There exists a secret debate technique that is unstoppable. Practically no one ever utilizes this trick, yet everybody can do it easily, without any practice at all. Even better: you barely have to know any details about the topic at hand. The next time you argue politics with your drunk Uncle at dinner and he won’t budge on the fact that playing heavy metal causes cancer…break out your smartphone and Google it.
Do it right in front of him. Hopefully his wi-fi connection is painfully slow, so he wallows in his inevitable demise. Once the page loads up, calmly show it to him. Most likely he will respond by saying your source is biased towards metalheads. Fine. Bring up another source. And another. If the fact you are arguing is true enough, even Fox News will probably report on it. As long as you’re bringing up legitimate sources, you should be OK (and if you’re not, maybe you should reexamine your argument). Eventually, they either concede the point, or, more likely, dig their trench even deeper, drowning in their paranoia that every single academic and news outlet is out to get them. Congratulations. You won.
Unfortunately, that only really works with what some people call “facts that can actually be Googled.” This trick wouldn’t work if your Uncle just decided heavy metal was bad for kids in general. If you’re going opinion vs. opinion, there’s another ruse you can utilize. I call it the poking method, and no that’s not what I meant you sicko, though I’ll admit I should’ve given that name more thought than “I’m already typing the sentence, oh shit, uh, how about the poking method?” Basically, all you have to do is just prod the person until his argument falls apart in his hands. Focus on what they are saying. Ask them legitimate-sounding passive-aggressive questions. “Oh? Interesting. Why do you think heavy metal is so dangerous?” “Oh, where did you hear about that?” “Oh. Do you have any stats on that?” Ask them specifics. Dig deep. Eventually the person may doubt their own argument.
I first discovered this technique when some hipster did it to me in college. I told them what my favorite band was, and they said “Why?” I gave some kind of deep-sounding answer, and she kept asking more trivia about them. “Where are they from? What do they believe in? What are the band members names?” After realizing that most of my answers were “I don’t really know,” I was forced to conclude that the reason I liked the band was…just ‘cuz. And while pointless opinions about favorite artists aren’t gonna cause a riot, the same cannot be said if you’re arguing for the government to ban heavy metal music.
The reason both of these techniques work is because you are taking the focus off of your argument and putting it on theirs. In the first example, you made them feel stupid. In the second, you made them doubt their own views. The best part is that in either case, you don’t even have to be right, you just have to show that they’re wrong. The brain has an incredible ability to store information yet often we forget where it came from. In other words, the content is separated from the source, so your victim likely won’t remember where he heard something without looking up, thus making him appear uninformed. This phenomenon is so strong that it’s possible to trick people into thinking a fake childhood memory was totally real.
If these techniques are so effective, why doesn’t anyone use them? Well, mostly because you come off as a total dick. Secondly, it’s probably because we all know that at anytime someone could do this to us. Unless you are an editor at Wikipedia you are susceptible. So try it. You’ll look like an ass, but I guarantee you your victim won’t see it coming.
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Hey, remember Airborne? That cold-prevention vitamin stuff? Remember how everyone loved the fact that it was invented by a schoolteacher?
While that made for a good talking point (“Can you believe it!”), in hindsight we all fell for the oldest trick: diversion. Think about it for a minute: Who gives a shit that a schoolteacher invented it? How would a schoolteacher even know how to synthesize chemicals in order to prevent colds? Furthermore, why do we trust a schoolteacher more than, I don’t know, a fucking scientist? It’s not like she’s a pharmaceutical expert who happens to be a teacher – the fucking box emphasized that teaching children qualified her to synthesize drugs (remember, this was way before Breaking Bad). How is that a selling point?
You don’t have to be Batman to figure out how this turned out. They were sued out the ass. The company that did all their clinical studies for them effectively didn’t exist, and the FTC slammed ’em for false advertising. Yet, it’s still on the shelves. That’s because their punishment was to refund every Airborne purchase ever made (millions of dollars worth!) and to change their packaging, but for some reason they were still allowed to sell a lie.
It was actually an investigation by ABC’s Good Morning America that got the ball rolling on this in 2006. Of course, only a couple years earlier, the schoolteacher appeared on shows like Live with Regis and Kelly and Oprah even hawked the product on hers. If you watch a lot of daytime TV like an unemployed sad person, you may notice that both of these shows are also on ABC, because the media system has since consumed itself.
This happens so much in our culture. Someone who has no business talking about a certain subject is for some reason given a soapbox and asked to comment. Donald Trump is just the worst for this. I’ve talked before about how the news media frames debates and how they bide their time waiting for more news by having panel discussions. Sometimes the reporters themselves weigh in if it’s a talking head show. Newsflash: you’re good at having a TV show. What do you actually know about the psychology of school shooters? No, without looking anything up?
That’s not to say people can’t have multiple interests. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of DaVinci being known as a Renaissance Man – he was an amazing painter, but was also pretty good at a lot of different things. I like to model my life after that mantra. Though, while I have a lot of interests and hobbies I would never say I’m an expert at something I’m not. The difference between me and Donald Trump is, unlike Trump, I don’t go around claiming to be a leading source on Kenyan birth certificates and then run for president on that fucking platform.
Donald trump will only shut up when you stop giving him a stage. Stop inviting him on The Fucking View, even if it’s just to make fun of him. Stop debating him. Stop putting a camera in his face. Stop writing shit about him, who gives a damn what he thinks of birth certificates in 2014. GAH NOW I’M PART OF THE PROBLEM.
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Nothing is so dominant in advertising and yet so overtly pointless as the celebrity endorsement. I get it in theory: if you want to look as hot as Beyoncé or Adam Levine, buy this face wash. A lot of the time it has the celeb going on and on about the benefits of said product, but the same question isn’t asked: why would Adam Levine even care what an exfoliant is? Maybe he’s legitimately interested in facial care, but doesn’t he have a guy for that?
Let’s pick on Jenny McCarthy. If your not up to speed, she is mostly known for being a model and Jim Carrey’s only mistake. More recently, you may know her as the face of the anti-vaccination movement. Her son has autism and she concluded it was due to vaccinations because of reasons I can’t comprehend. Well in fairness, she based it of a study that, again in fairness, was found to be utterly and completely fraudulent, resulting in a retraction, the loss of the author’s medical license and the accusation that he meant to profit from the anti-vac movement by making a better vaccine.
Of course, that shit doesn’t matter. So now we have a fake debate: sure the actual number of people who are truly anti-vac are probably in the low negatives, however, this information simply being out there gives it credence, just by existing. The situation is dumb, the impact is real. So now every time Jenny McCarthy goes on TV and opens her mouth, one more person believes her, and one more previously eradicated disease comes back. Whooping cough recently became a minor epidemic in part thanks to people refusing to vaccinate their kids. The stupidest part about this is that even if the conspiracies were 100% true, the followers of this movement would have to admit that their leading medical science expert was a Playboy model.
Luckily, Jenny McCarthy has not been seen si- what’s that? Oh, she’s the new host of The View?
I give up.