Skip to comments.Stupid Debating Tricks -- 9 Of My Least Favorite Debate Tactics
Posted on 09/29/2003 1:59:43 PM PDT by mhking
As you'd expect, I've spent a lot of time arguing with left-wingers. As a result of those discussions, I've learned a lot of the little tricks the left -- and yes, sometimes those on the right -- like to use when arguments are going against them. Here are some of those techniques...
1) Attack The Messenger: Instead of addressing the argument that has been made, people using this method attack the person making it instead. This is particularly easy for many delusional people on the left who believe that almost everyone on the right is a racist, sexist, homophobic, Fascist who longs for the return of the Confederacy and is planning to start throwing leftists in prison camps if they let their guard down for five minutes. The charge made doesn't even have to be accurate, in fact it's better in some ways if it's off target. That's because the more whacked out the charge is, the more compelled your opponent will feel to spend his time defending himself while you continue to make your points.
2) The Bait & Switch: When a claim is made and your opponent refutes it, don't try to respond, simply change the subject. Example,
Lefty Debater: I think we all know what kind of job George Bush has done with the economy. Right off the bat, he got the economy into a recession.
Conservative Debater: Excuse me, but you're incorrect. The recession started under Bill Clinton, not George Bush.
Lefty Debater: Well what about his tax cuts? They're for the rich, the rich I tell you!
Conservative Debater: What about getting rid of the marriage penalty and increasing the child tax credit? Are you arguing that only rich people get married and have kids?
Lefty Debater: Haliburton, did I mention Haliburton? What about that, huh? I guess you want to dodge that issue.
The best part about this from the left-wing debater's perspective is that since they never acknowledged they were wrong, they can feel free to make the exact same incorrect claim in future debates.
3) The Blitzkrieg: The goal here is blast your opponent with so many accusations that they can't possibly respond. Example,
Lefty Debater: George Bush? Who would defend someone who was AWOL from the National Guard, used coke, lied about weapons of mass destruction, raised taxes on the poor, wants to cut Social Security, is the worst environmental President we've ever had, and who has destroyed the US economy?
Moderator: That's great, but the question was, "Should the Israelis kick Arafat out of the "Disputed Territories"?
It doesn't matter if all -- or even any -- of the accusations are true, relevant, or make any sense. The goal is just to get them out there. Making an accusation takes a few seconds, refuting one takes much longer. So an opponent confronted with these accusations will never actually have time to respond.
4) Enter The Strawman: Tremendously exaggerating your opponent's position and then claiming to fight against a position they don't hold is always a great way to dodge the issues. In all fairness, this is a technique often used by the left & right. But still, the right can't hold a candle to the left in this area. I mean how many times have you heard, "Republicans are going to take your Social Security away," "The GOP wants to poison the water and the air," "Republicans want to take away your Civil Rights" etc, etc?
This whole concept has gotten so out of hand on the left that we now even have some people on the left comparing the Israelis to Nazis. Look, when you're claiming that a bunch a Jews defending themselves from people who want to kill them are like Nazis, you've gone so far past irony that you almost need a new word to describe it like -- "Idiorony" or "outofyourmindony". But that's what happens when people wink at all these strawmen that are tossed out in debates. Eventually some people start to take them seriously and build on them.
5) History Will Be Kind To Me For I Intend To Write It:
The technique is similar to using strawmen in some respects. What you try to do is to rewrite history, to claim that a debate in a previous time was different than it actually was. Here's an example of how this is done,
Mother: I told you to be back by 11 PM and you're just getting in at 1:30 AM!
Teenage Daughter: I don't think I remember you mentioning that...
Mother: I told you 3 times to be in by 11, I left a note reminding you on the dinner table and snuck one into your purse, I called you on your cellular phone at 10:30 and reminded you to make it home by 11 and I even told your boyfriend he'd better have you back in time.
Teenage Daughter: Oh, oh, oh wait...I remember now -- you meant 11 PM? I thought you meant 11 AM. I thought that by getting in at 1:30 AM I was here 9 and 1/2 hours early. Silly me!
Mother: Nice try, you're still grounded!
The build-up to Iraq war has been treated in a similar fashion by the anti-war crowd. Before the war there were complaints that Bush wouldn't stick to one reason for invading, now there are claims that it was only about WMD. There was almost no debate on Capitol Hill between Dems & the GOP about whether Iraq actually had WMD until after the war when it became apparent that none were going to be quickly be found. Throwaway lines that were hardly noticed before the war (like the controversial yet true 16 words in the State of the Union speech) have been treated as if they were core arguments made by the Bush administration after the fact. It's all just a way to rewrite history.
6) I'm Not Hearing You -- La La La: Just totally ignoring what your opponent has to say and going on to something else is another technique often used by politicians of all stripes, but no one, and I mean no one, can hang with Yasser Arafat and company when it comes to totally blowing off any uncomfortable questions that are asked. For example...
Moderator: So Mr. Arafat, are you willing to disarm Hamas & Islamic Jihad?
Arafat: The Israelis want to kill me! They are causing all the problems! We want peace, but the Israelis don't!
Moderator: That's fine Mr. Arafat, but are you willing to disarm Hamas & Islamic Jihad?
Arafat: Why don't you ask the Israelis if they will stop their terrorism against our people? Why don't you ask them that?
Moderator: Mr. Arafat you seem to be ignoring my question.
Arafat: Are you questioning me? Do you know who I am? I am general Arafat! This interview is over!
When they duck the question, it's a pretty good indication that they don't have an answer anyone wants to hear.
7) Motives Matter, Results Don't: Oftentimes when people on the left are losing an argument or can't explain why they seem to be so inconsistent on certain issues, they start questioning the motives of their opponents. For example, if you favored going to war with Serbia based on nothing more than humanitarian grounds, then logically you should also be in favor of invading Iraq for exactly the same reason. But of course, that's not how it works for a lot of people.
So to get around that, they just claim that there are impure motives afoot. The Bush administration may have claimed to care about stopping terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian causes, or UN Resolutions, but it was really all about stealing oil, getting payoffs for business buddies, getting revenge for an attack on "daddy", because Bush needed Iraqi sand for his garden, Bush was jealous of Saddam's rugged good looks, etc, etc, who cares -- they're all equally ridiculous. When the real issues are too tough to deal with, it's all too easy to just pretend something else is what you're really upset about.
8) That Context Is On A Need To Know Basis: Stripping away the context of a situation is a favored technique of people who hate the United States. They talk about something the United States has done without discussing the reasoning behind it, the actions that provoked it, or other things that the United States might have also done that would place us in a more favorable light. It's very easy to make someone look like a bad guy if you simply don't include every detail that doesn't support your case. For example,
Lawyer: Your honor, I intend to prove that my client is innocent of all charges and that the police shot him maliciously, recklessly, and without cause as he was minding his own business at the park.
Judge: He was minding his own business? According to the police report I have in front of me, your client had shot 3 drug dealers who were standing in "his spot" and was firing off rounds from an Uzi at a passing school bus, two nuns on a nearby park bench, and at the officers as they arrived. That doesn't sound like he was "minding his own business" to me.
Lawyer: It does if his business is being a drug dealing thug -- ha, ha, ha! Hey, that's just a little joke. It was getting a little tense in here....you're not laughing. OK, just checking -- is that plea bargain still available?
9) That's Mean, Mean, Mean! When it comes to certain subjects, ordinarily rational people turn into complete bubbleheads. For example, you could probably put together a bill that called for nuclear waste to be dumped in every Walmart in America and as long as you called it the, "Feed The Children For A New Tomorrow Bill" about a 1/3rd of the American population would support it. So naturally, some people take advantage of this and claim that certain policy proposals are "mean". Once you say that, results, logic, how expensive the project is, etc, etc, goes out the window and the argument becomes over whether someone is "mean" or not.
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The one he missed is the time-tested "Emotional Appeal" tactic. (OTOH, maybe this fits under the "mean, mean, mean" heading....)
I've seen this one a lot in debates over same-sex blessings in the Episcopal Church. The pro-sodomites simply cannot win on logic, and certainly not on Scripture.
So they appeal to pity (ours) and rage (theirs). For example, "the church is telling us we cannot have sex -- just you try going without sex." This seems like an effective argument untul you recognize it as simply an appeal to pity. There are lots of things the church says "don't do."
Don't stop talking. When the host turns to the right-wing guest, the left-wing guest will keep talking, or interrupt the right-wing speaker with sentence fragments like "But... but..." or "not true... not true...". It is meant to distract the speaker or drown out the point that the speaker is trying to make. Usually the conservative is respectful of the liberal's time on the air, but the liberal is almost always rude when the conservative is speaking.
Evil Republicans are polluting Mother Earth, despoiling the lands, evaporating the ozone layer, pouring nuclear waste on arctic lands and luring dolphins into Tuna nets without caring about "at-risk" eco-systems. We've got to stop them for the children.
All of those tactics, and maybe 50 more, are in regular use in the evolution vs creationism threads.
Ain't it the truth! Sometimes I'll have Fox News on while cleaning the house or something and I'm not really looking at the TV. I've gotten to where I can tell who's a conservative and who's a liberal just by the way they talk. If someone is constantly interrupting and talking over their opponent, you can bet they're a liberal.