How To Argue Like A Prospanker
By Chris Dugan

 Just use these 15 proven debating techniques and you will never have to admit that
hitting your kids is a bad idea!

 1) Selective Silence - When confronted with data which fails to jibe with your cherished beliefs about the harmless and beneficial nature of hitting kids, just ignore it.  Don't respond.  Keep asserting your opinion over and over again.  If you ignore the scientific evidence consistent with long term ill effects from spanking, perhaps it will just go away.

 2) Obscurantism I - "Studies are all a load of psychobabble!"  Be sure to dismiss as "psychobabble" any study the critics cite.  Do this without bothering to read it.  Remember, if a study finds evidence suggestive of harm from spanking it therefore must be wrong.  So why waste time reading it?

 3) Obscurantism II - "You can make a study show anything you want it to show." Be careful, though.  Studies which show any measurable benefit from spanking are, of course, a mysterious exception to this supposed "rule." So be sure to ignore all requests for a citation of even one study which supports the position that spanking children has any long-term empirically-measurable benefits whatsoever.

 4) Treat All Research Data As Merely Someone's Opinion - "People who do scientific studies are all a bunch of permissive liberals."  A useful variation on this approach is to ridicule anything and everything and everyone you don't like as "politically correct."  Carefully avoid defining what this term means.  Hence, there will be no limit to what you can dismiss as "politically correct" without further elaboration.  Of course, be sure to behave as if merely labeling something "politically correct" exempts you from refuting it any further.

 5) Slander All Researchers - "It is easy to fake research data. Therefore let's ignore decades of accumulated research by assuming it is all fraudulent without any actual evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the researchers."  This method is excellent for arguing a position such as prospanking which has no empirical research support whatsoever.  If you are feeling particularly bold, combine this technique with technique #13. Insinuate that all published evidence of harm from spanking is the work of a vast New World Order conspiracy against traditional family values.  To back yourself up, cite something a caller said on right wing talk radio show late last night.

 6) Diversion - Change the subject.  If possible, try to divert discussion away from how to treat the next generation of children and onto metadiscussions about who was more "rude" to who and which "side" is more guilty of flaming whom.  In short, make yourself out to be the victim of those awful antispankers rather than your children being victims of your own acts of domestic violence. Claiming to be a victim of "gestapo CPS"  and charging all antispankers present with being CPS operatives works well also. (This technique works especially well when combined with technique #14.)

 7) Straw Man Demolition - Invent off-the-wall positions, attribute them to the antispankers, then express indignation, shock and disgust. Example: "So-and-so has stated repeatedly that any parent who gives their toddler so much as a single swat should do hard time in prison on a felony rap."  Be sure to name names and to "warn" newcomers to the newsgroup about what So-and-so "really" believes.  When So-and-so attempts to explain their actual views, call them a "liar" and lecture them publically, repeatedly, and at great length, for their "dishonesty." 

 8) Fraud - Counter empirical published data with made-up "facts" of your own invention.  Then demand that your opponents account for these alleged "facts."  If asked to back up such factual claims with evidence, claim that you already did so at some unspecified time in the past and can't be bothered doing it all over again.  Tell everyone to look up all your previous notes in DejaNews and read all of them in order to track down the note in which you allegedly settled the issue with "facts."  If someone attempts this and finds themselves unable to locate any such note from you, tell them to read all your notes over again.  If they still have the temerity to point out that you never actually did anything of the sort, go to technique #6 or, if you are really feeling your oats, to technique #11.

 9) False "Either/Or" Dichotomies - Assume that if a parent is not using corporal punishment then they must be verbally abusing their children.  Then condemn them for doing this to their child. Repeat this over and over again as if it were an established fact.  Be sure to lecture them about how much more harmful their abusive yelling supposedly is than hitting. With luck and persistence, this will eventually get the nonspanking parents so upset that they will waste all their online time insisting that they don't verbally abuse their kids.  This will prevent them from sharing any stories about nonpunitive win/win approaches to discipline which have worked for them and their children.  And if you really get lucky, the antispanker might get so fed up after awhile that they will verbally blast you.  Then you can sadly and publically reflect on how awful it must be for their children, who surely must live with such verbal tirades every waking hour of their lives.

 10) Unverifiable Anecdotes - Claim that your own anecdotal experience, or the experiences of other families whom you have "seen," is more valid than large random samples of thousands of respondents statisically controlled for a wide variety of variables and published in peer-reviewed medical journals.  Be sure to say, "it never did ME any harm!" and hold yourself up as an example of superior mental health and maturity.  Brag about how high your spanked children's grades are at school, as if this proved something.  Tell stories about how the kid down the block was never spanked and now he just turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole.  Always avoid providing identifying information which might allow someone else to check on the veracity of your anecdotes. Repeat this technique as often as necessary until your tormentors give up in disgust.  Then declare victory.  Of course, be careful to accept as evidence only anecdotes which support your postion.  Anecdotal evidence of harm from spanking merely indicates that the person speaking is inferior as a person and should grow up, get a life, and quit whining (see also technique #14).

 11)  Smoke and Mirrors - Post citations of studies, the longer the list the better. Claim that they are "studies supportive of spanking."  It is not necessary to read any of them before making this sort of claim. When someone who actually has read them points out that none of your cited studies, in fact, contains any empirical evidence of long-term benefit from spanking, just keep claiming otherwise without elaborating further. It will also help beef up the length of your list if you include quotations from prominent prospankers as if their unsupported opinions constituted a controlled "study."

 12)  Know-Nothing-ism - Remember that "Ignorance is Strength."  If you are really, really, really ignorant about statistics and research methods, you need never admit defeat in an argument.  Claim that even the most exhaustively random, large, and representative sample of the population can't possibly tell us anything meaningful and that only by individually polling every single member of the population can we obtain useful data.  Then claim that your own opinion is more valid than the results of "some study" of a representative sample of thousands of people nationwide. Whenever anyone politely attempts to explain what a  representative sample" is, blast them as a "lunatic fringe liberal" engaged in "pop psyche pap psychobabble." Remember, as long as you don't understand, or pretend not to understand, you don't ever have to concede any points. (For advanced study of the Know-Nothing-ism technique, see any issue of  The Creation Science Review or Flat Earth News.  See also, technique #4).

 13)  Conspiracy Theories - The fact that the entire corpus of scientific research on spanking has failed to find evidence of any long-term benefits while finding numerous strong correlations with a wide range of long-term ill effects proves that the scientific community is plotting to undermine traditional family values.  When asked why no prospank researchers have been able to empirically demonstrate evidence of long-term benefit from spanking, extend the scope of the conspiracy to include all grant funding agencies as well.  When asked why the existence of rich, prospank organizations such as Focus On The Family has still not facilitated the publication of research studies showing evidence of long-term benefit from spanking, ignore the question (technique #1) and change the subject (technique #6).

 14)  Ad Hominem - When confronted with an abundance of research evidence consistent with long-term harm from spanking, and with an absence of any such evidence consistent with long-term benefit, attack the person speaking. Accuse them of "lying" about what the research says; if challenged to provide evidence of such lies, just keep repeating the charge over and over again without evidence.  Accuse their children of being juvenile delinquents on crack (since they weren't spanked, they must be cold, ruthless, drug-addicted, psychopaths... no additional evidence is needed.  If pressed for evidence that lack of spanking invariably leads to such outcomes, say "wake up! look around you! get a clue, moron!!!" etc.)  Remember, as a prospanker, you may have no relevant formal training, no idea of what a publishable "study"  is, and no concept of what makes one line of reasoning valid and another one invalid.  But by golly, you can post mean-and-nasty flames as well as any PhD.-holding specialist in child development ever could!  Nothing levels the playing field and eliminates the many unfair advantages antispankers possess better than a good, content-free, mud-slinging, flamefest.

 15)  Argument By Assertion - Declare yourself to be in the right.  Whenever anyone asks you to support your claims with evidence, explain The Truth once again without explaining how you know with such certainty.  (Claiming to have a personal relationship with God who told you so Himself is an acceptable variant on this strategy). If pressed, treat your interrogators with steadily increasing condescension, as if they must be too dim-witted to understand what you are saying and therefore need to have it all explained to them one more time in patronizing baby talk; then tell them once again what the Truth "really" is while once again buttressing your position with no evidence.  Then ask them, "NOW do you get it??"  Never stop. Just keep repeating this technique indefinitely. Eventually, the antispankers will lose patience with you and will show it.  Then switch to technique #6.  If they are really mad at you, this might be a good time to use technique #9 also.

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     Leon Festinger and a team of social scientists in 1957 studied the behavior of members of a UFO cult under duress when aliens failed to land on Earth as predicted. Some in the cult dropped out when the announced deadline came and went; others redoubled their conviction in the face of disconfirming evidence. Festinger wrote:

"A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.

"We have all experienced the futility of trying to change a strong conviction, especially if the convinced person has some investment in his belief. We are familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed through the most devastating attacks.

"But man's resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other people to his view."