He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Sunday, January 5, 2014

How to Argue Badly: Ten Tips for Internet Intellectuals

Some time ago I wrote a Primer for arguing badly, and while I think it's a good start, more specific advice is often helpful.  So here are a few tips to help really cement your skills at arguing as badly as possible.  I hope that my extensive experience in arguing badly can be of help to those of you who so  consistently argue very well.  As before, you are welcome to contact me for more specific advice on how to argue badly in any situation.

#1  Respond Quickly

It is critical to respond immediately to someone who disagrees with you so that you will be much more likely to react out of emotion rather than out of reason.  Avoid taking some time to respond, and certainly do not under any circumstances take enough time to carefully consider your opponent's argument or to reconsider your own argument in an effort to make sure that it is coherent and well-expressed.  Type it out slapdash because you know your answer is correct regardless of how well-communicated your ideas are.

#2 Read Incomprehensibly

One of the most effective ways to get an argument started as badly as possible is to skim over what your opponent has written.  This is likely to keep you from fully understanding their perspective and makes it very likely that you will respond to an argument which is not the argument they have made.  Do not ever read your opponent's argument more than once or look up key terms to be sure that you truly comprehend their statements.  For best results, stop reading at the first line you can criticize.

#3  Think Swiftly

Be sure to minimize any thinking involved in the process by getting it over with quickly.  Do not consider multiple possible responses to an argument and weigh them carefully before deciding which to use. Do not think through possible counter-arguments to your position, and you should certainly not carefully analyze each of the responses to those or assess their relative usefulness.  If you avoid these things, you will be more effective at the next step...

#4 Mock Mercilessly

Spend your time thinking of clever ways to mock your opponent's position.  If you've followed the first 3 tips, then this step will be greatly enhanced by the fact that you don't fully understand their position anyway.  It's always easier to mock things you don't understand, and besides, it is totally deserved when they disagree with your obvious wisdom and well-earned expertise, right?

#5 Shun Questions

 It is very dangerous to ask questions when arguing badly.  This can quickly lead to your opponent clarifying their position so that you have trouble disagreeing with it or mocking it.  What's even worse is that asking questions could lead you to spend an extended amount of time working through your own answer to that question.  Do not at any point ask a question with the intention of doing anything other than setting a trap for them so that they make a claim you can destroy easily or deride mockingly.

#6 Shun Differentiation

Look for all the ways in which your opponent's view is similar to the views of ideologues with whom you disagree. Your first assumption should be that they agree with all the worst arguments put forward by those who are most hateful and incendiary.  If something claimed by your opponent does not seem to fit into the worldview you have assigned to them, dismiss the idea that their worldview could be different from the worldviews of those hateful ideologues and operate under the assumption that they are simply engaging in some cognitive dissonance.  On a related note...

#7 Shun Synthesis

Never ever try to view your opponent's worldview as charitably as you do your own.  Do not for one picosecond look for the ways in which their worldview is coherent and elegantly constructed.  Reviewing the entirety of their beliefs and underlying assumptions may cause you to realize that you agree with them on a great deal or to develop empathy for them, which leads in the exact opposite direction of arguing badly.

#8 Shun Analysis

The process of analysis is going to strongly hinder your efforts to argue badly.  The problem with methodically breaking down an opponent's arguments and statements without judging them is that you will understand them more accurately and be better able to see their strengths and weaknesses clearly.  This can lead to developing the skills to make strong arguments of your own, which you want to avoid assiduously.  Instead, you should try this...

#9 Always Evaluate

One of the great ways to enhance your confirmation bias (and therefore incline you to argue badly) is to constantly view any claims made by your opponent in light of your own values and condemn them harshly at even the slightest hint of something which might indicate a disagreement with your values.  Either evaluate before you analyze or evaluate while you analyze if you can't completely follow the previous tip for some reason.  In some cases, this is actually helpful because it appears that you are doing proper analysis and makes it more likely that you will be completely arrogant.  Speaking of which...

#10  Never Be Wrong

The one thing you should never do above all else is to consider the possibility that you might be wrong.  Do not even let the thought cross your mind.  This will keep you from researching your own claims to fact-check them.  It will frequently prevent you from double-checking your terminology to make sure it's precise.  It will ensure that you never consider that being correct requires any more than agreeing with your existing beliefs.

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