How much of what right-wing pundits say do they actually mean? It’s a tough call. Ann Coulter clearly believes less than 10% of what she says. She’s a shock jockey and just wants attention. Glenn Beck, according to the people who have encountered him, really is every bit as bugfuck crazy as he appears on TV. Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, I would estimate, believe some of what they say, but by no means all. There is a chicken-or-the-egg quality to their relationship with their viewers/listeners. Do they say it just because they know people will eat it up, or do the listeners/viewers eat it up just because they want more of the same? I doubt Hannity, Limbaugh, or any of those assholes are secret liberals. It’s more likely that they believe that as long as they can dupe people, this reinforces their belief that they really are special, and the rabble who give them money are just that, and should keep working their shitty jobs and voting for politicians who will screw them over because that’s all they deserve. I’m feeling cynical today.
Let’s talk about privilege. It’s a rather loaded term, one that tends to set many people on the defensive. Most people don’t like being told that they’re privileged because they take that to mean that they don’t work hard or that they don’t still have problems. Of course, that’s not how it works, but how can you explain that to them? At a certain point, you can’t. It hasn’t happened in a while, but it used to be a fairly regular thing that I would get into an argument with a Tea Partier/homophobe/some other kind of douchebag on the internet and tell them to fuck off, at which point a bunch of other assholes who were ostensibly on my side would dogpile on top of me because I wasn’t being respectful. So? Respect isn’t like love, numbnuts; it has to be earned. If you believe Obama was born in Kenya, then I don’t respect your beliefs. It amazes me when I hear people say that what you really need to do with someone like that is listen politely, acknowledge their concerns, and then explain why you feel differently. Do you really think that someone who thinks the Affordable Health Care Act was a communist plot is going to listen to reason?
Let me put it another way: This American Life had a killer episode last year about the polarization within our political system. They had stories of liberal college students refusing to come home and see their parents because their parents were voting for Romney and a Republican who would let his Democrat friend into his house, but wouldn’t let him eat his barbecue. (What a fucking tease.) A pair of authors–one Republican, one Democrat–who had written a book on this subject explained that the best way to argue is not to focus on changing the other person’s views, but on trying to understand why they feel that way. I agree. That’s why I’m mistrustful of people who say that they’re genuinely interested in my views on [insert topic here]. I don’t like explaining myself. If you have to tell the other person that you’re being respectful and courteous, you probably aren’t. I flip the bird at people who piss me off not because I think that’s going to change their views, but because that’s my honest reply to their claim that all U.S. Presidents should be Christian because the United States is a Christian nation. What is there to understand about that view? Why open up a discussion? The other person has admitted that they are willfully ignorant. I think I have a greater chance of changing their views by turning away. Because I already understand them perfectly.
I’ve said it before and I will say again that I have less patience for moderates than for conservatives. Conservatives believe something that I do not believe. That is their right, and I’ve met enough of them by now to know that they are not all narrow-minded assholes. I won’t pretend to understand their view that Dubya is basically a good guy who made some mistakes, but that’s besides the point. Moderation for the sake of moderation is idiotic. That’s why I respectfully disagree with the folks who say that straight couples who live in states where gay marriage is illegal should refuse to get married until their gay friends can, too. If you want to get married and you can, fucking get married. It’s no skin off my back.
When you get right down to it, most people don’t start arguments to learn about the other person; they do it to reinforce their own beliefs. It drives me nuts when I’m debating, say, movies with another person and somebody jumps in and says, “You two have different opinions! It’s okay!” as if that’s supposed to end the discussion. It’s actually where the discussion begins. The shakers and movers of history knew when to get up in people’s faces. They knew when to get angry. And more importantly, they knew when to let go. I’m still not quite ready to let go. But I am getting closer.