One person says something foolish and without merit. It is now time to put the spotlight on him and act as if it's a widely held belief which you must now fight valiantly against.
My favorite debate tactic is the one where you take a stance against an irrational opinion held by one person and blow it way out of proportion. All of a sudden everybody else feels this way except for you and some trusty friends, even if that couldn't be further from the truth.
You then proceed to rally like-minded individuals by appealing to their belief system (one you are already aware exists), paint a black vs. white scenario, and then absolutely batter the opposing argument by listing off rational responses to the initial opinion that was levied.
In other words, you establish yourself as a crusader for intellectual honesty when you're really just cherry-picking your spots to strike.
This works especially well in politics-- one member of whatever group will say something stupid as hell, and then everyone gets all jammed up and decrees that anyone who is affiliated with that member (however loosely) holds the same beliefs and therefore is just as dumb as the original person who said something asinine.
For example, one or two people will make a comment about something or other, and then someone will write something that starts like this (emphasis mine):
"There's been a lot of talk lately about [Hypothetical situation] being a direction that [Individual or Group] should head in. That's absolutely ludicrous for the following reasons:
- Example A of why this opinion is ludicrous
- Example B of why this opinion is ludicrous
- Example C of why this opinion is ludicrous
[Summation of why this is ludicrous, emphasize a lot of talk one more time; close with a witty remark]"
I wouldn't necessarily call it a straw-man argument although it has the same core function. The difference is that instead of misrepresenting your opponent's position (a straw-man) you don't misrepresent it at all. You focus intently on it, dissect it with aplomb, and address every single point he or she has made.
At this point you're a boss, and everybody knows it, and you know everybody knows it because you know how everybody is going to react. You're tapping into cultural capital, appealing to existing belief structures, and using facts or research to back your argument up.
Where the difference lies is how you amplify the magnitude of that opposing opinion. The key here is not to misrepresent the initial argument. As stated above, you handle your response with precision.
The key is to make that opposing opinion seem as as large as possible in scope. It could be one yahoo on Twitter or a blog or whatever but you'll be damned if that stops you from making a scene. It's time to retweet, repost, reply, and renounce everything that one innocuous comment floating in the depths of deep internet space stands for until your chubby little fingers go raw.
Your biggest asset (if you're trying to be a dick) is presenting the opposing opinion as one that a large amount of people hold. It's not about intellectual honesty at this point-- it's about making this appear as if the inmates are running the asylum, the world as we know it is coming to an end, it's a dog vs. dog race, and public opinion is split 50-50 on the issue. It's contentious. It's vicious. It's really happening.
In other words, things have to appear black or white.
And it's up to you to set the record straight.
Screaming "WHO'S COMING WITH ME!!!" is optional, but very effective.
The reason I bring this up is because I think it has a lot of relevance to the current offseason. You're going to see one or two people talking about how all the management needs to go, all the players need to go, the SAP Open needs to go (well would ya look at that...), the popcorn vendor needs to go, the writing staff at FTF needs to go, and the sun in the sky needs to go lest we all experience something that ruins our existence as human beings.
But at the end of the day, there are only a few individuals who hold those insane opinions. The rest of us are rational human beings who understand that shit happens in sports, and while it sucks, there's no reason to re-create the Manhattan Project and blow it all up.
Things aren't black and white. And while the debate tactic above is fun as hell (if you're trying to be a dick), I think we have to realize that opposing opinions, while incongruent with our own, should still be valid discussion pieces in this space.
In other words, don't let the statements of one or two yahoos paint every argument in the same light.
For every person who is an idiot and says that Doug Wilson should be fired because he "built a team of chokers" or something equally asinine, there's another person who raises questions about transactions and the prospect pool that are valid and worthy of debate. They should be engaged with in a respectful manner, not vilified.
Even if they're still an idiot.
Because seriously, Doug Wilson is undoubtedly a Top 5 GM in the entire League and even a cursory glance at what the organization has accomplished over the last decade should make that point abundantly clear. I can't believe so many people are talking about this without realizing their heads are placed firmly up their--
I guess I did it again.
*For the record, I think the community has done a damn good job of going back and forth in a respectful manner during the last four days. And I truly appreciate that, because I feel that a healthy debate on all of these issues is something that teaches us all a lot about our own opinions. Keep up the good work guys.