11 Steps to Becoming a Better, More Educated Debater
Great post by Ryan on his MySpace blog. I think he is asking quite a bit from the dumbed down society we have today. However, I think it is good to try to bring people up to a high standard, rather than to pander down to their accepted low standard. It will take a lot of time, effort and patience to get this to happen, but it will be well worth it if we can make this a reality in our society.
Now, on debating: The following consists of a simple list of things to keep in mind while debating politics.
1. Thou Shalt Not Make Slurs, Generalized or Other.
It’s number one for a reason. Not only is it just rude, but it takes away from the debate. Regardless of what side you take on a debate, you should leave with a higher knowledge set.
To the people I generally agree with on issues: I’ve deleted some of your comments lately. We’ve been doing this long enough that you should know better.
To the people I generally disagree with (or noobs): You don’t know my work history. You don’t know my personal history. You don’t know my education history. I shouldn’t really need to post pics of the dozens of diplomas I’ve received in military, law enforcement, and legal courses; my academic diplomas (plural, including graduate school) from the university I attended; the essays I’ve gotten published; the dissertation I’m working on; my class schedule for my PhD program; or my personal library and research files. Instead of coming in and making broad generalized statements like “you can’t read legal stuff”, take the time to debate the actual issue or leave.
You say “But Ryan, what was the point of that paragraph? You’re just on your high horse or something.”
The point is that the majority of that paragraph is pointless. When you make such broad-based generic claims about someone’s ‘abilities’ or ‘knowledge’, all you’re doing is setting up a strawman argument that does absolutely nothing for the debate. You force a person to point out their pedigrees (or it degenerates into a ‘yu-huh’-‘nuh-uh’ argument) and the actual subject of the debate dies.
2. Thou Shalt Not Ignore Points Made by the Opposing Party.
Guy 1 – “X” is wrong because of y and z.
Guy 2 – We should do “x” because of a, b, and c.
No, address “y and z” first before taking the debate in another direction. Why? Because you’re being disingenuous. The person you’re addressing has already made a claim and backed it up. If you feel said claim is wrong, take on their points before moving on.
Let me put it into better context:
Guy 1 – We shouldn’t pass the health care bill because it’ll bankrupt the economy based on the $2 Trillion initial cost, the projected deficits, the running costs of all the other programs, and the $1.4 Trillion deficit we’re already running.
Guy 2 – You’re wrong. We need to pass the health care bill so we can help people.
See what I’m saying? All Guy 2 did here was vomit out his feelings on the matter without addressing the issue at hand, which is the effect of the health care bill on the economy. The debate went nowhere and neither party is better off.
3. Thou Shalt Acknowledge and Heed the Most Credible Source.
This is a biggie, and one that drives me absolutely mad.
Guy 1 – Page 437 of House bill 93498 (linked) flat out says “You are a cunt.”
Guy 2 – You’re wrong. The New York Times and ABC News has a panel of people that says it doesn’t say that.
What we have here are two people. One is citing the actual text of the bill and providing it for all to see (proof beyond any reasonable doubt). The other refuses to read the actual text and is instead relying on a second-hand (and questionable) source for their info on what page 437 says.
The logic here is unassailable.
4. Thou Shalt Educate Thyself.
Following on that last point, when you’re debating, you should have data to back up your own claims.
Go to the bookstore. Go to the library. Go to amazon. Use google. It’s not that hard.
Then you say “But c’mon now Ryan, I don’t have time to research or read stuff.”
Really? Ever wait in line? Cook? Take a shit? Eat alone? Does it take you a while to get to sleep? Do you watch TV?
You have time.
Let me give you some examples:
-At the time of this writing, I am making homemade rolls from scratch. I’m just waiting for the dough to rise.
-A little over a year ago, I researched and wrote the majority of a 13 page paper for class during a 12-hour layover at Heathrow Int’l airport.
-I always have a book or two in my truck for when I’m…well, waiting in line somewhere or for when I’m out to eat and by myself.
The point is that you don’t have to be a research fellow at some university or think tank to do research, nor do you have to set aside hours and hours of your schedule. 99% of the time it’s just picking up a book or document and taking some time to do what you learned how to do when you were four.
5. Thou Shalt Use Credible Sources.
It doesn’t do much good to read if you’re reading the wrong thing. Let’s look at three different kinds of sources:
NOT CREDIBLE: [Jonathan Steele’s Defeat – Why America and Britain Lost Iraq]
Written by a journalist. He did some research, but he clearly had a bias going into the book. (Praise by Noam Chomsky should also make anything suspect). This was also published in February of 2008…a year and a half after the Awakening movements started and the Iraqis were well on their way to kicking the terrorists out.
It’s opinion, and the events that have played out since its publication have killed any credibility of the book’s premise.
CREDIBLE: [Daniel Walker Howe’s What Hath Go Wrought – The Transformation of America 1815-1848]
Written by a historian and thoroughly researched (as noted by the hundreds of footnotes and 21-page bibliographical essay in the back). Part of the “Oxford History of the United States” series. Also, an excellent and captivating read.
ORIGINAL: [The Federalist Papers]
Much like pulling up actual bills, if you want to know what someone actually said on a subject, you pull up what they actually wrote. For example, if you want to know what the Founders meant when they wrote the Constitution, you need to read what they actually said about it in the Federalist Papers.
Politicians do not count as credible sources either. Why? Because Congress would write a bill legalizing rape, title it “Empowering Women of America Act”, then defend it on all the talk shows. It’s called “double speak”, and politicians thrive on it. If you don’t believe me, pull up the legislative calendar and start reading bills. It’ll make you want to pull your hair out.
6. Thou Shalt Practice What Thou Preaches.
This is more for personal credibility than anything else.
For example, I am a huge proponent of free market economics in the health care debate. So what do I do? I go to the doctor and exercise free market principles. If you’re new, here is my most recent experience.
If you are a huge proponent of increased taxes, instead of whining about “fairness”, you should work yourself up to that tax bracket and see how it feels to be forced to give up more and more of your income the harder and harder you work; to become a target of people wanting to take what you earned on your own accord. If you are a proponent of government run social programs, you should go out and force people to give you money so you can give it to others.
What? Too much work? Illegal? It’s your call, but if you don’t practice what you preach you’re intellectually dishonest and a coward.
7. Thou Shalt Check Thy Sources.
I mentioned sources above and it’s being mentioned again because of its importance.
Let’s say you hear a story from a source that you trust, whether it be Rush, Beck, Jason Lewis, Olbermann, Huffington, Fox, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, et. al.
Before jumping on any bandwagon, verify what they are saying. If Glenn Beck says that so-and-so in the administration is a commie, look to see where he’s getting that from and run it up against Marxist doctrine. If Keith Olbermann gives the top 10 reasons why you should be worshiping Obama, check to see if those reasons are accurate.
I listen to a lot of talk radio and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard Rush say something and be like “C’mon now! The old man has done gone crazy.” Then I research said point. It doesn’t matter that I’ve found him to be accurate 80%-90% of the time, I still check.
8. Thou Shalt Be Consistent With Thy Stances.
Simply put, don’t be a hypocrite. US Agent brought this up in his latest blog and I’ll build off of his example for my point:
If you are against Obama’s spending, but defend Bush’s spending, then you’re wrong.
9. Thou Shalt Be Consistent With Thy Consistency.
Same ball, different spin. Basically, if you are an out-and-out Bush hater because of his policies, but in the same breath love Obama for his policies, you’re wrong.
Because a lot of those policies are the same. Obama has been dithering on Afghanistan, but largely accepted Bush’s plan for both there and Iraq when he took office. Bush did corporate bailouts. Bush did the first stimulus plan. Bush expanded Medicare. Bush would have expanded SCHIP if the bill Congress gave him wasn’t overflowing with a bunch of crap.
Therefore, if you love Obama for doing those policies, logic dictates you must also praise Bush for doing them first. Otherwise you’re just showing that you’re intellectually vapid and just follow the cult of personality instead of looking at the issues and thinking for yourself.
10. Thou Shalt Admit When Thou is Wrong.
Guy 1 – “The sun is shining.”
Guy 2 – “No it’s not. You’re wrong.”
Guy 1 – (Opens up the blinds. Sunlight comes through the window).
Guy 2 – “Huh. Well isn’t that something. The sun really is shining.”
It’s not that hard. I’ve done it. Probably the most recent example I can give is of changing my own stance on marijuana legalization (I support it somewhat now, after first debating with some on here who are for it).
Why did I do such a thing?
I don’t follow the stream. I was simply presented with a different set of empirical data that showed my stance (keep it illegal) to be short-sighted and faulty.
11. Thou Shalt Test Thyself By Arguing Both Sides.
The final point I’d like to make is that if you want to be a good debater, you need to be able to argue both sides of just about any argument.
-War is bad and we should avoid it.
-Some fuckers just need killing.
-Abortion kills babies.
-Abortion can save a life.
-Global warming might kill us all.
-The earth’s temperature has been flat or cooling since 1998.
-Everyone needs health care to live healthy lives.
-Life without liberty isn’t worth it.
-Gov’t stimulus plans can boost short-term economic growth.
-Stimulus plans kill short-term gains in other sectors and are devastating overall in the long-term.
So there ya go. Follow those 11 steps and you will not only be a better, more educated debater, but a better, more educated person.
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