Signature FoRK Debate Moves

Jeff Bone
Sat, 02 Jun 2001 04:06:49 -0500

(In memory of CobraBoy...  Humor Ark Ark?)

So much as I hate to say it, FoRK is pretty analogous to the WWF in
many ways.  As such, it too has its signature moves.  In
deconstructing the recent rambles and pondering the Debate-O-Matic
ideas that have been tossed about, it occurred to me that it might be
worthwhile to document some of those signature moves.  Here's a rough
cut.  (Before anybody starts yelling, let me acknowledge that I
indulge in almost all if not every one of these myself on a regular
basis.  This isn't (hypo)criticism, it's reflection.)

The Character Assassination

The Character Assassination is a classic maneuver with a fairly
self-explanatory name.  Rather than attacking the point of argument
itself, the attacker seeks to undermine the defendant his/herself.
This is done in a variety of ways, yielding variations that are each
themselves worthy of study.  The general character assassination
attack can take two modes:  direct and indirect.  In the direct
attack, the attacker draws directly from the surrounding debate
context in order to build material --- relevant or not --- which is
positioned to undermine the defendant's credibility, and therefore
weaken their position.  In the indirect attack, the attacker uses
context outside of the debate itself to executive the move.

The Stereotype Assassination
The Stereotype Assassination is a variation on the Character
Assassination.  In it, the attacker seeks to draw parallels --- real
or otherwise --- between the defendant's position and a tendency to
unthinkingly buy into stereotypes.  Because we all "know" that
stereotypes are over generalizations, narrow-minded, and generally
"wrong" the attacker is able to undermine the defendant's credibility
and therefore their position without addressing specific issues at
all.  The stereotype maneuver is ironic in nature;  the attacker is
usually utilizing unfounded generalization from the defendant's
actual argument in order to paint the defendant as engaging in
stereotyped thinking.

The Category Assassination
The Category Assassination is in many respects the ironic complement
of the Stereotype Assassination.  In this move, the attacker builds
the perception in the audience's mind that the defendant belongs to
some particular category, and then makes the assertion that the
category in question has some particular stereotyped mindset /
behavior / what have you;  by having such behavior, the attacker
asserts, the defendant cannot possibly have a position of merit -wrt-
the current debate.

The Context Stomp
The Context Stomp is a cheap but effective maneuver.  In it, the
attacker intentionally misrepresents something the defendant
asserted, taking a particular point out of context and flaying the
hell out of it.  Doing so may or may not detract from the defendant's
position, but it certainly distracts.  The defendant is put on the
defensive, and must clean up the situation before proceeding to
prosecute his or her point.

The Level Lunge
The Level Lunge is another distraction maneuver.  The attacker seeks
to gain points by plummeting down the metalevel ladder;  first, the
meta-argument is attacked, and then the meta-meta-argument, and so
on.  This is a good maneuver to engage when the attacker is on the
outs, losing the fight, as it can force a stalemate.  (A successful
Level Lunge resulting in a stalemate is referred to a Stack Overflow

The Slight-Of-Hand Strawman
In the Slight-Of-Hand Strawman, the attacker directly engages the
defendant's arguments, but during the process subtly shifts the
point.  After doing this long enough, the attacker has constructed a
weak strawman which is quickly knocked down for the kill.  The SOHS
is widely regarded as a cheap maneuver not worthy of FoRK.  In past
lives though not on FoRK, Gojomo has been known to be a skillful
master of this maneuver.

The Zecious Zero
In the Zecious Zero, the attacker tediously constructs an apparently
logical framework, states that it is formally correct and any
disagreement must therefore be merely a definitional / semantic
matter, and vigorously defends the formal framework.  It should be
noted that in most cases the framework constructed is "zecious" in
the extreme;  while having the appearance of a very detailed formal
framework, it is usually internally inconsistent.  Only the
complexity of the framework hides the inconsistency.  (Kudos to
Gordon Mohr for coining the term "zecious.")

The Extrapolation Explosion
The Extrapolation Explosion is a combo Context Stomp / SOHS special.
In it, the attacker puts together multiple iterative context stomps
and SOHSes in one post, extrapolating from the current debate, until
the defendant's argument is so grossly distorted that it cannot
maintain its integrity.  This move is extremely hard to defend
against;  in this regard, it resembles the Level Lunge in that
attempting to counter usually results in Stack Overflow Termination.

The Insinuendo
The Insinuendo is not an attack per se, rather a feint.  It is a mild
and subtle CA move which is not intended to score but rather to
disorient the defendant and plant the seeds of doubt in the minds of
the audience.  When executed correctly, it can be very effective;
however, FoRK isn't a particularly subtle place, so we don't even see
this one attempted very often.

The Jane-You-Ignorant-Slut
The JYIS is an Insinuendo without the subtlety.  It is almost
entirely ineffective in either disorienting the defendant or in
seeding doubt among the audience, but it does have one beneficial
effect.  When executed well, it demonstrates the attacker's superb
sense of humor and comedic timing, and therefore scores points *for*
the attacker without actually taking them away from the defendant.
FoRK tends to see JYIS at the tail end of threads collapsing into
rhetorical holes, which is unfortunate;  it's a beautiful maneuver,
but worthless in such a situation.

The Mortar Lob
The Mortar Lob is the Hail Mary of our moves.  It involves
drastically changing the topic mid-thread, making an extreme shift
towards some position entirely unrelated, and firing away.  It is
usually a last ditch effort employed as a defensive conversion
maneuver when one is on the way out.  The Mortar Lob almost never
works, but if you don't try it, you're a pussy.

The Loaded Word Gambit
In this move, the attacker loads the argument up with words which
carry significant emotional baggage and implication.  By appealing to
the knee-jerk interpretations of these words, the attacker seeks to
gain the advantage.  The Loaded Word Gambit is almost never
effective, and often results in the Semantic-Spiral-Of-Death.

The Semantic Death Spiral
This maneuver is often used in either of two contexts.  It is often
engaged when both positions are rhetorically strong, or when the
rhetorical frameworks employed cannot be meshed at all.  It's an
endless recursion of definitional arguments, with each combatant
seeking to co-opt the other's argument by defining away any
disagreement.  The Faith Thread is a good recent example of a tag
team SDS bout.

The Curse and Recurse
The Curse and Recurse is a disorienting attack in which the attacker
gets all wiggy to throw the defendant off, pops the stack, then
circles back around to resume the same attack sequence that didn't
work the first time around.  This can go on forever unless it falls
into some terminal sequence.

The Old Post Resurrection Embarrassment
In this attack, the attacker diligently --- perhaps through a
significant act of e-mail archaeology --- seeks to undermine the
opponent's position.  This attack can take a variety of forms.  It is
often used to illustrate some (potentially irrelevant) inconsistency
between the defendant's current position and some position adopted in
a previous bout.  It can also be used, as by Greg Bolcer recently, to
illustrate the fundamental incorrectness of the defendant's position
by referring to a previous post made by somebody else.  When deployed
as the latter, this move is also known as The FoRK Historical
Stupidity Attack.  There is no effective defense against the Old Post
Resurrection Nightmare, though the defendant may sometimes attempt
the Teflon Don in retaliation.

The Drunken Master
The Drunken Master is a move intended to completely imbalance the
attacker.  It is often employed after a brief hiatus during which the
attacker engages in some late night substance abuse;  the attacker
then blathers at top volume until the defendant is totally
unbalanced, at which point the attacker attempts to close in for the
kill.  (And usually falls on his/her face in the process.)  The
Drunken Master always feels good at the time, but is usually
regretted the next day.

The Pedantic Nightmare
The Pedantic Nightmare is the complement of the Semantic Death
Spiral.  In it, the argument is focused on its formal structure,
without regard to semantics.  The attacker seeks to use endlessly
tedious formal reasoning in order to illustrate the inconsistency of
the defendant.  It is usually ineffective both through the attacker's
failure to prosecute it properly and the defendant's unwillingness to
let it happen.

The Dennis Miller
Also known as The Reference Roundhouse.  In this move, the attacker
attempts to co-opt credibility by dazzling the defendant and the
audience with a barrage of not particularly relevant references,
preferably obscure, usually nonauthoritative.  The theory is that if
the attacker has such a vast array of trivial knowledge at their
disposal, surely they are therefore correct in their assertions.  (I
know, it doesn't make sense, but that doesn't stop us from trying it
from time to time.)  The Dennis Miller is often coupled with the
Teflon Don when things go awry, which is pretty funny when you think
about it.  The Dennis Miller can be effective in the right context,
and is almost always fun to watch.

The Vocab Blitz
The Vocab Blitz is another credibility co-opt maneuver intended to
add punch to a particular attack.  The Vocab Blitz involves
maximizing the syllabic length of any and every possible word in a
particular parry in order to demonstrate the attacker's
intelligence.  Clearly, such a genius much be infallible.  (Or so the
thinking goes.)  The Vocab Blitz is cheap and meaningless.

The Link Slam
The Link Slam is an attempt to shore up an attack by over reference.
The theory is that clearly the attacker has researched the issue much
more thoroughly than the defendant.  Whether this is believed or not,
this can be effective;  it often sends the defendant on a fact chase,
therefore distracting them enough for the attacker to make a
finishing move.

The Psuedofact Slam
The Psuedofact Slam is like the Link Slam, but without the links.  In
this move, the attacker shores up their position with a seemingly
limitless array of very specific sounding and potentially believable
supporting "facts."  These "facts" need not and often do not have any
factual basis whatsoever;  the attacker need not even do a Google
beforehand, as no attribution or support is provided.  Only a
diligent defender can effectively parry a Psuedofact Slam.

Also known as The Cartman, the Screw-You-Guys-Im-Going-Home is a
defensive measure of last resort, effectively ending the bout without
a victory condition.  Pretty clear from its name what it consists of,
the SYGIGH was most recently effectively employed by our own Strata
in a debate with Yours Truly.  The SYGIGH almost always results in a
rematch, once the party who employs it decides a rematch is needed.

The False-Falling-On-Ones-Sword
This maneuver consists of the attacker feigning a conciliatory or
self deprecating position, in an attempt to draw the attacker in and
put them off guard.  It is usually immediately followed up by some
combo of the Slams, or even --- particularly effectively --- an Old
Post Resurrection Embarrassment.

The Overpost Armageddon
The Overpost Armageddon is a massive blitz of sequential follow-up
e-mails, each of which typically tears a single previous post apart
line by line, employing various attacks.  The goal of the Overpost
Armageddon is to completely overwhelm the defendant, making it
literally impossible for them to counter each attack.  The author is
periodically the reigning master of this particular maneuver, though
in his case this is believed to be the result of some
neuropsychological disorder such as TLE- or OCD-induced
hypergraphia.  The problem with this maneuver is that it usually
leaves everyone involved --- including the attacker --- exhausted for

The Teflon Don
This is a particularly obnoxious defensive maneuver in which one
eliminates all possibility of further damage simply by claiming that
the positions taken, rhetorical style employed, formal structure,
definitional correctness, or behavior in any way represent one's own
character, beliefs, etc.  The Teflon Don is a terminal move, which
cannot be countered, though it should be recognized for what it is:
the king of all cop-outs.

The Consistency Spasm
The Consistency Spasm is a disorienting attack in which the attacker
alternates between two obviously inconsistent positions in order to
find maximum advantage from which to press further attacks.  It's not
a pretty sight.  Only the most steadfast defendant will hang in there
instead of simply leaving the ring in disgust.

The Circular Thrash
The Circular Thrash employs single level circular "logic" in order to
support the attacker's position.  It's impossible to counter if
undetected, but is a risky proposition:  upon discovering a Circular
Thrash, the defendant needs to merely cry out "Shenanigans!" in order
to call the match and declare victory.  If this is done, the attacker
who attempted the Circular Thrash is usually surprised to find
themselves standing alone in the center of the ring, calling out
"Hey!  I wasn't done yet!"

The Running-To-The-Edges
The Running-To-The-Edges is a particularly sophisticated attack
derived from both the Extrapolation Explosion and the Level Lunge.
In it, the attacker immediately level jumps not with respect to the
meta-argument level but rather to the maturity-of-argument level.  In
doing so, the attacker takes the defendant's nascent and ill-defined
condition and fires a barrage of edge cases at it which appear to
contradict it.  The conceit is that this invalidates the defendant's
admittedly general argument, by implying that the edge cases cannot
be reconciled with the defendant's position.  Russell recently
introduced this maneuver to FoRK, where it has enjoyed immediate

The TrapperKeeper
Named for the South Park terminator spoof episode, The TrapperKeeper
is the most beautiful, elegant, and sought after of moves.  In it,
the attacker baits the defendant with arguments or assertions that
the defendant should conditionally agree with.  If the bait is
successful, if the defendant "touches" the attacker's TrapperKeeper,
sharp spikes shoot out to impale the defendant.  Unfortunately, the
TrapperKeeper has to this author's knowledge never been effectively
executed on FoRK.

The Tom Whore
The only eponymous move in our repertoire, The Tom Whore is a joy to
behold when executed properly.  In it, the attacker becomes
simultaneously so artfully obscure / obtuse that no retaliation is
possible.  The immediate effect is that the defendant is left looking
rather dazed while picking the Speedo wedgie out of their ass crack.

Whew.  Anyone have any additions or edits?

Your faithful servant,