I don’t think I’ve ever discussed my philosophy about index posts in a single spot. I suppose I should right that wrong.

As the name implies, an “index post” is simply any writing that attempts to index a wealth of information into a single post or comment. I done something like this on the blog before, but it’s such a simple and flexible concept that I’ve applied it to arguing with hate groups. Let’s say you’ve been mobbed by a bunch of haters in a comment thread you don’t control; here’s one technique I developed to cope with that:

  1. Keep posting replies and drawing out the conversation, until most bystanders stumbling into that comment thread would recognize the truth about one or more of those haters/creationists/whoever if they read the entire comment thread.
  2. Create an index comment that summarize the entire thread’s interactions. Take your time doing this, you probably won’t get a second chance.
  3. Depending on how many of the haters you’ve covered, either ignore them after posting the index or flounce the thread.
  4. When said person or group shows up again in another thread, just link to the index post and ignore them immediately.

It exploits the fact that there’s only one truth out there, so given enough time one of two opposing arguments must eventually be outed as false. Haters, however, disguise their false views to themselves and others by deploying a number of logical fallacies. When the fallacies behind one argument are exposed, they’ll move the goalposts by bouncing to a new argument. As a result they’re trapped endlessly cycling through their laundry list of talking points, so if you keep them talking a parade of bullshit is the inevitable result. At the same time, that treadmill is necessary for them to remain convinced they’re right, as it keeps them from lingering on any one argument long enough to recognize their own fallacies, so they’ve got plenty of incentive to keep talking.

All it takes is one argument to shore up a viewpoint, however. There can be no endless cycle, as there’s nothing to cycle through and only a finite number of counter-arguments to any one argument. One consequence is that you or someone else has already refuted the counter-arguments in advance, and that by merely linking to them you’ll save tremendous amounts of time and energy. Likewise, if you’ve already demonstrated the holes in someone’s arguments or outed them to be a hater, just link to the appropriate spot and don’t rehash a finished argument.

Problem: all this bullshit is typically scattered across a dozen or more comments in one or more threads, making it tough for a newcomer to jump into. Solution: index it all in one comment, store or remember that URL, and in future just link there instead of to the entire thread.

It’s very simple, and I think quite effective.