RSA General Background

Robert Scott Anderson (also known as Guardian 2000, Darkstar, and several other aliases) is a troll, but not just any troll. He is a troll whose troll powers were apparently forged in Mount Doom, with an uncanny knack for getting under peoples' skin.

He is an infamous and long-time participant on the newsgroups, where he demonstrated the following debate tactics:

  1. Wall of Ignorance™. Also known as the "broken record syndrome". The technique is simple but effective: no matter what your opponent says, simply repeat your claims until he gets bored or frustrated and either walks away or flames you, at which point you declare victory either way.

  2. Black Knight Syndrome™. Do you remember the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Even when his arms and legs were hacked off, he insisted that he was winning, and King Arthur was a coward for walking away. Like the Black Knight, RSA likes to talk at great length about how well he is doing, how dishonest his opponents are, how their points have been utterly destroyed by his superior logic, etc.

  3. Vague "evidence". To make a long story short, his standard of evidence for himself (where a picture with myriad possible interpretations is absolute proof of his particular interpretation) is totally different than his standard of evidence for others (where all of a sudden, those myriad possible alternate interpretations are recognized).

  4. Appeal to Motive. It doesn't matter what you do; if Darkstar doesn't like you, every action you take and every word you say will be analyzed for ulterior motives. It's a common political tactic: simply show why your opponent would want to make a certain argument, and dismiss it on that basis (note that "Appeal to Motive" is the name of a formal logic fallacy).

  5. Outright lies. If in doubt, lie. It's the oldest trick in the book, and while it's not as clever as some of his other tactics, it still works.

Like Graham Kennedy (who was also fond of the "Black Knight" and "wall of ignorance" debate tactics when he used to participate in the newsgroups, interestingly enough), RSA has made a website, at www.st-v-sw.net.

How to debate like Darkstar

If "UFOlogists" can get people to take them seriously, so can Darkstar, and indeed, he has attracted a small group of followers such as Andrew Joshua Talon (interestingly enough, his followers tend to share a distinct characteristic of being scientifically illiterate). But as we have seen in Talon's case, his followers have trouble successfully emulating his finely honed debate technique. For the most part, these people tend to skulk in less visible forums of sci-fi "vs" debating than my own BBS or the Spacebattles BBS, mostly because they tend to get thumped too easily in both venues. But where are they to hone their skills, when they mostly try to seek out places where their opponents have never seriously studied the subject? How are they to learn how to emulate him? A tough dilemma indeed. So for all those who would follow in his footsteps, let me explain how you too can debate like Darkstar:

  1. The most important rule: you must never allow anyone to question your personal definition of Canon. You must never allow someone to bring up the Lucasfilm definition of Canon. All who attempt to do so must be attacked vigorously and repeatedly. But do not attack on the basis of their claim that all of the quotes you use for your Canon policy can easily be interpreted differently; that is a dangerous avenue, since semantics is not an exact science and you don't want to admit that. No, you must instead attack their motives. You cannot back down on this point one iota, because even the tiniest deviation from your carefully selected list of acceptable sources makes all of your most important arguments fall apart completely. And you don't want people looking too closely at your "Canon Policy" rather than your opponents'motives, because it won't survive scrutiny due to serious self-contradictions (for example, after harping on the fact that the only "absolute canon" is the movies, you need to turn around and quote the "artificial sun" part of the ANH novelization to "prove" that the Death Star runs on nuclear fusion; best not to call attention to this).

  2. Use a lot of unnecessary flourishes. If someone says something you disagree with, never just say "wrong"; say something like "completely, utterly, irrevocably false". Remember: if you are more emphatic, that means you're winning.

  3. Never let even the most insignificant potential point go by. If someone writes three sentences from which you can somehow extract 8 different angles of attack, use them all. Never be satisfied with a response unless it's three times longer than whatever you're responding to. Nitpick every conceivable detail, pounce on even the tiniest error or omission even if it is completely irrelevant to the main point under discussion, seize every opportunity to harangue your opponent for any facet of his debating tactics which might be interpreted as anything less than impeccably impartial and unbiased (even though it is not a reasonable expectation of a debater to have no bias towards his own position). "But that would take a lot of work!" you might protest. Well, too bad. That's the discipline. No one said that being a Darkstar clone would be easy. It's a hard life; you must be willing to make sacrifices (such as your social life).

  4. If someone accuses you of a logical fallacy, say "completely, utterly, irrevocably false", link to an online definition of that fallacy (even if it completely fits your argument) and then accuse him of deceit, ignorance, and stupidity for accusing you of a fallacy you did not commit (even if you did). After all, most readers won't actually bother clicking on the link, so this will imply that the source of the link agrees with you.

  5. If someone presents evidence or an argument which you can't handle, respond by attacking his motives for presenting it and accusing him of dishonesty for presenting an argument or evidence which is designed to help his cause (as silly as this sounds, it actually sounds quite convincing to uneducated viewers). This rhetorical technique is designed to shift the focus of the debate onto your opponent's integrity and motives. All but the most disciplined opponents will take the bait and defend themselves at this point, because you have just cleverly attacked their character without obviously insulting them.

  6. Accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being a mindless "Disciple of Wong" if he cites anything from my website or even agrees with any of its conclusions. It doesn't matter whether he can argue the point on his own; the instant he appears to agree with anything I've said, accuse him of being part of the "Warsie conspiracy" led by me. The idea is to attack his personal credibility in the eyes of viewers by making it seem as if he doesn't really understand the subject matter and is just mindlessly parroting me. Remember: any argument quoted from my website is automatically invalidated simply by coming from my website, so it doesn't have to be addressed in any way other than attacking me and anyone who might dare to quote me. If he accuses you of an ad-hominem fallacy, see step #4.

  7. Whenever someone asks you for evidence which you don't have, simply say "I have already presented it" (even if you haven't) and then attack his competence and integrity for implying otherwise.

  8. Whenever someone asks you to deal with a point which you can't really address (the most famous example being the fact that he cannot explain how his mystery MCR/unshielded-Alderaan "theory" creates effects such as the fire rings or white-hot incandescence which shoots around the atmosphere to the far side of the planet before it touches the oceans around the point of contact), repeat above procedure and simply say "I have already answered that, many times". Followed by numerous attacks directed toward your opponent's integrity and various accusations that he's a mindless "Disciple of Wong", of course.

  9. At every opportunity, remind your opponent that you're clearly winning the debate, and that he's losing. This is a comical-sounding tactic but it can actually be quite effective on less observant viewers, particularly those who skip to the end of your long-winded arguments. It's a bit like people who watch a soccer game from the worst seats in the house; they can't tell whether the ball went in the net from that distance, but if the players raise their arms in triumph, they simply assume that the team must have scored.

  10. If someone debates you more than once, accuse him of "stalking" you, having a vendetta, being "obsessed" with you, carrying a grudge around because you soundly beat him, etc.

  11. And now for the grand finale: if someone gets tired of your endless accusations about his integrity and resorts to a direct insult, triumphantly declare that he has resorted to ad-hominem fallacies and that you win.

  12. Quote Star Trek characters in your arguments. For example, rather than saying "incorrect", say "like a poor marksman, you keep ... missing ... the target!" (from Kirk in ST2). This is closely related to tactic #2, but it will help get any resident Trekkies on your side. After all, you just quoted Kirk!

  13. Study your opponent's use of language and try to copy it. For example, if someone calls you a "dipshit", use the word "dipshit" 5 times in every post until everyone's sick of it and he becomes reluctant to use it ever again. If someone hits you with evidence that you can't handle and says "deal with it", say "deal with it" at the end of every single message you post for weeks. If someone uses the word "sophistry", use that word in every third sentence from that point on. The idea is to not only steal a handy turn of phrase, but also to make the other person reluctant to use it any more because you've been using it so damned much.

Remember: debating like Darkstar is a carefully refined technique. He has honed this technique over a long period of time, and you can't become a Darkstar clone overnight. It takes patience and discipline.

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