How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct (2015)

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DISCARDING YOUR OUTRAGE

Wake up one morning, and before you start reading anything that might get you angry, ask yourself what actually bugs you. Not what bugs your political “side”—but you, specifically.

I realized that by doing this exercise myself, I was able to chisel much of my disdain down to a handful of things—thereby eliminating objects that cause wasteful outrage. I find that now, when I read about stuff that used to piss me off (celebrity crap, Al Sharpton, the Entourage movie), it leaves me as calm as the medicated nude strangers in my basement.

So what do I feel is worthy of anger? My chart is, like me during the summer, pretty lean:

1.Outrage over words. I understand anger over actions—but not over language. If you get mad over language, then I should at least get to punch you. Then you’ll really have something to be mad about.

2.Identifying legitimate concern as hate. If you worry about crime, you are not a racist. If you worry about terror, you are not Islamophobic. If you wish that psychos wouldn’t try to shoot up a cartoon contest, you’re not insensitive to the feelings of Nutbags.

3.Divisive politics that seek to create factions to foment revolution.

4.Abusing taxpayers under the guise of compassion while falsely demonizing achievers as selfish.

5.Misprioritizing evil. Terrorism is slightly more important than white privilege—no matter what 99.9 percent of college professors think.

6.Unfair redistribution of slack. It’s why Trump gets nailed for crass language, but Sharpton somehow has power. Media bias effectively manages “the story”; they choose the heroes and villains.

7.Demonization of those who wish to question “settled” data.

Okay, it’s a longer list than I thought. But here’s what’s not on it:

THE LIBERTARIAN’S SEVEN UNCONCERNS

★ Sex. I don’t care who you sleep with, as long as it’s of age and doesn’t bark.

★Drugs. I don’t care what you take, as long as you don’t try to attack my family when you’re on it. Everyone has a right to oblivion. But you also have the right to maintain a professional high, and an occupation while you recreationally use—or you are just a dirtball living off the rest of us. Please do not publicly inflict your inebriation on strangers.

★ Religion. Mark me down as “I don’t know!” I have no belief in organized religion. And I think arguments over policy should not use any religious text as evidence. I love and hate believers and nonbelievers equally, but I am closer to the latter. But even if I were a stone cold apostle, I’d still admit it’s called “faith,” which means I have no right to expect others to believe what is clearly marked “something you choose to believe in.” Otherwise it would not be called “faith.” It would be called “fact.”

★ Gridlock. This is a made-up issue that has no downside other than all of us having to endure regurgitated stories about gridlock. The only thing you need to know is that gridlock is better than its opposite: a group of people wildly doing all sorts of stupid shit with your money (i.e., 2001–2010). I mean, they’re doing that already—so any kind of slowdown is awesome. “Gridlock” becomes a calamity, I notice, only when the Dems lose their legislative majority.

★ Gun rights. I write about guns a lot, but I realize no one is taking your guns away. Believe me: they are not that dumb. The real battle is not over protecting your right to bear arms, but about expanding ownership. The travesty is that, as a New Yorker, I can’t protect myself the way my good friend Wade can in a neighboring state (Wade has a bazooka made of smaller bazookas).

★ Government spending. I hate it as much as you—but it’s never going away. It’s here to stay—like death, ads for auto insurance, and catheter commercials. The constant complaint about spending is a ruse that allows you to let off steam, so you continue paying. The stories of government abuse are funny, but it’s better to find ways to make sure they can’t get your money. It’s not theft; it’s your money.

★ Liberals. We love bashing them. They irritate us. But as long as there are teenagers, there will be liberals. And they’ll likely be entertainers, professors, and artists. I found that constantly railing against liberal actors is the mirror of lefties screaming about greedy Republican bankers. It’s a clichéd reflex that changes nothing. Actors are supposed to be stupid. And bankers are supposed to be greedy. (I feel a song coming on.)

HOW TO WIN AN ARGUMENT WITHOUT TALKING

The key to winning an argument is to have your wits—and your wit—about you.

Arguing should be fun, and you should make it fun. Remember, the people you will argue with are amusing by virtue of perspective alone, and your strategy is only to listen with great patience and tease out their weak points. Then have fun with that mess. The most important weapon you have is the mischievous ability to create discomfort.

When it’s your turn to talk, you should already have considered your predictable response, and are then ready to say the opposite. People hate arguing with unpredictable adversaries. It’s like conversing with a homeless meth head. Re-create that vibe (but without soiling your pants).

And, as always, when your opponent is in the middle of making an important point, look over their shoulder as though there’s a fast-moving vehicle heading in their direction. (This doesn’t work in email exchanges.)