The Ten Commandments of Internet Debate

Debate happens constantly, all over the internet, but I fostered it very heavily on my Xanga page in the past. Most of my posts are meant to foster intelligent debate, or at least bring attention to important issues. I’ve been running debate sites on Xanga since 2004 (maybe a handful of you remember as Arguments From The Left), and so how to properly debate online has always been of interest to me.

I was walking along a mountain top one day last year when the Internet gods bestowed unto me ten rules (or commandments, if you will) for how to be an effective Internet debater. I’ll admit that I don’t always follow these rules (I’m not perfect, although I’m damned close!), but I do try my best.


1) Thou shalt treat people with the same amount of respect they give you, if not more.
If someone respectfully presents a point you don’t agree with, as wrong as they might be you won’t convince anybody how right you are by shouting them down and calling them a knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing asshat.

2) Thou shalt read the entire post/comment that you are responding to BEFORE you respond to it.
I don’t care how salient your point about the progressive tax rate may be, if you’re responding to a comment that was actually about how cute puppies are it will absolutely fall on deaf ears.

3) Thou shalt back up your point with facts.
“That can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” – Christopher Hitchens
“Tuna are just as smart as people.” – Some online debater, probably.

4) Thou shalt use spell check.
You could have a Nobel Prize in chemistry, but I’m gonna have a very difficult time taking you seriously when you’re talking about “led piosonign in are ground water’s.”

5) Thou shalt not resort to name-calling.
Seriously, cut it out, asshole.

6) Thou shalt not stereotype.
When you say “all Christians do this” or “all atheists believe that”, all people who read your comment lose respect for you.

7) Thou shalt back up statistics with sources.
68% of all people online know not to trust uncited statistics.

8) Thou shalt not invoke Godwin’s Law.
Godwin’s Law states that any internet debate will eventually get to calling somebody Hitler. Remember: Obama isn’t Hitler. George W. Bush isn’t Hitler. Hitler was Hitler. That’s about it.

9) Thou shalt not feed the trolls.
I know, sometimes it’s hard to tell who is a troll and who is serious when the believe in castrating all Christians. This is due to something known as Poe’s Law, where pretend extremists online are indistinguishable from actual extremists without the use of a smiley face or the term “lol.”

10) Thou shalt admit when thou hast been shown to be wrong.
You’d want the other person to do this. If you claim that Reagan never cut taxes, and someone shows you definitive evidence that yes, he did, you should admit that you were in the wrong. Tied into this, you should accept the other person’s admittance with grace and tact. No matter how right you were, responding with “in your face!” instantly makes you wrong.

Despite the sacrilege in even asking the question, are there any laws the Internet gods left out?


~ by kriskodisko on July 3, 2012.

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