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.