Common sense rules for debating political topics.
Online debates can be exhausting, frustrating and are often not beneficial. The following offers ten rules that will provide a framework for more productive discussions.
Do not use words or labels that haven't been researched for at least thirty minutes. As tempting as it is to throw out "debate stoppers", misuse of political labels is counterproductive and needlessly prolongs debate. The labels are seemingly endless, but can include the following: socialism, communism, Marxism, capitalism and corporatism.
Before commenting on an extracted quote, spend at least ten minutes looking for its original context. The quote will often mean exactly what was surmised, but careful attention in this area can save a lot of needless exchanges. There are often reasons quotes are conveniently divorced from their larger context.
Before commenting or engaging in a debate, spend a few minutes ascertaining whether there is any pertinent information on Snopes.com, Politifact.com orFactcheck.org. It is not even necessary to believe these sites are completely unbiased, but simply to recognize they may offer a piece of the larger context that would have been missed.
Read one or two articles from a couple of different vantage points. It is easy to become comfortable simply reading the sources or blogs that reinforce your viewpoint, but a huge aspect of productive dialogue is the willingness to openly explore the opinions of those who disagree.
Do not debate emotionally. It is never productive. You can be passionate about a subject, but emotional appeals and angry rebuttals quickly devolve into worthless discourse.
Keep the debate focused on the merits of the argument that have been submitted. Focusing on the nefarious intentions of your opponent or the political figures in question often sidetrack the conversation.
Do not using sweeping generalizations. Attempting to paint "the whole" as the sum total of a selectively extracted minority on the periphery is a disingenuous and fallacious way to proceed with dialogue. Specificity is a great way to avoid this, as well as a conscious effort not to manufacture contradictions with "they" arguments. (A politician asserted X, thus their party or "they think" precisely the same way.)
Avoid "trump card" arguments. This can involve the aforementioned appeals to "nefarious intent" and can also include a convenient, non-related rebuttal that gets used when backed into a corner. If you are willing to engage on point Y, keep it focused on point Y.
This encapsulates the previous two rules, but become familiar with typical logical fallacies. Arguments that do not follow a logical foundation are futile and generally a waste of time.
Use sarcasm sparingly and never as a substitute for a substantive response. Frequent use of sarcasm often belies a lack of substance or indicates a deflection
Thoughts? Anything to add?