Just about every day, I swear I won’t let myself get sucked into the rabbit hole of Internet comments on news and opinion articles.
Just about every day, I fail miserably at that. It’s like the biggest car wreck in the history of the world and I just can’t look away.
There are, of course, the trolls—which, again, are not just anyone who disagrees with you; a troll purposely sets out to disrupt normal discussion, often through the use of insults and “hey, look over there” illogic.
There are also the many people who apparently flunked civics class—if indeed they ever took it. Come to think of it, I think a lot of them never took English either (for the 17-trillionth time, someone is “biased,” not “bias” … and don’t get me started on it’s/its).
If you ask them where on the political spectrum their opponents lie, it’s always on the far left or right (because, of course, they’re completely moderate … yeah, I can’t say that with a straight face).
It apparently makes no difference that independents—not Democrats or Republicans—are the largest portion of voters measured by Gallup and other polling organizations. Republicans have led in only one year since Gallup began consistently measuring partisan leanings in 1991—the very year it started, which happened to be the year of the first Gulf War. In the most recent polling, taken Jan. 4-8, 44 percent identified as independent, 28 percent as Republican, and 25 percent as Democrat—one of the few times more have identified as Republican than Democrat.
What? How can it be so? There are only two parties, dang it! Well, except for all those others and the many, many people who consider themselves mostly independent, but conservative on some issues and liberal—and maybe even libertarian—on others. It’s like they’re thinking for themselves! For shame!
And then there’s the Pew Research Center’s study on political animosity, in which researchers found “Members of both parties most commonly place the other party on the extreme end of the scale. Among Democrats, 34 percent placed the GOP at the most conservative point. Even more Republicans—45 percent—put the Democratic Party at the liberal extreme.”
Yep, there’s a recipe for people going independent.
It’s just that sort of atmosphere that feeds the behavior on comment boards that I love to hate (I’m a sick puppy and I need help): name-calling, misdirection, moving the goalposts/redefining of terms like “fake news” (because making words meaningless is part of the game), straw men, etc.
For me, though, the biggie is the claim of evidence to prove some point which is never actually presented. More often than not, it seems the response to requests for said evidence is to insult anyone who dares ask.
Gosh, I guess people should just always trust when someone says “I have proof.” That’s enough; no actual proof is necessary. Besides, anyone who disputes it is obviously a hater.
By not calling people on lack of evidence, we’ve created a mess for ourselves and an atmosphere where partisan outlets feel free to concoct wild tales about the opposition that may or may not have a factual basis (but always are spun to make their side come off the best).
Because of that, we have a president who continues to insist (embarrassingly so at this point) that there was voter fraud in the election he won (at least the electoral vote), based on the say-so of a few people who have yet to provide any evidence.
If you say something, it doesn’t make it true. But that doesn’t stop some from trying.
Massachusetts residents bused into New Hampshire to vote? Absolutely no photo, video or other proof has surfaced to support this claim. Up to 5 million illegals voted (all for Hillary, of course)? Besides being highly unlikely that all those votes would be for one person and one person only, Gregg Phillips, the person who has been cited as the genesis of the rumor, has yet to provide data. Plus, the National Association of Secretaries of State (a bipartisan group) released a statement last month saying that members are “not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump.”
You would think that so many illegal votes would have produced some evidence. But maybe all those secretaries of state have colluded to hide the proof.
And maybe kitten purrs are a viable alternative source of energy. I don’t have any proof of this, but it sounds plausible, doesn’t it?
Hard-line partisans have the tendency to forget one of the most important rules in debates like this: The burden of proof lies with the one making an accusation, just as in criminal court a prosecutor must make the case that the accused is guilty, which is awfully difficult without evidence. It isn’t up to everyone else to prove something wrong, and yet, that’s what so many on comment boards and, hell, cable TV shows, are constantly doing.
If you make a claim, provide evidence, or shut up.
Or you can simply keep believing in fairy tales and fake news told by partisan stooges. Just don’t be surprised when everyone ignores you. Lord knows we don’t need to further encourage that behavior. It’s bad enough that it’s rampant in the White House.
If you haven’t seen Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live, you need to. I haven’t watched the show regularly in a long time, but I may have to start again. I think having someone like Trump (i.e., extremely thin-skinned) in the White House has re-energized the writers. I’m not the only writer who likes to poke bears.
And I gotta get one of those lecterns.