“Don’t read the comments” is a pretty good warning. You can waste a lot of time shouting at strangers in comment threads or fighting with friends-of-friends on Facebook. But if you feel like you do have to engage I really like these rules from Anatol Rapoport by way of Daniel Dennett to give you a fighting chance of changing a mind rather than just blowing hot air.
How to compose a successful critical commentary:
- You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
- You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
- You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
- Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.