How to countermand the intellectual dishonesty of a Karen

Develop your ability to deal with a formidable Karen.

Readership: Anti-Karens;

This is an exercise that I give to students in my debate class.  It is intended to help them identify dishonest debate tactics and develop an ability to counter similar attacks.


The coach threw an 18-year old boy off the high school varsity athletic team because of bad behavior.

Speech Preparation

The coach told the principal what had happened.  The principal told the coach that this boy had been a trouble maker in the local schools since first grade.  The principal warned the coach that the boy’s mother would probably come in to attack the coach in defense of her son’s ambitions to play on the team.  So the coach recounted a list of all the boy’s transgressions on the team, and prepared himself mentally.


Here is the discussion between the coach and the boy’s mother.

The mother came to see the coach, and asked him why her son had been kicked off the team.

The coach recounted a list of all the boy’s transgressions on the team.

The mother could not deny that these transgressions were serious misbehaviors, so she responded by demanding, “How did YOU behave when YOU were 18?”

The coach responded with the true statement, “I was a cadet at West Point Military Academy when I was 18.”

The mother immediately shot back, “This isn’t West Point!”

The coach was made speechless by her reply, but he soon replied, “That’s right, but I still have to manage this team with as much discipline as possible, if we expect to win games this season.  Your son has not responded well to discipline, so I have to exclude him in order to give the other boys a fighting chance.

The mother said, “So!  You’re just thinking of yourselves, at my son’s expense!  What a lousy bunch of $#!%& heads you are!  I’m going to talk to your superintendent about this!”


  1. Identify the tactics of the coach.
  2. Identify the tactics of the mother.
  3. Identify the tactical mistakes of the coach.
  4. Identify the tactical mistakes of the mother.
  5. Who do you believe “won” this debate?


  1. The tactics of the coach include…
  • Facts and logic: The coach is conveying the facts to the boys’ mother, and the logical conclusion that the boy should be kicked off the team.
  • Scapegoating: The coach is blaming the boy for the lack of discipline and the team’s future poor performance.
  • Slippery Slope: The coach assumes that if the boy stays on the team, then the team will lose the season.  (This is not a slippery slope if the coach has years of experience.)
  1. The mother is relying on dishonest tactics. Among them are…
  • Two instances of Abusive Ad Hominem.
  • Red Herring: She changed the subject, and she changed the meaning of the coach’s answer.
  • Appeal to Authority: Threatened to go talk to the Superintendent.
  • Straw Man: Distorted her son’s misbehavior by comparing him to the coach.
  1. The coach was proud of his experience at the military academy, and since he could rely on it as being a true fact, he accepted the mothers abusive Ad Hominem into the debate, thinking that his reply was a great answer to a woman who was trying to prove that all 18-year old boys have the same delinquent behavior as her son.
  2. The mother’s tactical mistakes are…
  • She failed to supply a rational justification for the boys’ behavior.
  • She asked a question to which she did not already know the answer.
  • She failed to admit her errors and refine her strategy in the debate.
  1. This woman is a world-class dishonest witch, which may explain why her son has a bad reputation!

Exit Questions

  1. Can you identify any other tactics or fallacies?
  2. How would you have dealt with this woman?


About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
This entry was posted in Conflict Management, Discerning Lies and Deception, Education, Holding Frame, Leadership, Models of Failure, Models of Success, Personal Presentation, Sphere of Influence, Strategy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to How to countermand the intellectual dishonesty of a Karen

  1. “This woman is a world-class dishonest witch, which may explain why her son has a bad reputation!”

    That’s really all this boils down to. She is a crazy person and being raised by a crazy person has been a disaster for the boy. You can’t have rational interactions with crazy people. The only mistake the coach made was thinking that was possible.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Frankly, calling her dishonest is minimizing the situation. She has a personality disorder at the very least, and most likely would be a multi-axial diagnosis if seen by a competent professional.


  2. Ed Hurst says:

    I’ve worked in American public education. Here’s the official answer: The whole thing hinges on insurance liability. The boys all agreed to sign a code of conduct to play on the team, a code ostensibly written by district lawyers. The list of infractions were submitted to a higher authority and the decision is not really for the coach to make. If he defies policy, he will be liable to firing for putting the district at risk of a lawsuit. The mother can hire a lawyer if she likes, but the coach’s hands are tied.


    • Jack says:

      @ Ed,
      Let’s assume this happened in the U.S. for the sake of argument. So in this case, the coach should report the boy’s misbehaviors to the principal and superintendent and recommend that he be kicked off the team. If they agree, then if the mother comes to see him, then he can stand behind policy and refer her to go talk to the superintendent. If they disagree, then the boy won’t be kicked off the team. The coach won’t have to argue with the mother, but he must stay on his toes in dealing with the boy.
      I am gathering that the best way to deal with a Karen is to have a supervisor who won’t buckle under her pressure.
      However the supervisor/manager still has to deal with her.
      It seems like the ultimate recourse is to have a good insurance policy and a good lawyer. But even so, the Karen still “wins” by wasting everyone’s time, money, and emotional energy.
      Not good…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. lastmod says:

    And “karen” went to the Superintendent and the boy was re-instated on the team


  4. Gunner Q says:

    “How would you have dealt with this woman?”

    With forewarning from a sympathetic administration? Heehee.

    Replace my chair in my office with an elevated throne behind a barrier. Symbology: unapproachable authority.
    Replace the visitor’s chair with the smallest, most uncomfortable chair to be found in the school. There will be no other chair in the office. Karen shall not enjoy her visit.
    Enlist the team. “Okay, guys, listen up. I got a hot tip that Bratty Brad’s Baby Momma is going to come scream at me to let him back on the team. LET’S HAVE SOME FUN WITH HER! Here’s the plan…”

    4a. “While she’s around, refer to me as “your Majesty” or “milord”. See if she gets any weird expressions on her face.”

    4b. “Flank her like an honor guard. Do not touch her. Keep your hands clasped behind your backs so there’ll obviously be no touching. But violate her personal space at all times!”

    4c. “Ryan, a special assignment for you. Wait two minutes then come into my office and say the assistant coach needs my help. That’ll give me an excuse to cut her off.”


    What I actually did was reinstate the brat as ordered by the principal then quit. “Where are all the good men?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jack says:

      @ Gunner Q,
      So in other words, make a coordinated group effort to create an environment in which the Karen’s toxicity is neutered.


  5. Gunner Q says:

    Weird, my numbering got deleted upon posting.


  6. lastmod says:

    Long ago in Upstate New York… a private college called “Union” in the now post-industrial ruined Schenectady, New York…………..must have been in the mid 1980’s, their hockey team “The Dutchmen” had a winning streak. The right coach, the right team of players and how they worked together……..more playoffs……more games….more missed classes. Union then and now prides itself on academics. Sport is an enrichment, not the factor of a Union education….still is if truth be told.

    Hockey coach caused an UPROAR with fans, the local media, the local press. He came on the news and said “we won the divisional championship. we’re done. No post-season. No playoffs, no going to regional and statewide, or national championships, the young men here have missed too many classes, and their education is more important than this.”

    The team actually backed up that coach.

    No one else did. Karen was around then too. She and her equally annoying male counterpart told us what “they thought” frequently in the papers, on the news, and of course with phone calls to the fine college. They had no idea about the academic reputation of this college. No idea of its very deep nod to tradition and its history. Though they knew best. That coach had the backing of the Trustees, the college president and many of its prestigious alums.

    It took a collective effort. Never would happen today.

    I never had the grades to get into Union btw. I had to settle for private arts college in Vermont.


  7. feeriker says:

    The coach’s tactical mistake? Arguing with/debating a woman in the first place, especially one as obviously low-character and dishonest as this one. Complete waste of his time and mental and verbal energy, and accomplishes nothing productive.


    • Jack says:

      @ Feeriker,
      So then how do you get rid of her?


      • feeriker says:

        As one who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, I would do it with a one-way conversation like the following. It would probably cost me my job, but if keeping my job depended on regularly dealing with insufferable women like this one and their entitled thug sons, I probably wouldn’t want to keep it anyway.

        “Your son is a nuisance who is preventing the TEAM from achieving its objectives, which rely on individuals cooperating with one another and focusing on key things of importance in order to win. Given your son’s well-established pattern of behavior, it is obvious that he cannot be trusted by others to interact with them in a manner in which he can put them and the common goals of the collective above himself. For this reason he is unfit to be part of the team, or indeed any collective of people within which, if he doesn’t contribute, is either useless or a hindrance (and in certain situations even a potential DANGER to others).

        “Clearly your son is a carbon copy of you, and probably his father, if indeed he has one. I know that my explanation of the facts is probably difficult for you to grasp, but I can’t “dumb it down” any further to make it any simpler. If your son truly has it within him to WANT to be a team player, then he needs to learn discipline first and show that he can exercise it, and he clearly won’t do that on his own, most certainly not while he lives under your roof.

        “While I had the benefit of a West Point education to instill discipline in me, that is of course out of the question for your son. He could certainly use a period of living a life of military-grade discipline, so, unless he joins the U.S. military (problematic at best, given his record), the only other option is juvenile boot camp, which, while it might do him good, is also just as likely to make him worse.

        “So for now, your son is off the team. I MIGHT consider reinstating him IF, AND ONLY IF he can go 90 days off the team demonstrating that he is capable of behaving himself in an academic environment for that period of time without incident. Until then, my decision is final. The team cannot afford his disruptive presence under current conditions.”

        Liked by 3 people

      • ramman3000 says:

        To supplement ferriker’s most excellent comment, when a pastor cannot follow the precepts of the church (looking at you United Methodist Church), then he is duty bound by his oaths of office to resign, not stay and cause division. Similarly, whenever someone disagrees with an order given by a superior, they have the duty to either follow that order or quit. These days the cowards stay in office and simultaneously undermine their boss in the press or on social media.

        In the working world, only once have I ever outright refused to do something for ethical reasons. I had no choice. You may be able to your position, but you have to be ready to resign if necessary. Doing the right thing takes guts and moral fortitude, but it isn’t optional.

        That said, it is wise to try to avoid such a situation and find a resolution that doesn’t involve either you compromising yourself or getting yourself fired. No need to be stupid about it, but eventually you may be forced into a corner and have to choose.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ramman3000 says:

        Also, the advice I always tell my son: if you get into a major confrontation, you better be absolutely certain you are correct. If you are not totally sure, you must choose a different strategy.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: This week in reaction: this season is our Babylon. – Dark Brightness

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