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Arguing Politics on the Internet: Some Kind Suggestions

July 12, 2013

by J. Andrew Zalucky

You basically know you’ve hit your limit on internet political arguments when you find yourself doing this:

Arguing on the Internet can be an amazing thrill, especially when people get pissed off at you, but it can really start to wear you out. In fact, I was originally going to name this article, “Welcome to Hell“, but then I thought of Arnold in Kindergarten Cop and it helped me remember that anger is best cured with laughter more than anything else.

But leaving that aside for a moment, here are five tips for those of you on the internet (especially on Twitter…ugh) who live to annoy those of us who actually enjoy thinking critically about…anything:

1. The fact that people “hurt your feelings” or “offended you” does not make them wrong about whatever it is they said. Just because someone told you that when 4X=8 then X=2 in a “mean” or “harsh” way does not suddenly make their calculations wrong. This goes for both qualitative and quantitative discussions (and for those of you waiting to yell “But Drew, the Math you used is just a social construct!!!” don’t…just…don’t).

2. Speaking of feelings, the fact that someone’s comment made you “feel good” does not make it true! Sure, if you told me I just won a free shopping spree from Sam Ash, it would sure make me happy, but it wouldn’t mean anything if it turned out you were lying to me!

3. Though to that same point, just because you berated someone enough to leave the room doesn’t mean you’ve proven anything to him or her. The fact that someone decided that “Well, I’m just going to leave this conversation” in no way gives you carte blanche to start congratulating yourself with things like “Yea! I showed that Lib-tard what’s up, all REAL Americans agree with me! #TCOT #TPP Yea!!!”or “Yes! Those stupid, hateful tea-baggers have no idea what’s really going on!! #Uniteblue, Yes we can!!!”

Tip for the thoughtful people out there, though it may sound counter-intuitive, the best way to deflect these people is to do one of two things: take their insults for granted, “Yes, I am a [insert insult here], but you still haven’t proven me wrong” it allows you to absorb the insult and render it meaningless, or respond with a reasonable amount of kindness and fairness- for one thing it’s just good as a matter of principle, but it also knocks them off balance and might eventually make them feel bad enough about themselves that you’ll guilt trip them into having a normal conversation with you. (trust me, it works).

4. Memes are good for 2 things: making a quick point to lead into a longer discussion, and making a joke. They are NOT substitutes for a fully fleshed-out argument, and definitely not substitutes for actual data and research. If all you can do to support your argument is come up with memes from some stupid forum you joined last week, then at best you’re a hollow PR agent of political orthodoxy, at worst you’re a future propaganda minister in the making.

Oh great, you found a meme from some facebook group called “Americans against the _______” or “I acknowledge that _______ exists”- you’re just a regular public intellectual aren’t you!? I had several pages of articles to refute everything that meme said, but you know, who needs that when you have a group of 2,500 loudmouths who all agree with each other %100 of the time?

5. For people who like to go around saying things like “I can’t stand the Opinion and Editorial Page of (Magazine/Newspaper X), it’s just so biased!”


Stop the presses!!! We’ve got a genius on our hands!!!

Anyway, as I said before, I wouldn’t be writing about politics if I didn’t find the arguments exciting. Besides, with the family I grew up in, it’s basically in my blood to get pumped about this stuff. But seriously, there’s a good way to do things, and a supremely awful way to do them. I know there are a lot of jerks out there, but there’s no reason to add another one. Or else…yea:


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