Friday, September 07, 2012

Debate advice for the right wing

Maybe this will come back to bite me in the backside someday, but here goes.

Right wingers, if you want to debate a leftie - especially an atheist/skeptic - on Facebook or in a comment section, try not to engage in using the tactic called the Gish Gallop.  That's designed for a VERBAL debate, and fails miserably in a written forum!

In case you don't know what the Gish Gallop is, here goes:

The Gish Gallop, named after creationist Duane Gish, is the debating technique of drowning the opponent in such a torrent of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood in real time. The term was coined by Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education. 
The formal debating jargon term for this is spreading. You can hear some mindboggling examples here. It arose as a way to throw as much rubbish into five minutes as possible. In response, some debate judges now limit number of arguments as well as time. However, in places where debating judges aren't there to call bullshit on the practice, like the internet, such techniques are remarkably common.
 Related to that, if you truly cannot resist, try not to copy and paste your Galloping arguments from one of three dozen or more right wing web sites so your opponent can just Google your entire Gallop at one go.

Try composing your own arguments.  Yes, it takes time, but you leave no Google trail to follow.

In composing your own arguments, try using facts.  Google is your friend here.  Again, it takes time - any research does - but the results are startlingly effective - IF you've got the facts on your side.  If you don't, you might want to admit your opponent has a point, even if only to yourself!

Publicly, try to avoid such things as condescendingly coy little comments about your opponent's made up mind or his "rapier" wit - an ad hominem attack is a dead giveaway that you've run out of facts and/or logic.  Likewise, avoid talking to another person on the thread as if that opponent isn't there - it just makes you look snobbish and nasty, and again, as a form of ad hominem, adds nothing to your argument.

Last of all, once you get to the point where you've just run out of ways to confound your opponent because he/she keeps throwing pesky facts and logic at you which you have no answer for, try to avoid that condescending thing again as you flounce out of the forum.  Yes, I said "flounce", because blithely announcing that you've got better things to do is not only tacky, but is another dead giveaway that you've no more arguments and you are giving up.

Better for your reputation (especially on Facebook where your friends and family are probably watching) to simply make a statement about having enjoyed the discussion, thank your opponent for his/her attention and end on a graceful note.

Best for your reputation is the act of admitting you've no more arguments to make and that you'll think about the subject further.

Remember, attacking your opponent instead of his/her arguments is not only bad form, but widely considered an admission of failure.

Two more things.

First, avoid the common tactic of dismissing Wikipedia as a non-authoritative site.  Yes, schools don't accept it as a source, but that is to keep students from using ONLY Wikipedia as their source!  Wikipedia is very well sourced in many subjects, with links and footnotes galore, just like printed books.  If you do this, you look bad, since many people across the 'net use it for common lookup of answers to just about everything.

Second, just because one uses Google and gets one's information off of the web, doesn't mean it is automatically valid - or not valid.  As with any source, including books, one has to evaluate the source's author, it's own sources, methodology and such to check if it has any credibility.  One can also Google to see if the site has credibility with a wide audience or if it is dismissed as partisan or unduly biased.

In short, THINK.  Use your brain for what it was designed to do - devastating your prey.  Leaving your brain out of the debate is like bringing a knife to gun fight.


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