Saturday, 20 March 2021

Loopy Logic 8: What to Say when You're Losing the Argument 2

Whatever people say in the heat of debate, it often means: “I did not base my position on evidence and have no idea where to find any,” or “I am using this word to convey a subtext which may be racist or sexist but of course I’m not going to admit that.”

"What is truth?" asked jesting Pilate, and never stayed for an answer. (Francis Bacon. Picture by Duccio Buoninsegna)

I can’t be racist, I’m gay. (And others on this template.)
Let's not get argumental.

If you lose your temper, you’ve lost the argument.
It’s complex.
It’s a paradox.
It’s a general principle. (“Yes, but my point holds!” Gustave Flaubert)

You have a religious belief that you know the Truth and reject any other opinion.
You’re reluctant to take new ideas on board.

The evidence is all around you!
Don’t you have a dictionary?
I’m not doing your research for you!
Don’t you know how to Google?

You used an Americanism!

Adversarial argument
will never arrive at the truth. (Replaced by “binary” in 2020.)

How dare you tell me what to think!
God moves in a mysterious way.
Everyone has an opinion, and I’m entitled to mine.

I’m not being listened to, the other side needs to listen.

Let’s agree to disagree.
It’s time to move on.
Let’s stop this, shall we?
There’s always an off button!

Shall we leave it there?

Nobody changes their mind as a result of argument.
You can never change people’s minds by presenting them with facts.
Convince a man against his will, he’s of his own opinion still.

On attrappe pas les mouches avec le vinaigre. (You don’t catch flies with vinegar.)
Softly softly catchee monkey.

Nobody likes a smartarse!
I don’t like your tone.
Why can’t we both be right?

No issue is ever black and white. It is shades of grey.


Let’s not bring politics into this.

I think we need to step away and shut this down now.
We aren’t allowed to say X any more.
We can never really “know” anything.
I’m bored now.
I was just trying to start a debate by being provocative.

Show me one example! One example doesn't prove anything!

You need to educate yourself.

I don't really take social media that seriously.

Pretend not to understand
some perfectly common word: often “truth” or “fact”, but sometimes something simple like “widget”.

Pretend not to realise your opponent is joking. Take umbrage at others being told that your opponent is joking because it’s “patronising”.

Pretend not to realise that your opponent is quoting a famous work of literature.

Make an assertion (“Trump supporters who assaulted the Capitol were just a bunch of oddball eccentrics”), and then, instead of providing evidence to support it, employ “whataboutery”. Yes, Trump supporters violently invaded the Capitol, but BLM protesters set cars on fire! Next, attack a group you feel is hostile to you – the media, woke lefty snowflakes etc.

You don’t want to believe that people on your side (conservatives) can be evil or violent, so to avoid cognitive dissonance you whitewash them. Find excuses – left behind, rust belt, poor education. It’s the opposite of straw-manning. (Turns out the Capitol assaulters were mainly educated and middle-class.)

You then move on to “blinding with science” or “nitpicking”: There were four deaths inside, not the five you quote.

Paint anti-vaxxers as women who have been dismissed and poorly treated by doctors, and are naturally suspicious, and besides want to protect their children’s health. And there aren’t many of them. An attack on anti-vaxxers is therefore an attack on women. You also stress how hurt anti-vaxxers (or alien abductees) have been by disagreement. Relate anecdotes about these poor people “breaking down in tears” because we won’t believe them.

Jeffrey Archer came and talked to my school once. Charming right up to moment my friend told him that when he'd quoted Gladstone he'd actually been quoting 1066 and All That. Archer practically exploded. "How dare you question me... you're a child... I was an MP etc." He was wrong. (@Otto_English)

Google is your friend, and Wikipedia is useful. See also, and

And read my book, What You Know that Ain't So.

More here, and links to the rest.


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