Ben Shapiro’s Debating Tactics

Ben Shapiro is a right wing political commentator. When he appeared as a guest on liberal commentator Dave Rubin’s show, Rubin praised his book “How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them”. While I’m not particularly interested in destroying leftists, I am interested in debate, so I thought I’d check it out. You can read it for yourself here:

Click to access how_to_debate_leftists_and_destroy_them.pdf

I’m going to attempt to strip away the anti-leftist polemic and distill the actual tactics that Shapiro espouses:

Rule #1: Walk Toward the Fire

Be willing to take criticism head on and do not allow it to deter you.

Rule #2: Hit First

Be prepared, know your opponents weakness, and attack it immediately.

Rule #3: Frame Your Opponent

If your opponent attacks your character, don’t try to defend yourself. Instead, attack them on their tactics. If you know they will attack your character, attack them preemptively.

Rule #4: Frame the Debate

Choose the question for debate, rather than accepting your opponents framing of the issue. Use accepted standards to force them to accept your framing or look unreasonable.

Rule #5: Spot Inconsistencies in Your Opponent’s Arguments

When your opponent takes a position that is more reasonable than the one that they actually hold, look for inconsistencies and use them force your opponent to admit their actual position.

Rule #6: Force Your Opponent to Answer Questions

This tactic is primarily to put your opponent on the defensive.

Rule #7: Don’t Get Distracted

If your opponent makes an irrelevant counter argument, don’t let them divert you from your question.

Rule #8: You Don’t Have To Defend People on Your Side

Don’t allow attacks on other people on your side of an issue to divert you. “Don’t follow people. Follow principle.”

Rule #9: If You Don’t Know Something, Admit It

Shapiro suggests that you simply state, “I didn’t know that, but I’ll be happy to research and get back to you.” Don’t bring up topics you aren’t familiar with.

Rule #10: Let The Other Side Have Meaningless Victories

Agree on things that haven’t yet been defined when there is a definition that fits your argument. Agree on generalities that are so broad that they don’t hurt your argument.

Rule #11: Body Language Matters

“Whomever looks angriest in debate loses.”

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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