How To Lose An Argument On The Internet, Part I
So someone is thrashing you thoroughly on a message board somewhere, using your own faulty logic as a club to beat you down and providing links for all of his sources. What's worse, he's actually correct - and everyone else in the forum knows it!
Thankfully, you have a way out! When you're backed into a corner, there are many escape buttons you can press. The Internet provides plenty of ways for people with no logical debating skills whatsoever to weasel their way out of losing propositions.
You - yes, you - can use one of many time-tested techniques to escape the surly bonds of reason and exit something you had no hope of winning! Simply try one of the following:
Normally, a cheap shot at someone's physical looks would be a sure sign of losing. What could someone's baldness or acne problems possibly have to do with the upcoming Presidential election?
The trick is, you follow up this stunning blow with a comment that never fails to impress the crowd! Simply say, with sneering aplomb, that if they're bothering to debate you, they must have too much free time.
By painting your opponent as an ugly cave-troll who doesn't dare to venture outside, you can effectively marginalize his position! After all, we all know that all of the intelligent people in this world are standing around outside of Hot Topic down at the mall, chatting happily with their friends as they discuss the UN's chronic inaction in Darfur. If someone can spend two minutes Googling a link that completely contradicts everything that you say, then spends another three minutes typing up a response that dissects your previous post like a fifth-grader hacking up a lab rat, obviously they have no friends.
And a person without friends is someone who cannot be trusted.
When you can show that your opponent is that worst sort of person - someone who's actually willing to take time to go research facts, as opposed to macking on chicks down at the Orange Julius - you have maneuvered him into a black hole of losinghood from which there is no escape. Congratulations!
"I haven't the time to deign to disprove your oafish arguments, what with all of my pressing appointments and all - and so I must regretfully leave before I deliver my critical death blow...."
Remember, you don't have to stoop to personal attacks to infer that your opponent is a loser. Instead, why not paint yourself as as a lofty theologian who simply can't spare the time to dissect blazingly-obvious arguments? Claim you have other things to do - and while this has been fun, you simply must be running.
If you can type in a snooty English accent, so much the better.
This is a particularly good argument to pull out after a vigorous back-and-forth - one where you've posted several long screeds which, upon closer inspection, have turned out to be total bullshit. If you were a normal person, you would admit that even though you'd posted seventeen pages of "evidence," almost all of it was completely indefensible.
Instead, you can leave with your head held high, sniffing how lucky your opponent was that you didn't stick around long enough to deliver the deathblow that would have put paid to every single one of his points. Sure, maybe only five percent of your past postings turned out to be valid, but your Ultimate Post Of Doom would have been 100% undeniable truth!
For extra points, claim that your time is worth more than others give you credit for. "Am I getting paid for this?" you can ask, conveniently forgetting that you seemed happy to do it for free when you were winning.
"Maybe you would leave the Iraqi people under a horrific dictatorship, but I think otherwise!"
Are you losing? Change the subject! It's a classic approach that's been perfected by conservatives... But there's no copyright on it, so you liberals can feel free to go nuts, too!
The trick is to subtly change the foundation of the debate when nobody's looking, and then claim your opponent is arguing for something that he never actually said. Since this is a subtle technique, let me give you a real-life example, using the headlines to back it up!
ME: "It's completely unrealistic to think that Saddam would have lied to the weapons inspectors if he had no WMD."
OPPONENT: "Well, Iran's had a mad-on for Saddam ever since the last war... And if they thought that Saddam was weak, they might have invaded. And what do you think would have happened if Iran had marched into Iraq?"
ME: "The UN and the USA would have done nothing, of course."
OPPONENT: "So Saddam did have a reason to lie. If Iran had invaded, the UN would have watched as Saddam was taken from power."
ME: "So you're saying that the UN should have defended Iraq?"
Note how cleverly I have played my opponent. He had backed me into a corner, forcing me to admit that Saddam had at least one plausible reason to lie about the WMD... But rather than saying, "Yes, you're right, he had a reason to lie," instead I turned it around on him. He never said the UN should have defended Iraq... But since the issue came up I can put words in his mouth.
Words that will burn his tongue like acid.
The trick is to do everything you can to pull the argument away from what you're losing about. Find some tangentially-related issue and then - this is the good part - accuse your opponent of arguing something that he wasn't even saying in the first place. Hopefully, he'll spend so much time refuting the ludicrous accusations that you've leveled against him that he will forget about what this topic was initially about.
"You don't know what it's like!"
When you have no other logical legs to stand on, ask yourself: Is this a personal issue in some way? If you can posit a parallel world where your opponent has lived your life, precisely as you have lived it, then you can claim with impunity that they would be on your side if they lived there.
There's no way to prove it, so you wind up with a push. And remember, on the Internet, a draw is as good as a win.
You can't just say this, however - you have to back it up by listing the many ills that you, as a severely put-upon member of this gender/race/religion/city/social subculture, have to deal with daily. Imply that people who aren't members of your gender/race/religion/city/social subculture can't possibly have any experiences that compare to what you've been through, and that said experiences are a mind-numbingly Cthulhu-style adventure. Even the strongest minds would buckle under the crushing weight of your life.
Sure, you're a bag boy at Wal-Mart! But who can argue if you make it sound like every bag boy suffers Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome that makes Vietnam Vets look like the Cosby Kids? Only you know what it's like, man!
Just make sure they're not actually a member of your gender/race/religion/city/social subculture first, or you can lose big-time.