Robert Mercer Debate Challenge

Last updated: 12/24/01

Background

On November 25, 2001, I posted an update to my Myths page, in which I debunked the popular Trekkie myth that frequency matching (as a defensive Borg technique and an offensive Federation technique) should be applied to all sci-fi series, ie- a Federation ship can blast through an ISD's shields if they figure out the frequency. Shortly afterwards, I was informed that some of my detractors on the "vs" forums at spacebattles.com had posted critiques of its content. It should be noted that the "vs" forums have long been full of people who absolutely hate this site, and anyone who mentions my name is literally shouted down and derided for taking anything I say seriously (I've had enough pieces of spacebattles.com flame forwarded to me that I know this to be fact rather than rumour).

On December 2, I responded to their critique of my page by writing a critique of their critique. That seemed fair enough to me, but they apparently didn't think so. Two days later, Chris O'Farrell posted the following about me:

"Rather then contact me or try and debate with me, he runs to his own safe and secure site and posts his opinions abuot me and Goth without having the courage to even TRY to debate it with me or Goth."

Well, I don't know about anybody else, but I call that "throwing down the gauntlet". Never mind that critiquing someone's arguments from afar rather than directly via E-mail is precisely what they've been relentlessly doing to me for more than a year; it's apparently an act of cowardice for me to return the favour. Anyone who knows me will attest that I don't take accusations of cowardice lying down, so on the same night I heard about this, I immediately responded with the following challenge:

It has come to my attention that some of the spacebattles.com babies are taking time out from their usual activities of sniping at me from the safety of their friendly-moderated forums, and they're calling me a coward for criticizing them on my site rather than going to their moderated forum and singlehandedly taking on a gaggle of them at once. I fail to see how my reluctance to engage in such an obviously weighted activity constitutes cowardice (particularly in light of the rapid responses expected in discussion boards and my heavy schedule; how many of them have two kids to raise?), but I don't like being called a coward. Therefore, I am picking up this thrown gauntlet as of right now. To my spacebattles.com hecklers' gallery: grow a pair of testicles and appoint a champion. Let him and I agree upon a particular subject of debate. We will then hold a formal debate via E-mail, which he or she can post on spacebattles.com, and which I will also post on my own site. You've talked the talk, now walk the walk.

By the way, for the record, I would like to remind SBers that I do recognize the fact that there are people at spacebattles.com who either disagree with the group to which I am referring, or don't give a damn about them one way or another. I use the term "spacebattles.com babies" because that's where they've chosen to camp, not because I think every one of you is like them.

For four days, I heard nothing ... from them. However, I heard a lot of things from others. Ted Collins E-mailed me early the next morning to say that my challenge generated more than five pages of activity in the first night, and LordChaos (a forum mod) E-mailed later that same morning to say that the thread revolving around my challenge was already up to over 160 posts! Yet in all this activity, not one word was sent to me. I was told that they were practically stumbling over themselves in their haste to make up excuses for not answering my challenge, and that the people who were most dismissive of my activities (Alyeska, E1701, Chris O'Farrell) were the least interested in taking up the challenge. I decided to challenge them again:

It's pretty obvious to me what's happening. Either that's the smell of chicken in the air, or they're huddled together trying to figure out a set of debate rules which will give them maximum advantage. Pussies ... I made my challenge without having to confer with anyone, yet they're probably going to hold their little Trekkie clubhouse meetings for days until they figure out which nit they're going to pick on my site, and which rules of evidence they're going to graciously "allow" (all of which they will then presumably dictate to me rather than negotiating). I suppose this is my fault, for not being specific enough in my challenge. Very well, I will try to make it simpler for everyone concerned, by letting them know what I expect in advance:

Subject matter: since they have been relentlessly attacking my site since before I even knew they existed, it seems only reasonable that the subject of debate should be the subject of my site. My site claims that the Empire could effortlessly crush the Federation in a war, and almost all of its arguments relate to that central theme. They obviously disagree, so let them attempt to show why the Empire would not crush the Federation in a war. I'm not about to let them cop out and turn this into some kind of Trek trivia game, eg- a debate about how multi-phasic shields work. They know, I know, and everybody else knows what the heart of our disagreement is, and nitpicking around the periphery would be a waste of time.

Canon rules: Wayne Poe tells me that they're already running around complaining about the differing rules for inclusion of canon material between Paramount and Lucasfilms (you'd think they'd be negotiating these terms with me instead of each other). Very well, let them know that I don't give a damn. Include the TM, don't include the TM, whatever. Just make up your minds!

Limits: this thing has to have a start, an end, and a quick pace, otherwise it will simply drag on until onlookers lose all interest. My suggestions: each man gets five posts. Each man has two full evenings to respond to the other man's post, otherwise he forfeits (eg- if I send a post at midnight on Monday, he has Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening, so I must have his answer by Thursday morning, at which point I will have Thursday evening and Friday evening to respond).

Verbosity: Out of courtesy for the reader, each man should make a reasonable effort to limit the length of his posts (no unnecessary expansion of simple ideas; Gothmog, I'm looking at you).

Evidence: Sources must be explained. If you base your argument upon an episode, you must state what happened in that episode and how it supports your point, rather than something vague like "we know the Borg can adapt to anything because that's what they did in "Q Who"".

Order of battle: My opponent should send the first salvo. They will complain that this gives me the last word, but we all know that's meaningless since they will have all eternity to blast away at my "last word" in their forums. Frankly, I see no alternative, since the whole argument is about their claims that my site is invalid, so they should obviously start the debate by saying why my site is invalid, rather than me simply reiterating my longstanding position.

Finally, after posting this second challenge, I got a response, but not from any of the Trekkies in question. It was from Adam Gehrls, who admitted up front that "I am not a Trekkie. I do not like trek, I do not intend to debate it" and "I do not care if I win or lose". I believe him when he says he was just doing it for kicks and not deliberately trying to cause problems, but the Trekkies actually agreed to let him do it, even though they knew he wasn't one of them! I saw this as exceptional cowardice on their part. I wanted to debate one of them, so I baited them a third time:

Very cute, guys. You have now proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you are a bunch of babies, by letting Adam Gehrls accept the challenge on your behalf. He E-mailed me saying that he wanted to accept on your behalf just for kicks, and because no one else seemed ready to go through with it (is that the smell of chicken in the air? I think it is!). However, he admitted up front that "I do not care if I win or lose!" Nice trick; you get to pretend that you accepted the challenge, and you get me to waste my time debating someone who admits he doesn't care, so that if and when he either loses or concedes the point, you simply get to shake off the loss, saying that your "champion's" heart wasn't in it anyway. This is pathetic; I want to face off against one of your star players, not somebody who's just passing through and who doesn't care one way or another. If you people absolutely insist on letting him be your "champion" I will go through with it, but bear in mind that your use of a disinterested proxy debater will be absolute, irrefutable proof of your abject cowardice.

Finally, I got a response from Gothmog (I also got some interesting E-mail from Chris O'Farrell, alternately baiting me and trying to be nice to me, but he was yesterday's news as far as I was concerned because Gothmog was now standing front and centre), so I posted another update, putting an end to the drama and laying the groundwork for the debate which Chris O'Farrell accused me of being too cowardly to undertake.

When Chris O'Farrell accused me of cowardice on December 4 for not going to their forum and taking them all on at once, I took that as an incitement to immediate action (notice how the attack came against my character rather than the technical points I made in my rebuttal; apparently, this is quite common on that board). Much weaselling followed, as everyone seemed to find excuses not to answer my challenge. But finally, perhaps stung by my criticism of their decision to step back and let a bystander take me on, Gothmog stepped up and accepted the challenge (of course, Chris O'Farrell himself demurred).

Gothmog says he is willing to debate, and we will start discussing terms. In fairness, I must note that unlike Chris (never mind the rest of the board, which has apparently been howling about my timing, as if I decided when Chris would bait me), he made no excuses about not having the time to contact me before now (which is good, since excuses ring hollow when coming from people who have the time to fill up their forum with hundreds of posts in just a few days). He also used his real name, so I retract my erroneous comment (in the Hate Mail page) about how he didn't have the balls to do so.

Unfortunately for those who were hoping for good fireworks, he has already stated that he does not want to engage in flamewars, and he has conceded that the Empire enjoys a massive advantage over the Federation, so he wishes to debate only on smaller issues such as per-unit combat tactics. This takes some of the fun (well, a lot of the fun) out of it (no better way to deflate a debate than to agree with most of what your opponent is saying), but I hope the debate will still have some entertainment value for the masses (by conceding the main points, he's tacitly acknowledging that the board denizens' complaints about my site are mostly nitpicks, but I wonder if the rest of them will realize that).

At this point, negotiations began. Gothmog made the negotiations much more tedious than they had to be (near the end, I felt like I was arguing with a goddamned corporate lawyer), but in the process, he was forced to publicly acknowledge that the main points of my site are all correct, so he changed the subject of our debate from Star Trek versus Star Wars to some dry discussion of the philosophy of suspension of disbelief. Even though I wanted to defend my site against critics (funny how they all scurried away when I issued my challenge, much like cockroaches reacting to the light), I'm perfectly willing to debate Gothmog on this other subject.

Click here to see the negotiations.


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