Evil Greedy Stupid Sheep: 4 Modern Ways to Win An Argument

The great thing about internet communities and forums is that they give us a whole world full of disagreeable people we can disagree with. And since we rarely see these people in person, it is easy to completely depersonalize them through powerful debating tactics. The strategies I outline below deserve a special place in any list of informal logic fallacies, but that does not diminish their effectiveness online.

There’s an old story about a young lawyer getting sage advice from a senior partner. “When the law is on your side, pound the law. When the facts are on your side, pound the facts.”

“What if neither are on your side?” asked the newbie.

“Pound the table.” And as it turns out, these four techniques are right there on the table for the pounding:

  1. Dr. EvilEvil
    We’re all reasonable people, in our own minds. So it stands to reason that anyone who does not come to the same conclusions that you have must have a diametrically-opposed set of values. Therefore, they are evil. Those who disagree with us must be intent on raining down brimstone and weeping and gnashing of teeth. Why else would they advocate for the Apocayplse, unless they were Evil? And since they are Evil, we are justified in using any means necessary to remove their flawed influence. (my opponent is Evil because I am Good; see circular reasoning.)
  2. GreedyGreedy
    Next down on the list is the belief that your opponents – lacking visible horns, pitchforks, and pentagrams – must be on the take. It’s not that they spew evil with every exhaled breath, they are merely weak servants who have prostitued themselves to the highest bidder. Anyone (say a scientist who pursues a line of research) can be dismissed as a paid flack if we can properly assail the source of the funding as Evil. (my opponent is Greedy, and nothing they say can be truthful because they are associated with Evil; see ad hominem, association fallacy.)
  3. StupidStupid
    Lacking any hooks to hang the Evil and Greedy tags, you may want to insult your opponent’s intelligence directly. Look for any inconsistencies, no matter how far removed in time, place, or subject matter. All you need to do is confuse things long enough to render your opponent non-credible. It’s not that they have different values, nor are they so weak as to sell them. It’s just a simple simpleton who can’t logically connect A to B to C. (see circular reasoning)
  4. SheepSheep
    Sheep are blind followers. They might or might not be stupid, but they are through some circumstance surrounded by those who would lead them astray.Maybe they are tainted by the magazines or websites they read, or maybe by the people they communicate with. Our classifying them as “sheep” is not a deep insult, but rather an announcement that if only they spent more time with enlightened people like us they’d snap to their senses. Or better yet, become our sheep. (see Package Deal fallacy)

Just remember to keep your opponents in one of those four categories, and you’ll never knowingly lose an argument.

Share Button

Comments

  1. How about just go out there and succeed? That’s the way I prefer to “win arguments.” That’s the best way to prove critics wrong.

  2. Does use of ad homenim attacks like this really lead to a winning or just the appearance of winning. It does pass for political debate these days but shouldn’t really pass as a discussion.

  3. southtrek – in our new postmodern world, arbitrary concepts like “winning” are devoid of any meaning other than that we provide ourselves.

    The point here isn’t to employ logic and reasoning that will satisfy the neutral observer – there are no neutral observers! Anyone who is not behind me is against me!

    The very act of disagreeing with you makes the other person wrong – all that remains is some rational explanation for your opponents failure to think properly.

  4. Hey Ike, you make me want to argue with you about this, but I find I cannot. Darn you! Now I look like a sheep on this point.

    You know, it’s much easier to argue with Geoff. Critics are good. Cynics not so good.

    Your last point Ike — Anyone who is not behind me is against me! — is the greatest observation of all. That said, I don’t feel that way. You can disagree with me anytime.

    Best,
    Rich

  5. No Rich, you are not a Sheep.

    Sheep are on the losing, non-Ike side of arguments. Anyone who agrees with me obviously arrived at those conclusions through superior intellect, sound judgment, and a set of core values that is consistent with true morality.

  6. As I get older, I realize winning isn’t everything. Except in selected battles. Got kids? Then you understand!

    I also like to think of myself as a wolf, merely appearing as a sheep. 🙂

  7. It’s amazing how often I see these arguments played out in comments. From now on I will just point that out and give them a link to this post. I just did it today. Outstanding!

  8. BTW, it’s worth pointing out that in your “satire,” you never modify what your mind-meme is here by saying “Of course, it’s ok to state a war criminal is evil if he kills people; just back up your claims.

    In fact, you’ve set up a nice sheep-sheering activity here. Thousands of fanboyz will now link to this “4 arguments” like the Little Red Book the instant they detect anyone ever using any of these words like “greedy” or “stupid” on a forums — and triumphantly declare them to be “wrong”. So you’re contributed to the sheep farm of the Internet.

    I prefer to go about this differently.
    http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2008/05/invalid-interlo.html

    Rather than try to suppress or groom or cull somebody’s heartfelt speech about me or someone else on the Internet, I concede their freedom. It’s often quite valuable for someone to explain to me on a blog how a given politican or his actions are evil, or make him out to be a fool, and his voters sheep. It’s legitimate activity in a democracy; it is upheld Constitutionally-protected speech.

    Instead, I simply find when I’m suffering one of these types of arguments used on myself endlessly without thought, merely to annoy and harass, I just say “invalid interlocutor”. If you are going to keep saying “stupid” or “evil” to me endlessly about my ideas, I don’t need to keep talking to you personally, but post away.

    In short, when you try to set up this sort of “rule set” for “everyone” to adopt during robust electoral debates, you are trying to be a professional democracy manager, a geeky controller with code, in this case social code instead of techical code. And no one needs you to do that. People are free to call each other names until the cows — or sheep — come home.

    If you wish to find this or that expression invalid, you can do your own thinking and explication about how it is so, without declaring global rule sets like a school marm.

  9. Typo, “is” should be “if”

    “Anyone (say a scientist who pursues a line of research) can be dismissed as a paid flack is we can properly assail the source of the funding as Evil.”

  10. Twitter Comment


    RT @kamichat: Classic Post: RT @ikepigott: @chrisheuer – Might be time to make people read this again: [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  11. Twitter Comment


    Classic Post: RT @ikepigott: @chrisheuer – Might be time to make people read this again: [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

Trackbacks

  1. […] couple of weeks ago, I outlined four very simple ways to win an internet argument. Cast your opponent as one of the following, and thereby carry the moral justification to ignore […]

  2. Ike Pigott says:

    @Meryl333 – I mocked the modern style of argumentation here: http://snurl.com/evilsheep — but some thought I was being serious about it!

  3. RT @ikepigott I mocked modern style of argumentation http://snurl.com/evilsheep — but some thought I was being serious

  4. Ike Pigott says:

    @chrisheuer – Might be time to make people read this again: http://snurl.com/evilsheep

  5. barry brown says:

    RT @kamichat: Classic Post: RT @ikepigott: @chrisheuer – Might be time to make people read this again: http://snurl.com/evilsheep

  6. Ike Pigott says:

    This piece about political condescension ( http://ike4.me/n22 ) reads a lot like something I wrote: http://ike4.me/4arg

  7. RT @ikepigott: This piece about political condescension (http://ike4.me/n22) reads a lot like something I wrote: http://ike4.me/4arg

  8. Ike Pigott says:

    @md_silverlight – I outline the shortcuts people take to belittle the beliefs of others: http://ike4.me/4arg

  9. Kami Huyse says:

    @eschipul Your post about fallacies http://bit.ly/cHD2lI reminds me of this classic @ikepigott post http://bit.ly/9GP8W7

  10. Steve says:

    So true. Again why can't we rise above all this… RT @ikepigott @SCMProfessor – Heh! http://ike4.me/4arg

  11. Ike Pigott says:

    @kevinmontrose @gamerz – On a related note: http://ike4.me/4arg (and yes, Lester, that is a YOURLS shortener! Thank you!)

  12. I <3 this post: Evil Greedy Stupid Sheep: 4 Modern Ways to Win An Argument http://ow.ly/2QE7R (via @ikepigott)

  13. Nickie says:

    RT @RedheadWriting I <3 this post: Evil Greedy Stupid Sheep: 4 Modern Ways to Win An Argument http://ow.ly/2QE7R (via @ikepigott)

  14. Chris Bird says:

    RT @RedheadWriting: I <3 this post: Evil Greedy Stupid Sheep: 4 Modern Ways to Win An Argument http://ow.ly/2QE7R (via @ikepigott)

  15. Casse No-i says:

    RT @RedheadWriting: I <3 this post: Evil Greedy Stupid Sheep: 4 Modern Ways to Win An Argument http://ow.ly/2QE7R (via @ikepigott)

  16. Tori Deaux says:

    Was gonna RT this for the title alone, but the article rocks! "Evil Greedy Stupid Sheep" http://ow.ly/2QE7R (via @RedheadWriting)

  17. RT @RedheadWriting: Evil Greedy Stupid Sheep: 4 Modern Ways to Win An Argument http://ow.ly/2QE7R (via @ikepigott)

  18. Mike Masin says:

    RT @RedheadWriting: I <3 this post: Evil Greedy Stupid Sheep: 4 Modern Ways to Win An Argument http://ow.ly/2QE7R (via @ikepigott)

  19. Ike Pigott says:

    @anniemal @ConversationAge – But that goes against EVERYTHING I've learned about arguing on the net! http://ike4.me/4arg