"But That's Not Actually Racism": Jay-Z, Cross Party Rhetoric, And The Ever-Growing Power Of Facebook In Politics
I don't think I'm the first one who has ever found themself scrolling through Facebook one minute and then elbow deep in a 50-comment thread-war with comments ranging from one word to ten paragraphs.
And with recent news, I think that these fights are more consequential than I had previously thought.
Before you continue, your required reading is the info-comic, "[You're Not Going To Believe What I'm About To Tell You]" from The Oatmeal creator Matthew Boyd Inman, and the video "A Mathematician's Perspective on the Divide" by Victoria Hart on her YouTube channel ViHart.
Then you may continue.
Facebook Is Regrettably Important
I'm sure you've seen the news lately. Massive amounts of Facebook data was 'stolen' or rather 'actively handed over to a third party without direct consent' during the campaign trail for the 2016 election, which had an debatable amount of influence on voter behavior. And that's on top of the fake news campaigns from international influencers that've already stirred up trouble.
Like it or not, Facebook (and social media in general but like, I'mma stick with Facebook here) has an enormous amount of power in the United States. With facets like celebrity influencers, robot influencers, and targeted ad campaigns, the stake that Facebook has in US politics can't be understated.
So I've been thinking a lot about comment wars on Facebook.
Getting people to change their opinions is pretty damn difficult. It's much easier to radicalize one's previously held opinion and fear monger, but people are still trying to do it. If you look at the left right spectrum, there's probably a sliding cut-off scale of people you're never going to convince, but I do believe there are people out there that are moldable.
I operate a lot under the belief of "there is much more ignorance in the world than there is evil," and so I sympathize to a degree with self-described "Social Justice Warriors," more pejoratively "Keyboard Warriors," or just your everyday leftist Facebook friend battling with more right-leaning family members, these people that you can see in threads everywhere trying desperately to convince others of their side of things.
And like the academic I so desperately pretend to be, I think the rhetoric used in these arguments is piss poor and only makes things worse. At least in the battles I've seen.
Especially in situations where family members or old school classmates are involved where you have a pre-existing connection that can be exploited, I'm regularly dumbfounded by how separatist the rhetoric becomes, and how counter-intuitive the argument ends up being.
I'm learning too.
So here are some scenarios to help illustrate what I'm getting at: Reverse-Racism, Abortion, and Trans theory.
But That's Not Actually Racism!
I've seen this scenario go down countless times on Facebook threads, typically with a scorned white and right-leaning individual fighting with a white knight SJW.
In this scene, Donnie and Becky have differing definitions of the word "racism." To Becky, "racism" means a complex and nuanced concept involving systematic oppression and institutionalized bias. To Donnie, "racism" means disrespect based on skin color.
If Becky's goal is to educate Donnie on racism in the United States, fighting back with "you're wrong 'cuz your definition is wrong," will only lead to arguing in circles.
Donnie isn't looking to be educated, and he's not in a position to change his definitions. He's cited a dictionary that he sees as a supreme authority, and you're not gonna get anywhere with that. Also, based on his first post, his goal is to win sympathy from others by detailing a time he was disrespected, not to learn.
If your goal in jumping into that comment section hell is to educate someone on a topic, you're going to have to do the heavy lifting. You don't need to sympathize entirely - there's a good chance he was verbally attacked for good reason - but you need to see what they value based on that statement.
From this line, you can see that Donnie values respect. Somebody called him a name, and he found that to be disrespectful.
Use that! Take that notion of respect and flip it on its back! Give a throw away one liner of "wow, [given the very brief and one-sided narrative you've exposited] that person sounds rude." And then maybe push the conversation on to a discussion of respect?
Like, if you're trying to educate about racism in the United States, guess what a big factor of racism on the social level is? Respect.
Obviously it's not going to work every time, and I do believe that there are people that are so set in their ways that there's no changing their minds, to quote Jay-Z:
But if you're really itching to jump into that comment avalanche on a Fox News article on Facebook, consider looking at what they value first instead of spitting out technical jargon that takes time and effort to understand, time and effort that somebody isn't going to offer when they are angry, invalidated, and beefing in a Facebook comment thread.
But The Heartbeat Doesn't Start Until..
I see this one just as much.
In this scene, Patricia and Gerald have differing concepts of what constitutes a life. Gerald probably values fetus viability in his concept of life. Patricia has a little more complicated of an understanding.
This doesn't speak for all Christians in any manner, but I believe it's reasonable to say that many Christians (and members of many other faiths) believe in the concept of a soul. The soul is a metaphysical concept that some conflate with consciousness, and many other see as separate, and when you try to fight a metaphysical concept with biological science, things can get really complicated
If you subscribe to soul theory, the only logical explanation for when a soul comes into being is conception. I guess you could believe that a soul is slowly formed? Or it randomly kicks in at heartbeat or brain activity, but what makes most sense would be conception. With that in place, abortion, regardless or timing or reason, is the destruction of a soul.
So no matter how much science you throw at someone with this belief, it's not gonna do much. They value the soul of a fetus on the same level as the soul of an adult, and that's something ingrained in their culture and their religion.
It's also a terrible idea to argue science on Facebook because science is best argued by scientists against other scientists otherwise a lot of misinformation happens.
Now there are many people of faith who are pro-choice. Just because you believe in a soul doesn't mean you don't believe in a choice. And it's the rhetoric that these people use that I think is the best to preach when attempting to help others understand.
Rarely will I see appeals to science from religious members of the pro-choice community. Typical points brought up are 'safety of the mother v. safety of the unborn' 'weight of the horrendous potential situation for mother and future child v. weight of an abortion' 'freedom of others v. personal interest'.
So unless you're a scientist, and even if you are a scientist, maybe try not using a science argument. Try to listen to what they say, pinpoint their values, and respond in a way that isn't "WHY ARE YOU LISTENING TO AN ANCIENT BOOK, TIMES HAVE CHANGED YOU INVALID MORON GRANDMA."
Unzip Your Pants, Look Down, That's Your Gender.
Okay friends, last one.
People who have never been exposed to trans theory have a really tough time grasping trans theory. Even if you're on board with one of the many trans theories operating in the queer community, many have a tough time - whether active or passive - understanding the language involved. Here's one of the reasons.
John, like many people who have never learned about trans theory, or who have only been told about trans theory in a negative manner, has a strict body=gender belief. If someone has a penis, they are a man. If someone has a vagina, they are a woman. If someone was born with ambiguous genitalia... jk, these people probably have never heard of intersex before.
As you may have read on my blog before, I hate the verb "to be," (see my essay here about "adulting"), and this is one place where the verb can get really sticky. Since the English language uses the verb "to be" as it relates to gender. Hearing that someone "is" a man or "is" a woman can be a confusing concept. Their version of "being" has to do with the physical.
So throwing any kind of trans theory or gender theory at them probably isn't going to help, but thankfully, a handful of the many popular trans theories out there are easier to swallow for people who don't subscribe to Cartesian mind-body duality.
Here are two of the parent theories that a lot of more specific trans theories fall under:
Mind-Body Dualism; or, Pathologizing Trans as Medically Identifiable Disjunction:
Mind-Body Singularity; or, "Gender Is A Construct; Gender Is Performative":
Mind-Body Dualism is really hard to argue with someone who hasn't warmed up to trans theory. There's a lot of contention around decisions of pathology to begin with, and it can easily come off as if you're saying an individual has a mental disorder. This is not to devalue it as a philosophy, it just isn't easy to warm up to.
Singularity I've found to work better. It's still really hard tho. With performative gender, you don't have to explain that someone is something else. You can get the message across as "this person does something differently now, and likes to use this language accordingly."
I'm also a huge stan of the "You wouldn't repeatedly call a guy 'William' if he asked you nicely to call him 'Will' would you?' chosen name politeness argument.
Ultimately, if you're thinking about "laying down some truth" by wowing them with the 23 Genders theory, don't. Complex jargon that's foreign to them is just going to make them think that you're even more crazy.
Pulling Back From That Obscurity; a Conclusion
That was a lot, and I probably got a little bogged down in anecdotes. Every topic and every argument can go in so many different directions, so there's no real way to write a road map for "how to argue on Facebook with someone with a differing opinion." so instead, a few simple bullet points to think about.
I always put some kind of mini retraction to end my essays with "well you have free will so go ahead and do what you want. Ignore what I said," and I have the urge to end with that sentiment. And if you're a casual arguer, sure.
But if you're someone who legitimately believes in helping change opinions through online or offline discourse, I hope you take what I've detailed seriously. It's one thing to get more people voting and win political power just because you have numbers, but it's another to work together to understand cultural differences and value differences.
If you've taken the time to learn about gender theory, trans theory, critical race theory, religious practices of codes of respect of religions that are not your own -- then maybe you can take some time to learn about the right, and why they think how they think and do what they do. They're not all just raging lunatics.
Oh, but if some scum is telling you to go kill yourself because of your demographic, you have my full and complete support to spam them with anger memes and opposing links until they delete their Facebook. Nobody got time for death threats and ultra-disrespect.