THE CLONE ARMY

Look, we all know that comment sections on news websites are where hope goes to die. With sites like YouTube one at least has the small comfort of knowing that half of the commenters are under 16 and the other half samples liberally from the adult dregs of society. Sports websites arguably have a higher level of stupidity but at least we expect that from an army of meatheads and nerds ranting and smack-talking about grown men fighting for a ball. With news websites the crushing blow that we are dealt repeatedly by comment sections is due in part to the fact that some small part of our brain expects that the people reading news (which only about half of Americans claim to do, skewing heavily toward the higher ends of the socioeconomic scale) to be capable of saying something half-intelligent.

Alas, even if they are capable they do not choose to do so. We know that part of the problem is that anonymity and an audience tend to turn normal people into foul-mouthed lunatics; comment sections are the ideal breeding ground for this phenomenon. Another issue is self-selection – the vast majority of readers leave no comment, and the ones who do tend to be people with more extreme opinions, a high opinion of their own intelligence, and a fondness for arguing. Just for example, an average post on Gin and Tacos gets about 4000-5000 hits and 25-35 comments. On a major news website where they're raking in 100,000 hits per hour the ratio of lurkers-to-comments must be even higher.

What amazes me lately about these comment sections is how predictable they have become. The internet has matured as a medium (even if its users have not matured as humans) and we know what dynamics will play out in the comments as soon as we read the headline. Think about it; the next time there is a school shooting, do you not already know with disturbing, resigned precision exactly what the comment section following the story is going to look like? You could practically recite it in your sleep.

As an academic I see a phenomenal number of news items about education. They are passed along by friends or posted to Facebook by other teachers daily if not hourly. Nearly every story has the same comments making the same points using the same language in what seems like an instant after the post appears online. Recently the notoriously troubled city of Camden, NJ appeared in the news because only three students in the entire district rated "college ready" on the SAT test. I did not link to the story because I challenge you to find your own version – almost every major (and minor, for that matter) news source picked up the story. Look at the comment section. They're all exactly the same: blah blah government, blah blah Teachers Union, blah blah Obama, blah blah charter schools, blah blah liberal media. Go ahead and look, it doesn't matter where you go. Within the first few comments you'll see that, perhaps many times over.

It's some combination of impressive and terrifying to see how completely these people have internalized the talking points fed to them by the Echo Chamber / Shit Factory of AM radio, Fox News, forwarded emails, and the right wing blogosphere. They have not only committed it to memory but they have burned it into their subconscious so that it comes pouring out of them unthinkingly, reflexively. And no matter which of America's millions of old, bitter white men is typing the comment on a particular site it is virtually guaranteed to end up looking exactly the same as it would if he traded places with one of his brethren. The only variation comes from the spelling / grammar errors and the choice of anti-gay epithets.

You have to hand it to the noise machine, as it has succeeded likely beyond even the most optimistic expectations of the people who run it. There are a million old or aging people with nothing to do who are spamming every news story on the internet with identical salvos of rage and bad logic. And they do it automatically, without cognitive effort. You know, like trained seals. if a seal could be trained to be a xenophobic, provincial, small-minded, and bitter asshole with nothing better to do.

And yes, I know that the best thing to do is to avoid looking at the comments. What can I say? I'm like a guy picking at a scab.

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53 Responses to “THE CLONE ARMY”

  1. DrS Says:

    There was an old dude, ranting about obamacare, wasting everyone's damn time at the medical cannabis dispensary today.

    They are everywhere

  2. J. Dryden Says:

    …OK, I'm confused as to whether we're supposed to comment on this post, or whether we'll simply be proving Ed's point if we do. Eh, I'm gonna err on the side of "shut the fuck up."

  3. Tom Says:

    Did you miss the point of your own post? Let's peek inside the echo chamber:

    (Old white men are out of touch bigots, duh
    Old white men are out of touch bigots, duh
    Old white men are out of touch bigots, duh
    Old white men are out of touch bigots, duh
    Old white men are out of touch bigots, duh
    Old white men are out of touch bigots, duh
    …)

  4. Dr. Mac Says:

    Well, I for one have thought about this for some time now. Being in a state (Oregon) with a particularly bitter football rivalry, I see this predictable crap after every Duck or Beaver story. One longs for intelligent comments…. but eventually the posts descend into a pit of trite, partisan nonsense, and very personal to boot. As to the more encompassing political foolishness, it seems like all media receive the identical talking points every morning… they are so powerful that they comprise the news. The sum of this is overwhelming.

  5. Pat Says:

    Ron Paul 2012! #mileysux

  6. NonXNonExX Says:

    As an old, sometimes bitter, white guy with definite liberal leanings i resent being grouped with the Duck Agenda. I also know a lot of old white guys who also have very definite leftist leanings and don't believe black people were better off under the Jim Crow laws, so ease up on us, OK?

  7. chautauqua Says:

    Another old angry white guy here, waiting for his pain meds. It's easy to say that our culture turns everything with promise into shit and that the dollar-fueled race to the lowest common denominator ensures a bleak future for the commonweal.

    So, I say it a lot.

  8. Arslan Says:

    It's not that all old white guys are out-of-touch bigots, it's just that a LOT, probably the majority of out-of-touch bigots, tend to be older white dudes. They are the ones who have seen some of their privileges eroded over the past few decades and thus have something to be upset about. You don't see black folks longing for the days when TV and Hollywood were dominated by black stars and the black family was commonly portrayed as "traditional America", simply because that never happened. You also don't see the black or Latino community getting upset over the fact that until recently pretty much every candidate they have had to "represent" them has been an upper-class white male. It was white people(not all of them) on the other hand, who flipped their shit TWICE, in 2008 and 2012 because a black man got elected, which was said to signify the end of America(and yes I hear this shit ALL the time so don't even deny it).

    Tom, if you don't like being grouped with those bigots then speak out against them and not those who call them out. Then everyone would automatically KNOW that though you may be "white," you're clearly not one of the bigots.

  9. Ten Bears Says:

    Barely literate obese bare-footed rubes drunk on the ambien, prozac, viagra and crotch-shots on CNN/Fox drooling Pavlovianly while sprawled across a "couch" out of the back of a nineteen sixty nine Chevy Suburban doesn't roll off the tongue quite as nicely as fat white trailer park trash.

    Oregon does breed a particularly viralent breed of trolls, but to find the the most viralent, Doc, you gotta go to the east-side. And they're not restricted to online. Twenty years I've had an online presence, fifteen teaching computers and internet from college to job training to school kids and… it's like they just discovered computers, jusy discovered the Internet.

  10. Ten Bears Says:

    [stupid smart phone] It's like they never get past the first-time user tendencies to surf porn and flame the neighbors. That they all drive jacked up de-engineered suburban assault vehicles with tires the size of Rhode Island and a hood ornament the perfect rendition of the human female reproductive system is moot in the generally accepted venicular.

    Sometimes you can barely resist baiting the bitches.

    No fear.

  11. Ursula Says:

    Let's all repeat this: "If it's not about you, it's not about you." Thank you, Arslan, for that explanation.

    Remembering listening to Rush Limbaugh with my father in the early 90's, the other issue is that all these people have been told over and over that their 'common sense' is better than anyone's knowledge. Never mind that now their 'common sense' is fed to them constantly. It's depressing that so many of our older relatives will live out their remaining years in this echo chamber.

  12. RosiesDad Says:

    I can't believe you called us predictable…

  13. Hobbes Says:

    To be fair: it's come up a lot recently that there are a number of organizations that hire people to go into comment sections and post certain things. A google search for "paid commenters" turns up a story from Slate about DISH Network, a couple of different stories about Fox News, and a story on Computer World about astroturfing in general, among others. It's a thing, and it's in part responsible for this phenomenon.

    But of course they can't be paying EVERYONE.

  14. Wim Says:

    I'm usually one of those 4,000-5,000 readers who do not comment. That is because I usually don't have anything to say that you haven't just said much better. I do wish you to know I enjoy what you do here, and I hope to continue doing so. Well done! Keep up the good work.

  15. Buckyblue Says:

    Teaching government in one of the reddest areas of Cheeseland I can guarantee you that the next generation has internalized the talking points. Raising the minimum wage will kill jobs and these are not supposed to be jobs you can support a family on. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. The good news is that logic and facts can win the argument still, in the guise of, 'explain to me then how every country with gun control has a murder rate a fraction of what ours is'. I really do try to not be an asshole because the kids are just parroting what their parents are parroting from RW media, but I am supposed to educate these little bastards after all.

    Hands down, though, the worst comment sections are at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I know that's true because I read it on the internet somewhere…. Looking for the link….got it somewhere here. Damn, I'll find it and recomment later.

  16. Tom Says:

    It is possible to raise a disinterested objection to an argument by identifying some hilarious (and prescient) irony—I am neither old nor white…

  17. Nan Says:

    The quality and civility of the comments submitted to our local news sources went up considerably when the newspapers and television station switched from "anonymous" to having to log in with your Facebook identity. There's still a lot of the right-wing circle jerk echo chamber language but it no longer descends to the levels of vitriol and hate people expressed when they thought no one knew who they were.

    Bucky, I fear you are right. One reason the echo chamber is self-perpetuating is there are now multiple generations of people who have been immersed in the "government is the problem" and "poor people are parasites" propaganda their entire lives. Look at President Obama: He's supposedly a Democrat, but he was just starting college when Reagan decided the War on Poverty was actually a War on Poor People. Obama may lean slightly left but not by much — and when he talks about making changes to Social Security, it's clear he's been thoroughly inculcated with the right wing message. The cult of individual selfishness, greed, American exceptionalism, and xenophobia has been nurtured for so long I'm not sure we'll ever dig our way back out of it.

    Not all old white people are bitter, Ed, some of us are just really, really depressed.

  18. c u n d gulag Says:

    It's all in how Conservatives and Liberals look at things.

    In objective reality, most problems usually have more than one cause, and rarely are there simple solutions.

    Though Conservatives will contest this, because people who are Conservative almost always want a simple story, with noble good guys, evil bad guys, and a simple solution – get rid of the bad guys.

    Liberals usually tend to understand what I said earlier, that behind most problems, there are often more than one simple cause – and hence, probably more than just one simple solution.
    And that in that problem, there are people responsible who didn't necessarily have bad intentions – aka: bad guys (though sometimes there are) – but somehow, still managed to fuck things up, nine ways to Sunday.

    We look at the world in two completely different ways.

    Most of today's Conservatives are Manichean Absolutists:
    Good v. Evil; Black v. White; etc… NO SHADES OF GRAY!!!

    Most of today's Liberals see varying shades of gray, and rarely are causes and solutions Manichean, or absolute.

    So one group won't, or can't, see shades of gray – and the other refuses to believe that things are as simple as black and white.

    And the result is that we're always screaming at one another, whether it's on the internet, or the family get-together.

    Also, I don't think Conservatives have any bullshit detectors.

    FUX, Rush, Drudge, etc., just scream "BULLSHIT!!!" to non-Conservatives!

    Conservatives hear the same words, and think, "Ah – FACTS!!!"

    If a reliable source gave them a pie full of actual shit from and actual bull, and told them it was an apple pie, Conservatives would gladly gobble it down, and ask for seconds.

    And then wonder what Liberal or minority stole the ice-cream, so they couldn't have it a la mode

  19. Jacquie Says:

    I came to say what Hobbes said. Never underestimate the influence of sockpuppet commenters who are paid to create the illusion of consensus. Idiots see that the first several comments are like-minded, and they feel comforted. The non-idiots among us sigh and shake our heads and think that there's no point fighing back against the tide of mouthbreathers.

  20. Leo Artunian Says:

    As everyone reading this no doubt know, the predictability of comments to news stories and opinion pieces is not solely an American phenomenon. The comments at the Guardian web site, for example, are an international smorgasbord of inevitable comments, including "Who is this person this story is about and who cares about them?" and "I've never heard of this but it sounds stupid" and the ever-popular "Trust the Guardian to get worked up about tripe like this!"

  21. UllaUmlaut Says:

    I am heartened by a tweet I saw yesterday that I feel pertains to this phenomenon somewhat:

    "Best line heard at Rotary: I joined in '73. I was here when we let in women. Some of the members complained, but they're dead now." – @EverettMaroon

  22. drouse Says:

    I am sensing a peculiar sort of amnesia here for a bunch of old white guys who some of whom are educators. Uh, usenet anybody? When I went back to school back in the early 90's the internet was something you did in the computer lab. Otherwise you logged on to your local BBS at 2400 baud and got your daily fix in a zip file to save on bandwidth. I realized then that the shit never really changed, it just moved from bar stools to online. Think back and remember what cesspits the politics groups were. Trolls were of a really nasty variety and flame wars went on for months(You could tell when they were winding down when they were reduced to attacking each others grammar and spelling.) Kill files were your friend.

  23. Anon Says:

    I think you're missing the most important point.

    It's not just conservatives. People *in general* are mindless robots, working according to scripts given to them by their favorite media outlets. You only notice it when conservatives do it because a) you disagree with them, and b) the conservative script is aggressively hateful.

    I can't tell you how many times I've seen the following exchange online There are plenty of other examples, but this particular one makes the universality of the behavior quite clear.

    Conservative: "Christians are more moral than non-Christians!"

    Liberal: "What about Torquemada?"

    Conservative: "He wasn't a *real* Christian!"

    Liberal:

    Then, a week later:

    Conservative: "Islam is evil! Just look at Osama bin Laden!"

    Liberal: "Bin Laden wasn't a *real* Muslim, you ignorant bigot!"

    The most uncanny proof that these people are mindless robots comes from what *isn't* said. I've seen this exchange over and over, but never, not once, does the Conservative call the Liberals on their obvious double standard re: No True Scotsman. Both sides repeat the same script over and over again. Over and over the Conservatives pass up an obvious and damning zinger, because it simply is not in the script, and they cannot initiate new points of argument on their own.

  24. Anon Says:

    @c u n d gulag:

    I just have to wonder whether Liberals are quite as good at detecting bullshit as they like to think. It's easy to point to conservatives eating bullshit and saying "mmm! apple pie!" because they are, indeed, being given bullshit and calling it apple pie, every single time. Liberals are typically given apple pie to start with, but that doesn't prove they can tell the difference very often.

    Of course, this is all broad generalization. My own feeling is that both sides contain several groups. For example:

    Conservatives contain both retrograde lunatics like Phil and Pat Robertson, as well as cynical manipulators like William F. Buckley and George F. Will and the countless wannabes who emulate them in comments sections- snide pseudo-intellectuals who genuinely seem to be deliberately vandalizing the national conversation.

    On the left, we have a spectrum of legitimate opinions held by intelligent people like us, but also all the nth-wave feminists complaining that trans woman are stealing the magic vagina power and trans men are sellouts. (Not to mention those who say that when women masturbate they are triumphantly seizing their magic vagina-power, while the act of male masturbation is always a thinly veiled act of murder-rape.)

  25. Ursula Says:

    Anon, the both sides fallacy won't work here, especially when you try to create it with a strawman/shitty anecdote. Furthermore, truth isn't defined by who can deliver the better "zinger".

  26. Ursula Says:

    Ugh, I shouldn't have hit submit on that. I blame lack of sleep.

  27. Major Kong Says:

    I see one minor problem with your logic Anon.

    Yeah, we've got our frothing-at-the-mouth crazies on the left, we just don't usually elect them to congress.

  28. Anon Says:

    I just want to note- with some frustration- that real discussion in Internet comments is nearly impossible, because people follow these scripts. Ursula's comment is a clear example.

    Over and over again, a conservative defends the GOP by saying "both sides do it!"

    That's the Liberal's cue to declare-correctly- that "both sides do it" is a fallacy (when used as a defense,) and pat themselves on the back for being smarter than the conservatives.

    Ursula clearly didn't even read what I said. I'm not defending conservatism. I'm pointing out that in my experience, people *in general* don't think for themselves, but are just mindlessly repeating scripts. Liberals just happen to have better scripts, and the small percentage of liberals who think for themselves is larger than the near-zero percentage of conservatives who think for themselves. Even so, this is a serious problem with our species, IMO.

    I illustrated this with a story from my personal experience, which Ursula charmingly dismissed as a "shitty anecdote." She also ignored the rest of the examples I provided.

    Ursula also used a strawman. I never claimed that truth was defined by "zingers." I said that if Conservatives were actually thinking in the example I provided, they would have seen the zinger and used it.

    Ursula, please explain:

    * Are you defending the conservatives in this anecdote, on the grounds that they were not acting like robots, but instead were rational people who declined to use the "zinger" on the grounds that it was fallacious?

    * Please show me how "Bin Laden isn't a real Muslim" is NOT an example of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

    Because, frankly, you are on the attack. You're swearing at me and, it appears, putting strawman arguments in my mouth.

    I, on the other hand, am being polite. All I'm asking you to do is either explain how the "zinger" would be fallacious, or apologize for putting a strawman in my mouth.

  29. Anon Says:

    @Major Kong: an excellent, excellent point. I agree wholeheartedly.

  30. Anon Says:

    @Ursula:

    I want to apologize for being sharp with you, above.

    I think there's more at work than lack of sleep. We see the same scripts over and over again from conservatives, and they are so hateful, that it's easy to sigh and think "Not again." Why bother reading the same conservative crap all over again? And so it's easy to make mistakes, and I think it's important to acknowledge that that's a big part of how we end up repeating liberal scripts of our own.

  31. Alan C Says:

    This is one of the few sites where I even bother reading the comments because they're actually civil and intelligent for the most part. I do know some liberal sites where the comments drive me up the wall, though in different ways than World Nut Daily or Free Republic (if I bothered to frequent those sites–my brief forays have been horrific experiences).

  32. doug Says:

    Agreed on the comments being repetitive and ignorant at many sites. I usually look at them first if I am at new site, just to see the level of intelligence . Then I decide whether or not to read the article. Comments here are good, and Ed, your commentary is almost always fun and or thought provoking to read.
    The Raleigh NC paper has done away with anonymous postings and that has reduced the stupid/hateful stuff a little bit.

    Thanks to you and the fine commenters here for all you do.

  33. Brian M Says:

    (Not to mention those who say that when women masturbate they are triumphantly seizing their magic vagina-power, while the act of male masturbation is always a thinly veiled act of murder-rape.)

    Are there really people who say things like this? I guess I have led a sheltered life.

  34. wmd Says:

    As drouse said – usenet.

    And it isn't just old white guys, in my personal experience a lot of hoplophiles are in a 30-40 age demographic (and not necessarily white).

  35. Anonymouse Says:

    @Gulag; that was beautifully stated.

  36. BruceFromOhio Says:

    The modern unmoderated public comment forum behaves much like a septic tank – it not only functions as a storage and processing medium for undesirable waste products, it also functions to keep those waste products *away* from everything else.

    See also: Scalzi, John

  37. Anon Says:

    @BrianM: Yes, your life is indeed sheltered. Back when I was in college, a lot of the prominent feminists who were invited to speak would give us an earful of talk about horrible male sexuality and the glories of female masturbation (in one instance, illustrated with a video of the speaker and her friends sitting in a circle masturbating. And yes, she specifically said that men don't understand sex because men are into circle-jerking. I AM NOT EXAGGERATING.)

    I've found it depressingly common to meet feminists who argue that the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue consists of thinly veiled rape-murder fantasies. Their argument is that all visual erotica is, by its very nature, based on rape-murder fantasies. The SI swimsuit issue has pictures in it, ergo the men looking at it are fantasising about slitting the model's throats, QED.

    The anti-trans bigotry in feminism is so common that I'm surprised you haven't encountered it. My understanding is that there was even a subplot on "the L word" about it.

    Of course, there's also anti-bi bigotry coming from lots of feminists, homosexuals, etc. It doesn't get as much play in the comments section as Christian anti-queer bigotry. Christian bigots are arguably a much bigger problem, but I can't help but also feel that a discussion of liberal bigotry is not part of the script we're supposed to follow.

  38. NoPublic Says:

    The reason that "Osama Bin Laden isn't a real Muslim" isn't a "No True Scotsman" argument when you compare him to Torquemada or the Council of Basel and the like is simple. The Inquisition and the witch trials were sanctioned by entire nations and by the heads of their religious orders at the time. Bin Laden was not. Next question?

  39. Brian M Says:

    NoPublic: Have you considered Saudi Arabia and its funding of radical madrassas and salafiist groups?

    Or, for that matters, the policies of the Iranian state?
    I don't think it's as cut and dried as you claim.

  40. Heywood J. Says:

    Anon:

    I don't question the intellectual validity of your apparently frequent run-ins with feminist lunatics. I would, however, suggest that such folks have zero cultural sway or impact outside of a college campus. I mean, I'm aware of the existence of Andrea Dworkin / Catherine MacKinnon types, but I have yet to see anyone on the wide world of internets regurgitate their vicious nonsense.

    There is simply no comparison, in terms of scale, volume, breadth, or even sheer vitriol, between what passes for the "left" in this country, and the routine vituperation of right-wing knuckle-dragging.

    The commenters here are all pretty sharp people, and I'd bet my next paycheck (hey, ten bucks is ten bucks, amirite?) that any of them could rattle off a dozen wingnut personalities with real cultural and political influence on teevee, radio, the internets, etc., in a matter of seconds. Yet they'd be hard-pressed to find even a single "leftist" with any real cultural influence, certainly no political influence. I sure as hell can't think of one.

    I mean, I get your point — sometimes "liberals" say obnoxious things too, but again, there's just no comparison in terms of actual volume or impact. Goofball feminists are not even a blip on the radar. Compare the hysterical gnashing of teeth by the Duckheads over losing their "patriarch" getting his wrist slapped, with the crickets Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir got when they lost their shows just a few weeks prior.

  41. jazzbumpa Says:

    @ the other old white guys who commented upstream:

    Evidently you're not aware of Ed's ever-to-be-continued hate fest against his parents' generation, of which this is part infinity + 1.

    You're just never quite sure which post it's going to show up in.

    Look, Rand Paul is not one god damn bit better better than the freak who spawned him, Ted Cruz is 43, and puffy-faced pant shitter Jonah Goldberg is 44, so give the generational bull shit a rest already.

    Talk about fucking tiresome.

    JzB

  42. Anon Says:

    @Heywood J

    Well said, and I largely agree. I would like to make a few points, though:

    * The bigoted/crazy elements within feminism are not some fringe group within feminism. The real problem is that feminism is a fringe group in America, or at least in American media. If feminists were granted the same media access as conservative Christians, we'd be talking about how the matriarch of Dyke Dynasty made nasty comments about bisexuals and trans people in her GQ interview.

    * I don't want to lose track of the larger point here. I agree that liberals generally have much better arguments. I just don't find them to be particularly intelligent. For the most part, liberals read from scripts just like conservatives do. My personal experience has been that if I deviate from the script, liberals can be as nasty to me as conservatives can.

    Sexual orientation provides another good example. The conservative script is "homosexuals can be cured." The liberal script is "sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed."

    As long as you stay on-script, everything is ok. Just defend gay marriage and criticize the quack "cures" for homosexuality, and you're a liberal in good standing.

    If you come out as gay, conservatives call you "confused" and tell you that you don't understand your own sexuality.

    If you come out as bi, a substantial number of liberals will be nasty to you. (Typically this takes the form of demands that you "prove" you're really bi.)

    If you come out as bi and say that your personal experiences don't 100% fit the script re: sexual orientation, then the majority of liberals will tell you the same thing the conservatives do: you're confused, and don't understand your own sexuality.

  43. Anon Says:

    Here's another example of a liberal script:

    In any dispute between a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian and a Mormon, the liberal must side with the Mormon.

    Specifically, this happens when the Christian says that Mormons are not Christians. And clearly they are not, by the traditional standard of such things: Mormons do not follow the Nicene Creed. Nonetheless, in my experience every liberal present will insist that the Christian is a bigot for not believing that Mormons are Christians. No amount of discussion of the facts will make a difference: the liberals insist that I am an idiot for not realizing that Mormons ARE Christians, and anyone who says otherwise is a bigot. Because dammit, the facts are irrelevant- everyone has a fundamental right to decide what to call themselves!

    Meanwhile, if an evangelical Christian says that Jews for Jesus are Jewish, the liberals start moaning about anti-Semitism, even to the extent of making comments like "wasn't the Holocaust enough for you people?" All of a sudden, the fundamental right to call-yourself-what-you-want flies out the window. And I get a lot of snotty lectures about how I'm ignorant of Moses Maimonides, who set down the standard that you're not Jewish if you believe the Messiah has already come, UNLESS he actually has. Never mind that the Jews for Jesus use the same standard.

    So, if you think Jews for Jesus are Jewish, you're an ignorant anti-Semite. If you think Mormons are not Christian, you're a rules-lawyering bigot.

    The liberal script is simple: if an evangelical Christian offers an opinion, tear him down at all costs. Play Calvin-ball and make up the rules as you go along, if you have to- but you won't have to, because your script has rules pre-Calvin-balled for you. If you're talking about Mormons, insist that historical creeds are irrelevant. If you're talking about Jews, insist that historical creeds trump all other considerations.

    Meanwhile, the evangelical Christians have their own script. If it were better written, it would include a few lines where they point out the hypocrisy of the liberals. But the evangelical Christians have idiots for scriptwriters, so they lose the pre-scripted battle every time.

    It's like pro wrestling, entirely scripted, the ending entirely predetermined. But creepily, none of the combatants realize that everything they are doing has played out the same way a thousand times before. The Christians never seem to realize that they absolutely will lose. They also never seem to realize that they *could* have won, if they had just deviated from the script.

  44. Joe Max Says:

    "Once more, alas, I find myself unable to follow the best Liberal thought. What the World's contention amounts to, at bottom, is simply the doctrine that a man engaged in combat with superstition should be very polite to superstition. This, I fear, is nonsense. The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance, cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame." – H.L. Mencken; The Baltimore Evening Sun, September 14, 1925

  45. Robert Says:

    Anon, you're fighting a war that ended years ago. TERFs are generally derided by 4th Gen feminists.

  46. Dick Nixon Says:

    Just update the old Archie bunker theme:

    Boy the way Mitch Miller played
    Songs that made the hit parade.
    Guys like us we had it made,
    Those were the days.
    And you knew who you were then,
    Girls were girls and men were men,
    Mister we could use a man
    Like Ronald Reagan again.
    Didn't need no welfare state,
    Everybody pulled his weight.
    Gee our old V-8 ran great.
    Those were the days!

    And you liberals and fellow travelers ruined it all!

  47. Dave Dell Says:

    Nan – Not all old white people are bitter, Ed, some of us are just really, really depressed.

    Feeling so terribly helpless and so terribly depressed that last night I apologized to my great nieces and nephews for the world their children will live in.

    Then I read the comments here and realize that there are bright intelligent readers who self select to come here for intelligent discourse and I feel better. Hopeful, even.

  48. Bill Wesley Says:

    It has always been like that, I'm 60, when I was 16 I complained about the "store bought views" of my classmates who liberal or conservative parroted some party line they had heard somewhere and never professed a single opinion of their own. Why is that? Its simple to explain, in school we are rewarded for conformity and punished for originality, rewarded for memory ability but punished for imagination ability. Without creativity insight is not possible, in the absence of insight there is a vacuum, in the presence of a vacuum people will cling to anything that happens to be preformulated for them. In a consumer society people consume mass produced opinions, its seen as insufferably weak as to have to create your own, in a consumer culture DIY is at the bottom dregs of the status pile. Manifest creativity is the surest way to be rejected by employers and other gang leaders, they want predictable clones. I post many comments that do profess original ideas, almost no one responds to them because they can not respond to a comment that does not contain standard dogma. Creativity is given universal lip service so as to better eradicate it from human life, the greatest threat to any status quo of any kind is originality and that is the reason comments are inter exchangeable, as long as people refrain from original thought no status quo is ever threatened.

  49. moderateindy Says:

    A big part of the reason that cons have a more homogeneous set of talking points is that they are simply better organized. Thier echo chamber does a very good job of settling on simple, repeatable memes, and then pounding on those "slogans" over and over again. A big facet of their success comes from avoiding any real details about any situation. They will constantly say things like "we have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. Even a cursory analysis shows that our effective corporate tax rate is one of the lowest, but understanding the difference takes actual thinking. Something very few people like doing. The right simply has a better apparatus to push it's talking points, and have settled on a good strategy to push it's agenda.
    The left internalizes talking points for many issues, (Ever tried to have a conversation about nuclear power) but when it comes to refuting right wing talking points it often gets mired down in trying to explain why something is true.
    It's easy to say that tax cuts increase revenue, because when taxes have been cut we got more revenue than the year before. Try to explain to someone the intricacies of GDP growth, and how there is actually a large shortfall based on what revenue would have come in even taking into account the boost in GDP caused by the extra tax cuts and blah blah blah the other person's eyes glaze over, and you just lost the argument despite being right.

  50. blacky Says:

    It's my understanding that the wingnuts, including corporations, have hired trolls to post comments approved of by the rightwing.

  51. Bill Wesley Says:

    In the end its like trying to think to determine which gangs hand sign is "correct" and which is "incorrect", it misses the point entirely, the Crips have their "talking points" and the Bloods have theirs, these exist to maintain the superficial difference between them because functionally the Crips and the Bloods are the same, except that one dresses in blue and the other in red. The right wing and the lefty wing can both lead to tyranny if both stick only to talking points. Religion is based on faith, to demonstrate faith it is NECESSARY to believe in the irrational, believing in the rational demonstrates the opposite of faith, a religion is more politically effective at binding groups together the less rational it is. Religion is comprised of unsubstantiated theory, science of substantiated theory therefor unsubstantiated theory has greater social binding power than substantiated theory does, that a concept is less rational scientifically makes it more powerful socially. This is why appeals to reason are absolutely useless as a sales technique but appeals to emotion highly effective, to sell a political agenda one needs to appeal to emotion which is best served by specifically avoiding reason, something the right understands better than the left.

  52. Anon Says:

    @Robert: I'm not sure what a TERF is. I do know that I run into aggressively nasty feminists online with some regularity, so I don't believe this is a war that ended years ago.

  53. Bill Wesley Says:

    Once you have avatars as payed agents than the internet is essentially bought, the prevailing view becomes what ever the big money says it is just as with any other advertising medium, the internet is not the universal "town hall" but instead the "neon sign boulevard" of our owners. The day is coming when heresy becomes impossible to express, the automatic grammar correction programs screening any and all public forums will correct improper English such as the grammatically incorrect phrase "the NSA is doing evil" and replace it with grammatically corrected script such as "the NSA isn't doing evil" The "artificial Winston" programs will be highly effective at establishing a common practice for nomenclature so that the English language becomes universally understood