THE Ten Commandments of Artless Argument

This list of advice popped up on the Calvin evolution mailing list.


1) Regardless of the issue ---- make sure you bring up your views on abortion, capital punishment, Christianity, and the political party you least like, regularly. Make sure your use the terms "wrong", "evil", "sinful" and "false" in describing views that differ from your particular beliefs. Try to work in the terms "blinded" or "deluded".

2) Depending on YOUR orientation refer to your opponents in arguments (or debates that hold the promise of becoming arguments) as facists or communists as often as possible. Suggest that their views parallel those held in Nazi Germany or of Stalinist USSR at least once.

3) Point out the shortcomings of the opposite gender. Using tasteless jokes that you ascribe to others is a favorite ploy. If your opponent is of the same sex ---- cast doubt on their sexual orientation.

4) When you've managed to get a good heated exchange going try to score points by using a word that will drive your opponent to the dictionary. Mock any attempts on their part to do the same. If possible humiliate them and react to attacks on your arguments with ironic references to misspellings, ill-conceived sentence construction, or inappropriate word usage.

5) If you make an error, never apologize. Blame it on a technical difficulty or on your opponent's mischaracterization of your argument.

6) When inspired, make sure you word your attacks and counterattacks so that you leave no opening for your adversary to capitulate to your view except in disgrace. Try to make certain that every avenue of response is a path of shame. Phrases like "only a idiot or a scumbag would argue that ..." are very helpful.

7) If you start to slip in an argument attack the person. It's most helpful to know something personal about them so that your ad hominems point out both academic/professional defects and their deficiencies as a human.

8) If someone levels an attack upon you, respond that in their reliance on ad hominem attacks the argument has deteriorated to a level that no longer warrants your participation. This can be a winning blow if played properly. Be subtle here, and clever; try to convey the sense of your opponent as dim-witted, ethically degenerate, desperate, and outmanuevered by your overwhelming intellectual superiority. The real joy here is that you can neatly do away with any respect due your opponent, slander his character, lacerate his pride, and, if done properly and with elan, simultaneously represent yourself as a man or woman whose ethics and moral sensitivity make it impossible for you to do what you just did. This one is a real gem -- and when executed gracefully -- really an art form.

8) When you face a loss, construct a "straw man" argument either by taking your opponets words out of context or by changing the issue. Never lose ---- change the issue. If your opponent has the facts on thier side, argue that facts don't constitute scholarship and understanding, and might even be a sign that one has not yet come to the level of understanding at all. Claim that computers store facts and that real scholarship is the sign of being able to understand and seeing the deeper connections.

9) Remember that you are always right. No matter what forces are marshalled against you, no matter how reasonable, humble, or generous, don't give an inch, don't be swayed. You are always right. It's the other side that caused this ruckus and keeps it going.

10) Always insist on the last word. The only honorable finish is unconditional capitulation by your adversaries or their defeated silence.

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