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Bateman: Argumentation for dummies

By Oliver Bateman

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After watching those thrilling Republican debates, you’ve probably found yourself wanting to… After watching those thrilling Republican debates, you’ve probably found yourself wanting to start and finish a few arguments of your own. Whether you’re for, against or indifferent to a scalding-hot topic like gay marriage, there’s no denying that this is something more than a few people are talking about, whenever they’re not discussing the weather or becoming completely absorbed in the fast-paced lives of those two adorable broke girls on the hit CBS sitcom “2 Broke Girls.” If you aren’t capable of making a compelling argument about such issues, there’s a very good chance that the folks who can will wind up getting all of the attention, pay raises, Facebook “likes,” Google+ +1s and comely dance partners.

But never fear, dear readers: As this slate of presidential contenders has demonstrated, there are many ways to make your point. Let’s examine some of the most notable ones.

1) Bullhorning it: This is probably the easiest way to ensure your voice gets heard, since it involves little more than raising your voice to a level sufficient to drown out the voices of everyone else around you. And those of you who try to limit your communications to texting and Facebook chatting needn’t fear, because there’s an easy way to “bullhorn it” right on the World Wide Web.

urfriend: Kevin Love is def the best baller.

u: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

urfriend: nah dawg truth

u: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

2) Indisputable facts and figures: If there’s one thing that most people usually get wrong, it’s the facts. Since it’s very difficult to remember anything, arguments based on “evidence” frequently devolve into long-winded recitations of urban legends (“Pitt football used to be really good”), old wives’ tales (“Mountain Dew causes impotence,” “Mountain Dew causes you to develop an impossible-to-deflate pup tent”), inaccurate sports statistics (“Barry Bonds hit 899 home runs in 2004”) and meaningless tautologies (“That child molester deserves the death penalty because he should be killed for what he’s done”). Instead of wasting precious words on a “tl;dr” rebuttal that could be better allocated to the term paper you’ve been meaning to semi-plagiarize for the past few weeks, silence your opponent by directing him or her to the repository of all human knowledge.

urfriend: look man I’m telling you that Yasmine Bleeth is dead

u: no way dawg

urfriend: 4 serious she is because I heard that somewhere

u: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasmine_Bleeth

3) The appeal to authority: Sure, one could just blindly accept Wikipedia’s claim that Yasmine Bleeth isn’t dead — but what if the person you’re debating makes an appeal to a higher and far more powerful authority? Here’s where things can get murky.

urfriend: yeah but I just prayed to some angels and the Bible right now and they said 4 sure she’s dead

u: dawg you must be smoking something

urfriend: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_bible

u: whoa that is way long

urfriend: it’s in there bro

u: ok I believe you [Bateman’s editors would like to assure readers Bleeth is not dead]

4) Ad hominem = rad hominem: Even if you’re on the ropes, don’t surrender. The person you’re debating might have you over a barrel by virtue of being smarter than you or invoking God, but he’s probably too much of a sweetheart to retaliate if you’re willing to make it personal and take it personally.

u: hey bro, you’re impotent because you drink all those liters of Mountain Dew while you’re losing games of Madden 2012 to me.

urfriend: what are you talking about?

u: yeah, I heard it from your mom last night while I was doing the nasty with her. at the peak of her passion, she cried out that you were an accident and that she wished you had never been born.

urfriend: that’s heartbreaking!

u: just saying, bro. anyway, Yasmine Bleeth is alive.

5) The power of pathos: There’s no better time to put those years of extension-begging and excuse-writing to good use than when you’re facing long odds in a ferocious argument. People simply adore lovable losers — the profitability of our hometown Pittsburgh Pirates is a testament to that — and will open their hearts to you after you begin describing how terrible your life is. Walk a few miles along this particular trail of tears:

You: We’re here to talk about taxes. As everybody knows, there are a lot of taxes going around these days, which can be a problem given that the economy is and always has been in some kind of a depression. While we’re on the subject of depression, here’s how the last year has unfolded for me. I’ve had multiple colds and flus, a respiratory infection, a urinary tract infection, gonorrhea and pneumonia. I’ve also suffered the loss of both parents, incurred a tremendous amount of credit card debt, dropped out of school a mere three credits away from graduation, gained 100 pounds, gotten divorced five or six times, watched numerous lectures on C-SPAN, written thousands of Facebook statuses that nobody ever commented on and been fired from my job as a urinal-cake-replacement officer. I want you all to consider that when you’re trying to determine whether I’m a man who understands the taxes and the economic depression and so forth.

If you follow the tips presented above, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever lose another argument. Nevertheless, if you do happen to find yourself on the wrong end of a quarrel with someone else, we hope that you’ll do the honorable thing: De-friend this person on all of your social networks, spread a bunch of nasty rumors about him behind his back and never return any of the stuff you’ve borrowed from him.

All’s fair in love and war, true believers.

Oliver Bateman is the junior admissions officer at the Moustache College of America. Apply for one of our best-selling correspondence courses at moustacheclubofamerica.com and follow our live classroom feed at http://twitter.com/#!/MoustacheClubUS.

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Bateman: Argumentation for dummies