I was lucky enough yesterday to experience the magic of being blocked on Facebook right in the middle of a 1:1 conversation with a Trump supporter. His rationale? I (and my wife earlier) had “gotten personal” in our feedback.
Whether or not this was true is up for debate (spoiler: someone was being a ❄️), it was yet another classic page from the MAGA playbook. Here’s how these type of online interactions almost always go:
- Trump takes some ghastly stance on an issue, or there’s a Trump-inspired white supremacist terror attack (if you can’t think of one offhand, just wait a few days and there’ll be another).
- A Trump supporter posts an insane piece of conspiracy theorist propaganda about the event/issue that can be easily debunked in seconds (think “PragerU” and the like, often decently-produced and designed to be easily-consumable, but free of facts).
- A commenter chimes in with a reasoned response, a relevant cautionary tale from the past or a quick fact check.
- The Trump supporter dismisses the feedback with (against all odds) a somehow-even-stupider-than-the-post meme or a followup propaganda link. They may even delete the comment and/or block the commenter entirely (legitimate kudos though for those that don’t delete, that’s at least something).
This sad dance has gone on for years, and will continue all the way through to impeachment, but recently I’ve begun to think less about the predictable responses, and more about why it is that MAGAteers feel the need to compulsively post content defending the President’s actions and party positions.
I think it’s about getting a quick fix.
The modern GOP has, over many, many, many years, congealed into an octopus-like beast with strongly-opinionated tentacles suctioned hard to topics like evangelical Christianity, gun issues, LGBTQ issues, abortion, immigration, the “mainstream” media, women’s rights and taxation.
Aside from this tangled situation being terrifying in and of itself, this “all or nothing” crowd responds to an attack on one of these areas as an attack on all of them, as deep down they realize that having their opinion changed in one area might result in the whole house of cards crashing down.
Humility is hard. Most people will do anything to avoid confronting the fact that they may have been misled, or that it was their own choices that led them to where they are today.
Here are a few such personality types that I encounter regularly:
- The “Fingers In The Ears” Crowd: These people actively avoid engaging in important conversations (or in some cases even paying attention to world events), thinking that they’re taking the moral high ground. They’re not, and while they should count themselves extremely lucky that they’re generally unaffected by the current climate, they should consider that others have found themselves in much scarier positions.
- The “Stop Making Things Political” Crowd: These folks are terrified of having to explore how they arrived at their current views, if those views are (or were ever) valid and how they affect others, so they dismiss criticism by lashing out at those that challenge them, and trying to make “divisiveness” a bigger offense than the issue(s) at hand.
- The “Counter With Conspiracy” Crowd: These are the meme-ers, the blockers, the hands that built America, if you will. Short of a catastrophic event, they’ll never give an inch on their blind party loyalty, and like a sex addict jones-ing for a quick porno fix, they’ll scratch their troublesome conscience with a conspiracy theory each and every time, luxuriating in the likes and comments that flow in from their peanut gallery. To do anything else would require opening a wound too deep to fathom.
So how did these people get to this point? There are countless reasons, but here are a few that I’ve found especially resonant:
- Peer Pressure: Especially true in tight evangelical cultures, there’s a reluctance to speak out and risk feeling isolated from the church (clearly I’m well past that point 🙃).
- Self-Loathing: The classic “I’m ashamed to be secretly gay, so I’m virulently anti-gay” move
- Shame About The Past: This great comment on one of my previous posts reflects something I’ve also come across before (a person being ashamed about taking government assistance in the past, so raging against others that do).
I get it. Digging in to an issue and realizing that you may have been misled (or being forced to reckon with your own complicated past) is extremely painful. It’s much easier to feel picked on, and soothe yourself with a quick fix from a well-produced but dangerously-inaccurate meme or video.
“I know it’s not right, but it feels right” applies to alcohol abuse, porn addiction and yes, online propaganda and conspiracy theory sharing.