Correia’s Law of Internet Arguing

You know Poe’s Law: “without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, every parody of extreme views can be mistaken by some readers for a sincere expression of the views being parodied.

You may have heard of Brandolini’s Law: “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it.

You probably have heard Godwin’s Law: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

You may even have heard of Sturgeon’s Law: “90% of everything is crap.

Well it’s now time to formally recognize Correia’s Law: “Internet arguing is a spectator sport. You argue to convince the undecided and give ammo to those on your side. Do not expect to change your opponent’s mind as you cannot sway the willfully ignorant. Internet arguing is only worth it when there is an audience. The contestants do not get a vote, the audience decides who wins.

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44 thoughts on “Correia’s Law of Internet Arguing”

  1. Same as a formal debate. They aren’t trying to convince each other. Anyone who is from a religious background in a denomination that held debates with other denominations would have known that already. Atheists and ecumenists are the only ones stupid enough to think the disputants are actually trying to persuade each other rather than the audience, and this is due to naivite and lack of experience.

  2. Also true for 99% of debates on television and/or in court. Especially between 2 or more candidates for the same political office. (You might have to leave out “give ammo to those on your side” for some of these.)

    1. No, because the Littlest Chickenhawk is useless and has never said anything of value. He’s Jennifer Rubin with a better eye for grifting.

  3. It doesn’t quite fit with these laws, but it describes the modern left perfectly. I forget the name of it and haven’t been able to find it, but it states something to the effect of:

    As modern society solves more and more of the world’s ills, hardship is defined down to satisfy the sense of purpose.

    I’m sure I butchered it, so if anyone has the real name and definition, I’ll say something nice.

  4. “Internet arguing is neither a debate or discussion. It is simply the provision of talking points and verbal/written ripostes for further arguments.”

    Shorten it and make implicit that which was explicit.

    Better now.

  5. As a corollary to Godwin’s law, I offer Ripshin’s Law of Online Discussions: As an online discussion involving anything related to computer science grows longer, the probability of an older person bringing up fortran and/or punch cards approaches one.

    1. All kidding aside, I’m a developer and you would be surprised by how often I run into things that seem odd until you realize that it was done that way so the data would fit properly on and 80 column card.

  6. I’d argue with you but am waiting for there to be enough spectators to make it worthwhile …

    (not really, you are absolutely right … its like a funeral … its not for the guy in the box)

  7. Or Cole’s Law: Just because an internet argument isn’t very tasty, that doesn’t mean
    it’s not good for you!

  8. Then there is the “other Larry’s” law (Niven):

    “There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot’.”

    1. I’ve seen that quote attributed to several different authors. I’m sure one of them said it, not sure which one. 🤔🙂

  9. I’ve used that “law” as a guideline since my Usenet days. Still, it’s nice to have a recognizable name attached to it.

  10. *sigh*
    Obviously I’ve missed LOTS of awesome stuff since I left Farcebook 18 or so months ago.
    *’nother sigh”
    And the thing I miss MOST is Larry kicking around an internet troll (of whatever sort), which is, I assume, the impetus for this post.
    *yet ANOTHER sigh*

  11. Spending a little too much time on Twitter (I was really bored) set me to wonderin’, does an “undecided” audience exist in the internet age? The few “undecideds” I encounter seem more like they’re afraid to express their opinions than actually undecided, and everyone else is vehemently already on a side.

      1. The question is “Are there any places on the internet that aren’t exactly like Twitter?” I would posit, no, there are not.

        1. Depends on what you mean by “exactly”.

          Twitter, with its post length limits, is useless for valid, consistent argument. Breaking your case up into 280-character (whatever it is) pieces is bovine excreta.
          Other places, such as FB, lack this limit, so do allow a measure of reasonable discourse, regardless of whether both sides want it.

  12. A corollary is the the speed with which you reduce your opponent to incoherently typing in all caps and ad hominem is a measure of your effectiveness. Also crying racism and sexism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

  13. Having been through countless internet arguments about guns and gun control, having in self defense actually read ALL the medical gun control literature (I have still have boxes of photocopies from the 1990s when everything was hardcopy) I have learned one thing:

    Anti-Gunners Are Just Lying.

    It’s not a debate. They’re just lying. Usually for money. They simply spit out plausible-sounding bullshit and then expect you to waste your time refuting them.

    “A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a householder than an intruder.”

    Being a nerd, I looked it all up. The bottom line on this type of thing is that they just friggin’ lied. It’s a nothing-sandwich; a whole lot of nothing slapped between two more pieces of nothing and printed in a friendly medical journal to make it look legit. There are a couple hundred of these studies out there now. Lying liars, lying. For money.

    So what do you do? Go read the article and discover that by the author’s own tables a DOG in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a householder than an intruder. By gunfire, incidentally. Because dogs cause gunfire, y’know.

    What’s left? Presentation! Tell your audience about the dog. “It’s a high-capacity assault dog.”

    This pattern is repeated in every single public “debate” in the Western World these days. From global warming to trans-rights, polar bears to pronouns, they always do the same thing. Provocative lie, then watch the earnest Conservatives do all the work to refute it.

    How to proceed? See provocative lie, respond with rhetorical punch in the face. Less work, more reward.

    Case in point: Dragon Awards. Notice that this year the nominations look the same as the Nebulas? Provocative lie, they’re pretending The Real Fans actually nominated that.

    There’s no point having any sort of discussion about it. I voted for the one author I recognized, left the rest blank, and let the Dragon committee read between the lines on the future of their award if they keep going down this road.

    As for the internet arguing, one need only point out that the same people who previously decried the Dragons for lack of voting transparency are this year… not concerned about voting transparency. They don’t think its a problem this year.

    Interesting shift, right? One would think that if they cared about transparency they’d keep talking about it. Nope. They got the nomination list they wanted, it is all good.

    Lying liars lie. Always fun to catch them.

    1. Joe’s First Law of Liars: The person often most taken in by a lie is the person telling it.
      Which is a derivative of Feynman’s First Principle: “…that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

  14. Just think of it as arguing a legal case, and it’s obvious. Your job isn’t to convince the opposing lawyer. Your job is to convince the jury.

  15. }}} Well it’s now time to formally recognize Correia’s Law:

    I object, sir, I have been saying this for over 20 years. 😛

    1 — You don’t argue to convince your opposition. It is to examine their arguments and determine if there is any merit to them.

    2 — you don’t argue to convince your opposition, but to present your opposition to lurkers, that the opposition’s case does not get experienced in a vacuum. This also bolsters those with less self-confidence, as they are made aware that they are not the only ones who oppose the opposition’s stance.

    3 — you don’t argue to convince your opposition, you do it for the mental exercise. Reasoning is like muscles — if you don’t use it, you lose it.

    4 — you don’t argue to convince your opposition, you do it because it forces you to reconsider your position and its basis. You might change your position based on your OWN new experiences and how they operate on your position, and also the bolster your arguments with new data since the last time you made your case. It also refreshes in your mind what your arguments are.

    5 — and who knows, maybe the pig will learn to sing?


  16. }}} The contestants do not get a vote, the audience decides who wins.“

    Usually in a silent vote with no results announced.


  17. True. I would add you do it to make sure people are a ware your view is out there. If no one voices an objection to bad things, its likely to get worse even faster.

  18. This has been true for thousands of years. Wasn’t it said in Matthew that some seed falls upon fertile land, some falls in fallow? That is the more pithy version, the actual verse is much more involved.

    More recently it was observed:

    “,,, in the absence of debate unrestricted utterance leads to the degredation of opinion. By a kind of Gresham’s law, the more rational is overcome by the less rational, and the opinions that will prevail will be those which are held most ardently by those with the most passionate will… freedom to speak… can be maintained only by promoting debate.” Lippmann, 1955.

    Gresham’s law was that bad money drives out good as good money is hoarded and bad money becomes more commonly used unless it is challenged. So, too do bad ideas flourish without debate.

    It is the debate itself which is crucial. Yes, some will be convinced while others never will. But the bare act of showing how bad ideas can be effectively challenged, of demonstrating the courage to deny irrational assertions, and standing strong against a tide of ignorance is an achievement itself.

    I respectfully submit that your efforts help to reverse the atomization process, to show that speaking rationally and fearlessly, and fisking morons most thoroughly elevates our society and I salute you for it!

  19. Poe’s Law reminds me of the Starship Troopers movie. It was bad. Really bad, like a spitefully malicious parody of the book. Clearly whoever was responsible for that travesty of modern cinema really hated Heinlein and wanted to mock him as a fascist. Never mind any provocative but well written philosophical content from the actual book.

    I read somewhere that several reviewers saw the movie, and honestly thought the producers must be Nazis who wanted to sway the audience with visions of a fascist utopia. That whooshing sound was the concept of “satire” sailing right past them.

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