Amanda Marcotte's advice on dealing with fact-free conservatives helps me grasp the issues. Conservative trolling stunts easily distract mainstream media, and readers, from the important stories. It's successful mind control - bully style.
... "triggering the libs" has become the single most important goal of the modern American right. And how better to do this than to pretend to believe something obviously false, and then laugh at liberals as they drive themselves nuts desperately trying to get conservatives to see reason?
All it requires is a shameless willingness to say obviously false things, and then watch your opponents -- still romantically attached to the idea of reasoned debate -- grow increasingly desperate in insisting that objective reality should inform one's opinions.
These are autonomous adults who have decided that loyalty to Trump and hatred of liberals matters more than the truth. There are no cool psychological tricks one can use that are likely to convince them to readjust their values system.
That answer, of course, is unsatisfying, because it's not like liberals can simply drop all engagement and discourse with conservatives. Doing that would be tantamount to giving up on this country and letting the liars drag us directly down the path to authoritarianism, and quite possibly outright fascism.
The first thing liberals and journalists should do is find ways to speak the truth without inviting conservatives to troll them with "debate" about it — debate that will inevitably just be the pitting of lies against truths, leaving those who still believe in reason frustrated and giving conservatives endless opportunities to gloat about their triggering talents.
There are a variety of tools that accomplish this, but the primary one is to avoid speaking to liars and instead speak about them.
...— the maxim to live by is that you can't reason someone out of a belief they didn't reason themselves into. Evidence, facts and rational argument are all pretty useless when you're dealing with a person who rejects the value of all those things.
... remember what the troll is trying to get out of this situation. For most conservatives who play this game, they "win" either by baiting a liberal into a pointless and unwinnable debate or by making the liberal flustered and angry. So don't reward them by giving them either.
Blocking them and depriving them of the interaction they crave is the only real method. But on those occasions when you're engaged with a coworker, friend or family member, that's a time that social shaming — which liberals are often reluctant to use, but which can be really effective — is helpful.
Don't debate facts. Focus instead on impacts. Instead of getting into an argument about whether climate change is real, point out that lying in order to leave the world a worse place for one's children is gross behavior. Don't debate whether #MeToo has gone "too far" or whether Christine Blasey Ford is lying. Instead, shame the person saying these things by bluntly stating your support for victims and opposition to sexual abuse.
Be calm and dispassionate, however, and state things matter-of-factly. Any sign of emotion will be taken as evidence of "triggering" and is likely encourage to encourage still more trolling behavior. But I've personally had a lot of luck with calm but adamant shaming, perhaps because it makes behavior the focal point, rather than some pointless debate over what the facts are. [emphasis mine]
In other words US political discourse has devolved into a sick psychological "game", in which right wingers boost their ego by pushing your anger button.
image source, text mine
It's like much of the US speaks pathology now, instead of making sense. <sigh>
So, the remedies are:
1. Speak your truth.
2. Stop speaking with liars, shame them about their lies.
3. Stop reasoning when the other is not reasonable, shame them about their unreasonableness.
4. Stay calm, confident, and competent.
5. Block them and deprive them of an interaction.
6. Shame the person who denies, deludes, discounts, distorts, insults, lies, puts down reality.
7. Bluntly state your support for victims and opposition to bullying or harassment.
8. Remain calm, confident, and competent.
9. Calmly but adamantly shame by making the bullying & harassing behavior the focal point.
10. Remain calm, confident, and competent.
I like this article very much. Thanks, Ruth, for another fine topic.