How to Shut People Up

Instead of focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of a position, we often (as a society and individuals) try to shut people up by demonizing or dehumanizing them into submission.

While you can argue that this has always taken place, it seems to be a growing trend lately and one that hurts us in the long run. Such tactics help ensure that we don’t get to hear alternative viewpoints, and in the end, it shuts down the free marketplace of ideas that we so desperately need in order to assess the real strengths and weaknesses of any given position – whether they be personal, political or religious.

Don’t worry, I’ll provide some examples. Consider this a crash course in ‘how to demonize and dehumanize your opponent’.

Compare it to Hitler: In some circumstances there might be legitimate comparisons to be made to Hitler, but usually this is a card that is best not played. Usually the person making this comparison isn’t doing so honestly, but trying to shut the other person up by saying they’re acting in a Hitler-like way, or supporting a position that is Nazi-like (or worse) which no one in their right mind wants to do.

Literally demonize them: Tell people that anyone who doesn’t think, behave, believe the way you do is literally acting under the direction of a demon. If that doesn’t work, go straight to saying they’re pawns of a demon lord.

Make them out to be monsters: Tell people your opponent has no reason to behave morally or has no basis for moral action. If you can convince enough people that a group is morally or ethically bankrupt, you can easily shut them up or have them declared terrorists, like they do In Saudi Arabia.

Less than human: Compare them to animals, so that you can make them out to be less than human, like this person tried to do to me on Twitter yesterday.


Nice, right?

Tell anyone who disagrees that they support X: Islamophobia is a good example of this one. Even though a religion has nothing to do with race, sex or creed, you can beat down dissenting opinions about what that religion teaches by pretending that anyone who questions you is a racist. You don’t even have to establish that they are indeed racist, because no one wants to be labeled a racist so they’ll shut up rather than accept that label.

You can use this tactic all over the place. Politicians do it all the time. Think about the attack ads where the scary-voice-guy tells you that because a politician voted a certain way 15 years ago, that means they hate all children and want to eat yours for lunch.

Unpatriotic scum: Pretend that if someone doesn’t support the troops or agree with a war, they’re automatically unpatriotic.

Hell, you can even throw a whole segment of the population under the bus, by saying they’re not real citizens or patriots, because they don’t believe in a deity.

Right, Mr. Bush?

Keep the fear alive: Governments like to practice this one – keep the populace scared and they’ll do almost anything for ‘safety’, even give away their rights.


There are just a few ways you can shut people up and squash any opinion that doesn’t agree with your own.

Can you think of any more? Have any examples?

If so, please leave them in the comment section. As always, thanks for reading.



  1. I have such a huge problem with religious zealots like that dude on twitter. I see he is being a good little christian all name calling and bullying you like that LOL! Whatever. People are so stupid. My kids are bullied by their so called friends because we don’t consider ourselves christians. It’s terrible!!!
    People who question are feared and repressed. It’s a sad sad thing.

    Very nice post! I enjoyed it.

    • I agree.

      I think that’s the worst that guy on Twitter has ever gotten with me. He usually just sends me little snide remarks. He does read my tweets though.

      I said something like ‘God’s ability to do miracles diminished or disappeared with the invention of recording devices’ and he went off on me. LOL.

      Bullying isn’t okay. I’m sorry to hear that about your kids.

  2. I had someone today who said that all scientists are liars, and I said “why do you think that?” and his response was “common sense.” So “answers that aren’t answers” is a good one.

    Then I made a point about how without science has cured diseases and he said “Oh don’t use that card, it’s been played out.” That tactic would be: “Pretend good arguments are worthless because they’ve been used before.”

    And finally there was one time I said something about how unfeasible it was to believe that scientists worldwide are in a conspiracy to lie and say things are true just for money and he said “are you just typing random words now?” So he might as well have said “I’m just going to belittle everything that makes me look dumb.”

  3. Pingback: Group Dynamics | Amusing Nonsense

  4. I identify a lot with these tactics when I talk about feminism. The worse I’ve seen is when they gang up in huge numbers and spam comments on someone’s blog or YouTube with hate talk to the point where there isn’t enough time in the world to moderate. It just shuts the conversation down, or at least forces it elsewhere.

    It hardly seems worth arguing sometimes, but I always have this image of someone reading, who’s still on the fence, getting convinced by the hitler argument because no one else can be bothered pointing out how stupid it is.

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