The following is part of document that I produced for my debating group.

I'm copying it here for feedback and suggestions for enhancement / correction.

Parts of it are "tongue in cheek" but the intent is to make a serious point about argumentation and good and bad approaches to it.

All quotes are from the link provided at the top. Yes, I used Wiki :-)

What do folks think?



What is demagogy?

"The early 20th century American social critic and humorist H. L. Mencken, known for his "definitions" of terms, defined a demagogue as "one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.""

A more detailed description of Demagogy and Demagogues would be:

"Demagogy (also demagoguery) (Ancient Greek δu951 μu945 γu969 γu943 α from δu8134 μu959 ςdēos "people" and ἄu947 εu953 νagein "to lead") is a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears and expectations of the public—ypically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes."

Destructive strategies intended to derail the debate, silence an opponent or team on an issue, discredit an opponent or team, discredit the site for the purposes of using that to recruit members to another site, or simply taking "pleasure" in disrupting the group.

Accusations of lying without supporting those accusations or supporting them with material that doesn't actually support them in the hopes that no-one will bother to check.

Starting threads on the topic which contain personal attacks against an individual in the subject line in order to "poison the well" before the accused can respond.

Accusing the opposing side of engaging in the dishonest strategies that you are actively engaging in, in order to deflect people from noticing what you are doing.

Posting inflammatory content intended to provoke an inflammatory response from either an individual opponent, a group of individual opponents, or the opposing team.

The Hitlerian Big Lie strategy can and does include the use of all of the above methods.

It is, by definition, a strategy of demogogues and demagogy.

Note: That there is difference between those who use the following as an actual strategy and those who occasionally fall into the trap of fighting like with like in response to destructive behavior.

Falling into the trap of fighting like with like can, at best, end in a draw, making both parties look bad. So it's advised to avoid this trap if you are not, in fact, a demagogue.

The reason for this is that the back up strategy of demagogues is to turn around and accuse their target(s) of being demagogues.

When you fight like with like, in the case of demagoguery, this accusation then has credibility whether you initiated the exchange or not.

These strategies are often used by trolls, cyberstalkers and other Internet Wildlife.

They vary in subtlety and specifics depending on "what works".

Note: Those who complain loudest about others using these strategies


Make the most accusations that others are using them

Are, generally speaking, the ones who are actively engaged in using these strategies.

It's simply a cheap and shoddy attempt to deflect attention from what they are doing and redirect it dishonestly on to their target.

As per Timothy's request, I've incorporated a section on "Magma-Dialectics" (a Parody of Pragma-Dialectics) used by Demagogues.


The dialectical conception of unreasonableness is given by ten rules for critical disruption, all being instrumental for achieving a maximally disrupted and hostile environment for debate and/or discussion.

No Freedom rule: parties must prevent each other from advancing standpoints or from casting doubt on standpoints.

No Burden of proof rule: a party that advances a standpoint is not obliged to defend it if asked by the other party to do so.

No Standpoint rule: a party’ attack on a standpoint must not relate to the standpoint that has indeed been advanced by the other party.

No Relevance rule: a party may not defend a standpoint by advancing argumentation relating to that standpoint.

No Unexpressed premise rule: a party may disown a premise that has been left implicit by that party, or falsely present something as a premise that has been left unexpressed by the other party.

No Starting point rule: a party may falsely present a premise as an accepted starting point or deny a premise representing an accepted starting point.

No Argument scheme rule: a party may regard a standpoint as conclusively defended if the defense does not take place by means of an appropriate argumentation scheme that is correctly applied.

No Validity rule: a party may not use arguments in its argumentation that are logically valid or capable of being validated by making explicit one or more unexpressed premises

No Closure rule: a failed defense of a standpoint must not result in the party that put forward the standpoint retracting it and a conclusive defense of the standpoint must not result in the other party retracting its doubt about the standpoint.

No Usage rule: a party must use formulations that are insufficiently clear or confusingly ambiguous and a party must not interpret the other party’ formulations as carefully and accurately as possible.

When in doubt or all else fails...

...Lie. Whether the lie is subtle or blatant doesn't matter.

When caught in your lie.

1. Get morally outraged and lie more.
2. Never, never, ever acknowledge even the possibility that you may be wrong.
3. Accuse the opposition of doing everything that you are doing.

Logical Fallacies in Demagogy.

Use them all and generously.

The only logical fallacy in demagogy is to not use logical fallacies.

Slightly revised from the original post.

Views: 131

Replies to This Discussion

One thing that would be really useful would be examples based on your personal experiences.
Thanks for the great reply Bruce.

I'm going to try to summarize the point so that I can include this.
I had to deal with people like this a lot in high school on a more-or-less daily basis. The debates weren't even religious, though, most of the time, but the technique that I found successful in evading their evasion was to treat their interruptions like a cough. I let it happen as though it were just a physical reaction (which is not really that inaccurate a model, considering how primitive and violent such reactions easily are, rather resembling the panicked, clawing attempts of a feral cat to escape from being held) to what I said. I'd hear what they said, realize based on the context and first bits of content that it was purely a physical reaction (just as I do with a sneeze or somesuch, noticing that the noises make no words), and wait until they were probably finished with their sneezing fit and then carry on as though I hadn't been interrupted but had merely dallied in a detailed adjectival subordinate clause.

It forces them to listen even more deeply than if they don't interrupt, actually, since, in order to make chronological sense of the conversation, as humans are wont to do, they have to backtrack to what I said that made them physically react.

The two greatest difficulties in this technique are, indeed, the only two important steps:
1. Determining, beyond a reasonable doubt, that some noise being spoken is pure sneeze
2. Remembering where you were in your sentence before the other party sneezed
I was told that using the perfectly accurate and factual term 'religious indoctrination service' was 'offensive', and that I should call it 'church' (I was of course secretly pleased at the admission that this implies.)

Ah you made my day with that one. That is wickedly funny.

Thanks for sharing your insights into not only what we discuss, but also how we discuss it. It's an important topic for reflection. Just a couple of comments on my part -

"Falling into the trap of fighting like with like can, at best, end in a draw, making both parties look bad. So it's advised to avoid this trap if you are not, in fact, a demagogue." So true. There are many times that I self-censor in order to avoid taking the bait and getting sucked into a senseless argument.

Your use of formalized logic is more sophisticated than mine, but it all makes sense to me.

Some other tools that I have noticed recently in internet demagogy -

-passive-aggressive outrage - "I'm a victim so you must agree with me. I'm a victim so to disagree with me is to further victimize me."

-excessive use of bold and caps, like trying to beat a point home with a baseball bat "you said this and this and that and that!!!!????!!!!!"

-bury them with text - after a while, only the most dedicated people will continue to read. One could include the entire text of Sarah Palin's autobiography, and no one will notice because of the sheer volume of alphabet soup poured into the discussion.

Sorry, I can't go back to the threads to pull these out. I'll get PTSD, plus will get attacked myself, and Im not interested in discourse with demagogues or fanatics.
Thanks Daniel :-)

I relate very much to your comments.

I'm using GreaseMonkey with the Script provided by Duane to block the noise.

And on my Google Groups I use GreaseMonkey with the Google KillFile Script.

I've had so much more peace of mind and posting is now a pleasure.

Occasionally I take a peek at what my detractors are saying and their frustration with the fact that I am ignoring them completely is too amusing.

Hilarious actually.

I strongly recommend it.

The suggestions are great and I'll incorporate them into my copy of the document.
This is very interesting. I'm not sophisticated enough to know what GreaseMonkey is, but I just posted on another thread exactly the sentiment you just expressed (would have given you deserved credit, but I posted before reading this). Can you post somewhere what GreaseMonkey is and how it works? Thank you in advance!
Hey Bill

Here's the link to Duane's thread.

He gives pretty clear instructions on how to set yourself up.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Lol.
I've also considered the possibility that there are some people on this site that have serious problems with some idée fixe or obsession that they can't really control.

I agree. With a little bit of histrionic personality disorder thrown into the mix. Doesn't mean they are a bad person, but it's hard to know what to do about it.
Hi Adriana

Greasemonkey is a Firefox AddIn that allows you to run scripts in your Browser. The scripts I'm running are KillFile scripts. I wish I had your self-discipline but I don't :-(.

Oh well. Lol.

Besides passive aggression, one of the tactics I despise the most is making wild exaggerations with cooked-up numbers or histrionic tactics, to drive your point home. It's a shame, because some good points are hidden by the mountain of demagogy in which they are presented.

This example you gave is unambiguous Demagogy by definition. It's perfect, so thanks.

I've also considered the possibility that there are some people on this site that have serious problems with some idée fixe or obsession that they can't really control.

Yes I've seen this too. I don't know whether that could be counted as demagogy or not though.

What do you think?
I agree. Having an obsession is just having an obsession. It can be for good or bad. It can be annoying, or harmless, or lead to historic evil.

Someone who is obsessed, charismatic, and forceful, and knows demogogical techniques, is someone to watch out for. Someone on a web site who is obsessesed, but otherwise not causing much harm, may need empathy and possibly some direction, which they may or may not take. And as has been noted, whatever tools the person is using, they often can't take being ignored, and either step back and rethink what is alienating others, or go away. Or decompensate entirely and go Daffy Duck on us. Or is it Elmer Fudd?
Thufferin' thuccotash! We all need a wittow west and wewaxation heheheheheheheh!




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