Sunday, 13 July 2014

Introducing "Scraptivism:" Five Rules For Arguing Politics Online

I've said it before and I'll say it again; I love a good online scrap, and by "good" I mean the ones I win. TTIP promoter Mark English and his EU colleagues have been getting a battering online over their awful FTA and it's been a lot of fun being part of that. Don't feel bad for them, they're selling us out and until they stop, we need to keep the pressure on. There are, of course, rules for doing this in a country where using insulting language can get you thrown in prison.

1. Be reasonable

The moment the name-calling starts, you've lost, so keep your cool. Scraptivism is a form of trolling and the object of the exercise is to induce the other person to make a fool of himself in one way or another. I make no apologies for this. Quietly complaining doesn't get the job done, you've got to make yourself heard but there's no need to be rude. See me take Mark English on here, on his own turf, as it were:
This shouldn't have surprised him after the drubbing he got when he and an EU colleague hopped into Glyn Moody's stream to contradict him:

Mark then proceeded to argue his points from a defensive outlook. Given Glyn's extensive knowledge of the subject that turned out to be a bad idea. Though the argument can get heated, you need to keep your cool. The tone on our side was contempt. The tone on his was desperation as he tried and failed to argue his case. However, it never descended to petty name-calling, we just presented point and counter-point till the loser slunk off.

2. Be informed

Always use the most neutral sources of information you can find. Bonus points if you find damning evidence in the sources most trusted by your opponent.

Challenging language is acceptable but keep it clean so you can be seen to be the good guy. People who don't know their stuff are most likely to drag the tone down by name-calling, etc.

As I've said before, "socialist" is dog-whistle for "the boogeyman," and Americans are frightened of it. They've been conditioned to believe that socialism is the source of all evil so anything that remotely smacks of it gets shot down without consideration. That's why their politics is so toxic. The above tweet is an example of the kind of reaction you want to provoke to make the other person look bad.

Get informed on the other person's point of view to the point where you could argue in favour of it if you wanted to. You must understand your opponent to have any chance of winning.

3. Be persistent

If your opponent keeps coming back again and again with more arguments, this is what you want. Don't get rattled if he seems to be well-informed, get more informed yourself. Keep going — you need to have the last word to win. There's no point in starting an argument if you don't want to win it.

When they stop answering, you've won. Few people like to admit to being wrong. Derek and I tweet at each other regularly. I haven't heard from Deborah since the above conversation.

4. Beware of spin

If your target is smart and well-armed with facts, you need to evaluate your position. Is your opinion built on a solid foundation? Is your opponent spinning the facts to frame his argument and funnel your thinking? Libertarians frame their arguments from the point of view of crime victims mugged by the state to pay for things they don't want. I understand their philosophy, what it is and what it isn't, which catches them by surprise when I pull their arguments apart. The trick is to sweep away the sophistry and expose the delusion for what it is. However, you must first understand what they believe so you can get an idea of why they find it so attractive. Bear in mind that generally speaking your opponents are probably too self-centred to do the same, which gives you the advantage.

5. Aim at your opponent's audience

When you're having a nice, meaty argument and you're digging for the fact that will sort him out once and for all, sometimes you actually find a whole trove of them. Don't use them all at once. Remember, your opponent is opinionated so there's no point in trying to convert them. Your real aim is to win over the audience. Since they're only there to be entertained, give them what they want. Dribble in your arguments then whack him with the big one.

I have yet to receive a reply to that. I'm unlikely to get one and even if he blocks me I've still won. He couldn't answer me because he knows I'm right. The point is, I only needed one nuke. Keep it short and sweet so people remember it. See the animated gif above? You've got to keep the information in bite-sized chunks so people understand and are able to repeat it accurately. Too much information in one go is overwhelming and hard to process.

Mark knows damn well that if he contradicts me again I'll come up with more examples of ISDS litigation affecting local and national policy, that's why he didn't answer. I doubt he's going to change his mind but converting him is not my purpose, I was there to inform his audience, and I did. And since he couldn't batter me with facts, I've won.


Scraptivism can be very effective, done correctly. Making your opponent look defensive and ill-informed (Mark English evidently doesn't know about the wealth of information about investor-state disputes available online) can help win their audience over and thereby aid your cause. The pro-TTIP people have no argument to counter my complaint that it's basically extortion and everyone can see that. That's what scraptivism is for.

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