Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Every day we encounter stupidity. I'm sure for the sake of your sanity, much like me, you let a lot of this go. You have to. Or you'll go crazy. We can't take up the mantle of every battle. From a tourist pronouncing "Gough" street wrong (btw, non-SF readers: goff. Like cough with a g), to someone on any variety of social networking sites or newspaper websites making asinine comments. In fact, I've learned to not read the comments section of just about all websites because the level of intelligent discourse is...lacking at the very least. (I'm gonna come off like an elitist, over-educated ass in here...for which I make very little apology. I kind of am.) (Oh, also: we're gonna get all political below (well, as political as I'll ever get), so if that's not your thing, you'll just want to skip this one.)

Mostly it's the internet stupidity you have to let go. Someone recently misinterpreted something I wrote about a TV show and I was a hundred words into a response before I realized that arguing, or even clarifying a position, regarding a TV show was a profoundly absurd use of time that I generally use poorly anyway.

A lot of it is how we allocate our time. If we, like the cartoon shows, took on every internet argument ever, we'd never sleep. Or manage to accomplish anything of note. I don't think Twitter, where I encounter a lot of crass objectification of women because I follow a lot of male sports fans who, a small minority of, can be rude, is the place with 140 characters to tell them why talking solely about Misty May-Treanor's ass is demeaning to her and all women. (Related: I don't think I've been prouder of my gender than I have been for it being responsible for over half the USA's gold medals. GEAUX WOMEN!)

Instead I made good use of the unfollow button, choosing not to have virtual acquaintance's stupidity invade my brain.

Where encountering stupidity gets harder is in my real life. People say things, people I'm related to or am actual real live friends with, and I choose not to engage because, well, I'd probably have better results if I bashed my head against a brick wall. I eye roll, or quietly gnash my teeth as someone else says something ignorant or wrongheaded and figure it's not my place, or even within my skills, to go about discussing with them why they are wrong.

A completely innocuous example of this is when my college roommate responded to the news of an LSU football player getting kicked off the team with "How could he be so stupid?!?! Smokin' weed over $$$ and a potential Heisman?!?!" Well, college roommate, I knew you when we were 20. Pretty sure I can understand EXACTLY how he could be so stupid. It wasn't really an argument, just a matter of perspective. One that seemed pretty obvious to me but was lost on my former party girl roommate.

Instead of arguing with all the inaccurate comments I encounter I, complete misanthrope in all other respects, somehow has faith that the smart people of the world will rise to the top and the less intellectual, illogical people will eventually be proven wrong anyway and it won't matter. Laws will change, courses will shift, and every ignorant idea will eventually be weeded out because the overwhelming stupidity of this nation just can't continue. Yeah, I have no idea why I have faith that that will EVER be the way of the world either.

So I started to realize: if I'm not speaking up, people like me likely aren't speaking up either and then everyone else gets to go around continuing to be stupid. And we live in a country where people are absolutely, adamantly proud of their wrongheaded, and sometimes outright ignorant, opinions. It can be infuriating to observe.

I finally decided that I should start speaking up. Maybe just a little. And mostly to those in my actual circle that I'm exposed to, who I could have actual conversations with as opposed to shouting matches that eventually go the way of all internet arguments ever.

Shortly after that decision, an uncle of mine, your know, that one uncle you have who still insists on seeing Obama's birth certificate even though it's a moot point and is super staunchly Republican while remaining in the bottom 20% of income earners in the U.S., where being a Republican is completely antithetical to his needs as a citizen of this country. The one who relies heavily on his worker's comp doctors because of every injury at work but can't understand why on god's green earth we would socialize healthcare. That uncle. Anyway, that uncle posted on his facebook the following comment:

This is still America. You are innocent until proven guilty. And in this instance, Romney isn't even being tried in a court in front of a jury of his peers, but the court of popular opinion. To call someone a felon, not once but twice, is slanderous at the least.

There was then a link to this "article". I put article in quotes because it's some right wing bullshit, but I read it to see what he was so upset about. And then I took a step I'm pretty sure that uncle didn't: I watched the actual Obama ad linked in the article.

I won't even get into the nonsensicality of my uncle's comment. (Uh...if it's a court of public opinion it's not a court and innocent 'til proven guilty is irrelevant? Maybe?) Without injecting my own political views, to sum up what the article said: The Weekly Standard claims that an Obama ad that displays a graph indicating two topics on which Romney most didn't want to discuss as "Tax Returns" and "Felons" is an intentional act to make people think "Romney = Felon".

Now, anyone with half a brain would watch the ad and realize that "Romney = felon" isn't the take away at all. However, I'll grant that there is some marketing psychologist or whatever the role would be who said, "If we put the word felon in this ad, from that graph from actual other news agency, people will then link Romney with being a felon for all time and then doubt his credibility and we'll win!"

Even if it is the case that marketing gurus or ad supervisors or whatever wanted people to link "Romney" and "felon" by using that graphic in the ad, at no point, ever, in the ad is Romney CALLED a felon. Even the mere implication that he could be a felon is tenuous, at best. That ignorant people may see the ad and get the take away that "Romney = felon" is a problem for the small minority of the populous without any critical thinking skills. (I'm overestimating the amount of people with critical thinking skills, aren't I?)

It was at that point that I'd decided, while subject to my uncle's oft absurd facebook meanderings on politics, which I usually turn a blind eye to, that I'd had enough. So I commented the following:  Look, I don't want to debate politics and views on facebook, you're allowed to have yours and I'm allowed to have mine. That said, it's best to raise your ire about things that are actually happening. After watching the ad, it can be determined conclusively that at NO point does it call him a felon, let alone even intimate such a fact, but instead has a graph that demonstrates what questions people had an opinion of him dodging during a debate. Additionally, to point out something factual (Romney hasn't released his tax returns) is not slanderous in the least. Just something to consider.

I'd point out here, something I didn't to my uncle, that what I said isn't even regarding political ideology so much as it points out poor rhetorical tactics. I expected a full out war. What I got was...nothing. He didn't respond to my well reasoned, well articulated commentary. *stamps foot*

But a few days later I guess him and my dad had dueling facebook posts about gay marriage. I missed the genesis of this because in case you haven't figured it out already: facebook is the worst and I try not to go over there (but remain a weak willed human being who does). My uncle tried to engage my dad in an argument about this, which is like THE biggest mistake ever, as my dad annihilated each of my uncle's arguments. That's when my uncle did what any self respecting person lacking argumentative skills does: took his toys and went home. Seriously. After some big declaration about how facebook has gotten too politicized with the lead up to the November election, he disabled his account. (Which is why I missed what he posted about gay marriage that led my father to retort. He was gone by the time I got there.) It was all I could do not to shout, "BUT YOU STARTED IT!", which is in itself one of the worst arguments of all time. Right up there with "I am rubber you are glue".

(BTW: I can't deal with the anti gay marriage arguments. I just want to shoot them all down. "But God says!" Nope. Separation of church and state. Your god doesn't have any bearing on the legality of gay marriage. Your god doesn't get to decide what's best for this country. "Freedom of religion!" Your free exercise? No one is impinging on your free exercise of religion. Your religion is fully allowed to be full of homophobic assholes, it's just not allowed to make ALL of us believe the same as you. Your church doesn't have to perform gay marriages, you just have to accept that other people will have them. "It's just not right!" Uhhh? According to who/what? Once upon a time we said marriage between different races wasn't right either (I fully realize some people probably still think that, but they can't do anything about that belief legally) but we overturned that in 1967 (Loving v Virginia). I'd say this is pretty similar and thus gay marriage should be allowed. "Civil unions are good enough!" Nope. Plessy v Ferguson was overturned by Brown v Board which says that separate is inherently unequal and then you can even roll in a little Lawrence v Texas and a right to privacy in your actions in your own home for good measure. If you have any others you'd like to throw at me, happy to undo 'em. It just seems so basic. Dare I say fundamental? (Anyone who has ever had to take Con Law just groaned.) And that's why I have a hard time arguing about these things. Because the other side seems so basely absurd and just straight bigoted that I have very little patience for even telling them why they are wrong. I, of course, understand not everyone can trot out case names. That doesn't make their argument any less ridiculous. In essence: I don't argue because I become a smug asshole about how stupid everyone's arguments are. And yet Prop 8 passed in California, so there are more bigoted people out there than open minded types. *starts building bunker*)

I realize that these are still, inherently, internet arguments, even when engaging with family. That I'm probably not striking any big win for any movement anywhere. But I have to hope that speaking up in whatever small way I finally do has some effect, or perhaps gives them pause. They're probably hoping the exact same about me and thus no one ever budges from any position. Alas.

Oh, and just to make sure I got my "well, I'll start discussing things more because I'm intelligent, while attempting not to be a dismissive asshole" comeuppance, which I'm sure some of you were waiting for: a few days later I responded to what I thought was a private text but was in fact a mass text insulting someone's boyfriend. Who's the smart one now?! Not me.

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