Whales are interesting creatures.  The largest known animals ever to have lived on Earth, most species feed by filtering seawater through baleen sieves in their mouths as they swim, trapping tiny fish called krill that accumulate in such massive numbers as to nourish even the bulkiest among them while excluding more substantial morsels that might challenge their digestion.  Seeing how some people approach political discussions, why am I reminded of this?  

There is a type of person who will gloss over even the most careful arguments made by others, not allowing any idea they find inconvenient to penetrate their awareness until some key word or phrase pauses the process, awakens their outrage, turns on their mouth, and turns off their mind.  The arguments they Slip 'n Slide over so cavalierly might have answered their objections a thousand times over by the time they come to this trigger point, but they never seem to know it - the entirety of what they read, or pretended to read, just slips from their mind and some kind of programmed subroutine kicks in that wipes their short-term memory of everything but the little nugget of nourishing outrage for them to savor.  

I don't know if they do this in their daily lives - frankly, I find it hard to imagine anyone could act like that all day and still manage to avoid being shot on the street by total strangers.  But I run into it so often in political discussions, occurring at such egregious levels, that it's hard to imagine they haven't had a lifetime of practice being the best douches they can be.  You could write the most comprehensive treatise ever witnessed this side of a 19th-century German philosopher, loading your language with caveats, measured terms, and acknowledgements of exceptions in order to preempt easily foreseeable objections, and these incredible creatures will just not see any of it.  

You could say "I understand that X, but Y shows how this is not a relevant objection" in countless different ways, from every imaginable angle to make sure that even if they disagree, they can at least see you're addressing X, and they will respond, "Yeah, but you're totally forgetting X!!!  How can you not talk about X?  I'm amazed you could just totally miss that.  I guess that's how you were raised."  These people don't seem to be illiterate, and they seem quite capable of basic reading comprehension when they find it convenient, so the only conclusion I've been able to reach is that (a) they deliberately process information serially rather than cumulatively (i.e., seeing only one sentence or even just one word at a time, rather than building up a contextual picture), and (b) they shut down all thought and memory the instant some quantum of information triggers their sense of outrage.

The same thing seems to happen - in fact, to a far more absurd extent - the more distant the subject of their bizarre attitude is.  In particular, the phenomenon reaches Twilight Zone proportions when the topic is President Obama: The White House could say and do a thousand highly progressive things for weeks on end with no comment whatsoever from these people, or even elicit expressions of open hostility and contempt if anyone dares to mention any of it, and then the President could use a single word in a speech with a sub-optimal tertiary connotation and then WHOA does the dam burst!  It's as if they're not even reacting to the alleged subject of their outrage, but making up for lost time reacting to all the outrage they felt entitled to before but were denied by having no excuse for it.  There is no recognition of the defining context of words and actions - it's all an unending stream of isolated tidbits, and their mental filters only select for things that trigger ego-driven sanctimony.  But the filter always seems to apply the opposite standard when the subject is themselves: The very idea of even an abridged version of their own alleged morals being turned on them fills them with violated fury - they are sacred in their own minds.  

I've been around long enough to know who and what these people are.  They feed on discontent.  Petulance is their oxygen.  If making the world a better place would get in the way of their feeling significant, they are squarely against it.  A progressive's perfect world is their nightmare.  They're counterfeit versions of a progressive in the same way that Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome is counterfeit compassion - the perversion of a benevolent phenomenon to feed itself by perpetuating the problems it evolved to address.  It's sickening and fascinating at the same time - fascinating, that is, as a case study in evolutionary cul-de-sacs.  We routinely see the phenomenon in institutions: Police departments with a perverse incentive to keep people unsafe, militaries that drum up wars to fight, pharmaceutical companies who make more money keeping people sick than curing them, etc. etc.  But watching it exhibited in the thought processes of individual human beings is just an awe-inspiring demonstration of evolution's Low Road.  

More personally though, it makes me sick.  It makes me feel like I'm talking to a verbose animal with an insulting camouflage adaptation rather than a person - Jeepers Creepers if the creature was just an inconsequential asshole rather than a bloodthirsty monster.  To be blunt, fuck your catharsis if it comes at the expense of truth and rational appraisal - you are not that important.  And even less important for thinking you are and treating the entire past, present, and future of the cosmos as the dependent variable in your emotional equation.  But being ineffective as what you pretend to be doesn't mean you're inoffensive as what you are: You mock the values you purport to uphold, and everyone who works and sacrifices for them.    

I guess the moral of this story is, Don't Be That Guy.  Stop.  It's a Bad Thing, by every definition of the word.  Absorb before presuming to synthesize.  Reflect before reacting.  Seek context.  Stop being an idiot puppet.  This isn't a futile suggestion either:  If you're a human being, you can do better.  Learn to make your appetite for negativity into a force for good.  But to put it in more benign terms, hopefully exhibited to a reasonable extent even in this rant, stop writing people off even when they write themselves off - surely the fact that anyone still talks to the likes of you is lesson enough of the advisability of that principle.  Lincoln understood that, Obama understands that, and fortunately for people like you, most actual progressives understand that.  Take it from Bill Murray:


1:21 PM PT: I'll be out for a while, so please forgive any delay in responding to comments.

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