Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to talk to complete idiots

Three basic options. Choose wisely, lest you go totally insane

There are three basic ways to talk to complete idiots.

The first is to assail them with facts, truths, scientific data, the commonsensical obviousness of it all. You do this in the very reasonable expectation that it will nudge them away from the ledge of their more ridiculous and paranoid misconceptions because, well, they're facts, after all, and who can dispute those?

Why, idiots can, that's who. It is exactly this sort of logical, levelheaded appeal to reason and mental acuity that's doomed to fail, simply because in the idiotosphere, facts are lies and truth is always dubious, whereas hysteria and alarmism resulting in mysterious undercarriage rashes are the only things to be relied upon.

Examples? Endless. You may, for instance, attempt to explain evolution to an extreme fundamentalist Christian. You may offer up carbon dating, the fossil record, glaciers, any one of 10,000 irrefutable proofs. You may even dare to talk about the Bible as the clever, completely manufactured, man-made piece of heavily politicized, massively edited, literary myth-making it so very much is, using all sorts of sound academic evidence and historical record.

You are, of course, insane beyond belief to try this, but sometimes you just can't help it. To the educated mind, it seems inconceivable that millions of people will choose rabid ignorance and childish fantasy over, say, a polar bear. Permafrost. Rocks. Nag Hammadi. But they will, and they do. Faced with this mountain of factual obviousness, the bewildered fundamentalist will merely leap back as if you just jabbed him with a flaming homosexual cattle prod, and then fall into a swoon about how neat it is that angels can fly.

But it's not just the fundamentalists. This Rule of Idiocy also explains why, when you show certain jumpy, conservative Americans the irrefutable facts about, say, skyrocketing health care costs that are draining their bank accounts, and then show how Obama's rather modest overhaul is meant to save members of all ages and genders and party affiliations a significant amount of money while providing basic insurance for their family, they, too, will scream and kick like a child made to eat a single bite of broccoli.

Remember, facts do not matter. The actual Obama plan itself does not matter. Fear of change, fear of the "Other," fear of the scary black socialist president, fear that yet another important shift is taking place that they cannot understand and which therefore makes them thrash around like a trapped animal? This is all that matters.

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