Debate tactics

Debating tactics

Most debate tactics spring from the above general strategies. Below are listed the specific ways that you can build an effective base for debating under literally any situation.

Tactic #1 : Begin & conclude sharply

You can seize the initiative and keep it by beginning the debate on the right foot. In many cases, the moderator will allow each debater one or two minutes to present an opening statement. You should have an opening statement rehearsed and ready to go the day before the debate. It should include the following three points, sharply and succinctly stated. 

Each point should be covered in twenty seconds, for a total time of one minute.

1) Briefly outline the character and objectives of your organisation 

2) State the two or three specific points you want to make in this debate

3) Outline the general weaknesses of your opponent's pro-abortion position; "

Concluding the Debate

Before you even walk into the studio, your conclusion should be planned down to the last word. Your conclusion will be the last part of the debate and the first part remembered by listeners, especially if it is executed sharply and concisely. 

You should emphasise three points, once again in about one minute;

1) Repeat your two or three most important points (the same ones you emphasized in your opening statement);

2) Summarize and emphasize your opponent's single grossest error during the debate and tie it in to his philosophy; and

3) State as a fact that your opponent has not effectively presented his case.

Tactic #2 : Assume control

The entire anti-life mentality is constructed around a philosophy that is expressed by the words "control," "struggle," and "empowerment." The anti-life person must be free of any and all restraints.To be deprived of choices is to be out of control, and being out of control is anathema to the anti-life activist. When a pro-lifer assumes command of the debate early, his opponent will usually begin to get flustered, will get his facts confused, and will begin to make more and more radical statements.

If the pro-lifer can apply steady and unflinching pressure, it is not at all uncommon for an anti-life debater to begin to scream slogans or even abandon the debate altogether. If this happens, of course, the pro-lifer has won the debate. In many cases, it will be possible to assume control of the debate before it even begins. If the pro-lifer can identify and pressure his opponent before the debate by displaying the strength of his position or by remarking upon some recent pro-life victory or typical anti-life blunder, he can begin to derail his opponent's train of thought and get a 'jump' on him before ever facing him in formal debate.

It is also important to gain immediate momentum in the debate with a strong and clear opening statement. It may seem obvious, but one of the best ways to control a debate is to talk more than one's opponent. This can be accomplished by using one or more of several different tactics. One way is to structure statements or replies and preface them with a phrase like "I'd like to make three points here." The pro-lifer may then number the points and, speaking at a relatively quick pace, get a lot of information across to the audience. Any interruption by the anti-life opponent or by the moderator will appear to be rude.

If the anti-lifer employs this tactic, it can be difficult to break in. However, is it possible to interrupt in a polite manner. For example, the pro-lifer may say to the moderator, "Excuse me, but my opponent has just made a misstatement that I would like to clarify." The use of transparencies or other visual aids can also give the audience the correct impression that you are better prepared than your opponent. Additionally, placing a pro-life picket sign or fetal model in plain view of your opponent will distract and fluster him, contributing to his sense of lack of control.

Tactic#3 : Stay on the subject

Any experienced pro-life debater will tell you that the single most aggravating characteristic of anti-lifers is their apparent total inability to stay on the subject at hand. His is the notorious "what about?" 

Syndrome: There is a simple reason for this 'red herring' tactic. The anti-life position is clearly indefensible. An anti-life debater realizes that, if he can pervert the conversation into a wandering, aimless argument about other topics, he can neutralise and dilute the inherent superiority and impact of the pro-life position. By breaking even, he 'wins.'

Muddying the Waters

When a pro-lifer broaches a subject that is embarrassing to his anti-life opponent or hurtful to his cause, the anti-lifer may desperately try to twist away from the topic with such vague statements as "it depends" or "that's irrelevant." Such topics for pro-abortion persons are third-trimester abortions, sex-selection abortions, forced abortions in China, infanticide, and state funding of abortions. The anti-lifer would dearly like to avoid these and similar topics.

Do not be turned away by his disclaimers. You must hang on and not let go "till it thunders." Continue to demand an answer in very plain terms. If your opponent continues to evade, simply state as fact that he is in support of the practice he is trying to avoid discussing, or simply say "I think you've answered the question for our audience."

Don't Get Led Astray!Don't get caught in these diversionary traps! If you do, the best you will do is break even. You MUST diligently refocus the debate on the topic at hand, or you will never have the time to get your critical points across to your audience. Since an anti-lifer will inevitably try to lead you down the primrose path to confusion, you must have in mind some snappy way to bring the discussion back to the topic at hand.

Personal AttacksIf a pro-life debater insists upon sticking to the subject, his opponent will fail in his attempt to divert attention from baby-killing. He or she may then begin to attack the pro-lifer himself, his organisation, or pro-lifers in general (ad hominem attacks). If the pro-lifer has picketed at a referral centre, the pro-abort will call him lawless. Anticipate these knee-jerk, rote attacks.

The anti-lifer will inevitably trot out a long list of complaints about pro-life activists in general: How we are hypocritical, violent religious fanatics intent upon foisting our views on others, and on and on. The best way to end this prattle quickly is to either point out the fact that truth has nothing to do with the shortcomings of the person saying it, or by highlighting the anti-lifer's tactic for the audience, i.e. "When your opponent attacks you personally, he knows that he has lost the debate."

Tactic #4 : Anticipate

A pro-life debater has certain important advantages over a pro-abortionist. It is easier to anticipate the thought processes of an anti-life debater than it is to anticipate the thoughts of a debater that takes any other position, simply because anti-lifers usually rely very heavily on slogans and questionable claims to support their position(s).

The pro-lifer must become familiar with these slogans and be able to refute them by heart in almost a reflexive action. Since an anti-lifer will inevitably rely upon slogans, the pro-lifer has a golden opportunity to anticipate and discredit both the slogan and his opponent. Pro-abortion activists are particularly susceptible to leaning heavily on slogans. Anticipate them. And when they occur, take maximum advantage of them.

The pro-lifer can sharpen his ability to anticipate his opponent's course of debate by researching both his background and his organisation's attitudes and background.

Tactic #5 : Repeat important points

Repetition is one tactic that anti-life people use unconsciously, simply because their arguments are so scanty in logic and substance. Since they have so little to go on, they must repeat their slogans over and over again. Repetition is a very effective tactic that pro-abortion people use not only in debate, but also in courts of law. They adhere rigidly to the Shakespearean principle "A lie oft repeated soon bears the guise of truth."

If a pro-life debater can effectively refute a slogan with cold, hard facts, his opponent will be faced with a tough decision: Give up that particular useful slogan and have it exposed as a fraud, or repeat it and have the pro-life debater sigh and patiently explain once again the error of the anti-lifer's ways.

On the other hand, repetition is a tactic that the pro-lifer can use to considerable advantage. The pro-life debater must go into every debate with two or three essential points that he wants to make crystal clear to his audience. He begins the debate and ends it with these points, and his entire message should be built around them. He must have irrefutable documentation at hand in addition to anticipating his opponent's rebuttals.

For example, if the debate topic is 'abortion: a woman's right?,' his three points might be;

1) Half of the babies killed by abortion are little preborn women. This certainly calls into question the pro-abortion facade of 'caring for women.'

2) Abortion on demand has led to 'femicide,' or boys on demand (sex selection abortions are almost always done on girls).

3) Abortion actually is used as a weapon against women, allowing them to become little more than sex objects for men.The pro-lifer must continue to hammer away at these three points. After stating his case the first time, he must continue to steer the conversation back to one or more of these points. As he repeats them, he should phrase them in a different way each time and try to use catchy phrases that will stick in his listeners' minds.

Tactic #6 : Listen effectively

Since debate is a form of communication, it is composed of two fundamental parts: Talking and listening. Before a person can rebut effectively and concisely, he must be able to listen effectively. The main job of a debater is to discern the meaning behind his opponent's words in order to paint a picture in his own mind of what he is thinking and what his objective(s) are.

It is a good idea for a debater to carry a notepad to write down statements by the opposition that he would like to address later in the debate. The debater might copy the quotes in a shorthand that will allow him to refer to his opponent's verbatim statements at opportune times later in the conversation.

Tactic #7 : Use visual aids

If a pro-lifer is participating in a panel discussion or a debate on television or before an audience, pictures and graphs can be a great asset, especially if his opponent has none. Visual aids confer an automatic aura of authority on the person using them, particularly if they are well-prepared.

Photographs and Models

Talk is cheap, especially in the abortion battle. Visual aids can really give a debater a 'leg up' in a debate. Pro-life visual aids may include one of Lennart Nilsson's excellent picture books on fetal development or a set of fetal models. A pro-lifer in the middle of a televised debate shouldn't hesitate to ask the moderator to have the cameraman 'zoom in' on his visual aids.

The moderator will generally welcome any type of activity that lends his show variety and a change of pace. If he flatly refuses, it will look as if he is collaborating with the anti-life debater in trying to conceal some critical fact.

Virtually any type of visual aid is acceptable. Try a big blow-up photograph of an unborn baby in utero or a plastic fetal model if the debate topic is something like "the unborn child." If the moderator is hostile, conceal the photo or model beforehand and state that you would like to show it. If the moderator refuses, produce it anyway. You can use this to your advantage by stating as fact that the moderator thinks the audience is too stupid or uninformed to understand the visual aid, or too wimpy to handle the truth. Play heavily on the hypocrisy of the pro-abortionist's reliance on censorship and resistance to informed consent.

A Valuable Tool

The job of the pro-life debater is to make sure that his audience remembers his most important points. He can accomplish this by painting 'word pictures' that get his message across in an unforgettable manner. If a person wants to describe how many babies have died at the hands of abortionists, the words "30 million" are simply incomprehensible. Josef Stalin was correct when he stated that "One death is a tragedy, but a million deaths are merely a statistic."

A pro-life debater might want to try using one or more of the following examples of 'word imaging' in order to give people some idea of the magnitude of 30 million deaths.

Holding Hands

If these 30 million babies were allowed to be born and grew up, then got together to hold hands, the resulting line would stretch around the world at the Equator, more than 25,000 miles!

Since debate is a form of communication, it is composed of two fundamental parts: Talking and listening. Before a person can rebut effectively and concisely, he must be able to listen effectively. The main job of a debater is to discern the meaning behind his opponent's words in order to paint a picture in his own mind of what he is thinking and what his objective(s) are.

It is a good idea for a debater to carry a notepad to write down statements by the opposition that he would like to address later in the debate. The debater might copy the quotes in a shorthand that will allow him to refer to his opponent's verbatim statements at opportune times later in the conversation.

Tactic #8 : Don't argue

A heated argument is a real spectacle and can only hurt the pro-life cause. As a result of such an exchange, anti-lifers are merely hardened in their belief that pro-lifers are fanatics, and pro-life sympathisers are turned off by the shouting. Don't get ensnared in a shouting match. Your anti-life opponent will frequently try to lure you into such an argument when they have their backs to the wall, because they know that the memory of the argument will erase the memory of how badly you trounced them in the debate.

You can use your opponent's inflammatory statements to your advantage by acknowledging their good points and accentuating their bad points. For example;

Example of Defusing a Useless Argument

Anti-Life Bait: "You anti-choice people don't even care about the pregnant twelve-year old rape victim who can't talk to her parents. What about her? Her situation is impossible. Don't her concerns count?"

Argumentative Answer: "Yes we do care about her, but the baby she's carrying is important too. What you're advocating is killing the baby to solve the twelve-year old's problem. You're advocating murder as a quick fix to a social problem" (Argument continues regarding the definition of the word "murder").

Argument-Defusing Answer: "You're absolutely right when you say she has a very difficult problem. Anyone who has any feelings would try to help her solve them. That's why we have more than two thousand crisis pregnancy centers in every major city all over the country that will give her whatever she needs: clothing, food, money, housing, and emotional support. You know, it's strange that you pro-abortion people don't run a single crisis pregnancy center."