In my over three years of blogging I’ve learned that when posting either on the gay marriage debate, intelligent design and even different political positions that ridicule is a favorite tool for liberals (mostly) who desire to debate.  Josh Painter points out that is seem most recently and publically in the left’s “anti-intellectual” meme.

This tool is straight from the tool box given in Saul Alinsky’s book Rules for Radicals, and is demonsrated in Rule #5:

Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage, (pg. 126).

This typically comes in the form of insulting your intelligence in some form or fashion, but can also be utilized in different ways.  Frankly I find it quite boorish, and when used you can pretty much determine that you’ve won the debate.  Those who resort to ridicule typically don’t have anything of substance to say.

Josh links to an American Thinker post by Kyle-Anne Shiver called “Defeating Political Ridicule” that I think has some great advice:

  • Step One: Properly recognize the ridicule tactic when it is employed. (you are homophobe, you are ignorant, stupid, uneducated, hick… you get the idea)
  • Step Two: No matter how sweet-sounding, how cutsey humorous or how viciously personal the ridicule, the intended victim’s victory is in refusing to take the bait. (Don’t get defensive, don’t respond in kind)
  • Step Three: In political debate, the expert ridiculer is constantly attempting to draw his opponent into a defensive posture on the ridiculer’s ground.  It’s a rhetorical trick, a sleight of hand performed with one’s mouth.

She lists the keys to victory:

  • Refuse the temptation to defend yourself; defense takes the bait. 
  • Remain calm and in control of all emotions. 
  • Laugh-off the ridiculer’s attempt at goading. 
  • Speak the truth of your own convictions with courage, boldness and forthright frankness. 
  • If, and when, you do change your mind about some issue, then put it out there in candid fashion, outlining the precise reasons behind your change in position.

Some would recommend turning this around and using this against our opponents, and I believe that is a mistake, especially for those who are Christ-followers.  We want to take the high road.  Stand to Reason encourages Christ-followers who are ambassadors for Christ to be winsome in their approach.  There is nothing winsome about ridicule.  They promote a tactic called the “Columbo tactic.”

This is the practice of asking carefully selected questions to productively advance the conversation. It’s effective because when you ask a question, you come off as interested, gracious, and unassuming. That’s disarming to many people.

Yet questions can be powerful tools of persuasion. You can use them to gently challenge people’s beliefs or lead them down a line of thinking to make your point. But since questions can be disarming, they generally tone down a would-be slug fest into an engaging exchange of ideas.

Now this obviously doesn’t always work, and we can’t control how the other person chooses to act.  We can always be gracious in our approach and be winsome whether it is the realm of apologetics or politics.

8 comments
  1. Shane, as always a great Post!!

    I think one could also say that Ridicule was the “First and Favorite tool of the left.” When Eve was tempted, Satan ridiculed her and relationship and understanding of God when he said to her “God did not say that you would die….”

    People should be aware of who Saul Alinski dedicated his book Rules for to. (Hint, previous paragraph) and of those who have taught his ways and admire him in today’s society.

  2. There’s always the counter, if you can’t do anything else, to go on the offensive and point out they are using an irrational argument.

    For real overkill, have a college textbook on logic and refer to it frequently.

    Some folks find it annoying, but it’s effective on others– a good friend of mine from high school has fallen away from the Church, but by constantly referring back to logic– it’s something that can be assumed as a shared belief system, since there’s no point in debating with someone who’s irrational.
    .-= Foxfier´s last blog ..Kabuki =-.

  3. I have been in alot of conversations lately with atheists and Muslims and this always seems to happen. I never realized it was happening for a reason. My response has always been that if you tell my belief is crap, or Im ignorant or anything else of that nature we can’t talk any longer. I also point out that I don’t talk to them that way. More than once I have gotten an apology.
    but they tend to figure out some other way of telling me God can’t exist, or no Muhammad isn’t worshipped or whatever.
    Great article. Thank you

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