Recently, I've more and more often found myself picking verbal fights on various politically based website's comment sections. There isn't any sane reason why anyone would do this, and I suspect a large part of why I do is to either practice writing or to vent some of my all-natural manly aggression. Since the only other way I know to do the latter is to convince my friends to box with me, and since they usually don't want to box and I'm no good at it, Its probably better for me - and them - that I do this.
That being said, I've had the opportunity to codify some of how I generally handle the arguments, and I've made a cheater's guide to winning them, at least most of the time. You should note that these don't work in a well-moderated environment or in one where you can't really expect any sympathy from 99% of the room, like Cracked's Hitler's Brain forum or very clearly partisan sites where you take the opposite view, respectively.
Clever or smart-ass readers will notice that I include a few argumentative fallacies as tools here; I think they are useful in this context, but I wouldn't try them with anybody who knows a whole lot more than you. In no particular order, here are the tips I can think of right now.
1. Don't focus on convincing your opponent
In most arguments about politics or religion, nobody wins the argument in the traditional sense(I.E. you convince the other guy and he starts thinking like you). On the internet it becomes more even difficult to win in that sense, partially because people play dirtier when they can't see you face to face. It's also more difficult because when people have conversations in person, empathy kicks in and you don't start out throwing sand in each other's eyes right away.
The solution is to not focus on convincing your target of your points, but to make your points while systematically destroying his from the viewpoint of an impartial observer. You have to play to the invisible crowd a little bit, and form your arguments with the idea of them listening in. To do that, you need to:
2. Go crazy with the sourcing
You know what separates you from any random jackass on the internet? Nothing, that's what. Chances are, you aren't famous. You aren't special, and the people listening in are just passing by. That's where sourcing comes in: if you pick any relatively non-kooky website to get sources that support what you were going to say anyway, It's like adding another more respected person to your debate team; enough good sources, and you can mob your opponent until he or she crumbles.
A good source weights your argument to a point where only another source that is just as good or better will keep the other guy in the game, and a surprising amount of the time people will forfeit arguments they would have died to win just to save the trouble of using google for five seconds. Of course, occasionally you get someone who is so oblivious to the concept of citation that nothing dents their resolve to be right, so you then have to:
3. Be 25% nicer than you actually are.
Remember the people from 1., the ones you were trying to convince? They generally aren't reading two random dudes going back and forth in a comments section so they can learn the finer points of why you hate or love Ron Paul or Paul Ryan; they want action. They are much closer to being Romans watching gladiators chop each other up, and they want blood. That's where being too nice comes in.
Being too nice or too mean both have specific uses in an internet argument, and if you use them at the wrong time, you can either come off as a weakling or a lunatic who flies off the handle at a moment's notice. You have to pick your timing carefully; If your opponent goes mean too early, or from the very beginning, sometimes you can calm him to death by disagreeing with his point while being slightly(but only slightly) condescending the whole time. The idea is to get them going to the point where they say and do unreasonable things, while all the time you sit calmly off the the side, letting them look crazy and dig their own hole. You look rational because they can't, which makes them more irration, which makes you look even better. Its a vicious cycle that mainly just benefits you for once.
There are, of course, a few more ways to go about this; I'll get into some tomorrow, plus the only real benefit to this that doesn't involve hitting people less. As for now, I've got to go nurse a viscous headache. with some reasonable amount of sleep before I have to get up and do some more brutal, unforgiving things to make money.
P.S. Did you see that I have ads on the site? You wouldn't think that if you clicked a relevant one that you could make me some cash, but you totally can, because this is America.