Yes, that’s right. Do you know why right wingers on the Internet say such stupid things? Well, to be honest, in most cases it’s because they are stupid. But it’s also because they have to. They’re charged with saying stupid shit by their “handlers,” who are the smart Republicans who corral these right-wingers into a mob and ride their idiocy to victory. Of course, the main reason they win is because… well… I’ll get to that.
I have been offering up my opinion on the Internet for nearly 20 years now, and no, it is not your imagination. The relative anonymity of the Internet has unleashed some of the nastiest people imaginable. Among the worst in the world of political opinion include the following. If you’ve discussed politics online at all, you know at least a couple of these reprobates:
- There’s the anonymous troll who delights in quick and dirty personal attacks and pretty much never discusses anything political.
- Then there’s the anonymous stalker who usually lives in his mom’s basement, and who spends weeks and months searching for everything you have ever written, so that he can repost it, out of context, to “make you look bad.”
- The up-and-coming legend in his own mind “journalist” who broadcasts an impending story and proclaims it will “destroy” a political opponent. Of course, what he means is, it will “destroy” someone who proved him wrong, but whom no one recognizes, and the “impending story” consists of a fishing expedition for minnows in the Pacific.
- Then, there’s the guy on social media who pretends to agree with everything you say for a few months to a year, before he shows his true colors and attacks you aggressively.
- And of course, there’s the most common Internet bully; the one who simply spouts bullshit to you and gets really pissed when you call it bullshit.
In my time online discussing politics, I’ve learned a couple of things about how some folks operate. First, it’s impossible to overstate the level to which anonymity can makes people both bold and stupid. Most of these people say things anonymously that you know damn well they would never say in real life, especially face to face. The other thing is, the fact that they have an audience makes them even bolder and more stupid. Paradoxically, it also makes them more isolated. They imagine that every post in a popular forum is seen by thousands, and they develop delusions of grandeur. They seem to have no concept that, just because a website has millions of followers, not everyone reads everything posted, especially in the comments. But again, their delusion makes them bolder, and more apt to say something incredibly stupid and mean and pointless.
There’s a word for people like these; bullies. Because of so many websites’ aversion to blocking anonymous trolls from posting anything for fear of being labeled “anti-free-speech” (Usually by the bullies), they have largely taken over many fora and some social media sites. Thankfully, sites like Facebook and Twitter have a system whereby you can block them, but it doesn’t take them off the sites, it merely moves them out of your sight.
In any case, right wing anonymous trolls (and yes, most trolls are right wing – it’s a product of their mentality) are cowards at heart, and they get a perverse pleasure at seeing others in pain. They’re don’t view those who disagree with them as human; they view them as “enemies.” Worse, it’s not just about disagreement. To most right wing trolls, an “enemy” is anyone who doesn’t kowtow to them. They don’t want you to agree with them that Obama is wrong about some issue they care about; they need for you to agree with them, that Obama is an un-American Kenyan communist socialist incompetent Muslim with a radical Christian pastor who wants to kill all white Americans. Or something like that. If you can’t accept their take on politics, you are “the enemy.”
Oh, did I tell you? They’re also enormously insecure. Secure people don’t need to jump up and down and scream “look at me!” every chance they get, which is a specialty of the right wing troll. Secure people also don’t have to bring others down in order to feel better about themselves; yet, that’s the anonymous troll’s M.O. If you’ve been engaged in discussing politics on the Internet for any length of time, You know who I’m talking about, because you see them every day.
If you’ve been engaged in discussing politics on the Internet for any length of time, you know who I’m talking about, because you see them every day. Loathesome assholes who can’t see anything as non-political, and who take their ideology so personally that they’ll lie to support it. They speak a great deal about “credibility,” but they only have “credibility” based on their level of acceptance by idiots who are just like them. Of course, many of them gain credibility based on our reaction to them. And that’s what I want to talk about here.
One reason politics often seems so “polarized” is because right wing bullies start fights, and progressives seem far too willing to engage them. Wingnut bullies don’t engage in actual political discussion; they lob character assassination bombs out there, disguised as political discussion. Even when they disguise their personal attacks as “journalism,” their actual purpose is to poison the political debate. Always remember; the right wing Republican strategy is to drive down turnout. And when we engage these reprobates, most voters see everyone as roughly the same, and too many of them opt to stay home. In other words, every time you engage a right wing troll, you are helping to cement their electoral dominance. You may think some anonymous troll on Twitter or Facebook or in the comments at a blog or news site is just a minor annoyance, but every time you respond, you help them in their efforts to secure victory in the next election.
So, what do you do?
You ignore them, of course. With all your might.
Oh, sure… sometimes it’s fun to toy with them for a comment or two, and that’s fine, as long as it’s almost never. I understand the fun aspect of this. But for the most part, you should simply pretend they don’t exist. I’d say 99 percent of those I encounter on Twitter and Facebook get blocked without even a comment. And let me tell you; it’s not only good for progressives, but it has a positive effect on your psyche.
I’m speaking from experience. I used to argue with wingnuts a lot. Now, I present arguments on this blog that don’t even mention the right wing, and I feel better. I learned that it’s possible to present an argument that refutes a Fox News meme without ever mentioning the meme. Just as importantly, I’m no longer the issue for them.
Surely, you’ve noticed that when dealing with right wing trolls, right? You’ll note that, when you engage them, after a short period of time, you become the issue. And the more defensive you get about either yourself or your position, the happier they get. It becomes personally distressing and it’s very stressful.
Well, it’s time for a new perspective. Listen up.
Politics is not a personal enterprise, and the right wing trolls are trying to get you to argue personal issues because they just want to make you mad, not engage you in a political discussion. No one wants to discuss personal issues with a complete stranger, and it is natural for someone in that position to become defensive. They want us to be defensive, because defensive people argue loudly against offensive people, and they just want you to look like you’re as big an idiot as the troll. And that is what bystanders see. They see two people arguing irrationally, and they don’t hear the position anyone is making. By ignoring them altogether, you have administered their Kryptonite; it takes away their power.
Before you respond to someone who seems like a troll, look them up. In most cases, they’ll be anonymous. While you may be curious, overcome that, because you’ll never find them. In other cases, you’ll find that the troll has quite the record of posting filth in cesspools like Free Republic comments, or I’ll find a smattering of pieces on a few select right wing websites or blogs. In some cases, they’re wanna-be “journalists” who think they can be the next Woodward or Bernstein by trolling the Internet for a story with no meaning. I’ll respond to actual journalists, who are few and far between, but fake “journalists” get ignored.
The main reason to start ignoring these assholes, of course, is because we have elections to win. But more than that, we need to propagate a progressive vision for our country, and we can’t do that if we’re spending most of our time and energy engaging trolls and bullies.
Again, stop it. Focus on a progressive message, and stop propagating the right wing message. They get enough support without progressives helping.