Why debates are pointless

There has been a ton of controversy lately online regarding right-wing provocateur Nick Fuentes’ rebuttal of Ben Shapiro. Mr Fuentes is not wrong but i wish he hadn’t done this. All it will accomplish it will accomplish is make both sides dig their heels deeper and exacerbate the culture wars, without resolution of any sort or any side winning. Some of the main objective of debates are:

1. Convince members of the opposing side to defect

2. Recruit/convince the undecided

3. Boost morale and enthusiasm among the already evangelized by winning

The problem is, debates tend to fail in regard to the first two, and by succeeding at the third, because both sides are galvanized, only makes discourse worse without any sort of resolution. Unlike sports, instead having a single rowdy team that celebrates by jeering and being obnoxious while the losing team is somber and quiet, political debates, because there is often no decisive winner or because both sides are convinced that they won, the end result is increased obnoxiousness from both teams, not just one.

No matter how strong you think your argument is, the other side will always be able to make a convincing-sounding counterargument. You might think that your case is airtight, but the opposing side will always find a hole. This is especially so for the social sciences regarding controversial subjects such as immigration (is immigration a net-positive or loss), abortion (does it reduce crime, should it be legal at what stage of pregnancy, what defines life, etc.), the efficacy of tax cuts (do they pay for themselves), corporate regulation (does it backfire), minimum wage (does it make unemployment worse), rent control (does it help the poor, or create too much scarcity), etc., in which there is no way of ever definitively resolving disagreement. An economist can present a study of how raising the minimum wage increased unemployment in a certain city, and then another economist can show either an opposing study or argue that the original study has methodological flaws that call to doubt its veracity.

People’s minds are seldom changed. Unless one side totally bombs and is unprepared, it’s not uncommon after the debate ends for both sides to think their respective team ‘won.’ After the much-hyped Jordan Peterson vs. Slavoj Zizek debate (which was more like two people reading lengthy monologues than an actual debate), Peterson’s fans overwhelmingly thought Dr. Peterson won, and the overwhelming majority of Zizek’s fans thought Zizek won. Very few minds were changed. No one was like “hmm…based on the performance of Slavoj/Peterson I will reevaluate my position on X.” Same for the 2016 presidential debates, in which pro-Trump conservatives and pro-Hillary democrats overwhelmingly thought their respective candidate won. I don’t think a single person defected or changed their mind because of those debates.