This one is for my friends who are struggling with the questions, “How can people believe these things?” and “How did we get here?” after the events at the US Capitol Building and sundry other places on 6 January, 2021. This one is about dealing with the people we know who even now cling to lies in support of violent insurrectionists.*
My sorta comprehensive answer is “It’s been a bumpy decades-long road paved with bad intentions, and many of the people who say these horrible things don’t believe in them. The lies serve them, or did, right up to point they don’t The others who spread them want to believe as badly as Agent Mulder wanted to believe in aliens and for the same reason: the lies give them meaning and the comfort of purpose in a harsh and meaningless world.”
The two articles below dig up the foundations of the nasty place American Culture has become. Fair warning, they’re from Patheos.com, which means they’re informed by Christian traditions, so if that offends, stick to the TL;DR summaries. That said, I HIGHLY recommend the Slacktivist blog by Fred Clark.
1: Bad Faith In Witch Hunts And Moral Panics TL;DR summary: The mix of self-interested lying leadership & want-to-believe followers on obscene display in the 1/6 Ku Klux Coup is all familiar to any nerd who lived through the Satanic Panic years. There wasn’t an epidemic of satanic child abuse then, the elections weren’t stolen this year.
2: The IndigNation TL;DR summary: indignation is a hell of a drug, & guilt is painful. It’s human nature to prefer comforting lies that feed resentment over truths that require admitting fault. The seductive righteousness of narratives about welfare queens, black violence, predatory criminals, lazy immigrants, and other LIES is all tangled up in this ugly facet of being human and fallible.
My takeaway from these two explainers: steadfast defense of facts is vital & necessary. Be indignant in the cause of truth. Push back as hard as you’re being pushed. Raise an unassailable wall of reality.
I’m not saying anyone should debate with LieBelievers. That way lies exhaustion & burnout. Don’t go there. It’s a dead end.
Deny, drop, and deflect. Or question & drop if, like me, you prefer putting a nice rubber coating on your wall.
NOTE: all this assumes you can’t or don’t want to cut LieBelievers out of your life entirely. That is a valid choice, and one I support. Do what keeps you healthy and safe! But if you plan maintain relationships with the lie-addicted, here’s a few sample examples of how to raise an indignant wall that repels argument.
“The election was stolen.”
“You don’t really believe that.”
“It’s true! There’s tons of proof.”
“No, there isn’t, because it isn’t true. How ’bout them Cubbies, though, huh?” (change the subject to something irresistable to your chosen audience.)
–> PRO TIP: repeat that last part in a firm and friendly tone until they give up & move on. With family, it can take two or three firm repetitions.
“Biden has dementia.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“Haven’t you ever listened him? He’s obviously mental.”
“Huh. Yeah, I’ve listened to hours and hours of speeches. But if you want to believe that, go ahead. It isn’t worth arguing about.”**
“No, you don’t understand–” (or any other attempt to continue the discussion.)
“Nope. I do understand. Anyway, let’s talk about that puppy you adopted. How’s she doing?”
–> and repeat the deny-disengage-deflection until they give up & move on.
“This pandemic response is overblown.”
“You can’t believe that, do you?”
“I do! People are losing their jobs, kids are getting depressed, we need to get back to normal.”
“Wow. Okay, no, but I’m not going to talk about it with you because you won’t like what I have to say. Tell me how you’re doing with <insert topic here>”
–> repeat that last part etc etc.
Deny. Drop. Deflect. Rinse & repeat.
The use of the word believe is deliberate and important. Don’t give lies the dignity of being “thoughts” or “opinions.” But! You don’t feed the conflict by calling them out as lies, either. Diminish them with pure, solid dismissal.
This isn’t, “you have your opinion, I have mine, let’s agree to disagree.” This is, “You’re poisonously wrong, it isn’t my place to cure you, so I’m containing the poison.”
No one who spreads these lies is thinking about them. Yes, they’ve all “thought hard about it” and “done the research,” and they do believe they have done that because they want to believe. (Or they’re deliberately, knowingly throwing out ‘controversial’ ideas because they’re pot-stirring agitating instigators, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue. Also a read-flag reason to refuse the bait and redirect the convo.)
From my side, being told I’m believing something immediately triggers an important critical process: questioning WHY I believe it. The Slacktivist blog tagline is one of the reasons I love it so much. “Test everything. Hold fast to what is good.”
That’s a good motto to live by.
I go over a “you believe” conversation in my head multiple times later and in private, and I investigate the facts that were challenged. And I do that research using new sources, not the ones I used to get to my original viewpoint. Do I change my mind? All the time. Do LieBelievers? It’s possible. Learning is lifelong. You never know what will spark an epiphany.
And if you spot people in your life refusing to discuss your beliefs…well. You might want to do some serious questioning, reflection and new research.
That’s enough blog.Onward to other news
I’m wrapping up Day 5 of 7 in my Ghost Town draft. What’s th new project about? Little downstate Illinois college town, new police chief who talks to her great-great-granddad’s ghost, and the county’s first murder in twenty years. What could go wrong?
The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday is out for final continuity checks & is listing for March 23 release.
*don’t @ me with anything like “but BLM or any other false equivalencies, what-about-ism’s or other logical fallacies. Do you really believe the George Floyd riots and the Red Hat Insurrection are the same? REALLY? Okay, then. You’re wrong, but we can talk about something else.
**in case you don’t know me well, my emotional read on all phrases like “you’re not worth arguing with,” “this isn’t worth arguing about” and “we’re not talking about this,” is as deadly conversational insults. They are messages of Ultimate Disrespect. I accept that I am delivering disrespect along with my denial. Nah, tbh, I REVEL in that part. I don’t respect lies. And, hey, some people think those phrases means they’ve won the conversation. That just adds a delicious little spice to the exchange.