Dear Mr. Carter,
This essay is entitled "How to Talk to Complete Idiots" by Mark Morford. Perhaps this will be helpful to you:
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.
This is why, even when you whip out, say, a fresh article by the goodly old Washington Post -- not exactly a bastion of lopsided liberalthink -- one that breaks down the rather brutal truth about the real cost of health care in this country, it will likely be hurled back in your face as an obvious piece of liberal propaganda. Go ahead, try it. Or better yet, don't.
Option two is to try to speak their language, dumb yourself down, engage on the idiot's level as you try to figure out how their minds work -- or more accurately, don't work -- so you can better empathize and find a shred of common ground and maybe, just maybe, inch the human experiment forward.
This is, as you already sense, a dangerous trap, pure intellectual quicksand. It almost never works, and just makes you feel gross and slimy. Nevertheless, plenty of shrewd political strategists believe that the best way for Obama and the Dems to get their message across regarding everything from health care reform to new environmental regulation, would be to steal a page from the Glenn Beck/Karl Rove/sociopath's playbook, and start getting stupid.
It's all about the bogus catchphrases, the sound bites, the emotional punches-to-the-gut. Death panels! Rationing! Fetus farms! Puppy shredders! Commie medicine! Gay apocalypse! Forced vaccinations! Exposed nipples during prime-time! Let one of these inane, completely wrong but oh-so-haunting verbal ticks bite into the below-average American brainstem, and watch your cause bleed all over the headlines.
The big snag here is that the Dems, unlike the Republican Party, aren't really beholden to a radical, mal-educated base of fundamentalist crazies to keep them afloat. Truly, the political success of the liberal agenda does not depend on the irrational, Bible-crazed "value voter" who's terrified of gays, believes astronomy is a hoax and thinks Jesus spoke perfect English and really liked giving hugs.
In other words, there really is little point in the liberals adopting this strategy, save for the fact that the major media eats it up and it might serve to counterbalance some of the more ridiculous conservative catchphrases. What's more, it could also give the whiny, bickering Dems something slightly cohesive to rally around -- because the truth is, the Democratic Party isn't all that bright, either.
And now we come to option three, easily the finest and most successful approach of all. Alas, it also remains the most difficult to pull off. No one is exactly sure why.
The absolute best way to speak to complete idiots is, of course, not to speak to them at all.
That is, you work around them, ignore them completely, disregard the rants and the spittle and the misspelled protest signs and the fervent prayers for apocalypse on Fox News. Complete refusal to take the fringe nutballs even the slightest bit seriously is the only way to make true progress.
This also happens to be the invaluable advice of one Frank Schaeffer, noted author and a former fundamentalist nutball himself, who made a simply superb appearance on Rachel Maddow's show recently, wherein he offered up one of the most articulate, fantastic takedowns of the fundamentalist idiot's mindset in recent history. It's a must-watch. Do it. Do it now.
Now, you may argue that, while Schaeffer may be dead right and also rather deserving of being quoted far and wide, it's also true that calling people stupid is no way to advance the debate, and is itself rather childish and stupid. And you'd be absolutely right.
But you'd also be missing the point. When you ignore the idiots completely, you are not calling them anything at all. You are not trying to advance any sort of argument, because there is no debate taking place. You are simply bypassing the giant pothole of ignorance entirely.
You are not kowtowing to the least educated of your voting bloc, like the GOP is so desparetely fond of doing. You are not trying to give the idiotosphere equal weight in the discussion. As Schaeffer says, "You cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot." By employing option three, you are doing the only humane thing left to do: you are letting the idiotosphere eat itself alive.
Do it for the children, won't you?
by Mark Morford