Arguing With Idiots: Your Basic Debating Cheat Sheet

Andrew Lloyd

A list of ready-made comebacks, because it’s surprisingly hard to argue with a dunce.

“Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
― George Carlin

I really enjoy a good debate. I enjoy getting down to the matter with an invested opponent. It’s nice to have an honest conflict, with both of you firm on what you believe. Ideas travelling back and forth. Concepts building on concepts. Perspectives being shared, shifted or strengthened. I’m well into all that.

But I do not enjoy a bad debate.

A bad debate is one where you realise, suddenly, that the topic has become irrelevant. You know how it goes; your gentle discussion about Britain’s decision to leave the EU has somehow morphed into a senseless squabble about the Nazi party. Or the other way around;the person pointing in your face doesn’t care about the truth, they just care about undoing you. These types will ultimately avoid the subject matter and turn things into a battle of who is the loudest. And in the end, they will win, because their goal is to distract you entirely from whatever discussion you were attempting to have. These conversations are always a waste of Wi-Fi.

But these people are often dimwits, and dimwits tend to rely on other dimwits for their own dimwittery. Their arguments are frequently copied and pasted from the rest of society’s buffoons, which makes them very predictable.

So I’ve predicted them.

I’ve noticed the kind of unoriginal things people tend to say in these side arguments, in these sticky webs of wankery, and I’ve compiled a list. And attached to each item on that list is a ready-made rebuttal.

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So next time you’re faced with a noisy idiot, and they try to lure you off-topic, you can reference this cheat sheet, and get back on track with the point at hand.


There’s an official terminology for debating; those off-topic tactics have various names, like the straw man argument, or an ad hominem attack, but we won’t be getting that technical. Instead, we’ll be getting specific. So here are five lame arguments that idiots habitually make, followed by the least messy way to address them:

“You’re Just Jealous”

What it is: A very popular comeback, because it’s vague enough to be used in almost any discussion. Think Trump is wrong? You’re just jealous of his power. Think One Direction are lame? You’re just jealous of their fame. Think the police are too violent? You’re just jealous of their batons.

How to Reply: Jealousy is not the only motive for criticism. (Proceed with your original point).

“I’d like to see you do better”

What it is: The false suggestion that you’re not allowed to critique someone for doing something, if you can’t do it to an equal, or higher standard.

How to Reply: “You don’t need to be able to drive, to notice when someone else has crashed their car”. “You don’t need to be a chef, to notice when someone else has burnt their food”. “You don’t need to (follow with example relevant to topic)”.

“You’re just a keyboard-warrior troll”

What it is: A classic case of internet cliché usage.

How to Reply: “Let’s stick to the facts”. ( Then summarise your main points to bring the debate back into focus).


“At least we’re/they’re doing something about it”

What it is: Very similar to the “I’d like to see you do better” comeback, but with a vital difference. Whereas the former tends to come up when you criticise an ability, e.g. singing, dancing, etc. this line always comes up when you criticise an action (usually, but not always, a political action).

How to Reply: “Movement doesn’t always mean progress”. “Doing something doesn’t automatically mean you’re doing the right thing”.

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“If you’ve got nothing nice to say…”

What it is: The suggestion that you are not entitled to speak unless you are being complimentary about a topic or person.

How to reply: “A critique is usually a catalyst for improvement. Don’t rob (the topic/person) of that”.

And that’s it. That’s the kind of stuff I generally encounter whenever I’m having an online/actual-life discussion, and those are the ways that I tend to step around them.

Just to reiterate, the aforementioned comebacks are not designed to win your argument for you. Any debate worth having will be nuanced and complex, and can’t be won with a single remark. That’s what so great about a real discussion. That’s why it’s so frustrating when idiots try to shut them down with their unoriginal, and often irrelevant remarks. And that’s why my ripostes exist. Not to claim the victory for you – they can’t do that – but to lead you back on track. They aren’t the medal at the finish line, they are extra muscle in your legs, preparing you for the thickshit hurdles in front of you.
Good luck.

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