The great thing about internet communities and forums is that they give us a whole world full of disagreeable people we can disagree with. And since we rarely see these people in person, it is easy to completely depersonalize them through powerful debating tactics. The strategies I outline below deserve a special place in any list of informal logic fallacies, but that does not diminish their effectiveness online.
There’s an old story about a young lawyer getting sage advice from a senior partner. “When the law is on your side, pound the law. When the facts are on your side, pound the facts.”
“What if neither are on your side?” asked the newbie.
“Pound the table.” And as it turns out, these four techniques are right there on the table for the pounding:
We’re all reasonable people, in our own minds. So it stands to reason that anyone who does not come to the same conclusions that you have must have a diametrically-opposed set of values. Therefore, they are evil. Those who disagree with us must be intent on raining down brimstone and weeping and gnashing of teeth. Why else would they advocate for the Apocayplse, unless they were Evil? And since they are Evil, we are justified in using any means necessary to remove their flawed influence. (my opponent is Evil because I am Good; see circular reasoning.)
Next down on the list is the belief that your opponents – lacking visible horns, pitchforks, and pentagrams – must be on the take. It’s not that they spew evil with every exhaled breath, they are merely weak servants who have prostitued themselves to the highest bidder. Anyone (say a scientist who pursues a line of research) can be dismissed as a paid flack if we can properly assail the source of the funding as Evil. (my opponent is Greedy, and nothing they say can be truthful because they are associated with Evil; see ad hominem, association fallacy.)
Lacking any hooks to hang the Evil and Greedy tags, you may want to insult your opponent’s intelligence directly. Look for any inconsistencies, no matter how far removed in time, place, or subject matter. All you need to do is confuse things long enough to render your opponent non-credible. It’s not that they have different values, nor are they so weak as to sell them. It’s just a simple simpleton who can’t logically connect A to B to C. (see circular reasoning)
Sheep are blind followers. They might or might not be stupid, but they are through some circumstance surrounded by those who would lead them astray.Maybe they are tainted by the magazines or websites they read, or maybe by the people they communicate with. Our classifying them as “sheep” is not a deep insult, but rather an announcement that if only they spent more time with enlightened people like us they’d snap to their senses. Or better yet, become our sheep. (see Package Deal fallacy)
Just remember to keep your opponents in one of those four categories, and you’ll never knowingly lose an argument.