Follow by Email

Friday, September 28, 2012

10 Rules for Being Politically Obnoxious on Facebook



It’s election season again, and the attacks are in full swing, both among the political professionals and their devoted followers on social media.  However, I’ve noticed a few people on Facebook engaging in posts and comments that are simply unacceptable for the current political and cultural environment.  Now, I realize there is a certain freedom in the online world that’s lacking in real life, however there are rules which must be followed if one is going to successfully destroy all hope for intelligent debate and informed citizenry.


Rule #1:  Ignorance is Power.  If you don’t know all the facts, then they can’t trouble you.  You already know everything you need to know about everything, because you read something someone posted about it once.  As long as you can loosely paraphrase a soundbite that supports your position, you have all the information you need.  It’s a waste of time to research actual statistics, read actual reports, or listen to actual speeches given by the person you don’t want to vote for.  As long as you avoid actual facts, no one can contradict you.

Rule #2:  Choose Your Sources Carefully.  Obviously not everyone is an expert on everything (only a few brilliant souls like myself can claim that).  Therefore you must sometimes find reliable information elsewhere.  Online is best, because if it’s on the web then it must be true (unless it was planted there by the ignorant followers of the other party).  Be sure to seek out bloggers who share your opinions or paid political organizations that specialize in masquerading as grass-roots organizations.  Their newsletters can always be trusted to be completely factual and accurate.  After bloggers and hired guns, entertaining talk show hosts are good sources.  Conservatives should go to Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh for information, and liberals should get their news from Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert.  If you must rely on an actual news organization, be sure to choose one with an obvious bias towards your opinions.  Fox News is best for conservatives, and MSNBC is best for liberals, though liberals have more choices due to the liberal bias of the entire mainstream media.  However the more outside sources you consult (liberal or conservative), the more different interpretations you’ll be exposed to.  Pick one or two sources and stick with them exclusively.

Rule #3:  Limit the Debate.  Only one issue matters: the one you care about.  Dismiss any arguments against your preferred candidate that try to change the subject, and drive home the importance of your facts by stating your strongest opinions and then using the words, “END OF DISCUSSION.”  (All caps is very important here—see rule #4.)

Rule #4:  USE ALL CAPS WITH ABANDON.  A generally accepted understanding of online etiquette is that using all capital letters is equivalent to yelling.  Since we’re trying to drown out all opposing opinions, we want to be as loud as possible.  Use all caps to ridicule or deride an argument or the individual who made it (it doesn’t matter which—see rule #5), or to emphasize that you won’t be swayed from your opinion NO MATTER WHAT!!!  (Extra exclamation points also help to increase the volume of your online rant, so feel free to use them excessively, as well.)

Rule #5:  There is No Difference Between a Person and Their Position.  Since a person is completely defined by their political beliefs, we are free to judge people based on their political postings.  If you think someone’s opinion is stupid, then they are stupid, too.  If you think someone’s opinion is immoral, then clearly they are immoral, as well, and you have a moral responsibility to inform the entire online community of their depravity.  Do not humanize people who think differently than you; they’re nothing more than faulty opinions that need to be shot down and made to go away.

Rule #6:  Go Negative.  Anyone with any common sense at all already knows why the person you want to vote for is the only reasonable choice.  Therefore it’s a waste of time to extol the positive attributes of your candidate, and you should only focus on what’s wrong/immoral/evil about the other candidate, his or her entire party, and everyone who supports them.

Rule #7:  Sweeping Generalizations are Always Accurate and Appropriate.  If one person holds any given position, that person’s entire political party and all other supporters must hold that same position.  You are free to assign whatever motives you wish to why they hold that position (the more nefarious the motivation, the easier it is to ridicule it and the person as well—see Rule #5).

Rule #8:  If You’re Losing an Argument, Switch to Another Topic and Pretend You Didn’t.  Sometimes a really annoying online adversary will somehow be able to defend his or her (wrong) position while poking very real holes in your (obviously right) position.  When this happens, change the focus of the debate to something you can win, and pretend it’s the same debate.  This allows you to completely disregard the minor victory your opponent thinks they may have won, and also has the added bonus of annoying your opponent so much that frequently they’ll just shut up and go away.  That means you’ve won.

Rule #9:  Disregard All Information From Sources You Don’t Use Yourself.  This is related to Rule #2, but applies more specifically to any sources cited by someone you’re debating.  Any data or information they bring up from a source that doesn’t align with your preferred bias completely factual and unbiased source is irrelevant and can be dismissed.  Unless they can use your own preferred sources for their information, it’s not worth discussing the matter with them.  (If they can use information from your own sources against you, then you need to tell them how they’ve twisted and misinterpreted the data, are too stupid to understand it, or else change the focus of the argument, as detailed in Rule #8.)

Rule #10:  There are No Human Consequences.  Issues like war, hunger, poverty, health care, mental illness, unemployment, and family values are ideologies to be enforced, and real people aren’t affected by the consequences of these ideologies.  Therefore you should make light of these issues and the people who claim to be harmed by your view of them, because mockery strengthens your argument.  People who disagree with you aren’t really human anyway, and should be mocked, insulted, and demeaned (see Rule #5).


By following these rules, you can help silence those who are seeking intelligent debate.  More and more people will become disillusioned with the political process and simply disengage, leaving the decisions to be made by the loudest and most obnoxious extremists out there.  We’re well on our way down that path already; please do your part to accomplish this important goal.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Anyone with a Facebook account knows that it's election season.  'Friends' are posting links supporting their favorite candidates, bashing their favorite candidate's opponents, and frequently offending some number of their 'friends' in the process.

That's all fine.  It's part of the democratic process, freedom of speech, etc., and if you don't want to be offended by anyone, you should go hide in a cave somewhere (something which I'm very tempted to do more and more often lately).  But there are two things that I find particularly problematic with many of the posts, links, and the inevitable attached comments.

First is the total lack of awareness that the poster's opinion isn't the only 'correct' one.  People who disagree aren't automatically ignorant, un-American, bigoted, or in any other way mentally deficient.  The lack of civil discourse on both sides is appalling, and is part of the reason why I want to go hide in that cave.

The other problem with many of those posts is the wrong or misleading information that's being put out there.  Everyone wants to look their best, especially if they're running for President, but repeating a lie or half-truth over and over again doesn't make it true, and it's not helpful.

Again, both parties are guilty of this, but a post from a 'friend' just hit my Facebook newsfeed yesterday afternoon, and it's the one that happened to inspire me to write.  It was a graphic from the Facebook page 'Being Conservative' which, according to their 'About' page is a South Carolina LLC.  Their stated mission is to find "5 million fans to stand in opposition to Obama's liberal policies."  (Current fan count is around 2.6 million.)  Their website (www.BeingConservative.com) identifies them as a consulting firm specializing in "us[ing] [their] knowledge and media buying expertise to ... leverage our sophisticated geo-targeting engine built for our larger corporate clients to help our candidates dominate their opponents on Facebook."

So let's not confuse them with some grassroots organization of like-minded citizens earnestly trying to get a conservative candidate more to their liking into the White House; they're a professional consulting firm who is putting this stuff up on Facebook because someone is paying them a lot of money to do so.

Now, on to the graphic in question. Sadly, I can't reproduce it here without the formatting getting all messed up, so here's the pertinent information.  It's a graph entitled "President Obama's Record" and shows the unemployment rate, median income, price of gas per gallon, and national debt as they were when Obama took office compared to 'Now.'  At the bottom it indicates that the sources were BLS, Sentier Research, Dept. of Energy, and Dept. of Treasury.  Here's how those numbers compare:

UNEMPLOYMENT
Jan 2009:  7.8%
Now:  8.3%

MEDIAN INCOME
Jan 2009:  $54,983
Now:  $50,964

GASOLINE / GALLON
Jan 2009:  $1.84
Now:  $3.82

NATIONAL DEBT
Jan 2009:  $10.6T
Now:  $16T

First off, let me state my appreciation for the fact that Being Conservative reported accurate numbers provided by reputable sources.  Too often people will just pull numbers out of the air (we've all heard the one about 98.9% of all statistics being made up on the spot), or they'll see it on some blog somewhere and, since it's online it must be true.  So the numbers as presented by Being Conservative are true and accurate.  Kudos.

But the kudos stop there, because those numbers are also highly misleading.  How are they misleading?  I'm glad you asked.  They're misleading because the whole premise of Being Conservative is that a conservative-leaning President would have better numbers, and that it's Obama's liberal policies that resulted in these admittedly disappointing figures.

Let's compare with George W. Bush's years in the White House to see if that holds true, shall we?  I'm pretty sure he counts as a conservative.

UNEMPLOYMENT
Jan 2001:  4.2%
Jan 2009:  7.8%

Right out of the gate we have a problem.  The liberal President had a .5% increase in unemployment during his time in office, while the conservative President had a 3.5% increase during his tenure.  Don't like that we're comparing Obama's four years with Bush's eight?  OK, we'll assume the unemployment rate would continue on its current trajectory and double the increase to 1% to account for a second term.  That's still less than 1/3 the increase under the last conservative's policies.

MEDIAN INCOME
Jan 2001:  $40,148
Jan 2009:  $47,361

My number for 2009 came from the US Census Bureau, a source not used by Being Conservative.  If the Census Bureau is correct, then median income actually increased during Obama's time in office.  But there's another consideration to be made here, and that's inflation.  The experience of myself and many others I've spoken with is that wages are going down while costs are going up.  This has been happening during the last four years, but it started long before Obama landed in the White House.  Here are the same numbers adjusted for inflation (same source as above):

Jan 2001:  $52,005
Jan 2009:  $50,599

It doesn't look very good for our current liberal President, but it wasn't much better with our previous conservative President, either.

GASOLINE / GALLON
Jan 2001:  $1.51
Jan 2009:  $1.84

Again, things are not always as they seem.  Gas prices are anything but stable, and snapshots of a given day do not give an accurate picture.  For example, have we already forgotten the energy crisis of 2008 that had gas averaging over $4 per gallon and that inspired 'Drill, baby, drill" to become a popular conservative slogan?  Let's look at gas prices averaged over each year.

2001:  $1.46
2002:  $1.38
2003:  $1.60
2004:  $1.90
2005:  $2.31
2006:  $2.61
2007:  $2.84
2008:  $3.30

And then Obama:
2009:  $2.41
2010:  $2.84
2011:  $3.58

Again, the liberal policies aren't great, but the conservative record isn't any better.

And now for the National Debt.  I think we all know how this one's going to look, but let's go there anyway.

NATIONAL DEBT
Jan 2001:  $5.7T
Jan 2009:  $10T

Yup, conservative fiscal policies nearly doubled the national debt.  And turning around the debt is like turning the Titanic; the momentum carries you forward no matter how hard you try to turn the wheel.  But didn't Bush have to contend with momentum in the debt, too?  Let's look at his (liberal) predecessor's record.

Jan 1993:  $4.2T
Jan 2001:  $5.7T

There was a little momentum there, but not nearly enough to account for the increased spending we saw under our last conservative President.

I'm not trying to claim that Obama's a great President.  Personally, I don't think he is.  But Being Conservative is trying to claim that Obama's liberal policies are sending the country in the wrong direction, and implying that a conservative candidate would do better.  When I look at the full story behind their numbers, I don't see a convincing argument.  Could a conservative do a better job?  Quite possibly.  But simply being a conservative isn't enough.  I already know why I shouldn't vote for this particular liberal.  Why should I vote conservative?