Winning Internet Arguments: A Guide For Losers
I’ll share a time-tested, proven method for winning every internet argument. It works on everyone except savvy good-faith arguers. They don’t really exist online so there’s practically no risk to using this strategy.
This is a quite simple pattern that applies to Hacker News, Reddit, Facebook, and any other online forum.
The steps are simple:
- Find an argument that is disagreeable.
- Derive an underlying principle behind it. This must appear civil and reasonable at all costs as it gives you credibility. At all costs, do not engage with the actual argument.
- Extend the principle to a plausible real world absurdity to demonstrate its impracticality.
- Use this absurdity to: tear down the argument; or appeal to a slippery slope; or directly ask the original author to defend.
- At all costs, do not propose an alternate solution which would reveal the true intentions for doing this. That cannot be revealed.
- If anyone else replies to counter or patch holes, repeat the steps at the top.
Secretly, between us, this is an approach rooted in relativism and nihilism. It is an argument of bad-faith (but, of course, step 5 prevents this from being made known) made in a very convincing and civil manner, and as an added bonus can be used to virtue signal how smart one’s self is.
Fortunately, lots of foolish people fall for this trick. Once they’ve bought into the initial credibility, the steps can be repeated to establish an endless death-spiral of defeat where nothing can be proven. Congratulations, the argument has been won. The winner gets to dictate which arguments lose, and which win-by-not-losing.
Beware the savvy good-faith arguers that try to address it by:
- Directly asking you “What would you propose instead?” (Recommendation: dodge or disengage entirely)
- Being accused of “bad-faith arguing” (Recommendation: tone policing or claiming they are being uncivil, unreasonable, or both)
- Being ignored (Recommendation: Continuously remind them that they haven’t addressed the absurdity raised in step 3; or accuse them of dodging)
- Being told “I don’t believe in Kant’s categorical imperative as a fundamental philosophy, which is what you are using to justify your extension of the underlying principle of my original argument. Could you instead address the substance of my argument using your own moral framework?” (Recommendation: try to win the civility contest or reasonableness contest and express disappointment that they aren’t willing to engage with your argument)
Real World Example
Let’s look at a real world example with our Saboteur. Yes, I do mean a real-world one from Hacker News:
Person 1: “We should use the personal pronouns (he/she/they/…) that people want used. If someone wants to be called ‘they’, we should refer to them as ‘them’ or ‘they’ and neither ‘he’ nor ‘she’. We should be empathetic to them having to put up with daily pronoun mistakes that most of us don’t have to worry about”.
First step: our saboteur, for whatever reason, finds this disagreeable. It doesn’t matter why. We will revisit this “why” later.
Second step: Identify a principle. The post mentions empathy. Great!
Third step: Extend the principle. In this case, let’s talk about goths and furries and assume they too have custom desires that must be accommodated by the general public at great inconvenience to everything.
Fourth step: Refute the argument based on the principle. Slippery slope should do well here.
Saboteur reply: “The hole in your argument is that applies to anyone outside of the mainstream: goths (ones who dress up in their daily lives), furries, or viewpoints well beyond. Do we have empathy for all of them, no matter how extreme, or is there some limit at which we are allowed to say ‘This is where our empathy ends’? Can we say, for example, that a furry is less deserving of empathy than a LGBTQ individual? And if so, then why?”
Very convincing! The saboteur has successfully shown it is absurd to be empathetic to people who want to use a different pronoun because the empathy principle is too generic and could apply to anyone outside the mainstream. And who knows where the line is drawn?
Finally, let us revisit the “why” behind this hypothetical Saboteur. What caused them to make this comment, only looking at the content of the reply and the user that made it (it’s a throwaway account)?
- They want to deny people the legal right to change their pronouns.
- They want to deny people the cultural norm that makes it acceptable to change their pronouns.
- They just want to troll the person making this argument and waste their time.
- They want to virtue signal how smart they are.
- They fundamentally believe empathy to be a finite resource.
- They only have a finite amount of empathy available to themselves in their life.
- They fundamentally hold the view that certain groups of people, including LGBTQ, goths, Jews, furries, and others, are less deserving of empathy than individuals who are a part of mainstream society.
- They hold the view that certain groups of people, including LGBTQ, goths, Jews, furries, and others, should be systematically eradicated from society.
- …and many more.
Does the Saboteur make it clear which of these is the real reason? Of course not! No one will never know. Everyone is free to assume the best or worst. And people assuming the worst can be attacked.
This intentionally shielded intention can be used with playing the “civility” and “reasonableness” cards to guarantee winning the internet argument. If opponents try to infer any motivations, just claim they’re attacking the person and not the idea. Even better, make the claim they’re arguing in bad faith (despite this winning strategy being the one doing so).
In fact, if done properly, people using this winning strategy will ensure that their underlying motivation looks exactly like the hateful elements of the Nazi ideology because then they can be the first to accuse the other side of “Godwin’s Law” which is an internet auto-win. Because the Saboteur can claim: “Of course no one actually is a Nazi”. Even if possible reasons happen to be very compatible. Even if the actual reasons are compatible. Or even if the actual reason is literally because of Naziism. No one can tell but the Saboteur and the Saboteur won’t ever reveal this information (see step 5) so the Saboteur keeps winning.
I’ve seen too much winning on the internet. So much that I think it’s about time to share this with all those losers.
Published: Mar 07, 2019 18:31:37 EST
By: Cory Slep