Watching the obnoxious but relentless Dirty Dems arguing the inarguable day in and day out is a constant reminder to me that the most time-wasting and exhausting activity in the world is debating someone who thrives on heated exchanges. An argumentative person is not only unpleasant to be around, he also can consume large chunks of your time — time that could otherwise be used in constructive pursuits.
An accomplished, incurable debater has the potential to frustrate and exhaust you to the point of causing you to surrender even when you know you’re right. That said, given that relationships with debaters have the potential to slow you down and cause you to take your eye off the ball, it’s important to be able to recognize when you’re in close proximity to such creatures.
To help toward that end, I have summarized the Ten Dirty Tricks of Debating, the most commonly used tools of the incurable debater.
Dirty Trick No. 1: The False Premise
Basing one’s argument on a false premise is one of the oldest tricks of clever debaters. It’s a mainstay of most political debates, wherein politicians find they can slide a false premise by sitcom-damaged brains without much effort. Worse, supposedly opposing parties begin most of their debates with joint false premises, thus giving viewers all the more reason to assume that such premises are correct.
Dirty Trick No. 2: Using the Desired Conclusion as a Premise
Using the desired conclusion as a premise — sometimes referred to as an a priori argument — is just a bold version of basing one’s arguments on false premises. The debater who employs this tactic merely restates his own conclusion as though it were a fact.
Dirty Trick #3: Putting a Spin on a Negative
The term spin refers to the art of cleverly twisting the truth, an essential tool for those in the political arena. The objective is to take a crystal-clear fact that negatively impacts the spinner and “spin” it in such a way that it gives the illusion of being a positive.
Dirty Trick #4: Feigning Indignation when Trapped
Some people are world-class actors when it comes to feigning indignation in situations where they realize they’ve been caught in a lie, misstatement, or worse. The Dirty Dems have made an art form out of this tactic. I have a simple rule when it comes to indignation: The louder and more vehement the protest, the less credence I give to the person’s indignation. As Emerson put it, “You shout so loudly I can barely hear your words.”
Dirty Trick #5: Taking the Offensive when Overwhelmed by the Facts
Taking the offensive with an aggressive, all-out attack is a strategy that goes a step beyond just feigning indignation, and is often employed when the facts appear to be undermining one’s arguments. The more overwhelming the facts against the dirty-trick debater, the more aggressive he becomes and the more effective he is in getting the other party to back down. Thanks to Saul Alinsky, this has been an incredibly effective tool of the Dirty Dems for decades.
Dirty Trick #6: Making Intimidating Accusations
Making intimidating accusations is another trademark of political debaters, the objective being to put the other party on the defensive. Some popular accusations, both in and out of the political arena, include: “You’re selfish”; “You don’t care about starving children”; and, the ultimate intimidating accusation, one that quickly brings most people to their apologetic knees, “You’re a (gasp!) racist.”
Dirty Trick #7: Focusing on Irrelevant Points
Straying from the main point and changing the subject is a dead giveaway that the facts are closing in on the debater. Criminal defense attorneys employ this art when they distract the jury’s attention from any damning evidence against their clients by focusing on side issues and irrelevant points.
Dirty Trick #8: Using Invalid Analogies
Oversimplified, an invalid analogy is when the debater compares apples to oranges in a way that suggests they are the same. You have to follow the debater’s words carefully to make certain that A matches up with B and C matches up with D or you’ll quickly find yourself boxed into a corner. If you allow an invalid analogy to slip by uncontested, you’re heading toward its natural consequence — an invalid conclusion.
Dirty Trick #9: Demanding Proof for a Self-evident Fact
There’s a whole school of thought that revolves around the idea that everything is relative and therefore nothing can be proven. The philosophy of relativism teaches that the premises people use to make judgments vary according to their genetic makeup, backgrounds, and environments.
By contrast, an axiom is a self-evident truth that requires no proof. You do not have to prove that the sun comes up every morning, but there was a time when it was necessary to prove that the earth revolved around the sun. As with invalid analogies, if you allow someone to base his argument on the contention that a self-evident truth cannot be proven, an invalid conclusion is also a forgone conclusion.
Dirty Trick #10: Using Esoteric Words
I’m an advocate of Occam’s Razor Principle (also known as the Principle of Parsimony), which states that the simplest and most direct explanation is generally the best explanation. Making explanations more complicated than necessary is often nothing more than a smokescreen intended to hide the facts.
No matter which of the above dirty tricks is employed, the bottom line is that you can’t afford to waste time on people who turn every conversation into a debate. If you value your time, you must learn to rise above the fray. And the best way I know to do that is to ask yourself if the resolution of this or that point of contention is really all that important in the overall scheme of things.
With very few exceptions, the answer is no. Always remember that a debater becomes impotent if he has no one he can engage in debate, and you should make it a point never to volunteer to reinstate his virility. Whether or not you believe you are capable of outdebating someone should never be the issue. The more important issue is, why would you waste time trying to prove it?
Politicians have all the time in the world to engage in frivolous activities, but you and I simply can’t afford the luxury of being mired down in debates. Too many important things to do … too many fun activities to engage in … too much life to be lived.