Verbal Attack Patterns so far:
Pattern #1: “If you REALLY X, you’d Y.”
Pattern #2: “If you really A, you wouldn’t WANT to B.”
Pattern #3: “Don’t you even CARE about X?”

Basic Response

  1. Identify the mode
  2. Identify the presupposition(s)
  3. Respond in NEUTRAL Computer mode TO THE PRESUPPOSITION ONLY
  4. Stay in Computer mode.

The new twist with Pattern #4, “Even X should Y!”, is the modal verb, “should”…. Toss in the many descriptors of “you” that can replace ‘X’, and this can be a pretty intimidating attack.
Besides ‘should’ and ‘ought to’, likely modals are ‘would’, ‘might’, ‘can’, ‘may’, ‘must’, and ‘will’. They always go with another verb and carry heavy presuppositions.

“John should” – implies that the speaker is a legitimate judge of John’s behavior.
“John must” – implies that the speaker has the right to order John to do things.
“John can” – implies that John has the ability to do, or the option to do something.
“John could” – implies the same as can if certain conditions are met.
“John will” – implies that the speaker knows with certaintly
“John would” – implies that the speaker knows what would happen if certain conditions apply.

As long as the modal reflects the present or the future, it implies that the speaker has special status.  This is bait.

Let’s look at some examples:

“Even a Democrat should support fixing Social Security.”
“Even a freshman senator ought to show respect for America’s leaders.”

So what responses work best?

Take a minute to identify the bait(s) and the obvious suppositions.
In sentence 1, there are two baits.  The first one is that the listener does not support something.  The second one is that the speaker has the right to judge the listener.

By this time you probably realize that the fish who takes the bait (that is, tries to prove they do support, or do know better than) will always end up hooked, dangling on a string in mid-air, and gasping for oxygen.

Leave the bait and go for the presupposition.

A direct “Why?” may work. If you are lucky, you can get the questioner to spend 10 minutes lamely showing you that he has no idea why social security needs fixing.

If you prefer being more subtle….

“I’ve heard the idea that Democrats are inferior to Republicans floated by irresponsible talk radio hosts, but I’m surprised to hear it from you, Mr. Matthews.”

You’ve actually finished this with a compliment of sorts–that Matthews is better than Limbaugh–but Matthews is also stuck trying to justify his implied insult to Democrats.

“The opinion that Democrats are inferior to Republicans is fairly common among newspeople in your situation, Mr. Matthews.  In your case, it’s probably nothing to worry about.”

Ouch! You’ve just implied that Matthews is in some kind of ominous ‘situation’–and then reinforced the idea by suggesting that he ‘probably’ wouldn’t be hurt by it.  It’s hard to predict how Matthews will respond to this, but he’s not likely to go after Democrats and Social Security! (He’s also not likely to invite you back!)

Another presuppostion you might go after (depending on the details and facts of the conversation) is the validity of equating [something the listener has done or not done] with “being supportive” of “fixing social security”.

Try it yourself!  What are the baits and presuppositions in the second example?
Can you come up with some good “I’m suprised at you” replies?

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