How To Win Or At Least End An Argument Part 2: The Filibuster

Part one of this lecture series can be found here.

A properly deployed filibuster has many advantages.  Mainly it infuriates your opponent, and once they lose the plot, they’ll start to lose the fight.  But that’s merely stage one.  At stage two they’ll start to lose the will to live and attempt to change the conversation.  This gives you two options:

  • you accept gracefully knowing that you’ve won a victory by default; or
  • you ramp things up and hammer your point home until they crumble like a poorly constructed Victoria sponge cake, at which point you’ve won by winning.  Congratulations.

But beware the filibuster, for it must be properly deployed to be effective.

First slam down your drink.  This alerts your opponent to the fact that you are about to make a big point with a capital BIG POINT.

Now, you might think it time to start the filibuster.  This is a rookie mistake. Under no circumstances should you jump straight in. Before that, you need to cow your opponent to avoid the possibility of interruptions, which can be irritating (because it’s YOUR limelight dammit and they should get their own).  You do this by taking a cue from the animal world.

Start with your most craziest of crazy eyes, invade their forcefield of personal space.  Bare your incisors and jump up and down on the spot shrieking.  If you’re up to it, try caterwauling.  Your opponent is now aware of the fact that you’re the dominant partner.  At this point you should consider flinging your faeces.

Finally, assert your alpha qualities with a prominent genital display.

Then begin your filibuster.  Now, despite the much-publicised contents of Ted Cruz’s recentish filibustering shenanigans, you should avoid talking about just any old crap to fill time.  There is never any excuse for Ashton Kutcher.  Instead, the skilful among you will attempt to keep your filibuster on point for at least the first 7 minutes.  This must take the form of a semi-coherent rant with many clauses and sub-clauses, a variety of submissions, all mixed up with some confused personal anecdotes that you pretend illustrate your point.

At no time should you introduce any semblance of logic or narrative flow to your filibuster.

You’re not a pro at this yet so around the 35 minute mark you will notice that your own interest is beginning to flag.  At this point, if you are a girl, you should weave in a detailed story about how you used to practice kissing with the other girls at the Catholic girls’ school you attended.  If you are a boy, you should weave in a detailed story about your many amorous adventures whilst attending a Catholic girls’ school as the son of the headmistress.  You will notice that your opponent immediately perks up – this is nothing to be concerned about because they will instinctively start to think about sex and begin to consider you as a viable sexual partner.  This has two knock-on effects.

  • they will forget whatever broadside they were about to make; and
  • you will be cast as passionate rather than merely cantankerous, which boosts your sexual capital.  Advanced students will be aiming for potential angry make up sex (not advisable if you’re fighting with your sister-in-law*).  Which is the best kind.

If you’re not inclined to have sex with your opponent for whatever reason, not to worry: all the x-rated chat has distracted him or her sufficiently that you are now in prime position for the win.

But the filibuster doesn’t end here, much as you may want it to.  You are now at stage two.

Return to your original point, or better yet introduce a long-winded ancillary point that tenuously supports your main premise.  The sexy stuff has woken your opponent up and given him or her hope that the conversation has changed.  The aim here is to undermine and eventually destroy that hope by filibustering for at least another 45 minutes, or until their eyes are more glazed than a glazed donut with extra glaze.

Then and only then will you start to wind down, eventually taking an ostentatious gulp of your beverage.  Here you should pause for as many beats as it takes for your opponent to start speaking again.  As soon as he or she does so, you must jump straight back into your filibuster.

Try introducing a new main premise and set of supporting propositions.  As always, make your sentences as long and convoluted as possible so that they’re harder to follow (did I not mention that earlier?)  For example:

‘And of course one must also consider the mating habits of the common or garden variety sparrow, which further serves to illustrate my earlier proposition that cheese is merely – at best – a kind of edible broadsheet journalist, and, again, this in turn leads into the second submission of my third ancillary premise that The Beatles were IN FACT survivors of the Chernobyl incident thrown back in time, a thought experiment which I’m sure you’ll agree was highly salient in the context of…’ 

At this point you are encouraged to use words like ‘premise’ and ‘proposition’ explicitly – the extra impact of technical language should push your opponent over the edge.

This is another, albeit limited, exception to the ‘no jargon’ rule discussed in the last lecture.  Words such as ‘aphorism’ still must be avoided, along with any debating jargon that doesn’t translate as ‘sentences’, because, as we established in the last lecture, you have some self-respect.

When last orders are called at the bar, the wedding ceremony is concluded or the meeting ends; or your opponent leaves, falls asleep or begs you to talk about something else, congratulations.  You have successfully deployed the filibuster.

Win.

*Unless one or both of you looks like Penelope Cruz, in which case: as you were.

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How To Win Or At Least End An Argument Part 1: Some Simple Techniques

In honour of the conclusion to the latest twists and turns in the soap opera we used to call American politics, it’s worth brushing up on your own powers of argument and persuasion.  In the coming weeks, this lecture series will demonstrate the methods for winning or at least ending arguments using science.

In this series we will avoid jargon like ‘straw man’ or ‘ad hominem logical fallacy’ except where we don’t, because such language doesn’t get you laid.

We’ll start things off lightly with some simple techniques appropriate for any occasion, be it pub, children’s party or board meeting.

Understand Your Opponent’s Jargon

Debating jargon like ‘cognitive dissonance’ et al should be avoided at all costs because you have some self-respect.  Likewise anything that looks, smells or tastes like Latin, such as ‘et al’.  But you need to understand jargon so that you can properly call your opponent a pompous douchebag when they use it.

There are many formal and informal logical fallacies, but here are some of the more common ones:

Ad hominem: if he or she calls you a twat, that’s ad hominem – it’s not about the merits or otherwise of your argument(s), but all about you personally. Example: ‘Obama was born in Kenya.’

Straw man: an argument that is misrepresented by your opponent as superficially similar to the one you actually made, but which crucially is indefensible.  Example: “it’s necessary to balance civil rights and the state’s powers of intrusion.”  “So what you’re saying is that you want the terrorists to win.”

False dichotomy: an apparent choice between two options, that actually isn’t.  A common example would be freedom of the individual vs security of the people, but we’ve already used that one.  Example: you have a choice between a burger or a pie.  But the menu says that you can have a pie filled with burgers.  Or lasagne.

Confirmation bias: we actually all do this so it’s good to be aware of it.  Your brain retains things that reinforce your bias and edits out contradictory evidence.  Example: I think that people who call themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’ are wankers – every time I meet a wanker who calls him-or-herself spiritual, that impression is reinforced.  There are many otherwise lovely people who also describe themselves in such terms, but I can’t recall ever having met a single one, even if I have lived with one or two of them over the years.

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That’s enough of all that.  Let’s get on with winning.

Use Jargon To Your Advantage

At some point one of you will become even more pretentious than I am.  If your opponent reaches this point first, say something like ‘I’ll see your straw man and raise you an ad hominem: you’re a dickhead.’

This is an exception to the ‘no jargon’ rule because technically you’re being funny, which good-natured liars claim makes you attractive.

Use Your Words

At some point in the argument you will experience a sinking feeling, a gut realisation that your opponent is more clued-up on the subject at hand, be it who was a better space captain: Kirk or Picard, or why you should do the washing up more often.

You will find that the tide is turning against you.  But at this point it is important to keep your head and use your words.  It doesn’t matter that he or she can reel off statistics that prove that actually the Eurozone isn’t the UK’s biggest political and economic concern; or that he or she has taken the bins out every week for the past seven months and it’s your turn.

All you have to do is say the following:

“Ah, well now you’re talking semantics.”

Because no one actually quite knows what that word means or even if it’s a bad thing to do. Crucially, they won’t want you to know that they don’t know that a word you’re pretending to know is not in fact a word that either of you knows.  Win.

Use Your Words Part 2

But say that your opponent has deployed the ‘semantics’ argument.  You’re not sure how to react.  Here’s what you say:

“No I’m not.”

Ball. Back. In. Your. Face.  Loser.

Win.

Introduce A New Element

Men who’ve been married for a long time will know that this comes instinctively to wives.

You think you’re fighting about whose responsibility it was to buy more fabric softener, and out of nowhere she sucker-punches you with ‘well I still can’t believe that you said what you did to my aunt Sheila, you know how sensitive she is. And while we’re on the subject, would it kill you to put the toilet seat down once in a while?’  And boom, instant fluster.

Your opponent thinks you’re arguing about the merits of expanding the permanent security council of the UN, suddenly BAM! ‘Yeah, well camembert is just shit brie’.

Whoa, I just totally changed your perspective and stuff.

Use Your Fists

Pretty self-explanatory, and afterwards they’ll have quite forgotten whatever rapier-like point they were about to use to pierce through your entire argument and leave you looking like a small-minded bigot.  Win.

The caveat here is that if your opponent is bigger than you, or looks like a biter, you’ll probably get beaten to a pulp.  On the plus side, this will mean that your opponent has lost his or her temper and therefore you’ve won by default.  Win.

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The rest of this series will go into a lot more detail about a variety of options, including the invention of fictional experts and studies and the advantage of getting your opponent very, very drunk.

Next time: the proper use of the filibuster.