Arguing on the Internet

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“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:

  1. 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.
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

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