How to Engage in Civil Debate on the Internet

By: Nick “Tapobu” Rohlf

Civil – e.g. referring to an idea or aspect of civilization.  Because Civilization has time and time again revealed itself to be an oxymoron, so too does civil debate.

duty_callsSince the dawn of Facebook, man has been asking, how do I verbally one-up that guy I somewhat disagree with?

Well, I am happy to tell you that after many years of research, I have found the answer.  Some may call me a saint, others a fool, but I am here to share this hidden, secret, and highly privileged information with you in the hopes that someday I can be half as cool as Prometheus and Edward Snowden.**

Step one: Find a person who is saying something you disagree with.

Here is a link that will help you find such a person:

Step two: Carefully read the argument set forth by your new-found adversary. 

Maybe this person believes that meat-eaters are barbarous villains who enjoy torturing animals for fun.  Or perhaps they are simply expressing their opinion about the latest debacle in Washington.  Nevertheless, read their entire post, weigh the information, and determine how you wish to respond.

Step three: Craft a finely-worded and well-detailed counter-argument that cites various sources online and otherwise. 

For example:  “Really?  You’ve become a member of PETA?  You do know that x percent of their proceeds go to killing animals, right?  <source>”

Step four: Wait for the inevitable counter-counter-argument. 

It is very likely that your adversary has not yet seen the error of his ways and may need further correcting.  After he/she posts, write up your counter-counter-counter-argument.

Step five:  Wait for the inevitable counter-counter-counter-counter-argument. 

At this point, it is fairly clear that your opponent is never going to see things your way and therefore is a genuinely awful human being.  It’s not too late though!  You can still save his soul.  You just have to use the appropriate tactics.  This is the most important moment in the argument, and if you mess it up it is highly likely you will never convert your adversary to whatever viewpoint it is that you hold.  Instead of crafting a highly logical, fact-based argument to counter-argue his counter-counter-counter-counter-argument, you need to convert.  Accept your adversary’s point of view and everything that it entails.  I repeat: accept your adversary’s point of view and everything that it entails.  Example: “Wow, my good sir, your debating skills have truly won me over to the esteemed cult of vegetarianism!  I am truly learning to embrace eating delicious, leafy foods with unpronouncable names that are picked by migrant workers who are paid well under minimum-wage just so I can feel better about not harming my dear, beloved animals!  I truly hope that everyone else in this world will convert to vegetarianism so that all those delicious animals will no longer serve a purpose in society and eventually go extinct!  I also really love kittens!”

There you have it: the secret to effectively debating on the internet.  By the time you finish step five, there will be no doubt in your mind that you have won whatever debate in which you are partaking.  As the debate effectively ends immediately after your step-five post, so too does the need for civility.  Anything that should occur beyond step five is no longer a part of the debate and thus open season.  Enjoy.


**Prometheus and Edward Snowden – look it up, I’m not helping.


One thought on “How to Engage in Civil Debate on the Internet

  1. Marilee says:

    This is delightful.

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