The Devious Weasel’s Arsenal of Argumentation Tactics

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Quiet down you, I know that’s a raccoon. Anyways I felt inspired to make this general callout post after some recent arguments that got me thinking about how people argue. Specifically the tactics people use when they feel compelled to defend the indefensible.

That’s a tough spot to be in, because you can’t just defend it with argument as you would any idea which stands on its own merits. But for whatever reason you’re married to the idea. Because it’s part of your identity, it’s emotionally important to you or whatever else.

It’s much like being the mother of a boy accused of murder. No matter how much the evidence against him stacks up, you’ll defend him to the very last. “He would never do such a thing” you’d wail, “he’s a good boy. A gentle, sweet boy”.

Or like living in a podunk backwater town, but still defending it when people talk trash because it’s where you grew up. Same goes for defending a sports team you love even if they can’t seem to win a game for years on end.

In situations like that, when somebody is emotionally chained at the ankle to something they know they can’t defend in argument, that they make use of a predictable set of tactics designed to argument. To deflect, confuse, stifle and shut it down.

#1: “Stop bullying me”

#2: “Stop trolling me”

#3: “Why are you attacking me?”

#4: “You’re being very insulting”

#5: “You’re a bigot!”

#6: “You’re prejudiced!”

#7: “That’s an ad hominem”

#8: Exaggeration Strategy

There’s more (always) but these cover the basics, and mostly belong to a single family of tactics: Pearl clutching. “I’m offended, therefore you did something wrong”. But of course anybody can decide to be offended at any time for any reason. It does not guarantee any belief or organization immunity from critical evaluation.

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