Since we’re in full election season, I’ve been having “discussions” about politics with friends, family, and pretty much anyone else that is willing to talk about it. I’m passionate about politics, and I love a well-reasoned discussion on a topic that is controversial, such as religion, politics, or ideally, both. My political views do not align with either of the two main political parties, and this apparently is hard for some people to grasp. Anyway, I thought I’d give some pointers on my favorite tactics that I’ve seen used to defend a position without resorting to logic, reason, or examining the evidence.
1. The driveby: a classic favorite
The driveby is actually a way to avoid a discussion and still score a point. It works like this: you just pick your opponent, hurl an insult or accusation, then continue on your merry way. Whatever you do, ignore any response by the other side, because it might be well-researched, well-reasoned, or both. If your insult was appropriately subjective and misleading, the point can’t be easily disproven, so the damage is done. Even if it is disproven later, you’ll be long gone, so who cares?
2. The shotgun approach: spray insults and accusations indiscriminately
If you don’t have logic, reason, or evidence on your side, just try and drown the other side in a mass attack. Throw every accusation and insult you can think of into the mix, and don’t stop for air. The great thing about this tactic is that you can combine several of the others on this page, such as appeals to emotion, red herrings, and false dichotomies. Oh, and a great way to deliver such an attack is in a huge block of text bereft of paragraph breaks. Let’s see how your logic handles this, suckers!
3. Introduce a false dichotomy
Repeat after me: if you’re not with us, you’re against us. Some people like to try and tell you that both sides have good arguments and bad arguments, and we should work on compromise and come together. Ignore these people, because it’s a trap. The second you let your guard down, the other side will be stripping away everything that’s important to you and replacing it with whatever your version of hell is. And since obviously no one wants that, the only other alternative is whatever you’re pushing. Sweet.
4. Appeal to emotion
Pay attention, dear reader, for you are on hallowed ground. In the history of defending the indefensible, perhaps nothing has ever served so well as an appeal to emotion. There’s something deep inside every human that makes them somewhat vulnerable to this attack, and only the most stalwart of your opponents will withstand its fury without injury. As to your choice of emotion, my personal favorite is fear. This applies to a wide variety of discussion types, but for politics, it might work something like this: “Candidate A is very different from Candidate B. Candidate B will destroy your way of life in these ways. Therefore, Candidate A is the right choice.” This technique works best when combined with the false dichotomy (as seen in #3), so that people feel like they’ve only got the two options. Fortunately for you, in American politics that’s usually true.
5. Feign moral outrage
When discussing the finer points of politics or religion, or any other very controversial issue, you’ve always got a great backup option if you’re faced with a wall of logic and reason: taking great offense. Do not concern yourself too much with whether the other person actually said anything worthy of taking offense to, just do your best to connect the dots as quickly as possible to lead you to an outburst of indignation. By blustering wildly as if you’re absolutely shocked and outraged that someone could stoop so low as to suggest such a thing (regardless of whether any such thing was suggested), you put the other person on the defensive and soon you’ll have them backpedaling away from whatever point of logic they were trying to make. The best moral outrage usually revolves around charges of sexism, racism, favoritism, elitism, being unpatriotic, and other incendiary terms and phrases.
6. Throw out a red herring
It does no good if, in the middle of your discussion, the other person makes a point that makes sense. The best positions are defended by those who are unwilling to admit that they could possibly be wrong in any area whatsoever. So if you feel that the conversation is shifting to an area where you might not have the upper hand, you must immediately move the discussion towards safer territory. The best way to do this is with the abrupt introduction of yet another attack, preferably one not related to the current line of discussion. This will throw the other person off balance and give you the opening you need to move forward. The other person may protest that you never sufficiently responded to their point about blah-blah-blah, but ignore them and just keep the attacks coming fast and furious. And never admit you’re wrong. Ever.
7. Complain about “media bias”
If you’re really getting hammered and you don’t seem to be able to come up with any evidence or logic to support your position, the next best thing is to attack the other guy’s sources. One of the most effective ways to do this is just to claim “media bias” for every source that disagrees with you. The great thing about this tactic is that it’s nebulous and hard to prove, which also makes it hard to disprove. It at least introduces some doubt, and leaves you free to disregard any evidence or logic they dredge up to support their position. A related tactic is to just keep repeating that the other person has been a victim of media bias, thus freeing you from having to spend any time addressing any of their actual points.
So there you have it, folks. Now get out there and start making your case, and remember, don’t let the pesky facts get in your way! 🙂