How To Argue Like an International Chavista

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Quico says: After my epic, 200 post comments-thread-cum-PSF-free-for-all over on the Guardian’s Comment is Free site, I think I’ve learned some valuable lessons about the subtle art of arguing like an English trotskyite. It was a trip: most of the time it felt like I was up against the entire membership of Hands Off Venezuela. I walked off bruised, but wiser for it nonetheless.

So in the spirit of improving the debate, I thought I’d share my new insights with you, my PSF readers, by providing a handy How-To guide for the aspiring young international net-bound Bolivarian groupie.

There are a number of debating tactics you’ll need to master to argue like a genuine First World Chavista, but before we get to specifics, we need to get clear on the basics.

Basic Principles

1. Only the government tells the truth about Venezuela. This is the big one; your Golden Rule. Always treat evidence that does not come from chavista sources as self-evidently false, wrong, forged, or all three at the same time.

2. Every criticism has an ulterior motive. Never accept an adversary’s own characterization of his motivations. Always impute unambiguously evil motives onto him, and be sure to link every criticism he makes to said evil motive.

3. Links are dangerous. In online debates, never click through any link an adversary provides to document his argument. You risk lasting trauma arising from the terrible scourge of EFIPIC (Exposure to Facts Irreconcilable with Pre-existing Ideological Certainties) Syndrome. Each year, dozens of International Chavistas ignore this rule and end up suffering this painful condition, whose symptons include listlessness, depression, and the sudden, irresistible urge to go eat at McDonald’s. Protect yourself: never click through.

Keep those three principles in mind, and you should have no trouble applying:

The Ten Do’s and One Don’t of Raging PSFery
First off, relax. Arguing like a real International Chavista is easy. It requires little knowledge and absolutely no imagination. In a way, the less you know the better: facts can be so confusing.

Luckily, all you have to do is follow these handy, ready-made templates, making sure never to stray from them:

1. The Bush Distraction

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.
Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”
You: “George W. Bush punched loads of people in the face, way, way harder than that, too!”

2. The Classic Race/Class Bait

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.
Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”
You: “Under the old regime, poor/dark skinned people used to get punched in the face all the time; you’re only complaining because you’ve lost your privileges!”

3. The Unrelated Social Claim

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.
Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”
You: “UNICEF has declared Venezuela free of illiteracy, isn’t that what you’re really mad about?” [For best form, make sure your social claim is unambiguously wrong.]


4. The Cold War Era CIA Slam

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.
Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”
You: “The CIA has a long history of neo-colonial meddling in Latin America: they put you up to making these unfounded allegations, didn’t they?!”

5. The Matriz de Opinion Gambit

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.
Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”
You: “Well, I think it’s clear you are trying to establish a matriz de opinion to the effect that I punched you in the face.”

6. The Recitation of Constitutional Principles Maneuver

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.
Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”
You: “That’s impossible! The 1999 Bolivarian Constitution enshrines some of the strongest, most progressive safeguards against face-punching of any constitution in the world.”

7. The Dastardly MSM Riposte

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.
Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”
You: “You’re just parroting the same old tired propaganda we get from the corporate mainstream media all the time!”

8. The Election Evasion

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.
Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”
You: “If the revolution is so horrid that it goes around randomly punching people in the face, how do you explain the fact that Chávez has won 10 elections?!”
[Latinobarómetro Variant:“If the revolution is so horrid that it goes around punching people in the face, how do you explain the latest Latinobarómetro poll, which shows Venezuelans overwhelmingly approve of the current state of fist-face relations.”]

9. The Random Declaration of Non Evidence

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.
Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”
You: “I think it’s clear that you’ve failed to show any evidence that I punched you in the face.” [advanced practitioners might try a variant such as the Declaration of Non Evidence for Arguments That Were Never Actually Made, (e.g., “I think it’s clear that you’ve failed to show any evidence that I kicked you in the stomach”) or the Unilateral Declaration of Victory (e.g., “I think anyone can see your argument doesn’t make any sense at all.”) ]

10. The 11 de Abril Ruse

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.
Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”
You: “Where do you get off? You supported a coup against the democratically elected government of Venezuela!” [For best form, couch your attack in terms that could be applied directly to 4F.]

Those will be the main tools in your arsenal. Remember, practice makes perfect!

If you’re serious about becoming a real International Chavista debating champ, you need to grasp this: knowing what not to say is just as important as knowing what to say.

Whatever you do, never, ever say something like:

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.
Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”
You: “Well, I understand it hurts right now, and I certainly don’t expect you to be happy about it, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the prohibition on face-punching is a bourgeois conceit that creates insuperable obstacles to empowering poor people and helping them live better, safer, more dignified lives, so I decided that punching you in the face is justified under the circumstances, y’know, for the sake of the greater good.”

See, if you do that, you end up inhabiting the same world of facts as your opponent, potentially laying the groundwork for a fruitful dialogue in the future. If you’re not careful, you might even find yourself engaging with him in deliberation oriented towards crafting a shared understanding. Your job is to avoid such an outcome at any cost. We are better than them. Inhabiting the same world of facts as them can only sully us.

Advanced Application
Now that you know the Basic Principles and the Dos and the Don’ts of arguing like a fully paid up member of the International Chavista Brigade, the final step is learning how to combine them into a seamless, maximally obnoxious debating style.

With practice, you should be able to manage something like:

Walk up to a guy and punch him in the face.

Guy: “Heeeeyyy! You punched me in the face!”

You: “George W. Bush illegally invaded Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians…funny how we never seem to hear you complain about that!”

Guy: “God, my face really hurts now, why’d you have to punch me?!”

You: “What are you, the Miami Herald? You’re just parroting the tired old propaganda lies of the corporate mainstream media elite!”

Guy: “What the hell are you talking about? There are like 50 people here who just saw you…”

You: “It’s clear that you’ve failed to provide any evidence whatsoever that I kicked you in the groin.”

Guy: “Groin? Who said anything about any groin? Look, see how my eye is swelling up and going all black and blue now?”

You: “Well, you’re obviously trying to establish a matriz de opinion that says I just punched you in the face.”

Guy: “Well…yeah!…cuz you just punched me in the face!”

You: “If we chavistas are going around punching people in the face willy-nilly, how come in the latest Latinbarómetro poll Venezuelans overwhelmingly approve of the current state of fist-face relations? Huh? HUH?!

Guy: “Erm…well…jeez I guess it’s a good thing that many Venezuelans aren’t getting punched in the face, but I don’t really see how that excuses your punching me in the face just now.”

You: “Admit it! You’re only sore because Chávez created a free public health care system that never existed before…it sickens you to think that poor children are now able to see a doctor, doesn’t it? Isn’t that what this is really about?”

Guy: “Wait a minute, what the heck does that have to do with anything? You still punched me in the face!”

You: “That’s impossible! The 1999 Bolivarian Constitution contains some of the strongest, most progressive safeguards of any constitution in the world against face-punching.”

Guy: “I know! It sure would be nice if those safeguards were followed…I never said the constitution allows you to punch me in the face, I just said you punched me in the face!”

You: “Again with these wild-eyed allegations! Y’know, this constant barrage of unproven claims is very suspicious: just months before the Arbenz regime was overthrown in Guatemala in 1954, the CIA started spreading false rumors that people were randomly getting punched in the face…”

Guy: “Erm, I’d love to have a debate on Guatemalan history with you at some point, but in this context it’s hard to see what that has to do with…”

You: “Before Chávez, Afro-descended Venezuelans used to get punched in the face all the time; you’re only complaining because you’ve lost your privileges!”

Guy: “Ummmm…ooooo-kayyyyy…”

You: “How dare you even talk about face-punching after you supported a bloody coup against the elected government of Venezuela! What kind of blood-soaked fascist ogre pig could possibly support people who actually tried to violently overthrow an elected government?!! Huh?! ANSWER ME!!!”

Guy: whimpers off in despair

And that, comrades, is how you win an argument the International Chavista Way!

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