How to win an argument

Other languages:
This page contains material intended to be humorous. It is not healthy nor should it be taken seriously or literally.
(English) This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

Other languages: deutsch, česky, magyar, slovensky, español

  • Be sure to get the last word. People have short memories. If you do not get the last word, no one will remember what you have said. If this requires repeating your argument 50 times, so be it. This may appear repetitive, however, which will cause people to begin ignoring your messages; you may wish to alter a few words each time rather than repeating it verbatim. This will make it appear as if it were an entirely new message.
  • Reply to every comment. Not addressing the concerns raised by others will make it appear as if you are evading them. Thus it is important to address every comment made in a thread. If you are discussing on the mailing list, you must reply to every message. If you consolidate your responses, some people may miss that you have responded to a point addressed in another message. Therefore, you should reply to every message, even if your reply is only one sentence long and contains the same argument you have already made.
    • Reply to only one element of each comment. If you argue strongly enough about a single sentence in another editor's comment, it makes it look like that sentence was the only point they were trying to make, and since your reply proves that sentence wrong, everyone will know your position supersedes the entire comment. Just make sure you choose a sentence that's close to the end of their comment, since people only scroll down, never up, when reading talk pages.
  • Remember that Wikipedia is an experiment in mob rule. The only way to ensure that your position is heard over the din is to create a mob. Sometimes, there are so few reasonable people willing to support you that you must create your own mob. Be sure to give them clever names subtly reinforcing your position, as this will make it appear that these editors have already shown an interest in your position and are merely supporting an issue they are concerned about, rather than being sockpuppets. You should also post as an IP (or two, or twenty), so no one will trace it back to your account. This will create a majority on your side and you will win.
  • Be bold in updating policy. This is a wiki. If policy does not conform to the way things ought to be done, edit it. Editing it right before you cite the relevant page will impress others: they are not familiar with the new policies, and you are.
  • Your opponents are vandals. If you can't edit policy, you can decide it says something else. After all, if you disagree with the interpretation, there is no consensus, and what's more, anyone disagreeing with you is clearly deliberately attempting to compromise the content. You are free to revert, block, ban or take any action necessary to keep their vandalistic opinions away from your work.
  • Assume that you are more intelligent and rational than your opponent. This is usually a safe assumption. After all, if they were as intelligent as you were, they would agree with you! From here you may argue from the position of intellectual and moral superiority. Stating that if other editors would just consider the problem for as long as you have, they would come around to your point of view, is an effective response. After all, how can they argue? They have been wasting their time editing their own subjects, while you have remained the staunch defender of your position for your entire editing career.
  • Remember the true meaning of NPOV. NPOV means that nobody may delete a POV. All POVs must be in an article to make it NPOV, so your opinion must have a space. Those who want to delete your theory, no matter how minor, are breaking NPOV and going against one of the most foundational principles of Wikipedia. Instead, insist that others should enlarge the article with their own POV so that it can be even more neutral and representative.
  • If you are alone, you must be right. All great geniuses were at first standing alone with their visions while the rabble persisted in their misguided way of thinking. Therefore, if you are the sole holder of an unpopular position you know will solve the wiki's problems, you are thinking ahead of the crowd. If you are alone, do not back down; opposition only proves how much your input is needed to correct bias. If they tell you that you're all alone, explain that Wikipedia is not a democracy.
  • Know your rights. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects your freedom of expression and being blocked is an infringement of that right. Also, state and federal consumer protection laws make it a punishable offense for the site to advertise that "anyone can edit" and still block you. If you are blocked, don't hesitate to file a complaint; the relevant agencies will be very interested in hearing from you. And if you are CheckUsered, the Freedom Of Information Act requires that Wikimedia tell you what the results were, so don't listen when they say they can't, and tell them you know your rights under the law.
  • Do not water down your language. Using words like "I think" and "in my opinion" water down the effect of your argument. You must state, unequivocally, that your position is the only reasonable one. If it is true that it would be idiotic to disagree, intellectual honesty requires that you say so. Calling the intelligence of your opponents into question will shock them out of their misguided thinking and make them question their assumptions, so they will eventually come around to your position.
  • If all else fails, remember that Jimbo is on your side. Wikipedia was created to be a free, open encyclopedia that anyone can edit. And that means you. By shutting out your positions, other editors are censoring you, and that runs counter to the spirit of the project. Bringing Jimbo into it by leaving a concise message on his talk page (6 or 7 paragraphs will do) will ensure that the others will see the error of their ways.
  • Demand citations (including page numbers) for all claims. And if anyone ever provides one, you may dismiss it point-blank. If the cited work was a classic in its field, it must be out-dated and therefore inaccurate. If you've never heard of it, it's just an anecdotal coffee-table book with no status what-so-ever. And you can always deny the author's expertise — no amount of acknowledgement by his peers has to suffice to you. You know better. Or, if the work was put together by a panel, the cited part was probably added by a layman proof-reader without subsequent review. If someone floods the argument with multiple sources, dismiss one of them as derisively as you can and you can ignore the rest. If someone ever demands you to cite your claims, just say that it is all common knowledge. If they keep insisting on a source, say: "do a Google search, it's all there".
  • Never leave the argument. If the argument is going nowhere in an endless cycle, tell the opposition that the project is hopelessly broken and announce that you're going to leave Wikipedia forever. Tell them that Wikipedia isn't what it used to be, and they'll be sorry when they come to realize what you now know. Post a bitter farewell message on your user page. Then, keep on arguing. When others start asking "weren't you leaving?", tell them that you're not going to reason with idiots and pretend to ignore them, while continuing to make your grievances known wherever possible.
  • Explain why you are an expert on the topic. It is possible to lend weight to your own pronouncements by declaring yourself to be an expert on a topic. No proof, resume or documentation need be provided since those who doubt you can be accused of having bad faith.

See also