, positions or any other thing.

IX. Do not use a negative universal statement in an assertion or in an argument.

Negative universal statements are such that they generally cannot be proven and therefore cannot legitimately be made.

X. Do not use fallacious or illogical arguments.

Fallacious or illogical arguments cannot legitimately be made or accepted.  Do not use anger as a tool in an argument.  It is a fallacy, an argumentum ad bacculum.

XI.  Do not make promises you cannot keep.

Enough said!

XII.  Do not use polarizing language.

Polarizing language is destructive of dialogue and prevents agreements.

All of these Rules have ramifications and some are not as simple as they appear to be on the surface.  A full explanation of each of these Rules is contained in the book, Rules for Public Discourse.  Permission is given by the publisher to freely copy and distribute these Rules so long as attribution is made to Rules for Public Discourse by Charles Hoppins.


Nimis quidpiam serio non aspice.




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