The art of debate is rather interesting once you really get down to the strategies some people use to “win” a particular argument or discussion. Even when it comes to disagreements that remain unresolved, a person’s skills at deflecting or distracting can often shield them from having to admit a fault or that they were wrong about something.
One debate trick I recognized very early on is that if you want to throw people off, keep them on the defensive. A person who’s constantly under attack is stuck in the unenviable position of constantly having to defend their “side,” often preventing them from truly selling their “side” of an argument. A highly-effective way to keep someone on the defensive is by repeatedly portraying yourself as the victim.
I’ve consumed a sizable amount of conservative media over the last few months. One thing I noticed very early on is when the right-wing media can’t defend something Trump’s done (which is often), that’s when they make the story about the media’s coverage of him. They don’t really try to prove that a lie he told is actually true (because they can’t), nor do they really try to build a credible argument to defend something he’s said or done — they simply paint him as the victim of “people out to get him.”
That’s when you see Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton’s names get mentioned. Not only does evoking those two names serve as a distraction for the millions of people who foolishly trust conservative media outlets like Fox News or Breitbart.com to be honest, but then these right-wing media entities push the notion that they got away with things the “liberal media/establishment” is now going after Trump over.
They won’t defend Trump’s ever-growing ties to Russia, or the number of people associated with him who keep getting busted lying about meetings they’ve had with Russian officials, they’ll just toss out some ridiculous false equivalency — emphasis on the “false” part of that — acting as if Obama or Clinton should also be investigated for various “ties” they claim they have to Russia. While they do this, they’re careful not to point out the fact that Russia never tried to help Obama win an election, nor were they were trying to help Clinton’s campaign last year — Trump is the only person who benefited from Russian interference.
The conservative media constantly plays up the narrative that the negative coverage of Trump is one-sided and biased, often claiming that it’s part of some “massive conspiracy” against his “presidency.”
Because if there’s one thing conservatives do well when reality doesn’t support what they want people to believe — they concoct a conspiracy.
When I debate Trump supporters, most of the time we’re not discussing the lies Trump’s told, something incompetent he’s done, or the many hypocrisies of his behavior. When I try to engage these folks, most of the time all they do is whine about how “unfair” the coverage of him has been. They don’t want to talk about something he’s said or done, they just want to throw a hissy fit, much like Trump does almost every single day on Twitter, about how “mean” the media is to him.
In their minds, Trump’s failure to deliver on any of his bold and unrealistic campaign promises isn’t because he’s a liar who fed them pure bullshit during his campaign, it’s because the “media won’t allow him to get anything done.”
The never-ending chaos that’s engulfed his administration is never because he’s an unhinged crazy person who has no idea what he’s doing, it’s because he’s an “outsider who’s shaking things up.”
Nothing is ever his fault — he’s always the victim.
Trump supporters think this because that’s exactly what the conservative media tells them. Since they can’t really defend the realities of Trump, what the right-wing media has done, rather successfully I might add, is convince their followers that reality isn’t real — it’s all some “deep state conspiracy working against Donald Trump.”
The conservative media knows that as long as they keep playing Trump up as the victim — reinforcing his own views that truth doesn’t matter and everyone’s out to get him — his supporters will invest more time into feeling sorry for and defending him, while never once believing anything negative that comes out about him.
As long as Donald Trump and the conservative media keep playing him up as the victim, keeping the rest of the country on the defensive, his support isn’t going to erode by much. His supporters won’t actually defend anything he says or does, because in their minds, the truth about him isn’t actually the truth, it’s just “the liberal media/deep state/establishment out to get him.”
Then they put it on the rest of the country to prove that their crazy doesn’t actually exist.