Reachable Reds

The car is a vile public nuisance. The car as a vile public nuisance. Sentence One is normative, like 2 + 2 = 4, asserting a matter of fact. Sentence Two is interpretive, eliciting discussion about matters of taste. Normative communication about matters of taste, controversial positions, or unsettled questions is a sophomoric meme spat, not an argument. Popular among folks who make a big deal about how conservative they are. Some call such normative efforts “debate”, even claiming that “debate” is well known to be the best way to settle disputes. This attitude is bullshit (see Brandolini’s Law). Charisma trumps content in what is nothing but adversarial mental masturbation, meant not to settle disputes, but to promote perfidy. Trolling.

It is so hard to put together traceable facts and arguments and so easy to spew appealing nonsense. For a fact user to participate in a debate show is to lose the charisma battle in advance. The audience is only there to cheer the witticisms of their hero. Even when the fact user is also a charismatic communicator, there is little to gain unless articulate witticisms can be concocted that might give some of the audience pause. Even so, said charismatic fact user would probably spend their time better communicating in other ways.

The best way to assemble normative communications is to gather reliable, reproducible evidence and ask what kind of declarative statements it supports. Winning in this context entails everybody moving towards consensus, ideology be damned. Datasets, visual elements, written words. If half your audience rejects facts and logic, they won’t listen to anybody who isn’t glib and appalling. But maybe some few ideologues are potentially amenable to change. Perhaps their fascist-adjacency is due to ignorance, unresolved resentments, and exposure to toxic media. Splutteringly certain about who The Devil and The Saints are, but susceptible to a small number of facts, if provided with a spoonfull of sugar or crystal meth.

To respond directly to an ideologue is to submit to seizure of context. To parse the concealed assumptions contained in pretended questions is to succumb to defensiveness. Instead, to carefully contribute to “the debate”, you must go meta. Scan the blather, perhaps via webscraping and voice-to-text followed by word-frequency analysis, to get an impressionist picture of the gendered, racist, and ableist slurs being deployed, the deliberately ignorant and innumerate mockeries of logic, the misogyny, victim-blaming, bigotry. Then develop your piece, not as a response to any specific instance of negative-sum ideolatry, but as a positive editorial that nevertheless demonstrates a knowingness about the fascist wanking.

Seize context rather than interlocute. Aim to forestall eye-rolling. Troll only if you’re another Galileo, who won because facts and logic were on his side, not because he was trolling (note to conservitrolls: comparing yourself to Galileo because you’re trolling is like comparing yourself to Superman because you’re walking around in your underwear; it’s more likely that you are simply an exhibitionist). Note: my “vile public nuisance” example comes from The Glass Plate Game, by Dunbar Aitkins, a local mid-Willamette celebrity whom I and some D&D friends sometimes chatted with in the late 70’s and early 80’s, when we adventured in Corvallis and happened to go to The Beanery or otherwise encountered him. The Glass Plate Game is designed to sponsor open communication, similar in motivation to David Bohm’s idea of Dialog.