Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Straw-memes and bold faced lies

I like memes. They've become very popular on social media, and they're great for conveying a simple message or getting a point across in a pithy way. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words, as they say. Unfortunately, it's just as easy to use a meme to create a thousand words of lies or deception as it is to make a legitimate point. The surge of deceit that has permeated political discussions on social media in this past year has not neglected the use of memes.

One of the lessons of the 2016 presidential campaign is that people have a greater affinity for having their views affirmed than they do for the truth. The fact itself is not shocking, but I can only confess amazement at the degree to which this is true. Some memes are simply bold faced lies - somebody makes something up out of thin air that affirms the target audience in their bias or positions. The more diabolically clever examples target both sides of the political spectrum, to wit...

I saw multiple conservative Donald Trump supporters sharing this meme on Facebook. If it isn't obvious to you that Sarah Palin never voiced this quote, it should be. It's simply a lie created to assure haters of Sarah Palin that she's weird and worthy of their contempt. Ironically, it roped in supporters of Trump that were looking for reassurance that it was OK for Trump to "talk dirty". So we see a meme that was intended to mock Sarah Palin being used by people that admire Sarah Palin to borrow her credibility to defend and legitimize Trump's dirty talk.

The name of the Facebook page where this meme originated should have been all the warning that a Trump supporter needed to realize that something wasn't quite right. "Stop The World The Teabaggers Want Off" is not exactly a TEA party friendly phrase. A brief visit to the page, and reading through some of the comments there, makes it pretty clear that they are targeting an audience that hates Sarah Palin, hates the TEA party, hates conservatives, and has nothing but contempt for the very people that were sharing their meme in support of Trump.

Then there are memes that create a straw man response to issues that aren't quite the actual issue being raised. These "straw-memes" reduce a strong argument, or reasonable concern, to a weak or illegitimate argument. To stick with the previous theme...

There were different versions of this meme making the rounds. This one is clever because it attacks its opposition from a couple of different angles. First it subtly tells people that read this book or saw the movie to shut-up about Trump saying naughty words (and it was apparently a lot of people). Then it falls into the straw-meme category because Trump using a naughty word wasn't the issue with his infamous live-mic episode. It isn't a news flash to anyone that Trump uses naughty words, or engages in "locker room talk". The issue was the act that he was confessing, not the words he used in the confession.

Denigrating "American women" seems like an odd approach to winning their votes, but this is the 2016 election cycle. Sweet Meteor of Death is polling so well for a reason. I know, I know. I'm being mean to Donald Trump. Now I'm putting myself at risk of accusations like this...

Pulled straight out of a headline from the "news" site dedicated to spitting on the grave of Andrew Breitbart, this meme ridiculously mischaracterizes both Beck's position and statement on this topic. Beck doesn't support Clinton, but he has committed the unforgiveable sin of not being a fan of Trump. Yes, he can be a drama queen, and his overdeveloped sense of empathy drives me a little crazy from time to time, but suggesting that Beck is a traitor or enemy to the conservative movement in any way, is simply to lie and cause unnecessary division between conservatives for someone's political agenda.

By this point in the conversation someone typically pipes up with some comment or question about why I'm not saying bad things about democrats or liberal candidates. Basically, it's because it isn't relevant. I'm a constitutional conservative, and a Republican. The only binary choice I face in any presidential election is whether I will vote for the GOP nominee, or not vote for the GOP nominee. If Hillary Clinton exemplified the height of virtue, it would never overcome the stink of her ideology in any way that could compel me to vote for her. Until some conservative third party has an actual shot at winning an election, there is no chance that my binary calculus is going to change.

The left engages in manipulation, deceit, lies, fraud, and corruption as a matter of course. That is the nature of the left. It is one of the reasons that I am a conservative, and a Republican. It is also why I have great contempt for the people currently working to mainstream the deceit, lies, and tactics of the left into the movement and the party in which I have invested myself. The people that created these memes, and numerous similar memes and headlines, have one thing in common - a complete lack of respect for the audience they target.

When a pundit, or one of the many new crack-pot news sites attempts to manipulate and deceive their audience, whether for clicks or to advance a political agenda, the only thing they deserve from that audience is mutual contempt. Unfortunately, we see these manipulators rewarded time after time as affirmation not only blinds the abused from being offended by the insult - but spurs them to willingly, even eagerly, propagate it. The cynical void of compassion and level of disrespect that these tactics display toward the Americans targeted by them is staggering. It has no place in the conservative movement or the Republican Party. The grass-roots, the people, are to be empowered through truth and principle to be the safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society - they are not tools to be manipulated by political schemers. They deserve the respect of those that seek their support or cooperation.
"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." --Thomas Jefferson