Thursday, March 24, 2016

You too can use proven school yard bullying techniques to win political arguments on the internet

The Calvin Gambit

A sophisticated form of Hobson's Choice -- heads I win, tails you lose.

To use the Calvin Gambit, deliberately act in an illogical way in order to frustrate and annoy the target. If the target shows signs of frustration or annoyance this indicates that he is weak and deserved to be targeted. (See the Scotsman Tactic.)

The Calvin Gambit somewhat resembles Hopkins Fork:

"I accuse you of being a witch".

"Don’t be silly. You saw me in Church last Sunday; a witch would never do that."

"You seem to know a great deal about witches…seems suspicious to me."

The classic school-yard version goes:

"You are a Muslim,"

"No, I’m not. I am Church of England. I actually go to Sunday School, which is more than can be said for you. There's nothing wrong with being Muslim, but I'm a Christian."

"Anyone who says they aren’t a Muslim is a Muslim!"

"Very well then, if it will satisfy you: I am a Muslim."

"Andrew is a Muslim! Andrew is a Muslim! He said so." 

"Only because, according to your own arguments, anyone who says they are a Muslim is not Muslim and anyone who denies it, is. But you can tell quite easily I’m not, for example, because I don't go to Mosque on Friday. Not, as I say, that there is anything wrong with being Muslim, but I happen to be Christian."

"Anyone who denies being Muslim is Muslim! You said you weren't, so you are!"

"Have it you own way: I am a Muslim."

Experts can keep this going for months at a time.

The Calvin Gambit is usually a set up for the Turgoose Maneuver.

The Coventry Technique

Never speak to you opponent. He is a zombie and a moorlock and therefore beneath your contempt. If you address him directly you will get trapped into trying to show why (or even trying to find out if) his ideas are wrong.  But the things he believes (man made climate change is a thing, women should be allowed to vote, private citizens should not be allowed to own guns) are so off the wall that they do not even count as ideas.

Instead, talk about him, in a tone of voice that implies that you have already won the argument. Adopt the tone of voice of two school girls having a very confidential conversation in such a way that a third is certain to overhear it:

Oooo god did you see what Prudence wore to the disco last night I'm amazed she has the courage to show her face...

For example:

I met a person yesterday who actually thought Jeremy Corbyn was a politician, and what is more, I could tell from his photo that he smelled.

Do you know, there are people out there who think that philosophy is a proper subject, and what is more, some of them wear unfashionable jackets.

The Financial Times employs a journalist who knows so little about science that he thinks Jesus turned water into wine.

If the mark indicates that they have overheard or otherwise responds, accuse them of being cry-babies and move on to the Turgoose Maneuver.

The Scotsman Tactic

The Scotsman Tactic involves obfuscation between holding an opinion and membership of a group. It is absolutely central to all modern internet debate.

The classic political version runs:  

Jeremy believes that we should nationalize the railways.

People who believe in rail nationalization may be labelled "communist" 

Communists are evil.

Therefore Jeremy is evil.

Therefore we should not pay any attention to anything Jeremy says about rail nationalization. 

The classic Twitter version goes:

Andrew believes that women should be allowed to vote and own property.

People who believe in women's rights may be labelled "SJW".

The SJW always lie about everything. 

Therefore Andrew is a liar.

Therefore, we should not listen to Andrew when he says that women should be allowed to vote and own property. 

Note that the New Atheists have adopted a version of the Scotsman Tactic to prevent nuanced discussion of religion: 

Giles argues that Jesus preached a progressive message.

Arguments based on close readings of the Bible may be labeled "theological"

All theological arguments are meaningless.

Therefore Giles' argument is meaningless.

Therefore, we should not pay any attention to Giles’ argument that Jesus preached a progressive message.

They are currently trying to define all points of view apart from strict scientific reductionism as "the humanities" and declaring "the humanities" as a block as meaningless. This should eventually prevent the nuanced discussion of anything at all.

The Ricardian Device

When Shakespeare’s Richard III attempts to make a dynastic to marriage to the princess Elizabeth, she recoils in horror, saying that he is the man who murdered her two sons (the princes in the tower). 

"Harp not on that!" says Richard "It is past". Which is to say, being interpreted: I murdered your children yesterday. The fact that you are still going on proves you are a crybaby. Suck it up.

You should invoke the Ricardian Device whenever anyone quotes or references anything you have previously written. It doesn't matter if the target says "...but last year, you wrote" or "...but this morning, you said": they are still harping on the past, and therefore nursing a grudge (which shows that they are crybabies.)

The practical result will be that you can say anything you like, and be as inconsistent as you choose, without ever being called to account for it.

"The reason I say that you are racist is that you said that there would soon be a race war between black people and Americans." 

"That was yesterday. How weak would someone have to be to still be going on about something I said over twenty four hours ago?"

IMPORTANCE: If your opponent tries to invoke the Ricardian Device, accuse him of a sinister Orwellian tendency to change history. 

The Turgoose Maneuver

There is a scene in the movie This is England in which young Shaun deliberately misbehaves in a corner shop. When the Punjabi shopkeeper remonstrates with him, his older skinhead friends emerge and accuse the shopkeeper of picking on the little boy.

School teachers now recognize this as reverse bullying. A little guy follows a big guy around, perhaps for weeks, chanting (and I pick a purely hypothetical example here) "your dad’s a fucking cripple". The big guy eventually rounds on little guy.

At this point the little guy either 

a: goes crying to teacher, saying "he’s picking on me", or 

b: call in six of his bigger mates to beat up the big guy while telling everyone that he started it.

To use this technique on the internet simply say loudly that the mark is fat and smelly, preferably indirectly (see The Coventry Technique). When the mark responds "There is nothing wrong with being fat, and I am not, in fact, smelly", retweet the message to all your friends, and talk loudly to each other about how he is harassing you, abusing you, cyber stalking you, desperate for attention, creepy, sinister, mad, etc.

Advanced practitioners may ever like to try reporting him to the moderators.

The Midas Stratagem

We are told that in some ancient kingdoms, it was forbidden to say The king is a scoundrel. But it was also forbidden to say that it was forbidden to say The king is a scoundrel. The person who said If I find the man who said 'the king is a scoundrel' I will chop off his head  had himself said The king is a scoundrel, and would therefore have his head cut off. This is also how blasphemy works in fundamentalist Islamic context.

In the school-yard situation, the Midas Stratagem is often a game, although it is the kind of game that can drift into bullying without much effort:

"Bet you don’t know which Don McLean song was covered by Elvis"

"And I Love You So"

"Ha-ha Andrew said that he loved me, Andrew is a homo, Andrew is a homo."

In internet discussions, you should always feel free to take everything your opponent says completely literally; and to take sentences and even individual words as far out of context as possible.

"I think that anyone who uses the word n***** should be banned from Facebook"

"Andrew is the kind of person who uses the word n*****."

Note that the new atheists quote passages from the Bible or the Quran without context, and when context is provided, invoke the Scotsman Tactic.

"Jesus wasn't a good moral teacher. He said that people should hate their parents."

"Well, you need to look at what else he says in that particular discourse, at how the saying is quoted in parallel passages, and what the word 'hate' means elsewhere in the Bible..."

"Oh, now you are using theology. Theology is always meaningless. If you ignore theology, then Jesus told everyone to hate their parents."


1: How many of the above techniques can you spot in the following (real) exchange?

EPSILON: wow this guy looks like a faggot
ZETA: all Jeremy Corbyn supporters are faggot ass communists
ANDREW RILSTONE: Thank you for your imput. It has changed my mind totally. Tomorrow I shall resign from the Labour party and join UKIP

EPSILON: nobody cares you disfigured faggot

2: How many of the above techniques has David Cameron used in the House of Commons in the last week?

If you would like to contribute to the cost of placing an armed guard outside Andrew's house, please consider supporting his patreon (i.e pledging $1 each time he publishes an essay.)

The rhetoric of internet debate is discussed at greater length in One Hundred and Forty Characters in Search of an Author. 


AndrewSshi said...

This (and the other few entries) is why the Block button is your friend.

Sam Dodsworth said...

Playground bullying has nothing to do with winning arguments, of course. It's about asserting dominance by controlling your reactions. (There's another kind that's purely about inflicting damage - but that's generally reserved for women, for much the same reasons that James Puckle's square bullets were reserved for use against the Turks.)

The block button's useful, but it's not an actual solution because you have to read before you block. There've been some pretty good proposed solutions to this problem, but no social media platform is going to implement them as long as their success is judged on engagement metrics.

I. Dall said...

&, of course, the block buttons do not actually make bullies & trolls go away. In the case of trolls proper, discovering that they are trolls is in itself more effective than any blockage - one is, even, free to ignore their "arguments" & instead analyse the iterations of contemporary trolling.