Sep 282010
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

As long as the weather remains reasonably pleasant, you’re likely to encounter a giant ring of students on the plaza surrounding one man. This crowd of happy students is usually eagerly exercising their freedom of speech in the most American of all ways: shouting at someone they don’t agree with.

To new students, this is a longstanding tradition. The plaza preachers appear when the weather is warm, and someone on RamTalk will inevitably make the joke that the cold weather drives God away when they vanish.

This of course neglects the notion that no crowd would stand in the rain and listen to them, but RamTalk is nothing if not a source of originality and clear thinking. Speaking of, did anyone get drunk or see a pretty girl recently? Let us know at

Since the plaza discussions are a tradition, and I’ve been here for some time, I thought it might improve discourse on the plaza and let us come to some understanding if I outlined and summarized some of the arguments that have already occurred. If you must repeat these discussions, just shout
which strategy you are using, and the other person will know what you meant. Conversational shorthand, like on the Internet.

These strategies can be used by either student or preacher.

Strategy 1: The loudly-interrupt-whenever-it-would-make-the-other-person-look-most-foolish strategy or “STFU-noob.” The goal here is simple and elegant –– the other person can only succeed at making their point if you let them speak. Simply, then, do not. When the speaker has said something that stirs in you an emotional reaction, speak immediately and with overriding drama. Do not let the possibility of additional clarifying words distract you from your goal.

Corollary: Do not stop talking under any circumstances or wall-of-text. If your opponent is politely waiting for you to stop talking, continue until the original point is long since lost in the looming ocean of words.

Strategy 2: The interrupt-an-existing-conversation-with-an-unrelated-point strategy or “the photobomber.” The strategy can be employed either by someone in the crowd who feels an uncontrollable urge to speak or by someone on his or her way to class who simply wanted to enjoy his or her own voice as publicly as possible. It must be entirely unrelated but of such overwhelming vehemence that regaining the original track becomes

Corollary: When speaking to the crowd, ignore any shouted examples or answers to questions, regardless of their relevance to what you are saying.

Strategy 3: Innocent-question, terrible-consequences strategy or, “It’s a trap!” Sometimes, a series of questions can be used to illuminate a logical discrepancy or illustrate an unclear point. Other times, it goes more like this.

Speaker: “Do you think babies are good?”

Victim: “Babies are alright, I suppose.”

Speaker: “And would you say that bad things sometimes happen to good people?”

Victim: “Yes, that is true.”

Speaker: “Therefore, you believe that horrible things should happen to babies!”

Corollary: All-points-lead-to-your-chosen-blanket-truth corollary or “It’s a tarp!” Regardless of what kind of loose evidence, shaky logic, or general silliness you need to pull, it all leads back to you being infallible.

Hopefully with the aid of these time-tested strategies we can continue to bring to religion the same dignity and intellectual standards that are enforced in the most hallowed of free speech forums, teh internets. (spelling mistake intentional. Yay!)

Johnathan Kastner is in his second year of his second bachelor degree, majoring in computer science. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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