Hmmm…yeah — I’m with you on the virtual wine & cheese thing!
I actually agree with your “surely there must be another way” approach — my response sought to point out the difficulties. If you’re only going to use carefully accurate debate, it can be very tough to handle a schoolyard bully.
I feel like our educational system should be teaching things like critical thinking skills, the scientific method and how to do effective fact-checking. Those are the mental tools that help people to distinguish the arguments that are worth following and debating from those that are pure nonsense that may be dismissed with little further concern. We spend far too much time teaching things that can be looked up on Wikipedia and far too little time teaching people to doubt and check and understand what is a reliable source and what may be tainted.
I just spent an hour yesterday arguing with relatives to try to convince them that “The Batchelorette” has scriptwriters and is played by actors. I showed that the originator of the show had said as much on 20/20 — and that several of the participants had “fessed up” to acting a role given to them by the show runners. They countered that most of the people who ended up together at the end of the show wound up staying together afterwards…turns out that out of 30 series, only 5 couples stayed together — which is one in six. I showed that (on average) people have seven short term relationships before finding their “perfect” mate…and one in six isn’t much better than one in seven.
None of this worked — I was roundly shouted down and dismissed. “Of course it must be real”…so I give up. Facts, logic, nothing works when the thing that people WISH was true turns out not to be true.