How To Convince People They're Wrong in 2017: A Beginner's Guide to Discourse & Disagreement

We live in a time of stark political upheaval, in an age marked by our ability to communicate with more people than ever, in more ways than ever, thanks to our portable datastreams and the serpentine tendrils of social networking. (And I do mean thanks, generic search-engine bot crawling this page this very instant.) 

This relatively-new endlessness of interaction raises some serious questions, questions like, “can you be ‘off fleek’?” and “what makes a meme truly ‘dank’?” and “how do I exercise my God-given right to convince people who are wrong that they're wrong?” 

If that last question resonates on a deep, emotional level, dear Boomer/Gen-Xer/Millenial/reader who rejects social definitions of generationhood — and I know it resonates with you, because you have a heartbeat — then read the heck on! This guide is for you. 

I've broken it down into three easy phases, starting with...

 

1. THE PREPARATION PHASE

Face it: it can be hard sometimes to be the only one who sees clearly in a crowd. You might even be nervous about asserting your intellectual dominance and your full possession of all the facts. These simple steps, when practiced regularly, will strengthen your resolve to fully realize who you are: the last champion of all that is correct.

  • Eliminate from your life all perspectives that you disagree with, or that make you uncomfortable. In order to assure the correctness of your stance, it is highly recommended to purge any exposure to incorrectness, political or otherwise. Any supposed reasons for developing an opposing view are, quite simply, distractions, and should be discarded like so many cigarette butts, butts of cigarettes made of wrongness, rolled wrongly. (This is solely during the preparation phase, mind: you will need to confront these again eventually, but only after you’ve solidified your convictions of right-hood.) 
     
  • Surround yourself only with people with whom you unequivocally agree. It’s much easier to do this online than in real life, with the latter’s pesky habit of thrusting you in situations of “diversity” (the bad kind, of course. Not, like, our kind of diversity). Post a few statements, share a few pages and articles that just get it, and take note of everyone who likes/shares/makes affirmative comments. These are your people, your allies, your comrades in arms, your true soul-friends. As you meet more and more same-minded sojourners, fellow exiles from Planet Wrong, flotsam of HMS Reason drifting in a sea of endless deception, it will become immediately evident that you comprise a frightening minority. Cultivate this feeling of isolation and misunderstood-ness — it will serve your intentions well.

    You may also consider taking note of everyone who outright attacks you or makes mention of an opposing thought (two sides of the same coin) -- this list will come in handy in the Engagement phase.
     
  • Redefine the true nature of disagreeing parties. To basically assume the humanity of those with opposing viewpoints is dangerous and weak! This suggests they may be exercising similar methods of reaching conclusions as you do. This cannot be the case, and is a foolish notion to entertain, since their conclusions are obviously false. It’s best to put aside the idea of your opponents as “people,” insofar as the concept suggests a shared quality. (This doesn’t mean you have to believe they’re, like, Westworld hosts or something. It’s just not something you should think about at all.)

    Instead, to emphasize the vast chasm between your respective intellects, refer to opponents using sweeping and ambiguous labels, which will enable you to see the wrong as they are: not as individuals, but rather as the blindly flailing tentacles of a seething, impersonal mass of wrongness. The more disparaging the designation, the clearer will become your conviction of their depravity (and, it follows, your superiority – a neat side effect).

    Also, don’t despair if you can’t come up with a good one — there are plenty of crude and catchy epithets available for every brand of scum. Your favorite alternative news resource will provide a fantastic array of options!
     
  • Repeat for an extended amount of time, in as many contexts as possible, until you feel ready. Timescales for successful preparation are not absolute, and vary by individual. A good way to test if you’re ready is to scan an article of writing you suspect is wrong, then calculate how much time passes between (point a) a brief scan-through and (point b) a ravenous urge to unleash some manner of scathing response. When this response time occurs in under a second, you’re probably more than qualified for...

2. THE ENGAGEMENT PHASE

Now that you’ve spend sufficient time marinating in a single monolithic worldview, it’s time to put your newly-honed skills to the test! Find someone on social media who disagrees with you on a thing, and call them OUT. An ideal situation would be to comment on an article, video, or status update they have recently shared, which expresses a stupidly flawed viewpoint, a.k.a, one that is not yours. (If you’re a true beginner, it is advisable to select someone you already somewhat dislike, as everything else will fall into place super quickly! Intergenerational disputes, in particular, hold significant promise.) Identify what is wrong about their viewpoint, and address it using whichever persuasive techniques you find best.

Some suggestions follow:

  • Ask rhetorical questions, and repeat common talking points. In trawling the world for self-certifying information, you will inevitably discover there are certain questions that your opponents simply never will have a decent response to, coming from their own narrow comprehensions! Use these with vigor. Any attempts at reasoned responses will generally include mention of something else you can pounce on as also being wrong (nine times out of ten, this is the case). Flex this technique repeatedly, until they tire and succumb to your higher-caliber wisdom.
     
  • Emphasize a lot about the need to find common ground, because they never do. It’s painfully evident that your leaders and faves constantly extend olive branches of reason and kindness, only to be soundly trampled by the ignorant hordes of the wrong. Vigorously point out and bemoan your opponent’s constant refusal to participate in the reconciling process. You’ve clearly done all the work at being rational, and their stubbornness is simply impeding progress toward a common good.
     
  • Don’t hesitate to use personal insults. Nothing like a good, solid takedown to assert how poorly your opponent interprets reality! You may hesitate at first; that’s normal. To paraphrase the saying: contempt is weakness leaving the body! Simply remind yourself that respect is frailty, as it signals a recognition of human dignity, and human dignity is a category which – if you recall from the preparation stage – no longer applies to your opponent.

    Take a deep breath. Then freely disregard all earlier personal convictions about kindness, empathy, justice, fairness, and love. Because this. Is. War. And if there’s one thing you know about War, it’s that in middle school someone tried to teach you that one variant of the game where Fours Beat Aces, which seemed as arbitrary and dumb then as your opponent is now.

    Here are a few tried-and-true categories of today's brand of takedown. A really masterful derision combines elements of all of these, but if you’ve yet to utterly demolish your first foe, pick one that speaks to you and master it first:
     
    • The All-Out Aggro Assault: you know all those things that kinda bubble up inside you that you wouldn’t dare say in front of your grandma (the sweet old churchgoing stereotypical one)? Those things that could get you fired from most places of employment? Here’s the outlet you’ve been waiting for! Let loose all the profanity and nastiness that good, upstanding, rational people like yourself would never, you know, discharge upon someone who didn’t deserve it. Your opponent’s resolve, shaken by the sheer fire-hydrant force of your grotesque jargon, will crumble as they woefully acknowledge the error of their ways and plead for sweet mercy.
       
    • The Condescending Caustic Clobber: for times when giving in to the instinctive barrage of rudeness and crudeness seems beneath you, turn to brain over brutality. Practiced wit is, after all, the mark and the sharpest weapon of the true intellectual. If you want to cement the difference between your status as a clear-headed thinker and their status as, well, anything but, spend a few extra minutes crafting a particularly incisive, layered insult. This will also win you accolades, likes, retweets, reblogs, etc. from others who take your position, and will cause the opposing party to collapse helplessly into a gaping pit of their own exposed ineptitude.
       
    • The Learned Lengthy Laserbeam: nothing will show up an ignorant fool like a focused, didactic sneer of formidable length. Essays, reaction videos, and long-form threads can accomplish the task of wearing out your ideological nemeses, simply by existing. Though these inevitably take more work, the reward of coming across as exponentially better-educated is worth every edit, every jump cut, every thesaurus.com-powered tweet revision. This takedown format has the highest potential of “going viral,” a feat known to stun into silence even the most misdirected of the misdirected.

3. THE VICTORY PHASE

Finally, you’ve reached the victory phase. That’s right — sweet, sweet victory is yours. All that’s left to do is bask in it.

Hold on, you might be saying. Victory, no matter the outcome? Is this truly true??

Okay, spoiler alert, folks! Yes, in fact, victory has been assured from the get-go. Hip, hip, etc.!

But wait, you protest! What happened to the part about “convincing people” and “persuasion”?

Well. You know the phrase, ain’t nobody got time for that? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Or, it turns out, a need for that, either. Sorry (not sorry) for the bait and switch, but the whole point of being right, ultimately, is convincing yourself you're right, and feeling good about it.

If that sounds crass to you, friend, I kindly invite you to Get Over It and give it a shot. Because once you taste the sweetness of showing the world how very right you were, you’ll realize it hardly matters to you what the wrong do about their wrongness. The wrongness, it turns out, was really there to let your stellar rightness sparkle in comparison. To quote someone who probably said it first, which I'm not aware of but I'm just covering my bases because it's that profound: why worry about the outcome of the fight, when you can get just as much satisfaction from the fight itself?

Persuasion is a pleasant, occasional side effect, yes, but come on — scoring more retweets than your opponent? That metric lives forever.

If you take nothing else away from this guide, remember this. The good opinion of those brave, misunderstood members of society who see things your way; the fear and trembling you inspire in the pitiful who dare to disagree; and that strong, smirking, self-assuredness you’ve kept chained and dormant far too long — these are the only things that really matter in the end. 

Everything else is fake news.