Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The stupidest activity known to man

Arguing with people on the internet.  Also, quite possibly the most addictive.

I know there are some websites that really only exist for that purpose; where the point is to argue with people.  I don't know which ones, and wouldn't visit them if I did, but certainly Facebook is home to some real doozies, Reddit hosts some donnybrooks.  I mean, that's one of the things the internet's good at.  Providing slum playgrounds good for fighting with people. 

There have always been some subjects about which it's completely pointless to argue with folks. My favorite example is: who wrote Shakespeare's plays.  The completely unremarkable answer is: Shakespeare wrote 'em.  But there are folks out there who will go to their graves insisting it was Marlowe, or Bacon, or the Earl of Oxford.  And you can't argue with them.  There's no evidence they will ever find persuasive, at all.  And we're not talking dumb people--Derek Jacobi is an Oxfordian, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is one.  And there's no evidence whatever that the plays were written by anyone but William Shakespeare, glover's son from Stratford-on-Avon.  None, zippo, bupkus.  And I read Charlton Ogburn's whole entire book, a thousand pages easy, The Mysterious William Shakespeare. Wasted three weeks one summer, acting summer stock, reading this endless idiotic book. Guess what?  Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare!

Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare and Neil Armstrong really did land on the moon and Jesus really existed, and the Twin Towers were destroyed by planes hitting them and not explosives set there by Bush and Cheney and Obama was born in Hawaii.  Also, Da Vince didn't code secret stuff about the Knights Templar and the Merovingian kings being born from Jesus' bloodline into his paintings.  Nor is there a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

And you can't persuade people who believe in any of the theories listed above that they're wrong. Cannot.  Be. Done.

But that's not all.  You also can't persuade Libertarians that their economic theories don't and won't work.  They don't and they won't, but there's no evidence out there they'll so much as listen to.  You can't convince folks on the Right that President Obama's not a communist.  If you say to them, "he's not even terribly liberal.  I'm a liberal, and my problem with him is that he's too conservative," that's not convincing, apparently.

Italicizing doesn't help either.  Or using CAPS FOR EVERYTHING.

One place I argue with people is on the Deseret News website.  I love going to the letters to the editor page and arguing with people there.  I really do enjoy that, much more than is healthy for me.  There are a bunch of people there who I argue with all the time (shout out to my peeps: Mike Richards, Mountanman, Lost in DC and procuradorfiscal!)  One thing they like to do is say "President Obama believes" before saying some absurd thing the President couldn't possibly believe.  "President Obama believes that money grows on trees, while we know hard-working Americans. . . ." 

(BTW: why is it always 'hard-working Americans?'  I personally know lazy-butt Americans by the score.  They never get talked about on these pages, unless it's someone talking about the worthless people Obama, that socialist, wants to give their hard-earned money to.) 

Argue politics and you hear the most absurd nonsense.  The 'truthers' are an example.  Come on, people, I didn't like 'em either, but you have to know Bush and Cheney didn't blow up the Twin Towers.  Bush was a President I often disagreed with, not a homicidal monster. And Obama really was born in Hawaii.  You know why the Right wants to see his school records?  To see if he ever applied for foreign student financial aid. ('Cause if he did, it proves, proves, he was born in Kenya!)  Guess what?  He never did.  How do I know that, (having no more access to his records than you do)?  He was born in Hawaii!

One favorite meme is that the Senate had defeated Obama's budget 99-0. You'll hear that all the time: Obama is so unpopular with his own party he couldn't get a single vote for his budget.  Seriously, you hear that. I mean, come on.  If that had actually happened, it would be completely historic.  It'd be the biggest news story in years.  Turns out there was a 99-0 vote: election year shenanigans.  Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama sent up a bill he called 'President Obama's budget,' a right wing bill modeled on Paul Ryan's House bill.  He then got all the Republicans to vote against it, knowing no Demos could possibly support it. So the truth is, a Senator played this silly political stunt.  Not the entire Democratic caucus shot down a Democratic President (and one they really do like.) 

But explain that to people?  Ha.  Fat chance.

It's a waste of time.  It really is. People who want to argue on the internet don't want to learn anything, don't want to really listen to an opposing point of view, don't want to hear, respectfully, an opposing view.  They just want to argue on the internet.  It's a waste of time and emotional energy.  It's stupid. 

I do it anyway. 


  1. Genius! Hope you don't mind, Eric--I'm going to use your clever device:
    Make final, definitive statements based on my own opinion with no corroboration or references, etc., and with which many intelligent people strongly disagree--COUCHED IN A COLUMN RIDICULING PEOPLE THAT DISAGREE WITH ME! I love it--I will be able to say anything I want, and no one can respond logically unless they simultaneously make themselves illustrations of my assertion that people who argue with me are stupid, useless, irrational, time-wasting addicts!

    1. Well, I basically also called myself a time-wasting addict too. And called an activity I participate in stupid.
      If you don't mind me asking, which opinion did you disagree with?

  2. Well, Eric, I'll respond to one element -

    Overall, I really liked the posting. Indeed, ain't nobody ever changed their minds 'bout a political issue based on what an opponent says online.

    But - and I'm not saying I'm in agreement with this, but the issue regarding Obama's college transcripts has nothing to do with Kenya. The argument goes, when his mom married Saetoro and moved to Indonesia, Barry (as he was then called) was enrolled in school there, which according to the narrative required that he renounce his U.S. citizenship and adopt Indonesian citizenship. There is then a supposition that he (or whoever) never bothered to see that U.S. citizenship was reinstated - and that he enrolled in college as a foreign student.

    Now, as I said, I'm not saying that I agree with that scenario - but that is indeed a more believable tale than a Kenyan birth.

    I guess, my quibble is, if you're going to dismiss the opposition, at least be accurate about it. Just sayin'.

    And now - I've surely convinced you, huh? :-}

    1. I hadn't heard that scenario. Good to know. And that one's at least a little bit plausible.

  3. I find the exact opposite is true as well. I enjoy several blogs that are about areas that I do not have a single degree in.

    In fact I don't think I had read a single PhD thesis about them until someone posted their thesis and asked if there were questions that came up. You might think that by posting the thesis, asking people to read it and ask comments, that they expected readers of the blog to ask questions. I could have saved myself 5-6 hours of reading and thoughtfully writing questions, because by doing so I attracted the "Wrath of the Educated" who couldn't believe that I would dare to show how uneducated I was by not citing sources for my questions! (I don't have a PhD but I didn't know you needed to cite sources to ask a question. Obviously I was out of my element.)

    So, while I understand people wanting to square off, I do wish that they would slow down long enough to answer questions. As crazy as it may seem, sometimes people really don't know something and are asking for an explanation because THEY DON'T KNOW THE ANSWERS! I know, it is a shock.


    1. I haven't had that experience, but heck, I would have loved people to respond to my PhD dissertation. That would have been awesome! And I certainly don't think you need to cite anything to ask questions! Ask away!