Truth be told, I was searching for a different book on Amazon when I found this one by conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. And what a deal! Only $0.99 in Kindle. The full title is How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them: 11 Rules for Winning the Argument, but you are allowed to abbreviate. I recommend just How to Debate Leftists.
But wait. That’s what I said to myself, “But wait!” If Amazon is selling it for 99 cents, it’s possible all 20 pages (as advertised on Amazon) can be found somewhere for free on the Internet. Seek, and ye shall find. It is available in PDF for free, but running to 34 pages. Here’s a link.
And here’s a review.
My overall take: Shapiro is dead on in his approach. If your aim is to win the argument, get in the first punch and hit hard. That’s Shapiro’s Rule #2:
Rule #2: Hit First. Don’t take the punch first. Hit first. Hit hard. Hit where it counts. Mike Tyson used to say, “Everybody has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.”
As advertised, Shapiro lays out eleven tactics you will find most helpful in winning an argument:
- Rule #1: Walk Toward the Fire.
- Rule #2: Hit First.
- Rule #3: Frame Your Opponent.
- Rule #4: Frame the debate.
- Rule #5: Spot Inconsistencies in the Left’s Arguments.
- Rule #6: Force Leftists to Answer Questions.
- Rule #7: Do Not Get Distracted.
- Rule #8: You Don’t Have To Defend People on Your Side.
- Rule #9: If You Don’t Know Something, Admit It.
- Rule #10: Let The Other Side Have Meaningless Victories.
- Rule #11: Body Language Matters.
I am impressed that somebody barely 30 years old has reinvented concepts I long considered personal secrets of my own. But some of them can use explanation.
Walk toward the fire. Don’t avoid the debate. Look forward to it and be prepared. Seek out the fight.
Frame your opponent. Reinvent your opponent into somebody you can beat. If you debating, for example, President-elect Donald Trump, establish him as a person who gropes women before he gets a chance to remind everybody he has just been elected president.
Frame the debate. Establish what the debate will be about before your opponent can cast it in a form you will be unable to assail.
You don’t have to defend people on your side. I know that one well. Many are the liberals and progressives I would rather not have brought up when I am having a “friendly” conversation with a right wing nut case. The best thing to do when your opponents brings up a stinking corpse is to immediately throw the body under the bus and move on. This is no time for misplaced loyalty.
The business about body language is something I have never been able to master. When somebody is arguing against the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW), it is impossible for me to wipe that shit-eating grin off my face.
These are all good things to know and sound approaches to take, if your aim is to win the debate only. If you aim is to educate and to put over something of substance, then you need to get serious and take a more pragmatic approach. I’ve done that, as well.
Knowing Ben Shapiro’s approach to wining arguments with liberals, it is additionally worthwhile to appreciate why he needs to use this approach. The fact is, many of the causes he advocates have little or no worth. An example:
When you’re discussing global warming, for example, the proper question is not whether man is causing global warming. The question is whether man can fix global warming – a question to which the universally-acknowledged answer is essentially no, unless we are willing to revert to the pre-industrial age.
A cold reading of this gives pause to wonder whether Shapiro believes AGW has no basis or whether it is real, and there is nothing we can/should do about it. A video clip from October 2015 seems to show him saying he does not believe it is real.
[After saying that certain aspects of AGW have been debunked] The idea that the hockey stick graph is anything remotely resembling reality… The hockey stick graph shows that over the last century, and it’s too short a period of time to do climate change statistics like this, it shows that over the last century, century and a half that the climate, along with carbon emissions, go like that [sweeps his hand across and up], and it’s a hockey stick.
The problem is that’s all falsified data. There have been multiple problems with the measurement data, as far as global warming.
He goes on to say this is the reason it’s called “climate change” and not “global warming” now. He asserts the planet has not been warming for the past 15 years.
Despite what Ben Shapiro is trying to get across in his talk, the problem is not that the data have been falsified, and the problem is not that the planet has not been warming. The problem is that Ben Shapiro is lying to his audience. My guess is he has been reading some of his own stuff.
He was in charge of Breitbart.com from 2012 (when Andrew Breitbart died) until March of last year. It was from this period I mined the following:
I have no record of who posted it, but a link showed up on Facebook:
Scientists at two of the world’s leading climate centres – NASA and NOAA – have been caught out manipulating temperature data to overstate the extent of the 20th century “global warming”.
The evidence of their tinkering can clearly be seen at Real Science, where blogger Steven Goddard has posted a series of graphs which show “climate change” before and after the adjustments.
When the raw data is used, there is little if any evidence of global warming and some evidence of global cooling. However, once the data has been adjusted – ie fabricated by computer models – 20th century ‘global warming’ suddenly looks much more dramatic.
This is especially noticeable on the US temperature records. Before 2000, it was generally accepted – even by climate activists like NASA’s James Hansen – that the hottest decade in the US was the 1930s.
The excerpt from Breitbart is noticeable wrong, as I mentioned at the time:
This is interesting. Government agencies, NASA (National Aviation and Space Administration) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), have been tweaking scientific measurements to give the false impression that global temperatures are rising. That would be scientific misconduct at best and criminal misuse of governmental authority at worst. If only it were true.
Besides already knowing the background, I picked up on an obvious clue in the last paragraph above. “[T]he hottest decade in the US was in the 1930s.” Taking first that the statement is true, how does this bear on average global temperatures over the past hundred years or more? The world wonders.
From that point forward this item from Breitbart needs additional scrutiny. The facts may not be as interesting as Breitbart, but they have the advantage of being facts. The NOAA has posted an explanation of the process so recently assailed by that reputable scientific source, Breitbart. Here is an excerpt:
Monitoring Global and U.S. Temperatures at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information
There are several factors that are important in monitoring global or U.S. temperature: quality of raw observations, length of record of observations, and the analysis methods used to transform raw data into reliable climate data records by removing existing biases from the data. An additional process takes the multiple climate data records and creates U.S. or global average temperatures.
And more. Follow the link and get back to me if you still have questions.
Shapiro’s response to fiery criticisms of his stance on AGW and also his stance on a number of other issues is to note the quality of his attackers. Continuing the section quoted from the book above:
This is a more useful question, and it also avoids the left’s preferred line of argument on global warming, which is a variation on their preferred line on gun control: “Global warming is man-made. Don’t agree? That’s because you’re stupid and hateful.” As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt. Sarah Palin is supposedly stupid; Mitt Romney is supposedly mean; Dick Cheney is supposedly corrupt. Take away those lines of attack and watch the discomfort set in.
Yes, it really is bad form to start calling names and making wild accusations in response to a philosophical affront. In a debate, in a dispute over a point of fact, the person who throws an insult is revealing he has no facts. However…
Shapiro says, “As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt.” The last two are way out of line, but number 1 is a valid argument. If you are arguing with a person who says the Earth is flat, then, “You’re stupid” might be an appropriate response. I run into into this at times:
Daniel G. Kuttner You have no idea of my qualifications. You throw your ample supply of tomatoes at me, rather than my assertions, which are backed BY science (e.g. that engineering reference link). Thus, you were replying ad hominem, literally.
I could be a bum on the street and still report correct – or incorrect – science. My lack of a white lab coat has no import.
If you are so full of science, where is your scientific refutation of my numbers? All I see from you is condescension and sarcasm.
Saying something is “clearly wrong” is not refutation, it’s disagreement; an opinion. You are, of course free to have those.
I have highlighted the operative text. Because Dan’s information was ridiculously false, and I pointed this out, I was being condescending and sarcastic. Bad form? When is being honest and forthright being condescending and sarcastic?
Along the lines of stupid, and corrupt, consider Shapiro’s own conduct, not in a face to face debate, but in his description of people who disagree with him.
The problem is that’s all falsified data.
The people who don’t agree with him, the scientist, are lying. They are falsifying data. So much for acceptable etiquette in public discourse.
Rounding out, there is more. By now you might not expect this, but Shapiro is not a supporter of Donald Trump. For this he has come under considerable personal attack from, presumably, Trump supporters:
In May 2016 New York Magazine reported: “Shapiro…has increasingly found himself targeted by the so-called alt-right movement, a loose conglomeration of online personalities — many if not most of them anonymous — currently devoted to tweeting and posting their support for Donald Trump and attacking those who disagree, often in racist and anti-Semitic ways. They have been denigrating Shapiro as a “pussy,” a “cuck,” a “Jew” and a “kike.””
In an article in National Review, Shapiro wrote: “I’ve experienced more pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism since coming out against Trump’s candidacy than at any other time in my political career. Trump supporters have threatened me and other Jews who hold my viewpoint. They’ve blown up my e-mail inbox with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. They greeted the birth of my second child by calling for me, my wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber.”
An article in The Washington Post quoted an Anti-Defamation League report that “focused in particular on the anti-Semitic tweets aimed at journalists, frequently those whose writing about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has displeased a large contingent of Twitter users who band together to attack these journalists online. The words most commonly found in the bios of the people who post these anti-Semitic attacks? “Trump,” “nationalist,” conservative,” “American” and “white…The target of the most anti-Semitic tweets, by far, was Ben Shapiro, a conservative writer who formerly worked for Breitbart and who does not support Trump.” Shapiro stated “I’m honored because being targeted by mouth-breathing idiots is a compliment – you know you’re doing something right if people who tweet pictures of gas chambers on the day of your child’s birth find you unacceptable as a human being.” He also said: “As the fellow who receives hook-nosed Jew memes more than any other journalist on the planet, I don’t believe that people ought to be suspended or banned from Twitter or Facebook for posting vile garbage, so long as it isn’t openly advocating violence. I make a habit of retweeting these pieces of human feces in order to mock their stupidity and to expose the fact that people like this exist.”
Apparently there is not a massive amount of personal honor going to waste on the political front these days.