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If you've ever ventured into a conservative chat forum, you are aware they are often a hotbed of misinformation and conservative rhetoric.

What may not be apparent is not all that lurk within are conservative extremists. Granted, the most radical voices often dominate the conversations but personal experience has shown there are also members seeking answers just like the rest of us.

It is for the hearts and minds of these members we should engage the extremists on their own turf... By questioning their assertions and providing proof to back it up.

Challenging conservatives in chat rooms is akin to a political fist fight. It can be very in-your-face and verbally confrontational. Political topics are often wide ranging, sometimes absurd and usually topical. The Chat rooms I've visited will allow registered members to both respond to and initiate topics.

A Few Pointers for "Newbies"
First, try to NEVER lose your cool. Calm and rational responses, combined with at least a modicum of respect, seem to annoy them to no end.<g> Once you make your presence known, chances are you will be tagged with at least one derogatory "pet" name. (For some reason conservatives seem fond of giving ANYONE they don't like pet names. You tell when your new name going to stick by the crackling affirmation of the groupies.)

When engaging the opposition, it is essential your sources of information be as unbiased and/or as respected as possible. (Unless you can find corroborating information from conservative sources... This definitely puts a twist in their knickers.) Never underestimate the skill of your opponent(s) to question YOUR information. (Try to stay away from quoting Wikipedia. Conservatives seem to REALLY dislike Wiki.)

You can also expose the ofttimes radical political views of extremists by questioning their stance on fundamental issues. (A recent conversation I had with the head cheerleader of a conservative site revealed some pretty radical free market philosophies. Most were way out of the mainstream thinking and probably came as a surprise to his followers.)

Questioning the motive or funding behind chat forum political causes can also be enlightening. An anti-health care reform ad currently running on conservative websites reads "Obamacare = Abortion and Euthanasia". A link leads to a petition on a website called "Free Our Health Care Now (.com)". A little research revealed the ad is a product of the Mike Gallagher (Radio) Show and the Salem Radio Network. (I'm guessing the real purpose behind the website is to farm emails and addresses to be sold later. A similar "Drill Now, Drill Here, Pay Less" ad/petition was used by Newt Gingrich to further his Presidential campaign.)

Finally, engaging conservatives on their own turf is not for the thin skinned. The opposition will employ any and all methods to try to destroy your credibility or argument. If they can't challenge your source of information they often resort to personal attacks. (It diverts attention from the issue at hand.) They also understand the stakes are high.

Now, sally forth and remember... Have fun!

PS: You can often find a local conservative chat forum by doing a search engine inquiry.

Originally posted to Steve Colby on Thu Aug 06, 2009 at 01:47 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You are braver than I am....but thanks (4+ / 0-)

    for doing some dirty work.

    A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. -Greek proverb

    by marleycat on Thu Aug 06, 2009 at 01:53:02 PM PDT

  •  An argument worth trying? (6+ / 0-)

    I've been curious how the tea baggers might respond to the notion that foreign investors in public insurance companies are making a great deal of money by denying health care to Americans.

    I don't have time for freeper forums any more, but I'd be curious how they'd react to this point of view.

  •  It would be very helpful (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clio2, Front Toward Enemy

    For you to post a list (or even links) of the conservative websites you visit/know of.

    Thanks for posting this.  We need to be more visible on these sites -- as you say, some percentage of their readers are persuadable.

    "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

    by RenMin on Thu Aug 06, 2009 at 01:57:06 PM PDT

  •  Good tips (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RenMin, Front Toward Enemy

    I don't go looking for forums. The comment and blog sections on my daily paper's site are enough to keep my blood pressure up.

    tweetivism.comA cool tool to tweet your Congressmembers with Health Care Reform messages.

    by Catte Nappe on Thu Aug 06, 2009 at 01:59:11 PM PDT

  •  Unfortunately... (6+ / 0-)

    ...I've employed virtually all of the things you suggest. Sadly, to no avail.

    I'm on several motorcycle-related boards. And on one--in the general, anything goes section--I've engaged conservatives. Some are well-read, thoughtful people. Others are bat-shit crazy FReepers.

    I keep my cool. I post opinion backed by the most mainstream sources I can find. It doesn't matter. There's no changing their minds.

    Why do I continue? Two reasons: 1.) I post the info and commentary for the "silent majority" of folks who are just reading, not commenting; 2.) I cannot stand idly by while the FReeper contingent spews rubbish and lies unchallenged. More number 2 than number 1, I admit.

  •  a fun idea (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RenMin, Front Toward Enemy

    but a waste of time. seriously, the group think that goes on at con sites is thick and nearly impermeable.

    In fact, they celebrate the fact they all think alike, and will turn on each other if someone says anything slightly off message.

    I don't understand why it's cool to say what everyone else is saying, but that is what they do.

  •  conservatives have immunity (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RenMin, Front Toward Enemy

    I am convinced that conservatives have some sort of immunity against anything that is reality based.

    Nice try though.

    When liberals saw 9-11, we wondered how we could make the country safe. When conservatives saw 9-11, they saw an investment opportunity.

    by onanyes on Thu Aug 06, 2009 at 02:08:13 PM PDT

    •  At the same time you can never discount (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Krush

      the long-term effects of dialogue.

      A conversation that chips away a tiny corner of prejudice may make a difference in the long run, or even to a lurker.

      For instance...I once posted on a right-wing "religious" website that had a section for requesting prayers for children. I requested prayers for the children of Fallujah. (It was the time of the assault.) I got flamed and then banned, but not before at least one regular reader of the site questioned the flamers and the sincerity of the site.

    •  The cognitive dissonance is strong in them. (0+ / 0-)

      If you have time for a book-length explanation of how they spend their lives in compartmentalization, I suggest looking at Prof. Altemeyer's research.

      This planet needs a lot more kids who think taking a lawnmower apart is more fun than playing a videogame.

      by rjnerd on Thu Aug 06, 2009 at 02:33:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  used to do that a lot... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pontechango, RenMin

    I gave it up when the primary fight revealled that a lot of the "Democrats" I was hanging out with weren't worth talking to, either.  But I'm not sure engaging conservatives on boards that are just conservative is a very good use of time.  If you do it on an open political board, though, with a mix of people, it can be more rewarding.

    Because, y'see, you'll never get a conservative to admit they're wrong about anything.  They're too weak to do that.  No matter how wrong they are, they'll just stick their fingers in their ears and shout "la la la la!"   Any fighting you do with them should be for the benefit of the audience.  If the onlookers see a Conservative getting his clock cleaned by facts and logic, and watch him making an ass of himself as he tries to defend ridiculous positions, it can change some minds out there.  The conservatives themselves, though... if they were open to logic and sense, they wouldn't be Republicans in the first place.

    "Glenn Beck ends up looking like a fat, stupid child. His face should be wearing a chef's hat on the side of a box of eclairs. " - Doug Stanhope

    by Front Toward Enemy on Thu Aug 06, 2009 at 02:09:43 PM PDT

  •  This is pretty much (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RenMin, Neglected Duty

    exactly what my experience here has been like.  Some respect, some insane shouting, some reasonable discussions, some just walking away whilst shaking one's head.

    The most enlightening thing I've found here is that conservative and progressives just think differently.  I'll make a point and someone will completely not get it.  I'll make a comment and someone will respond with an argument out of left field that leaves me a little puzzled on how to respond.  I'm certain they think the same of me.

    (I also find it interesting that both sides often compare each other to Nazis.  If two completely different points of view get the same label attached to them, I'd submit that both name callers are wrong.)

    •  The only people in this debate who really (0+ / 0-)

      remind me of Nazis are people who try to imply that the lives of large numbers of Americans are not worth helping, or that investments in education and healthcare are "useless" etc.

      That makes me very angry. I think that that is natural and anybody would feel that way, left or right, black, white, blue, purple, green, brown, orange.. etc.

      Its surprising how badly informed so many of us are about others..

      A few years ago I became interested in an important issue that unfortunately, not many Democrats are involved in.

      This issue was not going to wait so I jumped in and in the process I got to know quite a few conservatives. We were actually on the same side on this issue. most Dems weren't against it.. they were just absent. Some were involved.. those who knew about it.

      ALL were nice people.. I still stay in touch sometimes.. The conservatives make fun of me sometimes, but for the most part, we all want the same thing in this situation.

      These folk aren't bad people.. not at all.. in fact they were/are very nice people who were and remain very involved trying to reduce one very evil kind of ugliness in this world..

      Sometimes, putting their lives on the line.. literally, with very little compensation except knowing that they are helping some extremely badly treated people who have very, very little hope.

      Its not a glamorous or trendy issue, at all. Its a very frustrating one.

      So, that helped me see that we are more alike than we realize. I would rather have somebody who is involved and who cares about this country than apathy any day.

      SO, I tend to think that in the final analysis, there are good people on every "side of the aisle"..

      And, obviously, crooks.

  •  I got booted from FR (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pontechango, Krush, RenMin

    for this reason EXACTLY!
    All I did was try to explain Gramm, Leach, Bliley...no swear words...no being nasty...just information on how it allowed real estate investments for investment banks, and how prior to 1999 these banks were not allowed to.
    I reminded them of when the housing market began to escalate, back in 2003.
    If I had used a typewriter, I would have been booted "before the ink dried".
    These people are NOT allowed to know the truth...any hint of opposition to their causes is rooted out and banned from posting...and usually not just the email address, usually your IP address is banned, which means you can't just sign up another account under a different email.
    That is why, I don't even waste my time anymore...it's pointless...now I point and laugh. Maybe shaming them will have more of an effect than reason...cause reason got me nowhere!
    I can't wait for the tea party in Orlando on the 22 of August.  I'll be the one with the sign saying "I'm With Stupid" and an arrow. I'll also be armed with my copy of the Treaty of Tripoli (Article 11), an AP report on Sarah Palin owing back taxes on $150,000 worth of income, and the legal definitions of "Jus Solis" and "Jus Sanguinis".

    Ignorance never settles a question.-Benjamin Disreali

  •  I think it is fair game (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RenMin

    They are already here (you need to read the venezuela-honduras diaries to see this clearly, how they inject a rabid anti-chaves anti-zelaya rethoric only seen in the far right neo-con forums, they are actively doing this on many other hot topics as well..it's the neo-con mob astroturfing), their objective is to move the democrats closer to neo-con viewpoints and to isolate progressive voices within the democrats.

    so if liberals utilize conservative forums, fair game.

  •  Actual conservative run chats (0+ / 0-)

    Will boot you at first sign of independent thought.  Even some newspaper run forums where they use automatic user moderation, any hint of truth gets labeled by the self-chosen as inappropriate, and unless they have an actual thinking human to double check, only the noise is allowed to remain.

    If you make a habit of it, the post visit shower, and brain bleach will not be enough. You will need This:
    Class A Hazmat suit
    Don't forget a suitable respirator, and eye protection.

    This planet needs a lot more kids who think taking a lawnmower apart is more fun than playing a videogame.

    by rjnerd on Thu Aug 06, 2009 at 02:25:23 PM PDT

  •  "What can progressivism do for me?" (0+ / 0-)

    People who try to change conservatives' minds always make the same mistake; they go in with the goal of changing them into progressives. This would require them to not only embrace progressive policies, but to think and perceive the world the same way as progressives do. This puts you into the position of not just debating the merits of conservative vs progressive policies, but having to deconstruct their entire value system and basically tell them that everything they know is not just incorrect, but morally wrong.

    The libertarians and Randroids are all about how logical and rational they are. Unfortunately theirs is as much a faith as the fundangelicals, as they just assume that a) they know anything about anything and b) that their process will almost magically make everything right. What comes to mind is to use their own rationales to lead them to progressive policies. Find a point where the proposed policy "does not follow" from the premises (as opposed to challenging the premises: you can't have an argument with someone who doesn't accept your premises), and then introduce a progressive alternative as either following from the premises or creating the same results that they hoped to achieve.

    Aside from their reduction of all of society to commercial transactions, they regard all wealth and power as the market's rewards for superior competitiveness. You'll never be able to reach them until you can explain how Goldman Sachs or CEOs looting companies is bad capitalism, and that the enormous profits being made are not evidence of the correctness of the deeds being done.

    ----------------------------------------------------

    The other approach is to argue that the progressive solution is actually more in line with conservative goals. The kind of conservatives that liked Mike Huckabee's folksy populism and think Rick Warren is anything other than a cynical manipulator are more likely to be open to progressive solutions to conservative problems. "Conservative problems" is the key: too many of us want to challenge their attitude that something we like or just don't dislike is actually a problem to be solved. Redefining the problem out of existence is such a shallow and cynical way of operating that it's terrible that there are progressives that want to do that.

    You'll never be able to reach them until you can explain how progressivism can help improve what they consider the moral failings of society, and get them closer to their goal of a gentle and innocent "Leave it to Beaver" utopia that they've been promised all their lives.

    •  I Don't Try to Change Their Conservatism... (0+ / 0-)

      .. I try to convince them to think for themselves.

      IMO, We'd all be a lot better off if we automatically questioned ANYTHING politicians (and their minions) say...

      •  That's a tall order (0+ / 0-)

        Obedience to authority and tradition is the foundation of conservatism: from them comes everything else.

        Challenge any given human authority figure? Conservatives do it all the time, and they don't need any prodding from us. Challenge the necessity and morality of authority itself? Conservatives' heads would be filled with visions of people just wandering around without a clue what to do with themselves.  For a conservative, that's the role of authority: giving meaning to things and purpose to people, from God Himself down the chain of command to the husband and father.

        The same is true for tradition, or custom: the things we do not because they're the law and not even because they're useful. Conservatives can and do challenge specific traditions - how much has changed in their world since the 1950s or the 1850s? - and especially those of other groups, including other groups of conservatives. However, conservatives believe strongly in the need for tradition in the abstract to anchor society and give it the means to resist the caprices of both the masses and the leadership. Fads come and go, and Man's laws can be changed, but conservatives believe that tradition (like morality) is ultimately supernatural and origin and therefore permanent and universal.

        This is why I think we have to sell progressivism as a way to be a better conservative, because otherwise you have no choice but to go way beyond policy and take aim at the entire conservative mindset and worldview, and that can only reinforce it because that's what conservatives are told we're all about: nihilistic destroyers of all meaning and virtue.

  •  What's the point? (0+ / 0-)

    Ultimately, you'd be preaching to a chatroom full of vile, ignorant misfits who don't listen anyway.  Let them feast in their own childishness among their own.  Better to engage discussion with rational people.

  •  Conservative chat (0+ / 0-)

    I'll speak from the perspective of having been on Free Republic for about 9 years. They were always a bit more "rough edged" than I liked, but, around the time of the last election, they grew intolerable,so,about a month ago,I left.

    While I was there, I did manage to lock horns with some of their "correspondents" : Kevin (Coach) Collins (he likes to talk about "union thuggery"),and Warner Todd Huston (not only a corporate shill, but veracity-challenged).

    There were also some "reverends" I managed to PO mightily.

    Very few of these people are conservatives-not as I define the term,anyway.They are radicals, who snap and snarl over the tainted red meat the shills throw them.

    •  You Are Brave... (0+ / 0-)

      During the elections, I would check both World Net Daily and American Conservative to scope out the latest in right-wing trash talk. I don't know if I would have the fortitude to hang in for a few months...Let alone nine years<g>.

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