Debate Techniques

Debate Techniques

Techniques not commonly classified as propaganda techniques, but share many of the same aspects of propaganda techniques, in being evasive, misleading, and/or emotionally-charged.


appeal to pity - portraying oneself as a victim in order to gain sympathy and manufacture justification for attacking your opponents.

These attacks can then be characterized as just "pushing back" or "counter-punching."

can't speak on behalf of - not addressing another's conduct by claiming that addressing it would be speaking on his or her behalf.

going negative - characterizing criticism from an opponent as being underhanded, unfair, or indecent in some way.

Often used to justify a response that is underhanded, unfair, or indecent in some way.

innuendo - implying something without actually saying it, which can't be refuted because it wasn't actually said.

Like saying, "it's nice to hear you tell the truth," to imply someone is typically dishonest without actually saying it.

loaded question - presenting a question that has a presumption of guilt built into it.

Its inflammatory nature is particularly effective at derailing rational debate, since the respondent is compelled to defend against the question, rather than debate the issue at hand.

non-sequitur - response that doesn't follow logically from or isn't related to anything previously asked or said.

passing the buck - shifting blame onto someone else for self-exoneration or to direct attention away from those really at fault.

the American people - promoting a position as having the overwhelming support of all Americans, while providing no evidence that it does.

A form of bandwagoningsee definition - creating social pressure to conform by promoting a sense of inevitable victory.
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the last word - getting in the final words in an exchange to take advantage of the cognitive bias to remember best what is heard last.

Based on "the recency effect," a phenomenon by which you're more likely to recall what you heard last, so information conveyed at the end of an exchange tends to stand out the most in someone’s mind.

trolling - making inflammatory or controversial comments to provoke a strong, emotional reaction from an opponent.

Attacking the Press

Techniques designed to undermine public confidence in the press and journalism as a whole by portraying it as hopelessly biased, dishonest, or even dangerous.


attacking the leak - portraying a leaker or reporting of a leak as a threat to national security, when the leak or reporting of the leak is in the interest of national security.

attacking the ratings - attacking a news organization's ratings, circulation, or popularity, while not refuting the substance of its criticism.

Another form of ad hominemsee definition - attacking the character or motive of the person making an argument, rather than attacking the argument itself.
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demonizing the press - characterizing the press as the enemy, politically motivated, and dishonest.

A form of poisoning the wellsee definition - discrediting your opponent to an audience in advance, in order to encourage dismissing any future claims they may make against you.
, since if the press is perceived as an enemy, any and all scrutiny from it can be just characterized as bias, and attacking the press can then seem reasonable, justified, or even admirable.

fake news - characterizing factual information the press uncovers as dishonest or politically motivated, while not refuting the substance of its criticism.

fake polls - reacting to any undesirable polling data simply by characterizing it as inaccurate or biased.