Arguing with Dishonest People

One thing I’ve learned from internet debates is that is it futile to argue with dishonest people.  It’s a trap.

intellectual dishonesty

Why is it a trap?

Because all they want to do is throw stones at your position and/or throw stones at you.  They have no interest in an honest discussion.

Here is an example:

You:  Trump is who I will vote for.
Them:  Trump said all Mexicans are rapists, he wouldn’t allow Muslim soldiers back into the country, he wants to shut down the internet.

You:  No, he did not say all Mexicans are rapists.  He said some are and that is true, especially in the context of what he was saying that 80% of Mexican women are raped on their way traveling to cross the border.  He does not want to ban Muslim American soldiers from re-entering the US from deployment, he does not want to ban any Muslim American from re-entering, he is talking about a ban on new Muslims immigrants.  He did not say to ‘shut down the internet’, he said to look into ways to shut down ISIS from recruiting on the internet.  Would you rather have Hillary who is maybe the most corrupt politician ever?
Them:  He has gone bankrupt 5 times, he stole an old ladies house…..

Then you could refute the new assertions.  And they may make up new assertions.  This loop can go on and on.

A few things wrong with it.  This challenger made false assertions about Trump.    All were refuted.  They did not address the refutation.  Nor did they answer the question asked about Hillary.  They side-stepped the entire response and moved on to different assertions.

That’s like a tennis player continually serving new balls over the net rapid fire and expecting the other person to return all the balls.  But the ones hit back to them they don’t even attempt to hit back.  They just ignore them and continue serving more balls.  That’s not how it works.  That’s not how it’s supposed to work.

How this works

Why would someone operate in this one-sided way?  Because it’s a no-lose situation for them.  As long as they keep making accusations, they either will damage the other person’s argument or at worst all their challenges will be defeated and they will break even.   As long as they ignore all the counter-assertions, no harm will be done to their position.

This is what liberals commonly do.  Conservatives are not immune, they can do it too (see anti-Trump conservatives).

When you start to suspect a person is engaging in this one-sided behavior, do not reward it by continuing to answer their challenges.  When you’ve answered a couple of their challenges and you notice they didn’t answer or even address your refutations or questions, call them on it.

They may correct the problem and answer the questions.  But often times they won’t.  They may:

A.  Say they did answer when they didn’t.
B.  Say you didn’t ask any questions.
C.  Pretend to answer but really just make new assertions.

At that point you can either ditch them or do what I usually do is summarize the previous points and questions they failed to answer in number format:

1.  Question #1.
2.  Question #2
3.  Question #3

You can copy and paste from your previous comments to make it easier (and more condescending).

Writing it out clearly like this gives them little room for avoidance.

They may dodge the questions again and resort back to A or C.

At which point it’s best to say that you’ll be happy to have a discussion with them, but you’re not willing to have a one-sided discussion where they will not engage your comments.  If they want to have a real discussion, they can answer the questions presented.  Otherwise wish them luck in objectivity and intellectual honesty.

But do not stick around.

“But they really need help.   They need what I am saying because they are in error.”

That may be true.  But they aren’t accepting it.  A person may need to eat healthy, but shoving broccoli down their throats isn’t going to help.  You trying to do that against their will gives them attention at your expense.  That is not a healthy dynamic.  You are reinforcing their dishonesty by continuing, that’s not good for them.  It’s not good for you either.

In the big picture you are doing them a huge favor by exiting.  And do it in an emotionless way.  Like the way Supernanny coaches her parents on how to train their kids to go to sleep on time.

Trump awesome

Will this routine help people to be more intellectually honest?  In the moment, likely not.  The next time will they get it?  Probably not.  But if they are approached this same way repeatedly, eventually it’s going to sink in, “hey, this is not working!  I’m not being rewarded for this behavior.  Maybe I better figure out something else.”

It is like handling a child in a way.  They are acting like a child.  It’s emotionally immature behavior.

Treat it as such, wish them well and move on.  Spend your attention on people who are willing to have a respectful intellectually honest conversation.

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