Sideways of the main question are where most people defend their positions. If you get your opponent stuck on a side issue you may win without beating your opponents logic. When on the sideways, you are appealing to emotion; particularly because the opponent knows that your points are sideways, but he/she feels forced to deal with it before getting on with the main issue. It is emotional because it is frustrating; especially when you are attacking a derivative of their main argument but not the argument itself.
If you are the one being thrown for a sideways loop by an opponent who refuses to focus, be firm. They may wish to argue all over the place, but don’t follow them. Keep asking them the same question and every time they finish a point without answering it, expose the fact that they still have not refuted your main point. It may feel as if you get no where with this method, but you must realize that they probably never intended to let you get anywhere to begin with. At least at the end of the debate you may still express in truth that they refuse to address directly the main argument.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, we have a problem with people researching what they believe just enough to deny any counterpoints with rhetoric. Does it then do any good to point out that their points are, on the whole, rhetorical? Most likely, no. If a person has expressed an interest in truth no matter where it leads, and cares for real learning, then their research would have gone beyond just getting a rhetorical understand of the philosophical arguments that defend their position, in the first place. Of course, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt to suggest that they have even gone just that far in their research. Most likely, they did all their research on Google or TV.