These are tactics we take when we have no real arguments and are insecure in our positions/beliefs. These tactics have a long history of success and are sure to gain a following even when no one in their right mind should be on their side. But they work because people are seldom in their right mind and they have little or no training in this area. I have had to watch out for and deal with these continually in theological discourse over the years, but you can definitely see them being used in the political mayhem we are in today. The fact is that these are used in every area as a substitute for a good argument (and, therefore, a sign of insecurity).

  1. Drown out the voice of the opposition. Make sure no other view but your own can be seen, heard, and learned. This way we will have nothing but echo chambers everywhere we go. All our learning and education will be nothing other than an exercise in the confirmation of our prejudice. The greatest number will always be on our side as all competition is muted.
    • Formal Name: Argumentum Ad Populum, Latin for “appeal to the people”
    • Informal Name: Bandwagon Appeal
  2. Attack your opponent. Here, we do not face the arguments against our position, but we attack the person’s character who holds the position. At this point, it would be wise to laugh at, make fun of, and meme their stupidity. The more you have people laughing, the more they will be comfortable in your position and will fear adopting the other position. After all, no one likes to get made fun of!
    • Formal Name: Argumentum Ad Hominem, Latin for “to the man”
    • Informal Name: Attack the Man, Personal Attack, and Poison the Well
  3. Defeat only a misrepresented argument. Here we look for the weakest argument our opponent has and defeat this over and over while ignoring our opponent’s stronger arguments. Or, just as good, assert a weak argument that they do not hold, make people think they hold it, and then destroy it.
    • Formal Name: Ignoratio Elenchi, Latin for “Ignorance of Refutation”
    • Informal Name: Straw Man Argument
  4. Associate the opponent’s position with someone or some group everyone already hates. Find someone or some group that already has a bad stigma and accuse your opponent of holding to the same view them. Upon doing so, the previously established negative feelings for that disgraced group subconsciously transferred to your opponent. The similarities don’t even have to be relevant for this to work. Here is an example: “You believe in building a wall on the border? The communists did too.” Got them!
    • Formal Name: A form of Argumentum Ad Hominem, Latin, “to the man”
    • Informal Name: Guilt by Association, (sometimes) Genetic Fallacy, and/or argumentum ad Nazium or argumentum ad Hitlerum due to its ultimate use in comparing an opponent’s position to the Nazis and/or Hitler
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  1. Exaggerate your certainty. Speak louder and pound the pulpit harder than the competition. In the absence of good arguments, emotions are the only recourse. You can win people over to your side just by mere assertion. As long as you sound like you believe it, they will often forgo any need for rational persuasion and feed only off your conviction. Therefore, if you can get the temperature hot, exaggerate your certainty, you will seem to be secure (you will even fool yourself), even though this is often a sign you are completely insecure.
    • Formal Name: Argumentum Ad Passiones, Latin, “to emotions”
    • Informal Name: Appeal to Emotions and Proof by Intimidation
  1. Last but not least, make people fear the consequences of going against your position. Create a situation where all opponents are in imminent danger. Take away all their securities (mental, emotional, financial, and physical) if they rebel. Even if you cannot do this, make them think you can.
    • Formal Name: Argumentum Ad Baculum, Latin, “to the club”
    • Informal Name: Argument backed by a Stick and Slippery Slope

Find all these displayed on just about any news channel today. This is especially the case with liberal media, but can definitely be found among conservatives as well.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    3 replies to "Six Ways People Hide Their Insecurity About Political Beliefs"

    • Matthew Sheppard

      Hi Michael, great post but I have a question. I found this sentence a little hard to understand.

      Take someone or some group that has a bad stigma, say “These people help to the same thing as you!”

      Contextually I believe you are saying “These people are doing the same thing as you?” Is this correct?

      • Rodney Harvill

        I have seen the following argument:

        Disfavored group X has used argument Y to justify their position. You are using argument Y to justify your position (although it is not the same position as that held by group X). Therefore, you and your position are not unlike group X. This is an attempt to associate you with disfavored group X and to avoid actually answering your argument.

        I think this is what Michal is saying.

    • John Gammon

      The legal profession has a maxim “If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the law is on your side, pound the law. If neither the law nor the facts are on your side, pound the table.”

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