Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I don't lose arguments, let me tell you why

Amongst other things the supposed left-wing media could learn from me (and by that I mean leftist blogs and pundits, not the general media- which if you ask me, leans to the right)- is how to win an argument. I am an unbelievably frustrating person, insofar as you will never, ever win an argument with me. It may occasionally be a tie, if you're good- but you won't win. Why?

1. Always stick to facts. Actual facts, and then only those that you can back up with evidence and research.

2. Steer clear of ad hominem attacks. Attack the issue, not the person. Ad hominem attacks are the last resort of those who are unsure of their position.

3. Don't say anything out loud unless you are absolutely certain of it being true.

4. Insist that your opponent back their shit up with actual evidence/research/details. Or say anything along the lines of "some people say"- demand to know who those people are, specifically. Considering the fact that most people talk out of their asses, this is where you usually win.

5. Don't argue using previous personal experiences, stories you have heard, or legends others have told. Avoid strawman arguments. If you say anything someone can easily poke a hole in, you have pretty much already lost.

6. Stay absolutely, totally, completely, nerve-rackingly calm. Always let them be the ones to get histrionic. Whenever they do get histrionic, start talking even more quietly and calmly. This is where pundits fail.

7. Don't make sweeping statements. If they make a sweeping statement, say, like "Women are bad drivers"- the logical follow up to that is "Have you been in a car with every woman on earth?" The answer is obviously no, which negates their argument. If they say it's a statistical thing, (I just mean in general! Most women are bad drivers), of course, mention that men pay higher insurance rates and get into more fatal accidents than women do.

8. Ask questions that demand a specific answer. For instance, if debating abortion- before you let them expound upon the sanctity of life and life beginning at conception, ask them what they think would be an appropriate punishment for a teenage girl who had an illegal abortion. Very rarely do they have an actual answer for this. If there is, the follow up question is naturally something along the line of "would it be fair that women with money would be able to go to other countries to get one safely and legally, but that poor women would be subject to possibly unsafe abortions and [whatever legal ramifications suggested].

9. Avoid any and all logical fallacies.

10. Don't argue emotion, intuition, or gut feelings. I actually once had an argument with a girl who insisted that the original purpose of WWII was to defeat Hitler, and when I told her that, well, no- our main goal was to stop Japan from becoming too powerful and actually when people tried to come here to escape Hitler and told us what was going on over there, we sent them right back because well, America was actually pretty anti-semetic in those days... insisted that this couldn't be true because her grandfather had fought in WWII and to say that was an insult to his memory. I can't even get into the myriad reasons that was ridiculous (especially since pretty much all of our grandfathers fought in that war)- but you can't win an argument based on things you "feel" are true. Unless you're Steven Colbert.

That's pretty much it. It's not the most complicated thing in the world. I learned to argue from my mother, who is freakin' brilliant at it. We'd make either really fabulous talking heads, or annoy the crap out of everyone. Still, I think the so-called left would be much better off following our rules rather than going off on these tangents.

No comments: