Friday, December 23, 2005

Interesting Experience

I spent some time over the past 2 days on a board at Hannity.com. Initially, I went there because I wanted to vote in a poll that asked a slanted question--choices were (a) should we pull out of Iraq immediately or (b) should we "stay the course"? The poll choices ignored the fact that no Democrat on the national stage supports position (a)--the closest is the Murtha position calling for withdrawal over the next 6 months (and keeping forces nearby so we could go back in if necessary). After I voted, I started reading posts and felt compelled to respond. It snowballed from there--I ended up posting about 20 times over 2 days (and some LONG posts, complete with links to facts backing my positions).

I read post after post that simply repeated slogans or threw insults at liberals. Liberals were derided as "the enemy" and accused of treason. Empty statements like "love it or leave it", "stay the course", "finish the job", "keep them on the run", "we can either fight them over there or in the US" were plentiful. One post said liberals were monkeys because they believe in evolution. Other posts described liberals as "godless","communists" and/or "cowards". Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein morphed into what was described as "the same enemy".

There were also more thoughtful posts though. I exchanged comments with one poster who made the reasonable point that whatever you think of the reasons given for going to war in Iraq (almost none of which turned out to be true), the insurgents are a problem to be dealt with. He is right and I'm not sure anyone really knows how to solve this problem. But I don't see "stay the course" as an answer. It's a slogan. However, what he had to say made me think.

What frustrated me the most was the persistent refusal to use facts. People would make sweeping comments, like "liberals hate the troops" or "liberals think Americans are dumb" or "Dems want to bring the country down", "libs want us to lose", "Dems in Congress are stopping the generals from winning". None of the many people who made accusations like this ever backed up these sweeping generalizations with facts. That is frustrating, to say the least. I tried my best to point this out (over and over!).

There were also plenty of specifically incorrect points. One poster said "thank God we didn't have a liberal Dem in office during WWII! I'd never have been born." I reminded her FDR, the ORIGINAL liberal Dem was president during the war and advocated going to war early on while many conservatives like Charles Lindbergh and Arthur Vandenberg (didn't mention the latter by name) urged the US to stay out of the war. No one responded to that post! another poster claimed Bush had never flip-flopped (to her credit, when I gave some examples--some of which are posted on this blog, she was quite gracious) Another poster, again quite polite and friendly to me when I responded to him (thanked me for my "nice post"), attacked "selfish Dems" and wondered how many in Congress had served in the military (the poster himself was a veteran). I pointed out to him that many Dems in Congress had served (and gave examples). It was interesting to notice he didn't mind that few in the Bush admin have served. As I say though, he was quite polite and thanked me for my response.

One of the most frustrating exchanges involved a poster who was defending Halliburton. He started off by claiming Michael Moore made more money off the war than Halliburton. I pointed out to him that Halliburton has been accused of widespread fraud. His initial response was--it's just allegations, I thought "you people" believe in innocent until proven guilty, if you're right I'll apologize, but you won't be right. I pointed out presumed innocence is not something "you people" believe, it's constitutional due process. And I pointed him to links explaining several Halliburton employees have already pled guilty to criminal acts--it's moved beyond mere allegations. He was unmoved---said it was just a few bad apples. I pointed to stories of widespread fraud involving millions of dollars and witnesses who said Halliburton gave expired food to troops in Iraq. I reminded him Halliburton has been accused of cheating our military and our troops. I quoted a Republican Congressman who agreed there were serious concerns. Nothing mattered--he simply was unwilling to see anything wrong with Halliburton.

I don't mean to be 100% negative. I enjoyed the posting, even enjoyed reading the posts I disagreed with. I got some very gracious responses and some friendly responses. No one was dismissive of me, no one called me any terrible names. No one wrote anything personally attacking me (though there were plenty of generalized attacks against liberals and Democrats). And some of the liberals who posted (liberals were a decided minority on the Hannity site of course, but not nonexistent) were guilty of the problems I describe above---using insult, invective, name calling, failing to point to facts.

I knew I wouldn't change any minds, and really that was not my goal. I think different views are good. I do get upset about misinformation, slogans, namecalling. My main goal was to show Hannity's viewers/listeners that liberals are real people, not monsters drooling over the opportunity to undermine America. I reminded that we are all Americans, we all support the troops, supporting the troops doesn't mean we have to support everything the president does, and it should mean more than putting a yellow decal on your car. It should mean speaking up when companies defraud the military and asking Congress and the President to make sure our troops have the body armor and vehicle armor they need. I pointed out some of the troops are actually liberal Democrats themselves, and plenty have served in the past (I gave examples).

It was clear to me, as it has been clear before when I have spoken to other people I know, that many people who enjoy Hannity/Fox have reduced political debate to slogan and insults. I don't think this is wholly their fault--Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and others do them a disservice and preach hatred, reduced to convenient soundbites. They spend lots of time telling people how liberals are the devil and encouraging viewers to turn off their minds. It's not surprising that people absorb and repeat what they hear from those they trust. I'm sure liberals are guilty of this at times too, and I know there are certainly times when I have been closeminded, overly general, or overly emotional. No one is perfect. I am hoping my mind remains open.

I try to be open-minded. I certainly do not agree with everything Democratic politicians say or do. I urged posters at the Hannity site to apply the same standard to those they support. It was an interesting couple of days...

8 Comments:

Blogger EAPrez said...

Loved your blog! I have bookmarked it and will return to it often. I would like to hyperlink to it from my own if that is ok w/you and feature it one day.
Thanks!

12:15 AM  
Blogger Chris Edelson said...

thanks eaprez! much appreciated. Please feel free to hyperlink to it--I would be glad if you did that.

12:24 AM  
Blogger EAPrez said...

your link is live!

10:36 AM  
Blogger Chris Edelson said...

hey, thanks!

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Faddaghtromppfa said...

As always, you are spot-on! I think you are right--the dialogue between the right and left seems to have devolved into the slinging of slogans and catch phrases. There are few out there who take the time to make clear articulate points, backed by facts and stated with an openness to debate. Keep on, keeping on. The world needs more people like you and the more people need to read this blog. Maybe someone should help you market it, hmmm....

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Dylan keenen said...

hey. Thats great. I posted some on there, before signing up to the Forum. I spent all night correcting horribly inaccurate 'facts' and generalizations. In the morning I woke up and tried to check it, and i had been banned.

I switched from Safari to Internet Explorer and i used another email, and i signed up again. I defended myself and then walked away from the computer and when i came back, i refreshed, and they had blocked me again, and deleted what i said.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Chris Edelson said...

trompffa--

I remember you from your days with the ACLU. still fighting the good fight.

Of course--the marketing idea is a great one! we will discuss. love to Kamomi--

Chris

7:33 PM  
Blogger Chris Edelson said...

Dylan--

that is funny that you were on the same site. Major points for the fact checking--that is great. Thanks for the comment.

7:34 PM  

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