Posted: Aug 23, 2010 2:39 pm
by GreyICE
Accusing your opponents of logical fallacies is an excellent tool to use in the art of winning a forum debate, as well as derailing threads that are going places that you do not appreciate. Some say the use of these tactics is intellectually dishonest and does not contribute anything to the discussion, but they're just engaging in ad hominems.

So, without delay, lets start the list:

Logical Fallacies, and how their names win debates for you:

Strawman argument - this is the most versatile tool in your arsenal.. Virtually any argument can be labeled a strawman argument. Since the defining characteristics of a strawman argument is that it misreprests an opposing argument, this is easy to do. The obvious idiots who are disagreeing with you are representing your argument as wrong, and since that's clearly not the case, they are making a strawman. Almost any line of reasoning or attack can be shut down with this simple tool.

Ad Hominem - this one, on the other hand, is frequently your best tool. The advantage here is that you can claim offense, making your opponents look like mean and evil people picking on people. Since they are attacking your argument, the best way to do this is to personalize your argument with vivid emotional appeals and little personal anecdotes, so any attack on your argument is obviously an attack on you. In a pinch, if you have forgotten to do this, simply highlight any line that seems overly critical, and claim ad hominem. This automatically frees you of any obligation to defend any other part of your position.

Appeal to Authority - if someone posts something from any so-called expert with some alphabet soup after their name (PhD, MS, MD, etc. etc. etc.) that's an obvious appeal to authority. Since that's a logical fallacy, there's no need to pay attention to anything that copy-paste authority says. Simply post the name of the fallacy, and move on.

Begging the Question - This one is really only useful to derail the discussion. There is a commonly accepted meaning of begging the question - an argument that does not address an obvious problem with the argument (the elephant in the room). There is a formal meaning as well - an argument that assumes an entirely different argument to have been decided in a specific manner (for instance, the infamous "when did you stop beating your wife" which assumes that the subject beats their wife). Because of this confusion, one can simply throw it out there, and usually some 'scholar' will jump on it and give a multi-paragraph lecture on what it means. If no one takes the bait, quote yourself and ask if you used it properly, someone will usually bite.

Equivocation - No one knows what this fallacy means. Throw it out there whenever you want, it sounds very Latin. Also not very commonly used (because it's virtually impossible to commit), so you're reasonably safe from internet lawyers. In a way, the opposite of the above, in that it'll rarely derail the debate, but always sounds very formal.

False Dichotomy/False Dilemma - This refers to any argument which posits two points of view or two options. There is no need to supply a counterexample, all dichotomies are by definition false if they don't help you.

False Analogy - Rarely used, this occurs whenever someone uses an analogy. Mostly you don't need to call people on it, as no one knows how to use analogies, but occasionally you will find someone that proves the aforementioned rule wrong. In that case, call it a False Analogy. Usually you can piss the person off so badly they go commit one of the above sins (frequently ad hominem (abbreviate it ad hom, you have to use it a lot).

Appeal to Emotion - if someone demonstrates that something you are arguing for would have negative outcomes, it's an appeal to emotion. People don't like causing suffering and misery to others, so normally pointing out that something you are for would cause suffering and misery is an effective way to attack you. In response, call it an appeal to emotion. People don't like being thought of as emotional trainwrecks, especially on a 'rational' forum, so this is useful there.

Tu Quoque - use this if anyone suggests that you're doing any of the above. It shows them that they're very wrong.

Other People's Arguments and threads

Here are some techniques that you can use to disrupt the monotony.

Post chopping - it is well known that virtually no one reads a post that has been chopped into 4+ segments. Like the short attention span when listening, people tend to retain merely the first and the last point from one of those posts. Therefore it is most useful to use the first point to posit a question (don't worry if it has been answered, that's not the point), and the last point to make an argument that sounds convincing (don't worry if it is, that's not the point). Get your opponent to respond in the same Post-Chop format. Eventually, you have a conversation that only the two of you can read (very quickly, in point of fact, since no one else particularly cares). Then post a scathing 'finishing argument' in multiparagraph form, and call it a day. He's probably so used to posting in post-chop that he'll immediately respond in post chop. Use the above guide to fallacies to accuse the post chop of being full of multiple, and call it a day. Since he's writing in post chop, no one else really gives a flying fuck about what he's posting, so will tend to agree with you. Amazingly, no one seems to hold post-chop against the users of it, so you can degenerate a thread into post chop very easily

Also note post chop allows you to effectively respond to people's arguments by separating important points of the arguments from eachother. Since people tend to remember only the last thing they read, they remember the poster's points as being choppy and disjointed (each one with an adequate response), when in fact you really didn't have any response at all to it. Be careful about using this, as the truism that people don't read long-term post chop is definitely true, so only drop into it if you think your opponent is certain to follow.

Smilies - proper use of similies negates the need for an argument. :picard: :roll: and :crazy: are all very effective here. Just keep posting smilies if the person lashes back at you, there's no need to reply to their arguments. Most people will assume the flaws are so obvious that even if they don't understand them, they must SURELY exist. This works better if you have a well-known name in the forums. Don't overuse it, but in general, can be amazingly effective.

Skeptical dismissal - only useful in certain situations. Namely, any argument that hinges on 2+ people having common interests, working together, and keeping it semi-secret. That's obviously a conspiracy, and thus a conspiracy theory. Thus, if someone suggests that a company is covering up environmental damage, that's a conspiracy theory. If someone suggests that a country has done something wrong, that's also a conspiracy theory. If anyone suggests any negative or positive consequences, there is insufficient evidence.

Statistics lie - this DOES NOT WORK in the science forums, but is still useful. Essentially, here is the root of this technique - any science or social study contains statistics. All statistics lie. Alternatively, post conflicting statistics, and suggest that this means that the statistics can't be trusted. Scientists are used to getting to the heart of the matter, but in the News and Politics section, most people's eyes will glaze over, so you can get away with murder using this technique.

Prevailing Winds - in this forum, all arguments labeled 'conservative,' 'American right-wing,' or 'fundamentalist' are at a severe disadvantage. Fortunately, unlike dumb stereotypes, there are a rather large number of conservatives, with a vast variety of opinions. Thus, it is very easy to tie virtually any argument to a conservative commentator. Sometimes, wiser heads will prevail, and someone will say "well, the fact that Bill O'Reilly agrees doesn't make it wrong" but usually, you can get vast mileage out of useful idiots who will jump on this to condemn the idea without even thinking.

MATURITY - I've saved the best for last. Always be more mature than your opposition. Displays of emotion should be carefully controlled. Be sure to track down obscure threads and admit you were wrong on them (it doesn't even matter if you care about the subject, just admit you were wrong and leave the thread). Offer to help people out if they're wrong (i.e. disagree with you). Act confused if they're offended by you. This technique ties everything above together. Without it, people will develop unwarranted negative opinions of you. With it, you can wtfpwn people who have dumb shit like 'facts' and 'logic' on their side, and disturbing character flaws that will cripple them in the real world, things like 'honesty' and 'expecting other people to act honestly.' (you're really doing those poor idiots a public service in curing them of that)

I hope this guide has helped you if you're struggling to win arguments in this forum despite the fact that you are obviously right. With these techniques, you are well on your way to becoming a respected poster in ANY forum, anywhere.