Basic Counter Arguments and Rebuttals Help Please


New Member
It can be about chemtrails or anything but I have a friend whose arguments always go a bit like this:

After sending me a clip of Russell Brand making wild claims about an NYPD robot I asked her:

"So why doesn't he tell his followers to throw away their mobile phones (which track everywhere they go and everything that they do)?

Answering my own question I followed with:
Oh yeah, cos he wouldn't live in a £4M house if he did that. He's like a pound shop David Koresh these days

She replied with "You don’t have to be poor to be authentic. It’s fine to be rich" and I said:

I totally agree, but in order to maintain his lifestyle he has to create new content every week. He's plumbing the depths now.

Then came one of her standard mocking replies:

"You mean you believe the government? :D"

The best I could do is say "No, but that doesn't mean I believe Russell Brand any more than anyone else. I like evidence-based science. Not ex-TV presenter opinion." then asked "Do you believe every word Russell Brand tells you?"

I feel bad about it, I am sure I am not handling this well. I want her to think for herself and to see through people like David Icke, Alec Jones and Russell Brand.

I need better responses in my arsenal. Can anyone point me to a repository of such knowledge?

I really hope that I haven't made a noob error of posting in the wrong forum and if I have then I can be forgiven and my post moved.
I'm not an expert, so take this with a grain of salt. If you want to remain friends with her, perhaps blanket denials are no more productive than her blanket acceptance. Maybe stick to specific claims: "That sounds far-fetched. I'd like to see evidence for that". Perhaps even follow that with a Google search for the evidence, and explain that "somebody said so" needs corroboration. Skepticism is a habit, much as her beliefs are, and if you want to change her, it's not going to be easy or quick.
I haven’t watched Russel Brand since he stopped being funny and so can’t address him specifically, but I’ve had some success cooling down the rhetoric with friends.

When someone says something outrageous, I try to ask whether they’ve heard of “XYZ” which counters all or part of their argument. Alternately, there may be a part of their story which is true, but misunderstood and you can explain the counter arguments to their bunk.

By not going at them directly, it doesn’t turn into an argument, and at the very least, they label me as someone who will not reinforce their belief and reduce tha amount of bunk they throw my way. Cuts down on conflict with those with whom you wish to retain as friends.

EDIT: Forgot to answer the OP: Use Metabunk and Google search to find out specific counters to their bunk. Bring up source material on your phone and show it to them, if appropriate.
It might be worth setting aside central beliefs and work around the edges -- false narratives and claims that are NOT central to her beliefs, at least are not yet. It might be possible to get somebody to think clearly about such things, where the emotional investment is not so high. Hopefully at the end of the day the habit of thinking things through critically and logically, based on evidence, will get planted and spread.

It would be worth getting a copy of Mr. West's book:

This one might also be helpful, particularly the closing section:

But know that there is no "silver bullet" technique or argument that is guaranteed to get the results you want. Enter into, or remain in, such debates with modest expectations.
Was married for 5 years, she believes in God and I don't. Made for some really good conversations and good natured ribbing (at first). Many of her friends were in her ear about it. And what had been humorous jokes between us became "not okay" anymore. My advice is as mentioned above, "work on the outer edges". Less of a chance things can be taken personally.

Example, jokingly making a comment like "believing in God is as silly as believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny" was probably not a great idea in hindsight. I mean, we both laughed. But pretty sure that one stuck in her craw and didn't age well.
@Dan Burt 's post provoked thought on my end. As a religious person who is also a part-time debunker of conspiracy theories, I had not specifically put into words in my own head how I would feel if somebody was aggressively attacking my religious faith (or I perceived they were, same thing in context.) This is different than somebody disagreeing with my theology, or not believing in God and we were having a discussion about it. A perceived aggressive attack is definitely not going to get anywhere, and is more likely to result in a raising the drawbridge and defending the walls. For many now, it seems to me, conspiracy theories and nonsense such as Flat Earth are filling the roll that religion once filled, and believers are likely to defend their walls as stoutly! (Which side of the divide religion belongs on is not relevant to this point.)

Which may explain how hard it is to talk people out of the Rabbit Hole -- I've known people who moved away from religion over time, I've never known anyone to be debated/argued out of it.

Nothing profound there, I imagine, but maybe helpful.

Side note -- similarly, politics, to a lesser extent maybe. Some of the most interesting political discussions I have ever heard (did not participate because I was intrigued and wanted to listen) occurred between my father, an old school Republican reasonably-conservative with experience in government, and my daughter, a pretty radical person whose beliefs I hesitate to label because she is not happy with most groups so labeled, but pretty far over to the left! Because they respected and loved each other, the conversation was characterized by a willingness to listen as well as to talk. Their goal was less to change the other's mind, but to understand each other's position. They listened to each other, instead of using the time the other was talking to plan the next thing THEY were going to say. Come to think of it, that is probably the best attitude to take into conversations about politics, religion, conspiracy theories, and other topics where we tend to divide ourselves into hostile camps...
Use Metabunk and Google search to find out specific counters to their bunk.
If the search isn't fruitful, feel free to present the bunk claim here on Metabunk.


Something that might work is to ask for evidence.
— "Russell Brand claims this-and-that."
— "How does he know? What evidence does he have?"

I trust "the government" (e.g. CDC, WHO) when they're transparent about the evidence underlying their advice.

Look for evidence. Ask for evidence.
If there is no evidence, you don't have to debunk anything.


Another thing to do may be to try and change their "media diet". Use the resources in to find media with more factual reporting that still align with their politics.
MediaWise also has a bunch of resources (video clips aimed at various audiences) that help people get in the habit of doing some simple fact checking.