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A beginner’s guide to debating on Facebook

I PRIDE myself with being a member of our college’s debate team.

However, it was evident early in the mock debates during my first year that public speaking and I have a convoluted relationship, as I’m prone to “word vomit,” or rambling incoherently when speaking under pressure. I’m fine with writing strongly worded editorials, but put a microphone in my hand, and I crumble.

But that didn’t stop me from my debate aspirations. Like in every legal team, not everyone can be the lead counsel arguing and speaking in court. I eventually found my necessary niche in the team: fallacy checker. I know it doesn’t sound glamorous, but it’s being in charge of rebuttal for your team by noting your opponents’ inaccuracies and logical errors, i.e., nitpicking the other squad’s arguments and tearing them apart.

I know that the dynamics of arguing on social media is different from Oxford-Oregon debate, but hear me out: Debating a closed-minded individual online may sometimes seem futile, but knowing some of the common fallacies — misconceptions, false arguments and misguided reasoning — may lend you the upper hand.

Ad hominem
Paano mag-timpla ng Mocha? Take coffee, add creamer, add sugar, ad hominem.

The most common blunder in online debates, ad hominem means attacking the person, or simply resulting to threats and name-calling when you can’t offer an informed argument. This is what we in debate call throwing a hissy-fit and being a sore loser.

Rapidly becoming the main weapon in the arsenal of Mocha Uson and her minions (remember Agot Isidro being labeled baog?), ad hominem is a convenient way to overwhelm any “intellectual superior” in an argument, by insulting them a trying to drag them down to your level — akin to bludgeoning someone with a bat when you don’t get your way.

The fallacy of False Dilemma / False Dichotomy
No, I’m not talking about Leila de Lima and her marital woes.

False dilemma / dichotomy is asserting that there are only two sides to any issue, when in fact there are an innumerable number of stands and arguments one can make . This is most apparent in the ka-DDS (Duterte Diehard Supporters) or dilawan, este, the black-and-white point of view of most netizens.

It’s disappointing how the discussion of Philippine politics has been reduced to just two parties by hardcore fanatics. To them it’s Duterte or bust, you are either a Rody ally or a Liberal Party loyalist. To the misguided multitudes, it is unheard of to support most of the president’s advocacies and actions, but disagree with him on a few key issues.

You also want an independent foreign policy but hit Duterte for the rampant killings under his watch? Dilawan ka! You are a staunch supporter of the war on drugs but deplore Rody’s misogynistic ways? Bayaran ka! … at baog!

Hasty Generalization / Slippery Slope
These two go hand in hand. Hasty Generalization and Slippery Slope both connote jumping to conclusions and unfounded accusations based on little to no evidence.

It’s why anyone who doesn’t agree with Duterte is immediately tagged a “yellowtard,” why all who laud the president’s radical views are stereotypes as “dutertards,” and why everyone who has progressive views is labeled a communist or an NPA.

These sweeping statements are why people think those are rallying and angered by the sneaky burial of the late dictator-tyrant are calling for the ouster of Duterte. It’s why his minions think anyone concerned about the rising number of police violence incidences and “extrajudicial killings” is trying to slander their beloved president.

Most fail to acknowledge or are unable to comprehend that these are nuanced issues that are not just a means to target a single person in office.

Fallacy of False Authority
Mocha Uson, ’nuff said.

Closing Rebuttal
I’ll probably expand this list of fallacies in the near future, but for now at least you have an idea of what to expect when trying to engage in “meaningful” debates and discussions online.

My humble word of advice though: when a very vocal netizen tries to lambast you, gets a rise out of you, or tries to trap you into a futile shouting match online, offer an unorthodox approach.

Comment back: “Hi friend (insert name here), I’d rather not argue on my Facebook wall. Maybe we can discuss our differing opinions, in a civil manner, over coffee some time, when are you free?”

Then watch them shrink, cower and be reduced to silence. You see, these people get all their power from anonymity and hiding behind a screen. Invite them to a decent dialogue while enjoying macchiatos, and suddenly they’re hesitant and speechless. What’s up with that?/PN



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