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Life Skills for Fanboys:  Political Nerd Rage

written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2017

To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

Don’t Tweet Angry

So Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: TNG fame, tweeted this about Paul Ryan.

Now, I’m no fan of Paul Ryan, but it’s pretty obvious from this tweet that Wheaton is really mad.  He later apologized for insulting genuine people of faith and that his tweet was more about frustration of lack of gun control laws because of the recent massacre.  Not something I agree with, but regardless of the politics it’s a bad idea to get all nerd ragey in public.

First, you can see the collateral damage.  People of faith.  Maybe a few Republicans.  Maybe a few Paul Ryan fans.  Maybe even Paul Ryan and his family if they gave a shit what Wesley Crusher had to say.  But if Wheaton really wants to win people over or do some good for his gun control cause, getting insulting on Twitter is about the lamest thing you can do.  I mean, that’s the shit that Trump does and I’m sure, like most people, Wheaton’s no fan of that.  Who would be?  Like the president, it’s just posturing.  A bunch of bluster and noise meant to puff someone up and show have self-righteous they are.

Look how good a person I am everyone!  I’m morally outraged!

We’ve All Done It

I’ve done it too.  And no, I’m not going to link to some embarrassing message board posts from 15 years ago.  Suffice it to say, my issue is war, so if you push my buttons enough I’m sure I’ll say something stupid.  These days I pause, evaluate and think much more.  A recent study suggests that persuade people online, you need to use softer language.  That was obvious to me, simply because I use to come on like a grizzly bear in arguments and it got me nowhere.  These days, I no longer go for the jugular, use sarcasm or make a bunch of hilarious jabs at my political opponents.  All that does is enrage them and make them more entrenched in their original opinion.

Instead, if you come off as polite and knowledgeable, while acknowledging your opponent’s points, you can at least have a dialogue.  The study I linked to above suggests that there are plenty of people already entrenched, especially on the Internet.  I have no doubt Wheaton is probably pretty entrenched when it comes to his view on guns.  At the same time, I’m sure he can be just as rational as the next guy.  If he was on a panel debating the issue, he’d probably come with some good points.  And even though I wouldn’t agree with most of what he said on the issue, I can separate that from his acting work.  And we should all be able to separate someone’s political views from the rest of their life.

You Damned Commie Nazi!

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of political intimidation out there.  I was recently discussing with my fellow Libertarians on Reddit how political discussion is hard for Libertarians.  It largely has to do with who is holding political power.

When Bush was in office, my conservative friends called me a hippie because I thought the wars in Iraq were wasteful and stupid.  I went to a couple of protests, wrote some essays on the subject and, of course, posted on Facebook.  My outrage didn’t do jack shit.  It got people mad at me and a handful of people who agreed patted me on the back, but mostly it was all “America!  Fuck yeah!”  There were a handful of Democrats and liberals that came out of the woodwork first, but the numbers grew.  Unfortunately, it was more about getting rid of a Republican in the White House than actually ending any wars.  Almost immediately, John Kerry supporters made excuses for his extremely weak anti-war stances because, ya know, “He has to say those things to win!”  Bush supporters continued to gloat all the way up to about 2006 or 7, when it became pretty obvious the GOP had screwed the pooch in the Middle East.

Then, finally Obama rolled in.  And for a brief fleeting moment, people actually believed he might be a different kind of president.  But any chance of prosecuting the war criminals Bush and Cheney faded immediately and the drones started.  Sore loser Republicans clung to the Birthers and other nonsense, while Democrats immediately abandoned any pretense of wanting to end ANY war.  In fact, many started to embrace war.  I, of course, got called a racist and a maniac for not voting for Obama, even though I was a Libertarian so why would I?  Still, I had hoped Obama was going to be a LOT less murderous than he was.  And you’d think a Constitutional scholar would’ve done wonders for the Constitution, but no.

The Era of Trump

Strangely, I am still getting the business from both the left and the right.  Trump supporters rightly believe their guy is being treated unfairly in the press, but they wrongly believe that many of his policies are good.  Hillary supporters, well, they’re just incredibly traumatized.  They just can’t accept the loss and they have focused much of their rage on Trump.  Conservatives still call me a hippie, but they are extremely wary of Trump.  Even the press has gotten to them.  Trump seems always on the brink of amazing success or World War 3.

Hillary supporters have all banned me from talking about politics with them because they wrongly believe I defend Trump.  They are blinded by their personal feelings toward Trump, which they then transfer to hating his policy.  While there’s a lot to hate in his policies (or lack thereof) changing the law and creating policy requires reasoned and rational thought.  When you’re screaming, “But he’s an asshole!”  That’s not a point worth making and besides, I already know Trump’s an asshole.  I lived in South Jersey most of my life, believe me, we’ve see the casino owner quite a bit over the years.

Reason Needs to Prevail

No matter what your political leanings, if you’re not going to use reasoned, polite debate to discuss things, you’ve already lost.  Wheaton is now apologizing, so any hope of his gun control message getting out will be lost.  My reaction, which was pointing out that his comment was a bit harsh, has led me to discussing the thread with one of his fans.  So far, it’s civil.  But Twitter is not really a great place to hold a debate.  It’s too easy to call out your opponent for not explaining themselves fully in 140 characters or just making a joke and pretending that you’ve been kidding the whole time.  (God, I hate that.  Nothing worse than having a good back and forth where your points are winning and your opponent just suddenly starts making jokes because he’s losing the argument.)

I guess my point in all this is that the Internet as a whole isn’t a great place for debate unless you can really explain your entire deal in detail.  And since most Internet stuff isn’t about detail, I’m sure it (and this post) will be ignored.  It’s so much easier to slam someone with 140 characters.

Just think before your react, fanboys.


Previous Columns

Obesity at Cons
The Art of Conversation
The Line Between Fans and Pros
Geek Elitism
Convention Panels
Convention Volunteers
Food Gifts
Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Franchise Worship
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
 Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory
Con Locations
Traveling to Cons on the Cheap
Con Economics
Comics, Sexism and Trolling
Searching for the Words
How to Fix Comics?  Stop Reading Them
Shopping at the Con
The Hollywood Double Edged Sword
Beware the Geek Scams
Success Kills
In Response to Chuck Dixon, Paul Rivoche and Janelle Asselin
Fanboy Reporters
Dealing with Critics and Haters in the Internet Age
Who Are the Creepers?
The Cosplayer Treaty of 2014: A Proposal
Female Thor
Comics’ Non-News
Geek Feminists and DC’s T-Shirts
Cosplay Blowback
Charlie Hebdo and the Other Stuff You Should Know
Customer Service
The Intolerant Internet
Superhero Movie Moral Compass
Why Hillary Lost
Creators and Politics