Saturday, June 14, 2008

Curse You, Trash Talkers!

Wherever blog comment threads turn to politics, the general intelligence level takes a nosedive. I'm okay with that - I made my peace with it long ago. But here's something that makes me uneasy.

John Scalzi has some snarky things to say about FOX News calling Michelle Obama a "Baby Mama", and Michelle Malkin's bizarre little defense of same. I agree with Scalzi.

(Aside: I generally make it a habit of not worrying about what FOX News has to say. It's easy because I don't live in the USA, and I don't own a TV. Also, I try not to think of Michelle Malkin, ever. I used to think she was a real person. Then the Dunkin' Donuts thing happened, and now I feel dumb for thinking she was a real person.)

Ninety-two comments in, one "Charles" calls Scalzi's snark "one of the most hateful rants I’ve read yet this election year." He goes on to say:
I shouldn’t be surprised though that you secular-progressive socialists, borderline communists, smear tacticians continue to defame everything about Fox News. You complain that Fox News is the right-wing news channel…blah blah blah. Okay, so the conservatives have one tv channel that leans their way. Liberals control the rest of them. I am willing to bet the majority of the people commenting on this blog have never even watched Fox News long enough to form their own opinion (not one derived from someone else you heard talking about Fox News) about their reporting.
And then he goes on for some length, in which he also repeats some rather overdone anti-Obama talking points absolutely identical to what thousands of other overly dramatic Obama critics are also saying on the Internet.

Scalzi responds:
Charles:

“That had to be one of the most hateful rants I’ve read yet this election year.”

Get out more, Charles.

Also, re: “token conservative,” there are lots of conservatives who visit and comment here, and rather more substantively and with fewer rote talking point cliches than you just have, so please get over yourself. Your problem is not that you’re conservative, it’s that your comment is unoriginal, boring and lame. Other conservatives here do better in their arguments. Strive to emulate them.

And Charles issues a rebuttal:
John,

You call it cliche, I call it truth. Very typical of a liberal to sling insults to attempt to make a point.
And so on.

Here's what bugs me. What if Charles is serious? What if he's real?

Now, I understand the attitude of "do not feed the trolls."

And a few months ago I wrote a post (also inspired by a Scalzi thread) about how most "dissenting opinion" posts on political comment threads are basically just sports fans screaming trash talk at their opponents before a game. I wholeheartedly believe that trying to calmly discuss the issues on their merits with a trash-talker (regardless of the trash-talker's political orientation) is just insufferably nerdy.

But... I've got a smidgen of doubt in my mind. What if Charles is real? What if he's sincere, just not very good at expressing his opinions? What if John Scalzi made a mistake by not trying to have a real constructive dialog with him (or just ignoring him - Scalzi's presumably got more going on in his life than participating in his own comment threads)? What if Charles actually, genuinely meant it when he said, "Very typical of a liberal to sling insults to attempt to make a point"?

Okay, I know it's hugely unlikely. This is the Internet. I wasn't born yesterday. This isn't real. Charles may be a partisan fan of the GOP, but that doesn't mean he thinks everything (or anything) he says is literally true.

But still, that bit of doubt persists. And it's why I can't be a political blogger.

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