Anyone who has been involved in the culture wars for a while, or has publicly stood up for faith, family, and life, will know just how ugly things can get, and just how the other side tends to operate. After a while one recognises all the tricks of the trade as the other side attempts to shut you down or shout you down.
There is very little genuine debate. Instead, all sorts of sneaky and low-down tactics are used to intimidate you, to present bluff and bluster, and to derail and destruct your work. I know a little bit about this. With nearly 26,000 comments on my website, I think I may have seen it all.
Indeed, with many public debates and speaking engagements, I get plenty of first-hand experience as to how the other side operates. But it is on my own website that I especially see close up how they like to engage in “debate”. With many years of experience of this under my belt, I thought I would offer to you some of the main tactics and methods of how they seek to engage our side.
Ad hominem attacks
Probably the major way in which the other side engages our side is through the cheap route of name-calling, mud-slinging, verbal abuse and nasty intimidation. Simply swearing a lot, calling names a lot, and getting all hot and sweaty seems to be a major approach of our ideological opponents.
Of course all this is so much easier than actually offering an argument, presenting evidence, or dealing in fact. They seem to think if they just keep shouting louder and louder they have somehow won the debate. Of course they don’t just do this on websites like mine.
They are especially adept at seeking to shut down and shout down any speaker in any public events. Holding noisy demos with plenty of attempts to disrupt meetings or bully speakers is a common approach for these guys. They have learned well how to shut down a meeting, bully the opposition, or intimidate a speaker.
And such tactics are lavishly employed on blogsites such as this. The amount of ugly, poisonous, and jaundiced comments that I receive on a regular basis is really something to behold. I used to just delete all these hate comments in the past, but now I am saving them. They will make for a great book one day.
Indeed, true to form, just as I was typing this, the following comment just arrived: “The most racist vile crap I’ve ever read.” There you have it folks: another great example of an articulate, well-reasoned, thoughtful, and properly argued comment which sticks to the facts.
A common tactic of the other side is to try to get you to feel guilty in various ways. They want you to feel bad about standing up for your beliefs, and they will use any trick in the book to get you to stand down. A common one – used both by Christians and non-Christians – is to suggest that you are not being “Christlike” or “loving” or some such thing.
Non-believers – who of course know little about the biblical Jesus – will throw this out quite often. They somehow seem to think they know more about Jesus and the Bible than believers do. So they hope to silence you by laying this silly guilt trip on you.
Believers may also do it. They try to take the high moral ground, and seem to think that never standing for anything and never giving offence is somehow the supreme Christian virtue. They think that to be a Christian is to be a silent wimp who never rocks the boat and never stands for truth.
And they buy into all the stupid clichés of the secular humanists. They will chirp on about how we shouldn’t judge, how we should just love everyone, how we should just be accepting of everyone and everything. They sound just like the pagans do, and may in fact just be wolves in sheep’s clothing.
A favourite tactic of the other side, and related to the above point, is to try to lay a guilt trip on you by claiming they are somehow the poor victims of our oppressive censorship. They will try to get us to relent and run with their nonsense by saying we are cruel censors. I get this all the time.
Of course this is nothing of the sort, for several reasons. First of all, I tend to run with the three strikes policy. I usually give most people several goes, but when it becomes quite clear that they are just there to cause trouble, to argue for the sake of arguing, or to push their agendas, then it is time for me to bid them adieu.
This has nothing to do with censorship. It simply has to do with standing by my clearly delineated commenting rules. And I have every right to determine how debate is carried out on my site. Everyone has boundaries which they insist upon. This is not censorship, just common practice and common sense.
Jekyll and Hyde
Over the years I have found this to be a fairly typical approach. The initial comment or two from my critics will appear to be all sweetness and light. They will actually sound somewhat civilised and mildly coherent. No screams and rants and hissy fits – at least at first.
But it is interesting to see how quickly all this changes. If I do not instantly post their comments, or if I dare to challenge them, then the real commentator emerges. Soon all of the civility and niceness – which was obviously just a sham – is replaced by the real deal.
Soon enough they are cussing me out and threatening me and showing just how hate-filled and ugly they can be. But perhaps one of the worst and most nasty examples of this comes from those who feign to be Christians. This happens quite often actually.
Commentators will come along – people I know nothing about of course – and simply pretend to be on side. They figure they can pretend to be one of us, and seek to undermine us from within. But as you go back and forth with these folks, it soon enough emerges that they are not at all believers, or are simply apostate hyper-liberals, who have long ago abandoned biblical truth and the claims of Christ.
Then there is the troll. One definition of a troll is “someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”
These folk simply come to argue. They do not have the slightest intention of learning, listening or actually debating. They have simply come to disrupt, to be a nuisance, and to unravel whatever good you are trying to do. They have their minds made up, and are not in the slightest interested in truth or counter-arguments.
Their purpose is simply to disrupt and to derail the proceedings. Many of these folks are simply on ego trips, and just want to argue for argument’s sake. They seem to like the sound of their own voices, or get excited about seeing their names in print.
I really don’t want to waste time on such folks. Indeed, I often come out and tell them this. If they are there simply to argue for the sake of arguing, or they simply like to have their intellectual palettes tickled, then they are welcome to go elsewhere. I am not in the least bit interested in playing their little games.
As I have often told them, life is too short for such silly mental gymnastics and ideological games. Truth is important, and it is vital that we all get the truth. Those who come with an open and humble attitude, really interested in learning and receiving truth, are the sorts of people I will always cater for.
I will spend as much time as possible with such folks. I will always seek to give honest answers to those asking honest questions. But if people come to my site simply because they get their jollies in arguing and pretending they are clever, I have no interest at all in letting them do it here.
Behind your back
Of course many of these guys will not even bother actually interacting with you. They do not seem to have the guts to appear on your site with a comment, and if they do, they usually seek to remain anonymous. They can hurl all the abuse they want that way, and not be detected.
But my commenting rules clearly state that I will not post anonymous comments – people must post their full name if they want to get on to my site. This does not deter many of these folks. They simply decide it is easier to attack you behind your back.
So there are in fact a number of websites which have been set up with only one purpose in mind – to viciously attack me. A number of these sites exist solely for dragging my name in the mud, lying about me, making false accusations about me, and seeking to discredit me.
Of course such people don’t have the guts to actually engage in proper debate, so they simply take pot-shots from the safety of their own anonymity. Indeed, some of these guys seem to monitor my every word, my every movement, and my every activity.
These people really need to get a life, or try to resurrect the old KGB or Stasi. If they really think I am the greatest threat in this country, they have some pretty weird ideas and values. But we already know that.
Two closing remarks are in order. The other side (those pushing anti-faith, anti-family and anti-life agendas, etc.) is not a homogenous group. Fortunately there are some who are not name-calling, irrational trolls and hate-mongers. Some are willing to play by the rules of the game, and I am more than happy to spend time with such folks.
Also, I should mention that some of the things I have said here about these various “debating” tactics can also at time be ascribed to people who call themselves Christians. Unfortunately there are some Christians who are really just trolls as well, who just like to argue for argument’s sake.
They can be just as argumentative and cantankerous as any non-believer. And some believers can also resort to ad hominem attacks as they interact with you. So it is not only the other side that can argue this way. Christian critics can also be guilty of this.
To conclude, can I suggest that if you want to live a quiet and peaceful life, don’t you dare get involved in publicly standing up for truth, or setting up a blogsite dedicated to the hot potato issues of the day. It will only just be one big pain in the neck.
But then again, if you think truth is important, and standing up for faith, family and life is essential, then you will be willing to endure all the mud, all the abuse, all the hatred, and all the crap. That is the price we will have to pay for standing up for what is true, for what is right, and for what is important. How can we do otherwise?