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…is to convince other people to be offended on your behalf.

It exists as a bizarre melange of informal fallacies, the bastard offspring of ad hominen and strawman, ad nauseam spliced with ad ignorantiam, and appeals to pity, ridicule, and spite all rolled into a chimera of deception.

The strategy is simplicity itself:

First, find yourself on one side of an enthusiastic debate, with a wide range of participants.

Second, sift through said participants until you find the most reprehensible examples possible.

Third, appeal to the otherwise-uninvolved public under the pretense that all of your ideological opponents are cast in the mold of those particularly offensive individuals.

If properly executed, you can mobilize vast numbers of woefully ignorant enthusiasts to shout down your enemies and demonize your foes!  Yes!  You too can play the role of the decade, the Pied Piper of Perpetual Professional Victimhood!

Who needs to refute arguments when you can just yell louder!  Why tell them to do research when you can just tell them to listen and believe!  Don’t appeal to their reason, appeal to their emotions, evoke their pity, channel their rage!

Ahem.

I realize that this is more-or-less a repeat of an earlier post, but I figured that maybe approaching the problem from a slightly different angle would convince more people to maybe, just maybe, take a more critical look at the ideological debates they occasionally allow themselves to be drawn into.

In theory I could blame this all on cynical manipulators, and there’s no doubt that a significant fraction, quite possibly the majority, of those who employ this tactic are exactly that, but to be fair there are quite a few who are simply so narcissistic and delusional as to just assume that everyone who disagrees with them is worse than Hitler.

Spotting the difference can be difficult, though if the words “donate” or “contribute” are used at any point you can safely assume that they’re more manipulative than deluded.

Twitter is an exceptionally good place to employ this technique.  It restricts post length (part of the reason I’m not on it since I clearly have issues with brevity), which has the added effect of almost forcing people to remove context and, as such, increase confusion.  The self-contained nature of a tweet implies that it represents a complete argument in and of itself, rather than a small part of a greater dissertation or dialogue.

It’s not a tactic restricted by ideology either, only by scope.  If you’re having a debate with one person, after all, you can’t simply attack them personally and expect anyone with a shred of objectivity to take you seriously.  But if you’re arguing with an entire group of people, misrepresenting that group to an otherwise indifferent public is simplicity itself.

Which is a polite way of saying that there are assholes in every camp.

It is a tactic better employed by whichever side has the biggest megaphone, of course.  If you’ve got de facto control of the media, then you can paint your opponents in any light you choose and there’s almost nothing they can do about it.  If they do anything more than simply roll over and beg for mercy, they’re colluding with ideological (or possibly actual) terrorists, after all, proving themselves to be enemies of the righteous and big old bullies who won’t just admit that they’re wrong.

There’s a certain irony there, of course, when the side with the upper hand says that it’s being bullied by those who are comparatively powerless.

It is a tactic often employed with blinding hypocrisy, three-card-monte of the mind, keeping your listeners rapt with tales of wrongdoing while you simultaneously hide the fact that with your other hand you’re writing scathing critiques of people doing the exact same thing that you are. 

Never trust anyone building a podium.  Listen, perhaps, but think before you believe.  Believe, perhaps, but be open to dissent.  Dissent, perhaps, but be open to debate.  Debate, perhaps, but be wary of how sound the argument is, rather than how it sounds; its veracity rather than its volume.

The truth never needs to be shouted, though it can be difficult to hear.

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