The Pile-on

Posted: August 13, 2014 in Argument
Tags: , , , , , , ,

IMG_1383.JPG Photo titled Pile on top of Grandma used through a CC License

Years ago, I remember listening to a Bill Cosby record. One of his bits was about a game called “Buck-Buck”. One person would get down on all fours, and people would pile on, one at a time, until the bottom man buckled. It was quite a competitive ordeal, with each neighborhood having their own team. No one could beat Bill’s team, though…they had a ringer. His name was Fat Albert. Whenever they heard the famous “hey, hey, hey”, the other team surrendered and ran back home.

I’ve noticed a very bad trend on Twitter. Someone makes a rational argument, and then those who oppose it simply ridicule it. They make what they think is a 140 character-or-less ringer statement, and suppose the argument is over. One clever, snide remark and they declare themselves victor. They don’t engage the argument. They don’t thoughtfully ponder or explore the implications or even consider the possibility that the opposing view could be true. They just type a zinger and take a victory lap.

Then those who agree with them retweet the crushing defeat, adding their own ridicule. Pretty soon it’s a Twitter pile-on.

Only it’s a farce. It’s Don Quixote-ish. It’s some combination of a Strawman and Ad Hominem fallacy.

There is no Twitter equivalent to Fat Albert in this type of exchange.

I’ve experienced this scenario frequently on Twitter. In my experience, it is usually (not always), an atheist who is guilty of this maneuver.

In my naivety, I assume everyone is searching for ultimate truth, and that honest engagement and intellectual authenticity is practiced by all. Yet that is not always the case.

For some, adding another notch in their zinger belt is more important than thoughtfully considering an opposing view.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of this, in some ways, myself. We all enter into a conversation with a lot of presuppositions, biases, and baggage. Thoughtful people recognize this, and attempt to curtail as much of it as possible. I won’t be baited this way again, hopefully. Sometimes you just let your statements stand, and walk out of the conversation.

It’s not just atheists who practice this underhanded tactic. I see Christians using the same technique on non-believers and other Christians. Scoring Twitter points is not a worthy goal. We should seek truth together, and really listen to the other side.

Look, I’m a smart alec, and giving someone else the last word is not in my nature…just ask my wife. However, I’m learning that no one wins an argument by shadowboxing. I’m a big boy, and I can take my lumps. Resorting to intellectual hair-pulling and hand-biting is a very unmanly display I’m going to try and avoid.

Please don’t be guilty of the twitter pile-on. It will not make you the Buck-Buck champion of the world. It will only make you an arrogant blowhard.

simul iustus et peccator,



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