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  • Writer's picturegraeme

Debating Conservatives

Have you noticed three key things about the way conservative people approach a debate about worldviews and values driven issues? (I regularly post things that get conservatives all riled up, from LGBTQI rights to anti-Trump sentiment, and today, a side swipe at their darling pseudo-intellectual, Jordan Peterson; so I see these three things all the time.)

1. “You are so sure about what you believe, and think that you are right.” They say this like it’s a bad thing.

This one is fascinating. The obvious response is: “so do you think that you are wrong, but believe it anyway?” At one level it is impossible to believe something that you know to be wrong. That’s not how either knowledge or our brains work. As soon as you suspect you are wrong, everything inside you works hard to sort that out. Definitionally you cannot actually “believe” something you know to be wrong.

This argument is proof that most right leaning conservatives have spent so long thinking that their worldview is the only viable worldview that now that they have to share the stage with differences of opinion, they feel oppressed. And they whine about it.

(For the record: yes, I genuinely do believe the things I say and fight for. And I am very willing to be proven wrong and learn new things.)

Which leads to ...

2. Complaints that they’re being silenced.

Honestly this is the most baffling one, and it comes from everywhere. People on Fox News claim they’re being silenced - while speaking on Fox News. More than half of the arguments I see from right leaning conservatives is that they’re not allowed to have a viewpoint, that they’re being shut down and that they won’t be silenced. All while they are actually talking ...

Again, this is an indication that they’re not used to diversity of views. If someone says your viewpoint is wrong, and/or that they don’t agree with you, they haven’t shut you down, they’ve just disagreed. So put your point forward. If they still don’t agree, try and work out what you might say to convince them. Try and work out where the disagreements are. Trying to do this with a conservative is like trying to wrestle a greased pig though, because they slither and slip around all over the place looking for excuses to whine about not being able to have their say. Mainly, they just don’t know what they’re really saying.

Which then leads them to ...

3. Claims of an ad hominem attack.

When you point out the paucity of their argument, they feel belittled and so accuse you of belittling them, which they then say is an ad hominem. It’s not. Pointing out a bad argument is not a personal attack. Stopping talking about the argument and starting to attack the character of the person talking is ad hominem. Pointing out that an argument is bad, or pointing out the bad effects of a worldview is not an attack on the person making the argument.


That it feels that way to the person is very telling indeed. It shows that they do in fact make the connection between their right leaning conservative worldview and bad character. They do understand - at least instinctively - that their worldview brings harm to others, but as long as it doesn’t harm them, they want the right to continue to believe it. Their only response therefore is to feel - and whine - that you have attacked them personally, when you haven’t.

Keep an eye out for these three tactics.

You will see them everywhere, and when you do, you should alerted to the type of person you’re dealing with. You have a choice then of a variety of responses. You can be nice. You can attempt to persuade. You can walk away. You can engage. Right now, I don’t have the emotional capacity to be nice to these people. I wish I did. They need help.

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