How To Win Online Arguments

Ken AshfordBloggingLeave a Comment

Win online arguments!
Enjoy battling it out on the bulletin boards? Like getting stuck into a good, pointless argument with only one aim – to win at any cost? Then this guide is for you – simply follow the 12-point guide below and success will be yours!

1. Get friendly
Always refer to your opponent by his/her first name. Your messages will seem warm and friendly, despite the rabid ferocity of their content. After a few exchanges, begin to use a corruption of your opponent’s name – begin with "William", then change to "Billy", then change to something like "Billy-Boy". Women don’t enjoy having their names shortened either, so make sure that "Mrs. Elizabeth C. Osbourne-Smythe PhD, QC" is always addressed as "Lizzy".

2. Picky! Picky!
Criticising your opponents spelling or grammar will make you look pedantic. Far better to deliberately misread a message, then follow-up with an utterly incongruous statement. And if they make a factual error – no matter how small – make sure you’re on hand to remind them of their error as often as possible.

3. Be selective
Selective editing is a good way to avoid engaging with your opponent’s better arguments. Simply delete that intelligent, pointed question which ends paragraph three and reply instead to the weaker arguments beneath. Should your opponent post something like "I’m sorry but you’re talking crap", snip everything but the first two words then graciously accept his apology.

4. Showboat
Once the argument is in full swing, publicly thank all those people who have e-mailed you privately with their messages of support. Claim that you are too busy to reply to each of them personally at the moment, but promise to continue fighting on their behalf.

5. You’ve got history
Boasting about how long you’ve been subscribed to a forum or newsgroup is not advised. Far better to make obscure references to the forum/newsgroup when only thirteen people knew it existed. Fondly recall a similar flame-war which took place in 1989 between "Big Al" and "Phyllis from Kent". If a newly arrived opponent produces a particularly strong argument, tell them that you’ve already discussed (and won) this debate last year and that you’ve no intention of repeating your crushing arguments all over again for their benefit.

6. There’s lots of you
Always refer to yourself in the plural, as though you are speaking on behalf of the whole newsgroup: "all we are trying to say is…" sounds much more pompous than "all I am trying to say is…". When other people join in the thread, the rules are simple: if they side with you, follow-up immediately and enthusiastically, congratulating them on their courage; if they side with your opponent, ignore the tossers.

7. One step ahead
Pre-empt all replies. Tell your opponent that you know exactly how he or she is going to respond to your message because you’ve seen it all before. List all potential counter-arguments to your position and invite your opponent to choose one.

8. Beer and arguments don’t mix
Never, ever, rejoin a long-running argument after ten pints in the pub. Although the devastating logic of your drunken ramblings will seem inescapable to you at the time, your opponent will lap up the incoherent, inconsistent, beer-troubled flaws in your argument and you’ll be unlikely to recover. If you’ve been involved in a particularly vehement argument where you’ve staked your reputation on the line, get a friend to lock away your PC on pub nights.

9. Bamboozle with links
If your opponent’s tenacity is proving too much for you, try a Google counter-attack. This involves posting up an endless stream of vaguely related links, insisting that there’s more than enough evidence contained in the 50+ linked sites to crush any counter argument. Ensure you keep the references vague and preferably link to pages that are stuffed full of even more links. If your enemy can’t find the evidence they’re demanding, blame them for their lack of research skills – after all, you’ve already provided them with ample resources.

10. I didn’t say that!
Never apologise for anything, ever.

11. Play dirty
Think the argument isn’t going your way? Simply post one long, highly antagonistic message in which you completely misrepresent everything your opponent has said in the last three weeks. End by martyrishly declaring that the argument has dragged on for too long and that you have no choice but to kill-file/ignore your opponent. Ignore any further messages and/or quietly re-register under a new name.

12. Victory is yours!
Won the argument? Congratulations – but remember to be utterly unbearable in victory. Make generous excuses for your opponent’s behaviour ("I know you primary school technicians can be under a lot of stress", "the menopause can be a very difficult time", etc), but retain a calm tone of superiority ("the important thing is to learn from your mistakes"). State that you hope your opponent stays around and reassure him/her that other subscribers are sure to forget all about this sorry business in a couple of years.

Original: © 1999 Steven Jones, updates and additions © urban75, March 2004.