03 March 2011

The Study of Rational Debate

While there is a large segment of the population averse to any form of confrontation or conflict, healthy debate has an important place in the fabric of our society. Through arguing, we can form and refine our opinions on the world around us. Should our arguments come from a seat of truth and logic, we can expect to win others to our side, eventually shaping opinion on a much broader scope.

In order to find flaws in our own arguments, we must rationally examine others. We must pick apart their weaknesses and consider their strengths. Debate is like any other discipline. It takes practice and study in order to become a master of the craft. The best place to find critical arguments taking place is the website known as YouTube. Here, you will find many an individual expressing their viewpoints, usually within the context of a particular video. The conflicts are quick and electrifying, with each point/counterpoint enlightening not only the opponent, but also the observer. Let's examine one such example in depth.

Miley Cyrus, "Party in the U.S.A."

Recognizing that several comments on the page were disparaging Ms. Cyrus, an astute citizen of the world named Knowthyself24 reacts with this piece of cogent thought:

u fuckers r mean as fuck..............dam ironicallly she got more money than all of us on here........american is a place of trends truly

Knowthyself24's argument is layered so deeply that a single glance is not enough to capture the meaning behind it. Let's start with the opening volley, "u fuckers r mean as fuck". Knowthyself24 admirably dispenses with pleasantries and gets right to the heart of the matter. Not only does this do a nice job of setting up her argument, it sets her opponents off balance and weakens their eventual retort. Unfortunately, this argument is softened somewhat by the middle act, in which she makes an unwarranted assumption about both her audience and her opponents. There is no way for her to know precisely the net worth of everyone commenting on the video, and it's uncertain whether this use of "ironically" is appropriate for the situation. She does a nice job wrapping up her point, however, with her piercing observation that American is a place of trends.

Under normal circumstances, I would expect an argument of this caliber to go largely unchallenged. However, the rich tapestry of intelligence that is the YouTube comments section surprised me once again. Themjloverz came back almost instantly with this biting response:

this is gay ╭∩╮( º.º )╭∩╮ not a cyrus fan shane dawson fan

The mjloverz not only deconstructs the preceding argument, but he manages to drive a wedge into the very video itself. Rather than attacking any one commenter directly, he manages to dismiss the video and the artist by labeling them both as "gay". Does he mean that Miley Cyrus is a homosexual? Almost certainly not. He means it as a generic insult, which continues to thrive with power, particularly among teenage males, at whom his argument was directed. He goes on to use the medium of art to further his explanation and his feelings about the video. He finishes up by making sure his audience knows where his allegiances lie, an important aspect of presenting a clear and honest argument.

While it's important to realize how effortlessly brilliant arguments can result from blatantly contentious videos such as this one, you can use the above examples to bring life, fervor, and logic to your own debates, regardless of the topic. I hope this study will serve you well in your future arguments.