The funny thing about The Internet is that when you throw a bunch of stuff at it, people will eventually notice you. But they'll never notice the things you want them to notice. You write something you think is incredibly important and heartfelt or whatever, and it hovers there for a moment before fading into the ethers. Alternatively, you make some stupid off-hand joke like "LOLOL THIS DOGGO LOOKS LIKE BUTTS" and you wake up the next morning and it has two million hits. The reverse can also be true, but it's a crapshoot, is what I'm saying.

I receive *tons* of "Hey, check this out!" or "You should write about this" links from strangers via social media, as well as from people I know via text, etc. Saturday morning a stranger sent me a link to the website of a private corrections company's website – a company that is a major ICE contractor – including a picture of a prison bus full of baby car seats. Other than a very quick scan to ascertain that it was real (it was, and it was the official corporate website) I saw great "Get a load of this shit!" potential in the picture and reposted it on Facebook and Twitter with a throw-away joke:

No deep thought went into it – I simply found the picture shocking and the phrase "prison bus for babies" funny. I realize that car seats can accommodate a range of children's ages beyond "baby." But hold that thought for a moment.

By Monday, half the internet had seen it and Snopes had written it up ("Mostly True").

When conservatives share things on the internet, there is absolutely no pretense whatsoever of fact-checking or truth. They just fire it out there and it becomes Truth through repetition. When anyone to the left of, say, John McCain shares something that circulates widely, it is dealt with through a predictable and effective strategy of parsing it to death.

Gun Nuts have this down to a science. Ignore the substance of a claim and focus exhaustively on some minor detail that is wrong. "Ha ha can you believe this idiot expects us to listen to her when she doesn't understand how .223 and 5.56 are slightly different?" That sort of thing. They parse the details, which of course must be correct in every possible facet, and ignore the point.

My post was not, obviously, the result of years of investigative journalism. I made zero attempt to hide anything from anyone – including in the post the full link to the company's own website so that anyone who cared to could read in their own words how they put this in context.

Yet two things were, in predictable fashion, beaten to death by critical commenters:

1. The company's post was from mid-2016.
2. The bus is for "field trips" for the private prison company's own Charter School it started to get more money from ICE

For the first point, how could that be less relevant? Does the post being two years old mean the bus no longer exists? Of course not. Second, leave aside momentarily the high likelihood that "field trips" is some kind of creepy euphemism. The larger point is, ICE has so many small children in custody, and they are held in custody for so long, that it needs to set up its own school system to handle them. That, and not what specific use the bus in the photo is put to, is important.

Finally, taking artistic license with the phrase "prison bus for babies" is a fair criticism insamuch as the bus is not literally being used to imprison babies, but here's the thing – I'm not the goddamn BBC. I make jokes on the internet, and the photo depicts something from a company that exists entirely to build and run prisons. When Prison, Inc. buys and outfits a bus, calling that a "prison bus" in a tossed-off, "funny to take the edge off the horror" kind of way is within my rights. And, to whatever extent I, Internet Joke Guy, is responsible for factual accuracy I included a full link to the source website so anyone could evaluate it for themselves. In social media sharing terms, I think that was pretty goddamn responsible. Here it is! I didn't make this up! See for yourselves, in their own words!

In closing, it was fun to experience the double standard first-hand. Right wingers make shit up out of whole cloth, believe it unquestioningly, and circulate it enthusiastically. I tried to call attention to something quite awful using a picture I knew would be attention-getting and a caption that, in my Online Voice, underscored the part of this that should be alarming – that ICE has tons of small children in custody and is holding them for so long that it had to pay someone to make a charter school to put them through K-12.

Go ahead and ignore that part and beat up on minor details, though. That should help.

18 thoughts on “PARSE AND DEFLECT”

  • I saw a comment thread back and forth a while back – I think it was on an article on NRATV on the Washington Post website – where person A blasted NRATV for broadcasting the things that they do, and person B responded with some variation of "they're an online outfit, not a TV station, therefore they cannot broadcast anything, lol stupid lib."

    I hope that person went home that night to find his wife having sex with another man, howled "How could you sleep with him?!" and had her respond with "Obviously you don't see we're not doing any sleeping, lol."

  • thanks Ed. I have a "right-wing" stalker who attacks me for not knowing "how .223 and 5.56 are slightly different?" and other bull in a china shop tactics. Mostly I ignore him because he is a shattered man who cannot get over the fact that his ex-wife is fucking someone else these days.

  • Congratulations, you just earned a Snopes merit badge for your sash.
    That piece in The Nation is worth a gold star on your collar, too. Also.

  • Kind of like the kerfuffle over Michelle Wolf's remarks at the 2018 White House Correspondents' Dinner. Plenty of coverage of the Sarah Sanders joke, zero coverage of "Flint still doesn't have clean water."

  • acousticsouthpaw says:

    My RWNJ uncle (at least 1 in every family) recently posted the patently false Gregory Hayes meme – look it up, since Ed won't let us turn his precious baby into a meme gallery :( RWNJ uncle acknowledged that is was false, fully fabricated, a piece of propaganda, etc. He admitted it! I was shocked.

    Then, he proceeded to treat it like it was real, asking me how I would react IF IT WERE REAL. Talk about parsing over the details.

    (The meme suggests that a retired soldier beat two Syrian refugees to death after they raped his daughter; yay, just the kind of hypothetical situation / thought experiment I'm dying to engage in…on the internet.)

    Yes, my uncle is an asshole.

  • I hear you & agree with your post mostly. On the 2016 thing, the reason it could matter is that the ACLU released their damning report about mistreatment of children in ICE custody, and only noted in the 3rd paragraph that all the testimony came from the Obama days. Of course no one should believe it’s any better now but that mistreatment is on ICE and Obama, not Trump. I think your pic of baby seats activated Trumpers’ tribalist feelings that “we” didn’t do that.

  • Seems like a pretty good service orientation when they could just have borrowed Mitt Romney's empty dog-box and put them on the roof.

  • nominalize says:

    When gun radicals bust out things like that, I simply reply "Everyone look, the gun geek has shown up!" Pulls the rug right out from under their abuse and swagger.

    For that kind of abusive geekdom is typically the realm of the comic store guy or the video game guy… but gun radicals are essentially geeks for an extremely harmful hobby.

  • It is a prison bus for babies. It's used to transport little kids to and from a prison and the only reason it doesn't have bars on the windows is that the kids are deemed a low risk to escape. The adult escorts on these "field trips" are prison guards, not teachers and parents.

    But also, it has been decades now that INS/ICE has been imprisoning vast numbers of people, mostly in privatized prisons, with little to no supervision. Not at all new to Trump. Trump may be making it slightly worse, but…

  • But, at the end of the day, isn't that pretty much exactly the sort of response and treatment you expect, when you are dealing with a group of people who are 95% reptilian brain reactivity, and 5% obsessive over a narrow band of interests?

  • Nice try libtard. What next, you gonna deny Whoopie Goldberg wore that Trump suicide t-shirt?
    Well, that's a bad example, but you know what I'm saying.

  • don coyote says:

    There aren't any commenters here who got dropped on their heads at a delicate age, are there?

  • @don coyote

    Every now and then, someone's uncle wanders in, off a Facebook share. They usually get confused and leave.

  • @ Ten Bears:

    "Abu Graco"?

    @ acousticsouthpaw:

    Assholuncle is a Trumpliguturd, I assume?

    So, next time, he starts flappin'n'yappin', hold up your hand and say:

    "'Scuse me, unc, are you living me a fuckton of money when you die? No? WhyTF am I even talking to you, loozer? SAD!".

  • "Seems like a pretty good service orientation when they could just have borrowed Mitt Romney's empty dog-box and put them on the roof."

    So, for most commenters this would be gallows humor. For the troll, this is a fervent wish.

    Now, now, now–afore you go gettin' all huffy:

    ""I need to make a correction. I have never pretended that I intend to do anything but comment on the absurdity of the progressive delusion. Hence, I don’t think I have ever attempted or proffered solutions."

    So you admit to being nothing but a fucking troll.

    A little unintentional birthday gift to me @ 9:55 AM on 10/25/17.

    Thanks, for being clear. And just so I'm clear. I intend to put that bit in quotations, and only that, as a reply to any comment you make on any thread.

    Now, fuck off, troll.

    Parse and deflect that, asshole.

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