The One Rebuttal Rule

Too many people get sucked into the trap that is modern debating. They mistakenly think that verbal clashing is somehow productive, without any sort of real evidence. On the other hand, there must be a way to exchange ideas, in good faith, without it degenerating into a clusterfuck.



It is all too common for a handful of individuals to verbally spar with each other publicly on Internet discussion forum boards or the comments section on blog posts and uploaded videos. More likely than not, they tend to contain fallacious arguments from at least one, if not two or more, parties. This may take the form of them continuing to talk to each other after they have already reached an impasse, launching ad hominem insults at each other, or devolving their assertions into a series of non sequiturs.

The key to (at least) mitigating these effects, if not outright avoiding them, I think lies in the use of what I’ve described in my private conversations with others as my one rebuttal rule. As you can no doubt tell, this rule is pretty much straightforward – should you decide to respond directly to anything someone else either asks you or accuses you with (rather than simply remaining silent, which would be one way of keeping your own counsel), then you may permit yourself one rebuttal, and one rebuttal only (so make it count). By limiting yourself to only one response, regardless of what the other party does, then you satisfy two conditions, namely, you avoid giving your opponent the cold shoulder yet refuse to perpetuate “the debate,” which if you had, would be playing right into internal balkanization (also known vernacularly as infighting, or “Internet drama”).

A version on a theme of this is to simply concede to whatever your opponent is saying. Perhaps you could mitigate it by saying that he has “opened your mind” by getting you to consider something you never thought about before, but you still “need some time to seriously reflect on it,” or some such rubbish. If, in truth, your mind is still made up, but to express it publicly would impose a greater cost than a benefit to yourself or others, then I see no reason to try and dodge the bullet, as it were (of course, I see no reason why you can’t combine your rebuttal with a concession into one potent tool, as I have).

You are under no moral obligation to continue discussing with someone (who is already dead set on bickering with you about some inane, obscure, or irrelevant “point”) any further details about what you really think concerning a given topic. To act as if you were under the burden of having to intellectually defend your position to the nth degree is at least ineffective, if not outright counter-productive, since by doing so will not change the mind of your opponent, since his mind is already made up, as yours is. The best you can achieve at that point in time is to part as amicably as possible from any discussion about that topic, so then you are able to refocus your efforts onto those things that can actually secure your Liberty.

At the risk of promoting dissimulation, sometimes it is necessary to use certain techniques in order to calmly save face and graciously exit a contentious social situation, rather than risk “telling the truth,” if doing so would only strain everyone’s patience. Too many people confuse diplomacy with cowardice. It is my goal to promote the former while ridiculing actual cowards, such as those who promote myths about drawing lines in the sand. John Henrik Clarke once said,“I only debate with my equals. All others I teach.” As such, I have no tolerance for Internet sophists (who are commonly referred to as “trolls” and “shills”). I do not live my life suffering under the burden of unchosen positive obligations. These miscreants who are only interested in parasitically sucking away my time and energy can, quite honestly, just go kiss my ass.

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