Terrible debating tactics you have seen (especially not logical fallacies)

I find that it’s more of an appeal to common sense or truth, which by coincidence, happens to be the majority, the majority of the time.

Sometimes it is an appeal to common sense. However, different message boards with different political leanings would end up with different ‘truths’ for the exact same issues.

I’ve seen this tactic from a Flat Earther. He restated a valid argument against his position, said “hah, hah” and moved on without bothering to refute it. Not that he could.

Yeah, right.

Another tactic that annoys me is when you already state that there are exceptions, but someone still pounces on the exception anyway.

“Boeing aircraft have, generally, for the most part, had a good safety record.”

“Oh yeah? Tell that to the three hundred people who died in the 737 MAX crashes. LOL”

It depends on how much papering over of the exceptions you are doing.

Sometimes a “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” is a perfectly acceptable retort.

I’ve seen this kind of thing as a non-answer to real problems.
Such as “comment on how your product killed 25 of your customers.”
“Corporation X has a commitment to quality.”

As if a top level written commitment transforms into action always.

Another argument style that has picked up steam in the troll age is the argument from uncomfortability, the “U MAD BRO?” approach. You see it a lot in discussions of race, both in “if you object to me labelling you as an irredeemable racist, it’s because you’re afraid to have uncomfortable conversations” and “you know that [those other races] are inferior, but your liberal delusions of equality make the truth difficult to face.”

Terrible debating tactics you have seen: How about shouting over your opponent during his allotted 2 minutes?

Yeah, often accompanied by prediction of the entirely reasonable outcome of the troll behaviour, but with misattribution of motive, such as:
“[gross violations of community rules etc]…
Oh yeah, and I predict you’ll just ban me now because you don’t agree with my eloquently spoken point, you…
[more violations of community rules, personal threats, lies and false accusations]”

This is a form of derailing, I suppose, but I see it occasionally in the comments section of blogs. The blogger will write a nuanced and well-considered post about Topic X, and briefly mention Topic Y in passing. And half the people commenting will seize on Topic Y and discuss it to death, instead of what the blogger really wanted to talk about.

For example, someone might write a long and thoughtful post about institutionalized sexism, and say something like, “We can see this behavior everywhere, from the highest halls of power to the latest episode of Doctor Who (not that I’m a big fan of that show). One thing that might be done about the problem is…”

And then the comments section will be full of nothing but people saying “Why don’t you like Doctor Who? It’s a great show! You should watch this episode, and this other episode, and this third episode, and I bet you’d change your mind!” The real subject of the post, the institutionalized sexism, will be forgotten.

Citing the Bible.

God said it, I believe it, End of Story

Jesus Christ! (oh, The Irony!)

And, similar to citing the Bible: walking into one’s personal library then coming back out into the living room with a big armful of books, throwing them physically onto the floor at one’s opponent’s feet and saying, “That should pretty much settle the matter.”

As if I don’t have a library of my own, back home? It struck me at the time as one of the most childish things I’d ever seen an adult do.

My pet peeve (well, I’ve got a few, but here’s one of them) is the “so, what you’re saying is…,” immediately followed by something that is not at all what I’ve been saying, but some bullshit restatement of something I’ve said.

Another form of this nonsense is “so you agree that…,” followed by something with which I would never in a milion years agree.

In medical school, most of us attended some lunchtime lectures offered by local alternative medicine practioners. Doctors start off pretty open minded. Of course, some of the students just went to ask tough questions.

Not a debating tactic, but the library story reminded me of the lady who gave a lecture on iridology (where all disease manifests itself in the eye - a few diseases and things like concussion can). She couldn’t answer too many questions. But she brought a very impressive hard bound book to show the subject was serious. It must have been 10,000 pages. Twice as thick as the biggest tome I’d ever seen. I hope it wasn’t filled with pictures that make a moving animation if you flip the pages fast enough.

If we are allowed to include discussion forums, the one that kills many threads is the classic playing dumb / bad faith response:

  1. Person X, usually the OP, writes a post that makes a clear claim or assertion (call it P).
  2. One or more posters reply with strong counter-arguments to P.
  3. X doesn’t really engage with the arguments. Instead, X replies with a long post that line-by-line dissects the responses, responding to each line with some snappy comeback that doesn’t actually address the overall point being made, and also pretends to have forgotten the context of the discussion.
    Like, the snappy comeback can even contradict something that X just wrote, or contradict P, it doesn’t matter; it only needs to look like it superficially “hit back” at one sentence in another poster’s post.

The beauty of this one is, since the long post is a bunch of disparate sentences that don’t form any coherent argument, the natural response for other posters is itself a long set of responses to individual sentences i.e. it quickly appears as if all sides are doing the same thing.

I guess those fall under straw men, or maybe false analogies.
The latter of which can be hugely annoying. I had someone get angry at me because I chose to use a can opener on a pull tab can, insisting that it’s the right and proper way (I don’t care, and my way works fine), and that what I was doing was exactly like choosing to die by drowning instead of swimming… WTF?

If I understand you correctly, your disagreement is when someone asserts a position that you did not take.

A good faith method of debate is in fact to restate your opponents position in your own terms, to make sure that you are on the same page. As my first line here demonstrates.

The construct itself is not a terrible debating tactic, but I will agree that it is often abused in the way that you say.

However, the converse is also true, in that people will sometimes invoke the “Bone rule” around here, where anytime someone replies with “so, what I understand you to be saying…” is considered to be automatically wrong, even when it is not, or, if it is, is still in good faith and is meant to try to sum up the poster’s understanding of the position.

I will usually respond to such the first time, if it is an incorrect summation of my position, with a correction to their misunderstanding. If they then persist in their misunderstanding, then I will know that their misunderstanding is intentional, and not a miscommunication on either of our parts.

That is almost never in good faith, unless the posters are in fact, in agreement. For example, “so, you agree that when a poster starts a phrase like this, they are rarely going to follow it with something you would agree with.”

Oh man, tell me about it. It seems to me, or falls in line with my observations, that these replies fall into two basic groups:

The first are those argue in more or less bad faith by trying to force fit your reply into their confirmation bias box. Either that, or they’re not really listening because they’ve already got their minds made up and they’re only listening to the degree they can form their replies, not to the degree to actually process and understand what you are saying.

The second group are not quite the opposite and are basically well meaning of the first but they tend to obsfucate by trying too hard to let you know they understand. I’ll hear stuff like this:

Speaker ABC makes a clinical statement regarding a thing, a situation, or process. Makes it concisely.

Speaker XYZ replies with "so, in essence, what it is is… and states and oversimplified understanding of what they heard. It usually takes a few counter replies until it gets beaten into their heads explicitly what you were trying to get them to understand in the first place. I have to fight the impulse to snap back angrily to their “in essence” BS and say “No no no. It’s not in essence: it’s in brutal bare-knuckled reality, this and only this” ( repetition of your thesis statement ). “Nothing of mere essence about it”. I don’t mind feedback at all, but you’re unsure or need clarification, ask me a question, don’t make a statement that waters down my thesis.

Anyway, rant mode off.

Now, taking that to its logical extreme…