So, you've found yourself discussing a controversial topic on some online platform, and someone has dared to challenge your view. You know that you must rise to the occasion and prove them wrong, but you're not sure how. What should you do?
You may be aware of so-called best practices for arguments. Disregard these. What do you think this is, high school debating club? No one here has the time, attention span or open-mindedness for thorough and rational discourse; and once your opponents and spectators have lost interest, you've lost the argument. What you need to bear in mind is that online disputes aren't won with counterarguments, but with comebacks.
Fortunately, comebacks are simple to make, as they need not be logical or even relevant. Remember, your goal is not to reason with your opponent, but to send them into a state of humiliation. The term for such a state is usually platform-specific; examples include 'destroyed', 'owned', 'r/MurderedByWords', 'ratioed', and 'btfo'. Comebacks also need not be original. Studies of arguments on various online platforms have revealed that most winning responses follow one or more distinctive formulae, which will be outlined in this article. Armed with these tried-and-true tactics, you will become the ultimate keyboard warrior.
Most internet users have been conditioned to have strong reactions to certain words. These words often (but not always) end in '-ism' or '-phobia', and their definitions have been so obscured due to indiscriminate usage that most people have only the vaguest idea of what they mean. They just know that whatever the words mean is abhorrent. This is convenient for you; the vagueness surrounding the words' meanings enables you to use them in any somewhat relevant context.
Where possible, use one or more of these words to refer to your opponent's point. This will let others know immediately that your opponent's views are disgusting and wrong, and save them the trouble of having to consider the specifics. Make sure to use words that have been proven effective on your platform, otherwise everyone will take your opponent's side.
If you can prove that your opponent is a bad person, you've won the argument, because that means that they cannot possibly have reasonable views on anything.
If you are on a platform where users' posts are recorded, one of the most effective ways to prove your opponent's vileness is to unearth a previous post of theirs that would be considered unacceptable by the majority of the platform's users. (If necessary, you can explain why the post is unacceptable, perhaps using a buzzword or two to make your point clear.) This will count as sufficient proof that your opponent is no good, because it is not possible for them to have changed their views since then.
If your opponent has been so unwise as to claim to be part of a certain group (sex, race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, political orientation, etc.), be sure to use this to your advantage. On every platform, certain groups of people are believed to be in the wrong. If your opponent says they belong to one of these, mention it; this way everyone will instantly see them for the villain they are. If they say they are part of a group considered good by your platform, you have two options. You can accuse them of lying, because there's no way that they can simultaneously disagree with you and be one of the good guys; or you can accuse them of being a traitor to their group. Either way, you will show that they are a bad person and their opinion is therefore worthless.
Ad Hominem Attacks
These work similarly to character assassination, but, unlike character assassination, do not ignore your opponent's argument entirely. While character assassination states that 'you are bad so your opinion need not be considered', ad hominem attacks state that 'your opinion is the result of you being bad, and is therefore wrong'.
A common and effective strategy for staging an ad hominem attack is to accuse your opponent of projecting. 'Projection' is a well-known buzzword, so you won't need to try too hard (or at all) to convince everyone that your opponent is actually doing it. Once you have achieved this, you will have not only invalidated your opponent's argument, but also impressed your audience by showing them how smart you are for figuring out your opponent's 'mental gymnastics'.
Other things you can accuse your opponent of include, but are not limited to, 'bitterness', 'insecurity', 'immaturity', and 'edginess'.
If your opponent's views are insufficiently extreme for you to call them out straight away, a bit of extrapolation and hyperbole will come in handy. Interpret the logic of your opponent's argument as loosely as is necessary, then apply it to a situation which your platform's users will see as unquestionably unacceptable. You have now shown that your opponent has extreme views, because the reasoning you applied to their point is of course exactly the same as theirs.
Another way to demonise your inconveniently reasonable opponent is to simply make stuff up. Take a well-known stereotype that is widely hated by your platform's userbase, and assert that your opponent shares certain motives/characteristics with this stereotype. Internet users love to label and generalise, so they will believe you and turn against your opponent, or rather, the image of your opponent that you created.
Many other effective strategies besides strawmen involve making things up. A notable example is making vague references to 'studies' that prove you right. Your audience will probably be too lazy to check whether these exist.
During an online argument, it is essential that you gain the support of your audience. People on the internet are more open to the views of those who present themselves with an entertaining persona. If you cannot engage your audience, they will dismiss you as not worth their time, and you will have lost the argument.
One failsafe way to entertain your audience is to be obnoxious. Snarky responses grab people's attention and show personality, as opposed to earnest, serious reasoning which may as well be coming from a robot and will make you look like a loser.
Few things will make you appear as powerful as total dismissal of your opponent's argument. Few things will make your audience favour you as much as appealing to their sense of humour. These two tactics can be merged into an unstoppable combo — the stock insult.
Stock insults are also wondrously easy to make. For every platform, there is a selection of jokes that, instead of growing old and clichéd, get funnier with every use. Hence, many online arguments can be won by simply declaring that your opponent has a small penis, low IQ, promiscuous mother, etc. Your audience will be too busy collapsing in fits of Pavlovian laughter and rushing to post your triumph on r/MurderedByWords to even remember what the argument was about.
If you are on a platform inhabited by people who fancy themselves to be of above average intelligence, your audience will probably be vaguely aware of the above strategies. Before suspicion arises regarding your debating skill, be sure to accuse your opponent of the very misdemeanours you are committing (along with others such as poor grammar or omitting sources). Since your audience is in reality no more intelligent than any other platform's userbase, they will probably fall for it and take your side.
Proving your opponent to be a poor debater invalidates their views, because they cannot possibly be correct and argue badly. Make sure that you call out your opponent first, as opposed to them calling you out and you having to react; if the latter happens you have already lost.
On other platforms, nitpicking will turn your audience against you. The strategy to use in this case is to accuse your opponent of being a nitpicking smartass. Ironically, the anti-nitpicking strategy has a similar effect on the audience to the nitpicking strategy.