Conservatives and Leftists no longer have common ground in debates. Increasingly conservatives make the mistake of repeating facts in response to arguments founded on emotion. Thus, conservative arguments fail to persuade Leftists every single time. While a conservative builds his or her argument on undeniable facts and statistical data, a leftist builds his or her argument on identity politics.
When I taught first year composition as a graduate student, I allowed my students to pick their own topics. Many of them chose global climate change and spent an entire semester trying to cherry-pick articles and books that supported the beliefs they already held about climate change. If a person told them they did not believe the global climate alarmists’ conclusions (a reasonable position considering the failure of every single climate model since the ‘70’s), they would NEVER believe another word that person said. Because they believed so religiously in climate change, anyone who didn’t worship at its altar was by nature so insane that they were instantly not only discredited, but might also be considered criminally negligent. Hence Bill Nye’s desire to place “climate deniers” in jail.
This is why Crowder’s argument with Cristopher Titus failed and why it will always fail. Christopher Titus spent an inordinate amount of time in the beginning of the discussion building his ethos. His friends and family are highly trained, they’re soldiers, they’re policemen, he owns a gun, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam. He even diverted the argument back to his unique credibility often as a response to Steven pointing out that he was uneducated about open carry versus concealed carry. He’s building an identity politics argument and he is therefore incapable of being persuaded by facts, logic, or reason.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s a time and a place for flat out saying, “You’re wrong.” This gambit helps to persuade the audience watching the debate that the arguments that sounded reasonable on the leftist’s side are actually based on things that aren’t true. There’s a time and a place for making fun of leftist ideas, as Ben Shapiro advocates when he calls for using the Rules for Radicals playbook against them. These things are intended to persuade the audience who are not taking part in the debate itself.
But if we’re really dedicated to converting leftists toward conservative values, we have to stop ignoring the part of the argument that they value most. Like hammers, which can be used incorrectly or immorally resulting in violence and death, identity politics is simply a tool. The left is winning the game because they know how to use pathos as a weapon. Conservative speakers scorn pathos because they know that they’re right already because the facts, conclusions, and solutions that have been proven to work in the real world are all on their side. So they make the fatal mistake of ignoring the most potent means of persuading everyone else to come to where the truth lives.
The Wizard’s First Rule is that people are stupid; they will believe a lie because they want it to be true or because they are afraid that it’s true. The Third Rule is that passion rules reason. Leftists have always used these to their advantage. Christopher Titus thinks he was making a reasonable case for gun control because he believes people are stupid. His mother and his sister both killed themselves using guns therefore individuals are not smart enough to own guns. He wants to sell this lie by playing on peoples’ emotions.
It is truly very sad that he lost two important women in his life. Using their stories to build his idea is an attempt to make his audience afraid that such things might happen to the valuable people in our lives too. And don’t you want to protect your loved ones? Or maybe you don’t care about 30,000 people dead every year. Sound familiar? This invokes the third rule: his passion has overridden his reason and he wants yours to override your reason as well.
But Christopher isn’t actually arguing about gun control. He’s grieving. He’s experiencing profound loss and it has caused him to lash out at the completely wrong target.
So what does a good conservative do? You decide what you want the outcome of the debate to be first. Do you want to pander to your already conservative gun-friendly audience and make the Leftist scream until he’s red in the face?
Or do you want to lay the groundwork for converting your Leftist friend to conservatism?
We’ve been fighting a losing battle, friends, because passion always rules reason. Passion must be redirected and trained to become the servant of reason. And Leftists need to be redirected and trained before they can even begin to hear why we’re right and they’re wrong. Because the Wizard’s Second Rule is that the greatest harm can arise from the best of intentions.
So invite Christopher Titus on again. And this time, force him to defend not his ideas or his statistics but his motivation. He wants gun control because he thinks that a national registry of gun owners will somehow magically prevent suicide and violence. We know this is wrong because there’s plenty of evidence that crime has increased in areas with strict gun control and we also understand that if a person will break laws to rape, he will also break gun laws to buy illegal weapons.
So turn this discussion on its head. Stop quoting your facts and fact-checking all his false information. Start by listening to what he’s not saying.
Make it a discussion about mental illness and what a poor job America does caring for the mentally ill. The system between psychiatrists and big pharmaceutical companies nearly guarantees that people in need of help and attention are simply medicated into submission and marginalized. America is the most heavily medicated nation on Earth. A conservative and a leftist can find ground here to begin to address the suicide rate.
Turn the discussion toward human nature. Criminals are going to break any law you can think of to implement. We cannot control the behavior of others. We can only control our own. Therefore, it behooves us as law-abiding citizens to take charge of protecting ourselves and others from the violence and crime of our neighborhoods.
It’s easy to point out that more people are murdered by hammers than guns every year but all of those people are still dead no matter what weapon was used. Because all of those hammers and guns were used by another human being. Christopher Titus is not really raging against guns; he’s raging against the impulses that caused his mother and sister to take their own lives. He’s really raging against the evil of doing violence to innocent people.
Turn his passion for reducing the suicide and murder rate toward the right target. It’s not guns. It’s the crisis of mental illness and the various divisions and hatreds that fuel violent crime. Divisions that have been fueled and encouraged by leftists. What if we tried an entirely new approach?