Predictive Framing

All too often, debates are like a ping-pong game. 

“You’re Marxist!”

“No, I just care about poor people!”

“Obama’s a socialist!”

“I wish!” “How dare you!” 

We bark our talking points, they yelp back with theirs, no minds change, and we end just how we started.

With rare exceptions, this bores the crap out of me.  I don’t have any problems with yelling, but yelling alone doesn’t do it.  Yes, those who agree with you pump their fists in the air at the TV.  So what.

Besides, whenever there’s a yelling match, you’ll notice on YouTube that if one side posts “Michelle Malkin destroys Juan Williams”, the other side posts the same clip with the title “Juan Williams destroys Michelle Malkin.”  If there’s a screaming match, each side feels victorious.  This is because when you’re more concerned with saying what you want to say the way you want to say it than you are with actually convincing somebody of something, somebody yelling at a prog the way you’ve always wanted to feels like a win in and of itself.

It’s not.

I’ve dealt with the yelling before, but today I’ll address an aspect of the ping-pong.  This works to varying degrees of effectiveness, but it usually throw your opponent somewhat off-guard.  If it doesn’t, at least it sames some damn time.

Let’s say you want to criticize Obama for deficit spending.  The way this typically works is:

Goppie:  Our debt has skyrocketed under Obama.

Libbie:  That debt was massive before he even got there. 


ProgMan:  Bush did it, too!*

Goppie:  But Obama’s way worse.

I’m not excusing Bush, and I believe that there’s a special room in Hell tucked away for the GOP majority from 2003-2007, but Obama has in fact been worse.  “Worse enough to make the GOP a viable option?” is a question for another day.  Also, “Republicans do it, too!” a.k.a the Colmes-Over has it’s own special technique that I’ll teach you later (which is important to know even for libertarians who despise Republicans).

The point is, if you’re dealing with one of liberalism’s more idiotic specimens, you have a decent idea what they’re going to say before they even say it.  “Obama didn’t create the federal debt.”  No shit

Therefore, refute their point before they even make it.  Mastering this technique requires either some experience around lefties or some time watching MSNBC (painful, I know, but it helps a lot.  I recommend watching it to punish yourself if you miss the gym that morning), but you can use this without being a Master like me:

Martel:  Obama added as much to the debt in four years as Bush did in eight.

Libbie:  But Bush was worse!  (or something)

Obviously, Libbie will have a response (probably related to global warming or something only vaguely germane).  However, you’ve robbed Libbie of her chance to ping that pong right back at you.  If you’re adroit enough, you can press this to your advantage.

Partisan Democrats have a list in the back of their mind to which they can refer any time anybody accuses a fellow Democrat of anything.  They do this because even if the Democrats have done something downright awful five thousand times, some Republican somewhere has undoubtedly done it at least once.  Although this means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, it’s a great way to get somebody to defend Ron Paul’s pork projects instead of going after Obama for Solyndra. 

There are appropriate responses to the Colmes-Over after it’s been delivered that I will address shortly.  Nevertheless, if you say, “Operation Fast and Furious”, they’ll say “Operation Wide Receiver.”  So head them off by saying, “At least Bush stopped Wide Receiver before people died.  Fast and Furious was a travesty.”  Will you have to also eventually mention how in Wide Receiver they also actually tracked the weapons in question?  Yes.  Does this mean you win the debate?  No.  But instead of allowing any observers to think they’ve actually made some sort of point, you’ve scored two hits before they even got off one.

If you know in advance what they’ll say but have a clever slam planned in response, it might make sense to let them come back at you.  This is usually preferable when you know your opponent and are almost certain as to how they’ll respond.  I’ll address such situations shortly.

In the meantime, when you hear their talking heads ramble on or stumble across an editorial on HuffPo, pay attention to what they’re saying.  They may be wrong, but by actually hearing them out you not only learn how they argue and how they think, you find out what they’re lefties are likely to say to you if you ever come across them in person.

Besides, every once in a blue moon they’re actually right about something (nobody’s wrong about absolutely everything).  If you find this out ahead of time, you can learn to distinguish the flashes of basis human decency from the counterproductive solutions they offer.

The better you know what they’re going to say ahead of time, the less effective anything they say might be.

* A third option is to cite that study I don’t have time to look up that uses accounting tricks to basically eliminate the stimulus from affecting the rate of increase in federal spending during Obama’s term.  Lefties cited it extensively for about a week during the last election.  Most people won’t do this, and those who do are wonks.  I’ll address how to deal with the Ezra Kleins of the world in a different post.

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5 Responses to Predictive Framing

  1. FL says:

    This is an excellent post.

    One thing that helped me immensely in law school was not learning how to argue, but to learn to understand others arguments and consider them when I make my own. No lawyer walks into court with their briefs without trying to understand the other side’s potential argument. You not just have to anticipate what will be argued (will they think their theories will be successful?), but what precedent/evidence they will cite. You really have to know where their strengths are (or perceived strengths). Knowing their weaknesses is never enough.

    Some neophytes think they made the slam-dunk argument and think their opponents are fools. 99% of the time they are wrong. They get gobsmacked in court. This phenomenon is reflected in your post.

    While certainly most legal issues, at least for me, are more theoretical than personal, so it really doesn’t require any emotional investment beyond not wanting to screw up. With politics, in many ways it is personal – not in any feminist way – but because our views often comprise our worldview and how we perceive ourselves. I would imagine – especially on blogs/situations where there is mixed ideological company – it sometimes is just signalling which team you are for.

    However, the situation you cite at the outset is just that – talking past each other, simply getting base ideological satisfaction and signalling which team you bat for – while getting approval from said team. It is boring and predicable. It feeds the souls and minds of the ground troops of every ideological movement. They are needed for any movement to have legs, but do nothing to advance thought and consciousness.

    Not only is your technique is 100% spot on, it forces people to actually think more about what they believes – or at least tries to if they respond. Anticipating your opponent’s argument is the hallmark of somebody who can really debate. It automatically puts your opponents in the situation where they have to reframe – most people can’t do this successfully – or refute your points directly. Often times, if they directly contradict you, they come off as petty or defensive unless they cite hard evidence with conviction.

    Even then, often times it is not done well – and your example about some mumbling about global warming is right; they have lost the the upper hand in the debate at the outset, and by some backpedaling they are really hoping to score some points with their die-hard allies.

    One of your final points about finding out what they might be right about is excellent. If you are dominating a debate completely, or have the strong upper hand; a real and honest (very important in my opinion) concession – that stays in your frame – is the icing on a successful debate. They can’t attack you for it – appears and is very weak and spiteful. If they agree, you’ve won. Odds are, you’ve backed them into a corner and the debate is lost for them.

    BTW, I’ve read a few posts, and this seems like a great blog. I’ll have to stop by again.

  2. Martel says:

    Thank you wholeheartedly. We need to recognize that this is a psychological battle, not just a political one. You obviously get it.

  3. John Rambo says:

    Arianna Pattek, a racist, man-hating feminist bitch

    In the above link, you will find evidence of her committing the CRIME of discrimination based on a man’s race.

    I have included her personal email, the email of her academic advisor, link to her Facebook account, link to her two blogs, and her pictures as well.

    I suggest you men write to her through her email, Facebook, and blogs, and tell her that you are reporting her for the CRIME of discrimination against men.

    American women are really evil bitches.

  4. “* A third option is to cite that study I don’t have time to look up that uses accounting tricks to basically eliminate the stimulus from affecting the rate of increase in federal spending during Obama’s term. Lefties cited it extensively for about a week during the last election. Most people won’t do this, and those who do are wonks. I’ll address how to deal with the Ezra Kleins of the world in a different post.”

    This is the one that especially pissed me off because when I dug through it for just one second, I knew the game right off the bat.

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