Politics

The Liberal’s Guide to Online Debates

Debating people online often seems to be a useless waste of time. But it's actually far more important than you think, and this is why and how it should be done.

I have been known to, on occasion, get into political fights with strangers on Facebook. Or YouTube. Comments sections of news articles. Pretty much anywhere. I fall victim to seeing something that I disagree with and deciding to throw in my own two cents. I used to do this by making some snide comment, or simply telling the offending person that I think they are a complete and utter fucking moron. I’m not proud of it by any means, but that doesn’t remove the fact that I’ve done it.

Nonetheless, my friends still all ask me the same question. “Why do you even bother?” They ask. “You’re not going to change their mind. Don’t you feel like you’re wasting your time at this point?”

These days, however, I take a much different approach to online debates. I do my best to stick to the facts. I present my side of the argument as clearly and concisely as I can. I state facts, I offer links to back up my claims, and, in the end, I wish my opponent in the debate a good day and wish them the best in life. While it’s not as flashy as the days when I would tell people that they were useless wastes of space that would only make the world a better place when they were gone from it, I still feel like being nice is the far better strategy.

Nonetheless, all of my friends still all ask me the same question. “Why do you even bother?” They ask. “You’re not going to change their mind. Don’t you feel like you’re wasting your time at this point?”

Back in my troll days, I would say that I didn’t care, fuck those people, and I just liked pissing them off. It was all a game to me, to see how quickly I could get under their skin and do everything I could to ruin their whole day. I wanted to throw out a line that they would think about all day, maybe even all week. The ultimate dream was to put that comment out that might haunt somebody for years, or even the rest of their life. In my troll fantasy I imagined these idiotic conservatives, many years down the road, thinking about me and wondering if they really were useless wastes of space who would be forgotten by the world soon after they died.

It was childish and counterproductive. It was cruel and, in the long run, really made me no better than the people I was arguing against, no matter what the topic was. I was winning battles and losing the war against those I was combating.

My answer is much different now. I don’t know if it is simply growing a little older and realizing that wasn’t the type of person I wanted to be, or a sudden change in morals, or just becoming exhausted by all the hate that was spewing forth from my head onto the web. Whatever the reason, though, my tactics, my expectations, and my answer to the question “Why bother,” has all changed.

I don’t argue someone to change my opponent’s mind. That will never happen and to imagine doing so is pure insanity. You know, basically the old trope of banging one’s head against the wall and expecting different results and whatnot…

I do still debate people online, though, and I do it solely for the people who might come along later and read it. I fight for the people who agree with me but don’t want to get dragged into the fray so that they know they are not alone in the world. There are others out there who share their views, and that they are views worth fighting for. I fight because sitting around and doing nothing is simply unacceptable to me.

I do still debate people online, though, and I do it solely for the people who might come along later and read it.

Do I think I’m going to change the world? No, of course not. I know better than that. But imagine, if you will, somebody who isn’t really into politics stumbling across one of my old fights. What would they have thought? Would my insults and harassment make them see my cause as worthy? Would they be so impressed with my witty comebacks that they’d jump right to my side and start believing everything that I did? Of course not. They would have, and did, think that I was just another asshole on the internet and ignored everything that I said.

Imagine that same stranger now. Possibly not very knowledgeable about politics. Still trying to figure out where they stand, and only occasionally reading political debates to get a feel for things. What would they think now? What would you think?

On one side, you have a person arguing points but providing no real facts to back up their claims. They are aggressive and insulting. On the other side, though, you have a person who remains calm, parries their opponents points with facts, and, once things begin to get out of control, they thank the other person for their time and bows out gracefully, ignoring the inevitable slew of insults that will occur after their departure.

Which one of those people would impress you more?

This is why I continue to fight. This is why I encourage you to fight as well. I feel like liberals across the world are being bullied into remaining quiet, because it’s so often just not worth the effort. We all know that there is no possible way we will change the mind of a Trump supporter. They are so far gone at this point that there is literally nothing that could ever change their mind. Trump was right when he said he could shoot somebody in the face and not lose his supporters. They are a cult, and one that people can never come back from. I get it that the effort involved in arguing with these people just seems to be a total waste of time and energy.

But we have to fight, and we have to stand up to the trolls. But we can’t fight them using their tactics.

But it’s not, and I strongly encourage all of you to remember that. This war for America needs all the soldiers it can get, and I absolutely believe that, if we work together, we can make the world a better place. We can influence those people in the middle to lean more towards our side. We can make the next generation understand that the ideas of Trump and his supporters are not what American values are about.

But we have to fight, and we have to stand up to the trolls. But we can’t fight them using their tactics. I know it’s hard, but I was able to change my ways so I have no doubt that all of you can do the same. We have to show the same sort of integrity that we preach about. We have to show the facts and stand by them. We have to show the world that science is more trustworthy than politicians, that facts are better than assumptions, and decency is better than hatred. It’s by taking the high road that we will win the minds of those in the middle. They still exist, I promise you, and we need them now more than ever.

This isn’t a war that will be won by the politicians. It won’t be won by Hollywood or musicians. It is up to us to take the fight to the masses. It is up to us to strive to make the world a better place. Fight those battles and be nice while you do it. Don’t just stand by and let your friends share false and misleading messages on Facebook. Chime in, and say things like:

“You know, I just read an article about this the other day and I’m pretty sure that meme you just shared is a lie. Sorry, just thought you’d want to know!”

“I respect your opinion, but I believe that you might have been given some false information. Here is the truth…”

“While I respect your decision to support the current president, do you really believe that him calling people names like that is what America should be like? Seems like we’d be a pretty terrible place if we all just insulted each other all the time.”

“Shut the fuck up, dad, you moronic piece of shit. I’m so fucking embarrassed to have been raised by a brain-dead fucktard like you!”

Ignore the last one. Just throwing that out there to show the difference. One way is less confrontational and inspires civil discourse. The other makes holidays way more awkward. I think you all can see which is better.

It’s by taking the high road that we will win the minds of those in the middle. They still exist, I promise you, and we need them now more than ever.

I know, of course, that many people don’t agree with me. There is a mindset of fighting fire with fire. Trump has been so successful by being a righteous twat, so why don’t we copy his lead? Republicans lie all the time and don’t base their stance on facts, so why shouldn’t we throw out reality as well? These tactics work for them, so wouldn’t they work for us, too?

The only thing that comes from that approach, in my opinion, is that we become the very thing we are fighting against. Becoming full of hate, ignoring facts, spreading fake news. It’s everything that liberals are supposed to be against, yet I see so many of us doing it every day.

DO. NOT. ACT. LIKE. REPUBLICANS!!!

Be the change you want to see in the world. Promote facts and decency towards your fellow man. Do not call people names. Back up your claims with facts and articles. Inspire the people who don’t know the truth that there is one side that is decent, and one side that has been infiltrated by hate and lies. It’s up to us to make this difference, and I beg of all of you to make it happen. Ignore the trolls and win the day!

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