The Wonderland Rules
A newsletter about how to win arguments with crazy people on and off the internet with style, dignity, and grace
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A lot of people have a hard time arguing with followers of the ideology known as Critical Social Justice, colloquially known as Wokeism. Many reasons have been put forth for this problem, ranging from the fact that Wokes are more often diagnosably mentally ill than people of any other political stripe to Moral Foundations theory, which posits that those with liberal political ideologies are largely or entirely blind to certain bases for moral reasoning.
Those are questions for psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists. I am a rhetorician, and while I have opinions about the issues surrounding CSJ and those who espouse it, I think those issues and those people are being ably handled by other, more qualified commentators. I’m paid to teach persuasive writing, and it strikes me that the question I’m qualified to answer is, “How do you effectively argue with these people?”
Doctor Hammer of Doc Hammer’s Anvil put it to me thus:
I find I have a hard time arguing in ways that I don't want to be argued with, if that makes sense.
I told him I’d had the idea to do a blog where I taught people to argue, and that I’d get started in a week or two. He bellowed “YOU HAVE 5 DAYS!” The good Doctor is a blacksmith, his last article contained photographs of an enormous knife and a tomahawk he hammered out himself, and quite frankly, disappointing him didn’t seem like a good idea.
So, without further ado, these are The Wonderland Rules, named for Lewis Carroll’s fantasy world where nothing makes sense and everyone you meet can be relied upon to be unreasonable and probably insane.
The format will likely evolve, but the basic idea is that I will post both my own encounters with Wonderlanders and reader submissions of arguments with them or by them, then deconstruct and engage with those arguments line by line with explanations of my reasoning. I will also suggest attack vectors for similar arguments, provide some bases for my own and other people’s theories about how you argue effectively, and try to engage in the comments section as much as I can.
Please feel free to email me links to cockeyed arguments, cut/pasted disputes you want advice or assistance with, and recollections of (verbal) tussles you got into with maddening people. I’ll get to as many as I can.
I've got one for you here, from the Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2022/05/nancy-pelosi-democrats-climate-change-bill/629822/
"Heat waves hot enough to cook human flesh are already happening this month; they will become more common over the coming decades, striking multiple times a year."
I am pretty sure the author can't mean that literally, since even if you are looking at "Pittsburgh blue" you aren't cooking flesh. The author, Robinson Meyer, maybe is just going for crazy hyperbole, but he is writing in the Atlantic, not his personal blog. Editors probably signed off on this, right?
You definitely got this rolling quickly, and I am glad to see it! I'll be sending things your way as I roll across them.