Good. Here’s another article exposing the facile shallowness of the “debate me” crowd.
A famous linguist once said that of all the phrases in the English language — of all the endless combinations of words in all of history — “debate me” is the most badass.
Or that’s what a cohort of online dudes appear to believe. The way a drunk roughneck might square up to you for a fight in a seedy roadhouse, the “debate me” dude pops into your Twitter mentions to demand a formal argument. Ignoring that people debate shit on the internet as automatically as one might breathe or blink, he is oddly constrained by the notion that disagreement has rules, or at least a chivalrous code of honor befitting a pistol duel in the countryside. Simply tussling over this or that question is beneath him. Debate, meanwhile, is a gentleman’s contract, holy ground, a noble anachronism.
I also appreciate the categorization of two kinds of debates: the ones where it’s solely an appeal to emotion (ironically, most of the online objective reality gang’s outcomes rely entirely on emotion — see Ben Shapiro for on-point examples), and the ones that rely on formal technicalities.
Besides, it’s not as if the lad insistent on a volley of conflicting ideas is willing to be convinced by his rival. He wouldn’t be doing this if he weren’t assured a victory, and so the provocation signals the egoist’s pride — as well as the almost charmingly naive certainty that competing ideologies can be vanquished by scoring enough points in a virtual joust. Of the two main models for American debate — political and extracurricular — he favors the airless academicism of the high school debate club, where he first learned some of his favorite fallacies: straw man, ad hominem, the appeal to authority. Whereas a presidential debate is decided on the intangibles, with voters swayed by gut reaction, the after-school debates play out in the technicalities, with naturally quarrelsome young men learning to fetishize what they consider their powers of logic and deduction. If they do well, they may conclude that others lack such faculties. Indeed, the “debate me” dude often behaves as if he’s the last “rational” person on Earth.
Ultimately, that’s the problem with debate: it turns discussion into a contest that requires some method of tallying up “points” to determine who “wins”, and the methods never rest on substance. Shouldn’t there be the equivalent of a TKO when someone lies or misinterprets a source, or doesn’t provide verifiable evidence, or just yells a conclusion? There are an awful lot of creationists and Republicans who’d be lying flat on the mat immediately after the opening bell, so no, those will never be criteria for success.