How to Win a Debate on the Internet
Posted by alexahentay on April 18, 2007
“Attack the message, not the person”
The most important tenet of a winning debate, and one most users cannot understand. A visit to any forum/message board will quickly verify this most basic of concepts. Too often, debates devolve into name calling and worthless banter, “flaming,” if you will. He who is able to stick to the facts and address the original issue will always fare better. Trust me, asshole, ad hominem attacks are not needed.
There are 5 basic rules to follow in any e-bate.
- Attack the message, not the person.
- State your purpose.
- Stick to the facts.
- Support those facts using tEh internet.
- Organize your argument using proper sentence structure, grammar, and paragraphs.
- Know when to hold em and when to bold em.
Listen douchebag, you’re wrong about Barry Bonds being on steroids, and your fucking cock is 3 inches long.
Barry Bonds is not on steroids. The only evidence out there is hearsay and this society was founded on the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty;’ not the other way around.
Which message more effectively conveys the user’s point? Once this first rule is mastered, the rest of the rules will fall into place. When personal insults are left out of the equation, one must back up their statements with facts and rational thought!
In order to begin, your audience must know exactly where you stand on a particular issue. Aside from letting the audience/opponent know what you’re about, this purpose statement will help drive your argument and prevent you from veering off course. It is good practice to spell out exactly what you believe and how you will go about proving/supporting it.
Support your argument (you did take a position didn’t you?) with facts. This means personal experience and opinion should be used sparingly; unless, however, you personally injected Barry Bonds with steroids. If it cannot be backed up with logic and various sources easily found on the intarweb, don’t bring it up. If someone said it, it is not evidence. Use facts, not people, opinion, or the bible!
That brings me to my second point; use the internet! Although easily accessible, the information on the internet can be incorrect. Try to screen your sources. What that means? Second and third your sources. Try to cite only legitimate publications. It helps if the website you are citing is backed by a reputable company. Again, do not cite people, cite facts; proven scientific facts and possibly theory.
This rule is important for two reasons. One, if you post a remarkable statement disguised as a huge run on sentence, your audience will not receive the full message. Most will stop reading and this leads to my second reason. The grammar nazis, some of whom are your opponents, will point out the flaws in your spelling, sentence structure, etc., completely diverging from of the actual debate. Although you may have the winning side, it must be presented in a winning fashion!
So you’re backed into a corner and your argument has more holes than 50 cent. This is when you break out the big guns; CAPS LOCK, exclamations!, epithets, poor eBay sales, anything. Or you can embrace reality.
It is ok to be wrong. It is not ok to launch a barrage of ad hominem attacks and raise a straw man argumentonce you realize you’ve been defeated. The best part of a well-played debate is the shared knowledge, and raised consciousness of the group. Rarely does the defeated assess what it is they have learned and what techniques they need to work on. On the same hand, after congratulating oneself on a job well done, the victor would do well to evaluate what he/she learned in the process.
There is nothing more surprising than seeing someone say, “Hey, I think you’re right. Thanks for pointing that out.” This completely throws off the opponent and also lets the audience know that one is not only skilled in debating, but dignified in defeat.
This entry was posted on April 18, 2007 at 12:06 pm and is filed under ad hominem, argument, debate, straw man, win argument, win debate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.