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From: "Phil Allison"
Subject: How to Cheat in Debates
X-Newsreader: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.50.4522.1200
Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2003 22:45:16 +1100
NNTP-Posting-Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2003 22:34:34 EST
Organization: Telstra BigPond Internet Services (http://www.bigpond.com)
There are at least ten recognised and popular ways of cheating in a
discussion or debate - some are so common they seem quite normal until the
fallacy is pointed out. Here is my list:
1. Argue from the particular to the general.
Reason that if a thing is true in a particular example then it is true
in general. There may be little similarity between your example and the
point in debate but your opponent will have to prove this unless he spots
the fallacy. If he does then feign incomprehension.
2. Argue from the general to the particular.
Reason that if a thing is generally true then it must be true in the
particular case in question. Refuse to agree that any special circumstances
apply to the subject in debate. If your opponent points out the fallacy of
generalisations then complain that he is making a generalisation.
3. Beg the question.
Make a statement that can only be true if the debate has already been
resolved in your favour, ie use your opinion to prove your opinion. Totally
confounds the debate if the fallacy is not spotted by your opponent. If it
is, state that everyone is entitled to their opinion.
4. Change the subject.
Done nonchalantly so your opponent doesn't notice this will pull the rug
out from under him. If he realises and complains, pretend your new subject
is the one under debate.
5. Quote the absent expert.
Declare an absent party to be an expert who supports your case. He
possibly isn't an expert or wouldn't in fact support you but your opponent
cannot debate this person or yourself on the point since he is not
6. Argue from a position of ignorance.
This is a powerful technique that operates on the principle that
ignorance is knowledge. It works like this, because you don't know a certain
proposition is false then you are entitled to presume it is true. Almost
anything you like can be "proved" with this technique.
7. Produce a straw man.
Propose an example or analogy to the debate that has an obvious outcome
in your favour, ie a "straw man" that can easily be knocked down. The
analogy can be highly flawed but your opponent may be trapped into proving
the straw man has no weight.
8. Make opinions into facts.
Claim anything you like is a fact, provide no supporting evidence or
arguement and pretend that your opponent must disprove it immediately or
else agree it is true. Also be sure to ignore his facts no matter how well
supported. This will test his patience sorely and may cause him to make
9. Produce a red herring.
Make a statement of known fact that appears to be relevant and has the
potential to confuse the issue. An effective red herring relies on your
opponent's failure to realise that it is not relevant to the debate. If he
does, then accuse him of ignoring the facts.
10. Insult your opponent.
If all else fails, your opponent is calm and rational, spots your traps
and exposes your fallacies and distractions every time then resort to using
sneers, derision and personal jibes. Your opponent may lose his temper and
that means you win!
It is possible to combine two or more of the above techniques for
increased power to prove anything. By combining #1 and #2 you can argue from
the particular to the particular, that is use one example to prove something
about another unrelated one.
Better still, quote an example only you know about as this makes you the
expert. If your opponent falls into the trap of asking questions about the
example then you are in a position to say whatever you like.
A proficient cheat employs all the above techniques in every debate. He
jumps easily from one fallacy to the next in order to keep his opponent from
making any headway. He may not convince his opponent of anything that he is
saying but will have the satisfaction of having done most of the talking and
kept control over the discussion.
When the opponent becomes annoyed with this "barrage of bullshit" the
cheat will call the debate off saying that: "we are just going around in
circles" which is of course not only true but was his real aim all along.
This is known as having the last word, a form of parting blow or insult. A
cheat knows that you never lose a debate that YOU finish!
But most of you aready know all this.
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