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  • Writer's pictureJulie Taylor

Arguing without arguments

Some horse folks still think you have to do research and construct logical arguments in order to take part in online discussions about horses. Nothing could be further from the truth. So as to leave no equestrian behind, I have written this five step guide to arguing without arguments. Whether you are new to stating your personal hunches as rock solid facts or have been doing it for years, here's how you can improve your technique.

Argumentum ad hominem

This is fancy speak for attacking the person with whom you disagree instead of addressing their opinions and arguments. If someone writes something you don't like on the internet, the first step is to google them and find their social media profiles and look for any evidence of incompetence as you perceive it. You just need to find that one thing this person did in their life that, according to you, was stupid or wrong and you are free to discount everything they ever say again. Even if they quote a string of published, peer reviewed scientific studies which contradict your personal, home brewed philosophy of horsemanship, all you need is that one photo of them at a Nickelback concert which alters the fabric of the universe and renders all this evidence invalid.

Even if you come up empty handed and it seems like your opponent has never done anything wrong in their life, you can always find someone who holds a similar view to your opponent who did do something wrong and use that person's mistake as an excuse for dismissing the arguments of your opponent. When applied correctly, this technique makes your opponent so uncomfortable that they don't want to continue talking to you because you are behaving like a sociopath. Tell yourself and others your opponent went away because they ran out of arguments.

Change the subject

When faced with information they don't like, some people try to deal by making sense of the opponent's claims, examining the evidence and critically reviewing their own attitudes and habits. You don't need that kind of hassle in your life. Instead, make yourself feel better by forcing those who are making you uncomfortable to talk about something else. For instance, if you like to hit horses hard with sticks and someone else says that is wrong, point out that there are worse things in the world. Demand that your opponent deals with everything else on the planet which you deem to be worse than their concern before they can have your permission to proceed with their discussion. If they insist that they have a right to discuss anything they want, regardless of your preferences, accuse them of hypocrisy and not caring about horses who starve or are kept in PMU barns. It is not necessary that you are yourself involved in addressing any of those things that you think are worse than your opponent's concern. You need never have donated a penny to charity or put in a single hour of volunteer work. Just point out everything that's wrong with the world and blame your opponent for not having solved all these problems before getting to the one with which they are currently involved. In many cases, you will be able to shame your opponent into red faced silence, pondering all the ways in which they're not helping horses.

Repeat as needed

Tired of hearing about how there is no evidence to support your strongly held beliefs? Don't shy away from online discussions. Just keep repeating what you hold to be true as if your views were actual arguments in a real discussion. Start by pointing out that your opponent has revealed their ignorance by stating an opinion contrary to yours. Nobody likes to be called ignorant and it will put them on their back foot, wondering whether they should be refuting your allegation or just ignore it. Then carefully account for your beliefs as if you or someone else didn't just make the stuff up. Remember: You read it in a book, so it must be true. When someone points out that the evidence available all contradicts your belief, repeat what you read in that book. If your opponent points out that the book you read might be wrong, explain that this can't be the case, since the author of the book said that everything in the book is true. And he or she should know. They wrote the book in which it says that they are telling the truth. Repeat ad nauseum, while ignoring any science quoted by your opponent.

False dichotomies

”I am allergic to peanuts, so I have to live entirely on watermelon.” That's a false dichotomy. It assumes that the only alternative to ingesting peanuts is to exclusively eat watermelon. Stupid, isn't it? Yet, in a horse context, this rhetorical cheat can often come in handy. For instance: ”You think it's cruel to keep horses locked up in stalls for 23 hours a day? Well I disagree, because leaving my horse to die of starvation in a muddy field with slipper feet and sweet itch is just not an option for me.” See how that works? You wilfully ignore all the options which neither involve starving to death or being locked up all the time. Like free choice stabling where horses walk in and out as they need to. Or turnout during the day or night and stabling during the other 12 hours. You pretend there are only two options: Yours and one other really bad one. You might think this is too transparent and that your opponent will catch on, but don't underestimate the shame associated with being accused of wanting your horse to die of starvation in a mud hole. Go to any horse discussion group and you'll see how routinely this trick is used and how well it works even though it is a completely invalid way of conducting a debate.

Pull rank

If you're an ignorant, opinionated horse person with a pathological sense of entitlement and a complete inability to change your mind about anything ever, chances are you've been in the game for a while. This is probably your strongest card. If someone states an aversion to a common practice of yours, remind them that you have been doing it for 40 years. In a startling number of cases, your opponent will back off rather than point out that doing it wrong for 40 years does not make anyone an expert. New and inexperienced horse owners are especially vulnerable to seeing things from the horse's perspective. Keep them in their place by accusing them of having ”pet horses”, thus inferring that you are yourself a professional and that their choice to have animals for the love of said animals and a desire to give them a good life is somehow inferior.

Follow these five, simple steps when you're talking to other horse people on the internet, and you will never have to back up your opinions with fact, let alone accept that you've been wrong and need to change. Good luck people and be careful out there.

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