Revusky’s Laws of Debate

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The goal of the following “laws” is basically to disarm the trolls that pervade public discussion. They are largely based on my own personal experience in online “debates” over the last few years, in which I have observed just how defenseless good-faithed participants are against the same repeated trolling tactics. Some of these already appeared in essays I have written. I anticipate that this list will expand over time.

  1. Anybody who starts with this vacuous nonsense about “conspiracy theories” and/or calls you a “conspiracy theorist” has thereby conceded the debate.1
  2. If, in a debate, someone is upholding some narrative, and it becomes evident that their only “proof” of the story amounts to simply repeating the story, then that person has lost the debate.2
  3. One cannot marshal facts to support one’s position when those facts are at least as consistent with the opposing position.3
  4. The serve alternates.4 It is illegitimate for one side of a debate to always demand proof from the other side yet never provide any proof of their position when it is requested.
  5. Humpty Dumpty tactics5 are inadmissible. What this means, in short, is that you cannot try to redefine what words mean in mid-discussion.
  6. In recent years, in which, to all intents and purposes, everybody has a video camera in his pocket, any public mass event6 is bound to produce some video or photographic evidence. Anybody who is claiming that such an event took place yet cannot produce any video or photographic evidence consistent with the narrative absolutely must engage in this issue.
  7. Argumentation by inundation7 is not legitimate.

I hope this is useful. Patents are pending and I expect to receive a small royalty payment any time anybody invokes any one of the above laws. (For those of you on the far left of the old Bell curve, that last sentence is a joke.)

Those who dig this will also probably like Dave Martin’s classic piece Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression.

  1. This is from the first in-depth essay I ever wrote on these sorts of Deep Politics issues. It was, in an allusion to Godwin’s Law, labelled Revusky’s Law. Of course, now that there is more than one law, it would now be Revusky’s First Law.
  2. I only formulated this, Revusky’s Second Law quite recently, when it finally dawned on me that situations I was getting into repeatedly in were in deep structure always the same thing! Both online and offline, people would debate as if they did not understand that repeating a story cannot constitute proof of said story. On reflection, I realized that there is a need to phrase this a bit carefully. I say that “the only proof of the story amounts to repeating the story”. People will frequently point to links as their “proof” of a story. For example, if asked for proof of the official story on 9/11, they might point to the Wikipedia page. However, on deep events, Wikipedia quite reliably offers a synopsis of the official story, so if you point to the Wikipedia page as proof of such a story, you are effectively pointing to a synopsis of the official story as proof of the story. Of course, what it boils down to is a case of circular argumentation.
  3. The Kennedy assassination provides a classic example. Lee Harvey Oswald’s presence in the vicinity can hardly be used as evidence for the official story, since it is equally consistent with him being a patsy. After all, he can hardly be framed for the crime if he was hundreds of miles away at the time! In fact, in these more recent terrorist events, when they find the people’s passports or IDs on the scene, it is, if anything more consistent with the people being set up as patsies than with them being the actual perpetrators!
  4. This is an allusion to tennis, but one could use all sorts of sports and games equally well. The point is that one does not get to serve all the time. Regardless of how famous a tennis player you are, the serve alternates; if you are serving in this game, in the next game, your opponent serves. Clearly, the same principle must apply to a debate or intellectual discussion. It is striking how many people “debate” this way, particularly in online discussions. They always get to pose questions, but if their interlocutor answers the questions and poses a few of his own, they simply do not recognize that there is any onus on them to answer, i.e. to return serve. Actually, it’s worse than that. It’s like a tennis match in which, not only does one player always gets to serve, but if his opponent executes a perfect return of serve, he sees no obligation to respond to that, but simply grabs another ball and serves again! I suppose it is not so surprising that people try to debate this way, particularly when the facts of the case do not favor them. What is surprising is how often the other side lets them get away with it!
  5. This is, of course, a reference to the Humpty Dumpty character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, who says: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” For example, a classic example of Humpty Dumpty tactics would be, when there is overwhelming evidence that Jews are over-represented in a given field, to insist on a definition of “Jew” based on actual religious practice. Of course, everybody with any understanding of the issue would have understood that, in this context, the word referred to the person’s ethnic origin, not whether they actually practice the religion, which is really another question. Now, people often do have legitimate differences on what a word means and it can make perfect sense in a discussion to insist on clarification; in fact, sometimes it is absolutely necessary! However, that is not what is meant here by Humpty Dumpty tactics, which is really endless quibbling about what words mean as a way to blow smoke and obfuscate issues.
  6. This was originally called Revusky’s Razor (an allusion to Occam’s Razor) and was introduced in my Muslim Rape Army piece with somewhat different wording. My original formulation for what I call here public mass events was events of a sufficiently large scale in a wide open public space full of people. Unlike most of the other “laws”, this is not a pure rule of logic so much as a contemporary heuristic. I guess it could be understood as a reformulation of the Internet meme “Pix or it didn’t happen!” Admittedly, this public mass event concept eludes precise definition and there are bound to be a few borderline cases where people of good faith could disagree whether the event described is of “sufficiently large scale” to invoke Revusky’s Sixth Law. That said, I originally formulated this in a discussion of the (alleged) events in Cologne, Germany on New Year’s Eve 2015, and I cannot conceive of this being such a borderline case. It must be impossible for hundreds of women to be sexually assaulted in that kind of crowded Grand Central Station setting, on a recent New Year’s Eve, without the event leaving any visual record. I have come to conclude that a lot of the pushback on this stems from fallacious reasoning. They figure that a single such incident could occur without being caught on camera and then spuriously extend that reasoning to the entire mass event comprising hundreds of separate incidents. Even taking into account that this is not a precise Mathematics problem, like with the repeated flipping of a coin, the likelihood that not a single one of the hundreds of incidents is caught on camera must be infinitesimal. In any case, the ubiquity of electronic gadgets at this stage of history is such that people cannot just refuse to engage in this issue.
  7. Argumentation by inundation is the tactic of pointing people to voluminous materials — books or documents that are hundreds of pages long, or hours of video material — and saying that they “prove your case” without providing any precis of the material or telling people exactly where they are supposed to look in them. In approximately 97.3% of the cases, argumentation by inundation is a bluff; the person telling you to read some massive book because it proves his case has not read the book himself!

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