“Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
The above quote, derived from the writings of Mark Twain, is sage advice. Advice which I, sadly, do not always observe. I’ve got a bad habit, some would say a personality flaw, in that when I see misinformation online, I try to correct it. Usually, this is benign and welcome. I’m an expert in a few fields. If I see someone list a Beatles single with the wrong B-side, or say that a GI Joe accessory came out in the wrong year, I set the record straight, and it’s usually appreciated.
Unfortunately, politics are a different matter. These days people approach politics with the passion and stupidity usually reserved for rooting for a sports team. Fact-checking is not welcome. My knowledge of The Affordable Healthcare Act is mocked and derided. Never mind that I’ve been paid to read and analyze it. If I point out that someone is posting something that’s factually wrong, I get attacked and then watch as a lie is justified by some imagined sin by the other side.
It’s an election year, and you can’t go online without stepping in a big steaming pile of politics. I lean left, and I should know better than to engage my very vocal right-wing friends in political discourse because, well, they don’t know how to argue like intelligent people, but they think they do. This can be very frustrating.
Arguing politics with a passionate right-winger is like accidentally making eye-contact with the lotion person in the mall. They will come at you aggressively and you will play hell getting rid of them. It’s a shame that all this tenacity doesn’t come with much in the way of common sense or an appreciation of what facts are. You will wind up exasperated and feeling like you’ve wasted your time.
Of course, I fall into this trap too often.
I have a Facebook friend, actually a colleague here at Charleston Newspapers, who has what can best be described as a flamingly irrational hatred of President Obama. He posts every anti-Obama link that he comes across, almost all of them from loony-toony right-wingnut sites like NewsMax, The Washington Times, Conservative News or the clearinghouse of partisan news coverage, FOX News. The source usually discredits them instantly, but this doesn’t stop him from posting them.
I get tired of seeing this crap in my newsfeed, but I don’t want to hide or block him because, except for his abhorrant political views, he’s a good guy. I ask him why he focuses on right-wing smear articles, and he insists that he’s very “well-versed” and “reads everything.” I can either not believe him when he repeatedly says that, or I can infer that he has impaired reasoning abilities, because nobody who “reads everything” could possibly believe the nonsense that he keeps posting. The third alternative is that he knows what he posts is not true, but he does it to get a rise out of “the liberals.” So maybe he’s gunning for a job with FOX News. I don’t know.
About one in every ten posts of his, I feel compelled to leave a comment explaining that what he’s posting is simply not true. That’s when the game begins.The right-wing attack dogs come out.
Usually it’s two lady friends of his, I’m guessing that they’re doughy, middle-aged women with nothing much positive going on in their lives.They are so filled with hatred, bile and a deliberate disregard for the truth that you can only feel sad for them. We’ll call them “Judy” and “Gail.”
Judy and Gail are so consumed with hatred for Obama that they think anyone who supports any of his positions or programs is a godless, Communist Socialist who will hunt them down, take away their guns, and rape them just so they can force them to get abortions. If you dare to disagree with them, you must be getting a government check and you hate “Uhmerka.”
They are devotees of the Sarah Palin school of debate. They remain smug and arrogant no matter how much of a fool they have made of themselves. They will hurl insults, but not good insults. They will recycle insults that were used successfully against them in the past, thinking that they can score points with them even if they don’t make any sense in the context of the discussion that they’re in currently. They will accuse you of “drinking the Kool Aid” if you don’t believe that Obama was born in Kenya in a secret lab, and is actually the result of an experiment that cross-bred space aliens with Satan. It’s like trying to debate a vicious, unhinged Peggy Hill.
They insist that FOX News is completely reliable and unbiased, and when it’s clearly demonstrated that FOX may be the single most biased source of propaganda outside of Pravda, they attack MSNBC, even when nobody ever mentioned MSNBC. Apparently they can’t wrap their minds around the concept of “two wrongs don’t make a right,” let alone understand the subtle nuances of false equivilency.When confronted with an outright lie broadcast on FOX News, they revert to an argument on the level of a four-year-old, “The liberal media did it first!” Two lies don’t even things out, they just make everything worse.
Sometimes I feel like Jor-El, talking to the Science Council of Krypton. It can get so exasperating arguing with these babbling idiots, who ignore every point you make and every fact you present, and then change the subject to irrelevant asides so often that the discussion degenerates into a shouting match, that I have actually lost my temper and just resorted to foul language.
And then they act like they won. You see, to the right-wingers, it’s not about being correct or doing what’s best for the country, it’s about stone-walling and changing the subject so much that the other side loses their temper or gives up. Then they can get their way. It’s how the Republican congress is operating now. Senate Republicans just shot down a bill that would put unemployed veterans to work. They’ve shot down every one of the president’s jobs bills. If they hadn’t, unemployment would be below six percent now. Of course, they’d have a harder time running against that.
I am not proud of the fact that I have cussed out crazy old ladies online. So I have instituted a new rule for Facebook political discussions. When I feel motivated to correct the latest smear from the right-wing misinformation machine, after I make two comments, I click on “Unfollow post.” That way, they can have the last word, and I’m not exposed to their mind sewage. I am not there to debate with them. I’m merely going to correct them, like someone would do to a petulant child or a pet that keeps taking dumps on the carpet. I don’t care why they keep crapping in the living room. I’m merely letting them know that it’s wrong.
And I can’t wait until the election is over so my friend will go back to posting Beatles videos instead of nonsense from Brietbart.