How to Argue About a Topic You Literally Do Not Understand

Seize upon your opponent's weaknesses. Rather than develop counter-strategies or actually hold a belief about the topic, the quickest way to pose a serious threat to a person advocating an idea is to point out their personal flaws.

  • If they seem unsure, then broadcast doubt throughout the exchange.
  • If they are mistaken once, then wonder if they've ever known what they were talking about.
  • If they've ever held a slightly different position on the topic, be sure to point that out. Ask them, "is this you?"

The twin principal forces of logic and reason will avert these trying accusations against their person, if their argument is sufficiently strong. But if these personal attacks should land without significant rebuttal, then know that the holy winds of argument are on your side.

Weaponize your lack of understanding. To maximize the amount of effort your opponent has to put into talking with you, argue from a position of total ignorance. You are a newborn baby, unworldly and needing of constant explanations. Why should you be expected to retain an understanding of the basics of the argument? Especially when you can demand it from your adversarial partner, conveniently both expending their limited energy and giving you opportunities to snipe at the way they explain it.

Interpret the central idea in an idiotic or poorly formed way. Then, after having reduced it a simple and deliberately misunderstood version, you can point out the many flaws of this barely grasped idea, some of which you may have helped invent. There's no need to defeat an idea in its strongest form, so you mutate it into a weaker, dumber version before you go in against it. This is called a Strong Man argument, because it usually wins the fight, like a guy with big muscles.

Flee from the strong points of your opposition. As Sun Tzu in the Art of War says, it's important to be incredibly sneaky, like a wretched craven gremlin, or some kind of slimy little creep. If they appear well-researched or cited, then look for a less verbose part of their argument to go after. Cast vague aspersions on their evidence without forming an objection that has enough substance to actually bear a response. Remember, sampling error only exists when the study says something you don't like.

Respectfully acknowledge the validity of an opponent's argument when (and only when) it is utterly incontrovertible. This helpfully redirects the flow of the conversation away from the argument that they just made, and toward how composed, mature, and intelligent each of you are. You're both here to exchange well-formed arguments like the ones that just whomped your ass, and instead of taking the whomping, you want to posture as if you're admiring the boot located in your now utterly bruised rump. Well kicked, old chap. Excellent footwork.

Above all else, be sure of yourself. Confidence is always the key. For those of you who might have concerns about being so confident on a topic that you know literally nothing about (i.e. chumps), a helpful tip is to remind yourself that you are the main character here. Whatever the basis for this argument is about isn't relevant just because it has "real world consequences", it's relevant because it came across your computer screen. As a benevolent solipsistic internet god, you breathed life into this idea by thinking about it, now briefly existing as a reason to get mad at a block of words, and it will eventually return to the lifeless slumber that lies outside your concern afterwards.

You are navigator, explorer, and enlightener of these contentious spaces, beaming out across a sea of ignorance. If you do not eventually find the point in these waves of rhetorical cartography... well, then it probably never existed.