Spin Ninjas and Internet Debate Rules

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I think that we all know people like this:

And like this:

But I don't think that the Greek lexicon of rhetorical tropes has terms for those moves, does it?


  1. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 6:57 pm

    In Latin, I'd say the Dilbert one combines non sequitur and ad hominem (and is indeed interreticolous).

  2. Jameson said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

    Seems like the Dilbert is also an example of strawman, and ad Hitlerum.

  3. neminem said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

    The Greek lexicon of tropes may not, but the internet awesome lexicon of tropes does: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InsaneTrollLogic

  4. @boris_tweets said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 12:01 am

    OK, I can't resist this opportunity to ask a question about Godwin's Law ("As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (100%).") that I have had for years:

    As an online discussion grows longer, doesn't the probability of a comparison involving piranhas, rainbows, Newt Gingrich, guacamole, OR LITERALLY ANYTHING approach 1??!

  5. Valentine said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 12:21 am

    I wonder if there will be a follow up when she realizes the Upper Nile is the southern part and the Lower Nile is the northern part.

  6. Chris Eagle said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 1:52 am

    Not Greek, but ignoratio elenchi covers a multitude of sins.

  7. Shmuel said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 1:57 am


    In my experience, comparisons to Nazis or Hitler come a lot faster than those other things.

    More to the point, Godwin has said that "Although deliberately framed as if it were a law of nature or of mathematics, its purpose has always been rhetorical and pedagogical: I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler or to Nazis to think a bit harder about the Holocaust." That wouldn't apply to rainbows and such.

  8. Bill Walderman said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 8:15 am

    The Greeks may not have had a word for it, but the Attic orators–Demosthenes particularly–are full of outrageous stuff like that and worse.

  9. @boris_tweets said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 11:04 am

    Thanks so much, Shmuel!

    Yeah, of course, comparisons to Hitler/Nazis approach 1 much faster… that's the interesting part, and it's *not* stated by Godwin's Law (my point exactly)!

    I guess the "rhetorical and pedagogical" nature of the law helps understand why it sounds so vacuous; it is not Godwin's Law that makes sense, it is the increase in consciousness it implies that does.

  10. Graham said,

    June 5, 2011 @ 12:26 am

    @neminem Yeah, Insane Troll Logic fits. Also, the technique of "winning" an argument by getting your opponent to shut up (as in the first strip) would be the Chewbacca Defense (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ChewbaccaDefense).

  11. LQ said,

    June 18, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

    I suspect the Dilbert comic strip is self-referential:
    http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/04/20/scott-adams-plannedchaos-sockpuppet/ — this one is particularly fascinating, as he pulls out nearly every terrible internet argument line in the book.

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