Guide to Being Right
August 29, 2006
As I stated before, I have a very limited skill set. I’m bad at math, have zero vocational training, can’t drive, and become irretrievably lost if I wander outside my three block comfort zone. One thing I can do though is argue a point, no matter it’s importance or apparent tenability, until it’s widely acclaimed that my position is indeed the superior one. Now this ability is generally used to internally justify my mythically poor judgement, but on occasion I engage in little rhetorical beat down to make myself feel like a big man.
With that in mind I present you :
The Beats Entropy
Guide to Being Right
(The following applies to arguing in person. Arguing online is pathetic, pointless, and removes the potential for any meaningful resolution)
The Basic Principles
The nature, purpose, and execution of an argument.
An argument is not a discussion
The intent is not to reach consensus, the intent is to impose your will and rational over that of another human being. You are essentially contesting your relative worth through intellectual proxy. If your argument wins out than you have proven your beliefs, and self, superior to those of your enemy. Should you lose, then everything you stand for and value is cast in an unfavorable light, and subject to scorn by all who witnessed your defeat. Keep these stakes in mind when considering the necessary tactics.
Right is a Ratio
No argument worth having occurs in a vacuum. If it’s just you and another person, agree to disagree and get on with your day. The only time being right matters is when there is an audience in place to determine a winner and a loser. You are right when three fifths of the people in attendance agree with the absolute correctness of your position, and the total idiocy of your opponents. Anything less is a wash, which wastes your time and implies a negligible difference in personal worth.
Style is substance
People only absorb information that is interesting to them. If you fail to be concise, compelling, and charismatic, then it doesn’t matter how “right” you are; nobody is listening. Find ways to make your points directly relatable to the audience. Throw in brief, marginally relevant, humorous asides that humanize you. Use evocative phrasing and polarizing examples that will capture their imagination. Ultimately you are creating hospitable environment for an argument, with enough flash that your opponents will be poorly regarded in comparison. Just make sure you understand how naturally witty and engaging you are, and work within that.
Facts will only slow you down
Ideally a good argument is artifact of pure logic and social manipulation. When you keep it within those realms it remains fluid and responsive to any sudden shift in tactics or semantic traps. If you hitch your wagon to the literal truth you enter into a game of battling “If then” statements that you could lose with a single misstep. Remember facts are a poor man assertions; correct is just a situational variable that you define through persuasiveness.
Play the man, not the ball
Is your opponent creepy looking, romantically inept, from a country with a poor military record? That’s money in the bank. The strength of ones position is always modified by their standing among their peers/audience. While direct ad hominem attacks are childish and ineffective, you should still work to establish a subtle, superficially justified, association between the enemies undesirable personal traits and the point they are trying to make. Ie.. They attack the feasibility of a political system by citing social norms and tendencies, you counter with “how could someone who has never had any friends, and never experienced the full spectrum of social enfranchisement, have the perspective to make that judgment”. Even if the audience rationally agrees with their argument they will still support you to avoid the social contamination that would result from aligning themselves with someone who has just been marginalized.
Be civil, calm, and charming
No matter how personal, demeaning, or uncharitable their, or your, attacks become you must be a cross between Frank Sinatra and the Buddha. Smile warmly, engage the crowd in friendly banter, concede meaningless points charitably, and never get angry. At least half the battle is being calm and likable, while bating your opponent into becoming hostile, frustrated, and insecure. Self deprecate, seem genuinely saddened by any angry words or dirty tactics. Be sure to include the audience in genuinely funny jokes at your opponents expense. The key thing is to actually be cool and charming; if you’re not, maintain your manners and civility, but avoid working the room as it will come across as forced and dorky. If you’re not sure whether you are cool and charming, well…then you are not.
Some Finer Points
Actually be intelligent
If you are just some affable tard no amount of social manipulation is going to bail you out once you pass your high school years. Though It doesn’t have to be structurally perfect, your argument still needs to be articulate, somewhat internally consistent, and at least make intuitive sense. If anything you need to be even brighter to pass off absurdly flawed arguments as valid and persuasive. This guide won’t disguise inadequacy, but it will help exceptionally clever jerks take a inferior starting point to a undeserved victory.
If you are going to run your mouth, be prepared
Some folks may feel the need to take things from a rhetorical conflict, to a physical one. If this happens be prepared to respond in kind. If you feel you would be crushed by that person, or abstain from physical violence in general, then you really shouldn’t be arguing with them the first place. The style of argument I delineated above is pretty damn antagonistic and shouldn’t be used without expecting that some people may snap. If you cannot project a sufficient degree of physical intimidation to cow them, you are setting your self up for trouble.
Make more at stake than the issue at hand. They challenge one of your “facts”, well they just called you liar and suggested you be driven from the community. They challenge the moral absolutism you are engaging in, make it an attack on some commonly held value, thematically similar to the issue at hand, that you share with the crowd. If you do it correctly your opponent will become tentative and over qualify his statements to the point that they loss all impact.
Confidence is half the battle / Delusion is your friend
If you don’t believe, on a deep level, the inherent rightness of your position, no one else will. Don’t vacillate, qualify, or cede any of your anchor points unless it’s a setup to make them look foolish. Don’t be strident or defensive; but always project a low key, respectful, absolute conviction in correctness of your assertions. Make it seem as if you are secretly amused by the naïve foolishness of your opponent, but are big enough to let them have their say.
Things to avoid
Semantic arguments are not your friend
Nothing will lose a crowd quicker than engaging in a grinding, pedantic, haggling of terms and definitions. Even in constructive discussion you risk alienating a listener; in fast pace arguments you will have thrown away the battle for the sake of a redundant supply line.
Don’t argue with people Cooler / More ruthless / Wittier than you
You will either lose, or sacrifice so much so win that it is not worth it. There is nothing wrong with being a bad person, but you should be so on your own terms.
Don’t argue with people too stupid to understand their own point
Not only are they impervious to any point you make, but they actually misunderstand their own point so deeply that you will have to explain to them what it is they are trying to say, before you can actively counter it in any fashion. This attempt usually proves so depressing and frustrating that you give up halfway through and leave dejected.