The Asshole Debater Checklist

Important articles, websites, quotes, information etc. that can come in handy when discussing or debating religious or science-related topics

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Darth Wong
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The Asshole Debater Checklist

Postby Darth Wong » 2011-08-19 08:10pm

This is taken from an article I saw in "Psychology Today" magazine. The original article can be found at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/amb ... sleezeball where it was called "Fourteen Surefire Signs That You're Dealing With A Sleazeball".
Psychology Today Magazine wrote:
  1. "But My Intentions Are Good. Donʼt They Count For Everything?" When criticized for our actions, we can change the subject to our intentions, which are un- measurable and unassailable.
  2. Nicessism (Niceness as a cover for narcissism): Imply a moral imperative that one should never say anything disappointing and thereby treat all criticism, constructive or otherwise as a no-no.
  3. "Your Challenge Hurt, Therefore You Must Have Delivered It Wrong." Claim receptivity, but only to criticism that is delivered perfectly.
  4. "I never said I was perfect!" Provide the thinnest possible lip service to a challenge. Say only that you never ruled out the possibility of being challenged, and claim that this bare-minimum acknowledgement demonstrates sufficient receptivity.
  5. "Oh, so you think I'm a horrible person!" Deliberately misunderstand and exaggerate the feedback thereby distracting the critic with defensive back-peddaling "I wasn't saying that" reclarification.
  6. Smugging: On content, refuse to budge, and then when oneʼs challenger becomes frustrated, change the subject to his hotheaded reaction. This will cause him to become more hotheaded, making it easy to call even more attention to his reaction.
  7. Youjustifications: Deny all but one ignominious motive behind a challengerʼs criticism. For example "Youʼre just trying to put me down."
  8. Exempt By Contempt: Claim that since we find a trait disgusting, we must not have it. For example: "Me selfish?! Impossible! I hate selfish people!"
  9. "How Dare You Compare Me To..." If challenged for behaving as badly as some well-known manipulators, rather than considering the parallel on its merits, take umbrage.
  10. Selective Literalism: Attack others for their tone, but deny tone has any relevance when we talk: "Look, I merely said..."
  11. Freedom and Equality as Subterfuge: Accuse a challenger of denying freedom: "Jeez, Iʼm sorry I spoke my mind," or change the subject to a pretend law that everyone shares equal blame for all problems: "Well, what about you? Youʼre not perfect! We both contributed to the problem."
  12. "Thatʼs Totally Different!" Equivocations: For example, "Iʼm not being stubborn. Iʼm sticking to my principles."
  13. Mind-Reading Rights: Cite a pretend rule that we always know our own feelings and thoughts better than anyone else does. Accuse the challenger of trespassing: "Donʼt tell me what I feel."
  14. First-Strike Advantage: Be the first to critique. That way, when challenged back, the challenge can be dismissed as retaliation.

It's an interesting list. It's probable that no one can say he has never done any of the things on this list, but some of them are practically go-to arguments for some people. For example, some people love to attack you for not being nice enough, or for being too heated in your responses: it's practically their modus operandi. And of course, the "how dare you ..." technique is a time-honoured method in many circles, not to mention the "you're just saying that because ..." armchair Freud technique.
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Re: The Asshole Debater Checklist

Postby Lord Zentei » 2011-08-19 08:29pm

It is interesting, though I take umbrage at #13. Who hasn't encountered people who use the appeal to motive fallacy? Sometimes Generally, it is a valid counterpoint to say that one knows one's own thoughts better than the person one is debating. On the other hand, the appeal to motive is a legitimate thing to object to.
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Re: The Asshole Debater Checklist

Postby Terralthra » 2011-08-19 09:11pm

This reminds me strongly of Derailing For Dummies, a site devoted to explaining the various tactics that get used a lot in debates about marginalization and privilege. Mostly it explicates the tactics the more-privileged debater will use to derail the debate about any particular topic.

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Re: The Asshole Debater Checklist

Postby StarSword » 2011-08-19 10:57pm

The other thing it reminds me of is Darth Wong's own "dishonest debate tactics" article on the main site.
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Re: The Asshole Debater Checklist

Postby Themightytom » 2011-08-20 01:05am

I'm looking at this list, and I've reached the conclusion that these techniques are applications of the brain's logic bypass tendency as a challenge reward response.

You know when you hit on a point that challenges a core cognition, or value and the other person flounders, utters something nonsensical or borderline useless, and then becomes visibly satisfied that they offered a "rebuttal"? I don't know if I'm being charitable here, but I never identified that as a "Tactic" so much as a symptom of discomfiture.

The element common to the items on this list, is that of altering context. I was using sources by George Lakoff for a paper a few months back on marketing via associative context, and I remember how adamantly he seemed to argue in his books, that a modern understanding of how the brain reasons, from a neuroscience perspective differs from the traditional binary model of logic versus emotion in reason. Lakoff dismissed this model as an unrealistic, obsolete relic from the enlightenment era.

He asserted that a purely objective, or logical interpretation was all but impossible and that on some level, everyone processes information via associative context that includes emotional associations whether on the conscious or unconscious level.

Even when someone KNOWS they have blown an argument, they try to renegotiate the stakes, sure if they are winning, maybe they are winning to go for the kill but suddenly when they're on the back foot, they're asking you to back off, dial down the rhetoric, don't get so personal or whatever. That's really their problem when it happens, I mean you don't start what you can't finish, and if someone dissects your argument, that's it, you lost. You don't have to pout and complain that they were mean about it, especially when you were just as willing to get heated when you thought you were going to win.

The act of reassigning context to a statement does seem frustrating, though, sometimes you really just want someone to admit they're freaking wrong, rather than watch them try to dig themselves out of a hole. Even when they're starting to agree with your position, it's kind of tempting to just make them eat crow.

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