Facebook Conversation with True Believers: Still Divided

FB Conversation with True Believers: Still Divided

On New Year’s Eve I did something I don’t usually do. I allowed myself to get embroiled in a Facebook conversation with friends of a friend. We grew up in the same community and went to the same schools, although they are a bit younger than me. It still shocks me to find so many people who consider Fox News a legitimate media outlet. And it seems that many Americans now get some of their “news” from You Tube, a source that has come under scrutiny recently for having lots of fake accounts, some traceable to Russia and China.

Anyway I did not acquit myself very well and I certainly did not win. I felt ridiculed and belittled. I need to have more give-and-take conversations where I learn to marshal my best arguments so I can offer snappy comebacks that cause brain explosions in my opponents (OK, hyperbole). But this is one of those times when I think of better things to say the next day than I said at the time. I know people who have a talent for thinking brilliantly on their feet and I may have to make that my next goal.

I went back and copied down the conversation so you could see how it went and perhaps invent some excellent answers I could have given that I didn’t. One thing that always impresses me about Fox News listeners is how absolutely certain they are that they are in possession of all the real facts and that what they believe is incontrovertible. I do not have confidence that my ideas will provide the absolute correct answer. It was not a great way to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but it was interesting. Some things seem to have been edited out of the conversation, like when one of the girls called me a “moron”, and another addressed me as “little miss nancy pants”.

This was my friend’s post:

I’m taking a poll. Who thinks that we need a wall?

Here are the comments:

DE-K:  Me!!!! (1 like)

Me:  We don’t need a wall. (no likes)

DE-K:  Even Obama stated we needed one when he was President. What changed, Why don’t we need one now that he isn’t the President.

Me:  Not that many people are getting across the border now. What we have at the border is a processing problem. Too many people, not enough judges. Obama does not back Trump’s wall now. But Obama is no longer our President. Perhaps you think we should have zero immigration at the southern border. That would require new laws.

JL: posts a meme of a man tying on clown shoes – “Before you judge Senator Schumer walk a mile in his shoes.”

DE-K:  Let these illegal immigrants keep killing Americans and while they’re doing that, how about we let the terrorists plant some bombs or even better, fly some more airplanes into some buildings and kill more thousands of people. Perhaps you believe open borders are best for America (an emoji?) Done.

Me: Trump wants 5b dollars for a wall, but it will cost much more. We are not talking enough people to justify a wall. What about more border patrols, using digital drones. A wall is using a 5th century solution for a 21st century problem. [I heard a pundit say this on MSNBC so I stole it.] The Berlin Wall got torn down. Russia controlled its borders with an Iron Curtain which was not a physical wall at all. It was just done with fear. A wall will close us in, not just close our neighbors out. It’s a waste of tax dollars.

LD:  Watch CNN much (3 emojis-laughed ‘til I cried) (1haha)

Me: Too tame, MSNBC for me, and I read and think and write. Fox News gives me a stomach ache and brainwashes people. [I shared two blog posts, one on How We Got Our Immigration Policies; one on The Wall.]

HD:  Let’s hire them all and put our own people out of work. Muslims call us infidels and guess what. We are. Trump wants America first, most insane Americans want to sell our country out so we become salves (slaves?) to Islam. Wake the F up. (2 likes)

HD:  and Happy New Year (1 thumbs up, 1 peace sign, 1 blown kiss)

DE-K:  Helen, you’re hilarious!

Me: This is why I don’t usually discuss politics on Facebook.

(some of this may be out-of-order because some comments are hidden away)

Me: American(s) also kill lots of Americans, immigrant crimes rates are not that big, although killing fills us all with grief. Border guards say that tunnels under the wall are a bigger problem. You are listening to Fox (non) News.

MDD:  Google how many miles are not fenced on the southern border. Texas alone has 500 miles in one spot. These people are walking across the border in steady numbers every day. Go look at You Tube. When do you think this will end? We need the wall. People need to educate themselves. (2 likes)

Me:  Then let Texas pay.

LD:  You must not have family in Texas. But I do. Build the Wall!! (1 like)

DOS (My name) You obviously have not lived in a border state. They commit most of the crimes in these states!! Terrorist have already been facially identified. And a new caravan started yesterday in El Salvador containing the gang leaders from M 13 a very ruthless gang. Get informed on the truth!!!

Me: (DOS) This stuff is not true.

DOS:  I lived there for 35 years and saw this daily. It is very true and hard to believe that you have that opinion. (2 likes)

DOS: We have been paying millions to care for those people. The wall will enable us to STOP paying for illegals and have money for AMERICANS!!! (2 likes)

Me:  Our laws allow immigrants to seek asylum in America. I’m done. You can’t change my mind and I can’t change yours. I am outnumbered here but not in real America. (1 haha) [If only I had really been done.]

Me:  (LD) Move, it will be cheaper for all of us. (1 like)

DE-K:  I’m positive that if any one of her (Miss N) family members were killed she would change her opinion in a heartbeat. (1 like)

LD: (NB) I think you should move to Venezuela maybe then you will care what happens in America.

PM-B:  No, but technology yes!!

Me: What is wrong with you people OMG! There are no terrorists at our southern border. Yes, when an undocumented immigrants kills someone it’s terrible. But we cannot wall out the future. I don’t want to be an Islamic slave nor do I want that to happen to anyone. But I just don’t believe a wall will buy us the security we crave. We are surrounded by oceans. People can come on boats. There are airplanes. Airplanes laugh at walls. I think we need to brainstorm some really effective ways to secure our borders. For now it may work to keep everyone out but by the time we turn the world over to our kids that may not work anymore.

I was left with an unhappy feeling about how this conversation turned out and my role in that. I don’t think I presented my best arguments. Lately people in major media keep prodding us to talk to each other. In this conversation we just talked past each other. I keep thinking that at least I presented another view. I have about two of these conversation a year and I can never decide if I could have won a smidge of respect at least if I presented better arguments, or that it is not possible to sway a “true believer” and that I should just quit trying.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – The Sun, Townhall

Fake News and the Federal Budget

The Tea Party folks have been most shocking for their insistence that citizens should have a sort of line-item veto over the Federal budget. We have usually sent letters, etc. to our representatives in Congress to register our unwillingness to spend tax dollars on certain Federal programs or activities that displeased us. However, the Tea Party went much further. They were so angry, so demanding, so intimidating that the entire party backed them and moved far to the right. Then the party, in order to keep their scary Tea Party constituents at bay did things like shut down the government and vote to repeal the ACA about 60 times, and get the party to threaten to “primary” elected representatives to Congress (including Senators of course) who did not fall in line. The party got the “enforcer”, Grover Norquist to back up these primary attacks.

In particular the Tea Party wanted more control over their taxes – how much they had to pay and how it was spent. They had come to believe that their tax dollars were being handed out to deadbeats, to illegal immigrants, to way too many people in the form of food stamps, and to refugees. They were convinced, in spite of fact checks which disagreed with their analysis, that everyone was getting something for nothing but them. According to urban legend, the government was even handing out cars, free housing, and free “Obama phones” (a program begun in the Bush administration). And there was some truth to what the Tea Partiers believed but the abuses were hardly rampant, or budget-busting. The government does keep numbers on this stuff. Do we still trust numbers or does it now depend on who crunches them?

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Talk radio has kept the Tea Party angry for the last decade at least and they expanded their reach to even more Americans as the economy lost steam. The anger fed the people’s fears. Then Fox News piled on because this was a ratings bonanza too good to miss. People like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin and Bill O’Reilly and now Sean Hannity have been broadcasting fake news for years. There has always been fake news. It is called propaganda. Fake news did not begin with the 2016 election. But radio and TV outlets that broadcast fake news all the time, any time of the day or night have made fake news a trending phenomenon, allowed to masquerade as main stream media. The popularity of using social media on the internet added a new dimension to the dissemination of news and fake news. And I don’t know that we have previously had to deal with fake news injected into politics in a Presidential election year by a foreign power like Russia who is not generally considered to have American interests at heart.

As a result of the feelings that gave birth to their movement and the overwhelming amount of propaganda that nurtured the hate and anger, the Tea Party is adamant about many things and it is especially adamant about what budget items it will pay taxes for, and which ones it will not. In order to be sure they do not give one dollar to someone who doesn’t deserve it they want to stop giving any tax dollars to anyone. Privatize everything – no food stamps, no welfare, no Medicaid, no Medicare, no Social Security or SS Disability and no public schools. Many Tea Partiers are Evangelical Christians and they do not want their tax dollars to go towards paying for health care in any program that offers abortion, even though the Federal government no longer subsidizes abortions. Some even want to stop helping women get contraception. Send the “illegals” home say these folks and cut off immigration. Don’t take in refugees. But they do want us all to use our tax dollars to build a wall.

Well, if the right has a line item veto over the US budget then the left should also be allowed to say what they don’t want their tax dollars used for. I’m pretty sure that very few people on the left want to pay for a wall along the Mexican border. I’m pretty sure most of us want to see public education remain as a key budget item. Of course, we could put up a web site with various budget items and actually pick what to fund by voting line by line on the budget (recipe for chaos). But there is the matter of laws that were passed or voted down to determine what programs we would fund. Clearly though, some American’s feelings have been exploited by people in the media who know how to use their words to brainwash, to turn their listeners into “pod” people who seem to be convinced that they want to, 1) continue to pay taxes that pay for nothing, and 2) bypass the Congressional system and make decisions according to who does the best bullying. And perhaps the only cure for this is to just decide every single issue in our nation with a popular vote to try to lessen the effectiveness of a media without a soul.

People speak of trends towards fascism, and fake news and nationalism, and racism as if they just popped up in the 2016 election but we have been fed a steady diet of invective over at least the last decade, and it was easy because people had lost so much they were happy that someone was speaking their language of spite and jealousy, fear and despair, and that they were doing it so authoritatively and emotionally too.

I do not want to pay for a wall. I do not want to pay for a deportation force. There are many things the Tea Partiers don’t want to pay for that I feel a society should pay for. Where is my radio talk show to whisper revolution in my ear through the long night? I can’t even stand to watch news at all these days.

The right wing has won and our President elect who could be a unifier obviously is more an easily wounded defender of only himself. If he would show us that he could govern fairly and do that consistently I might not feel so bereft. His cabinet appointments give me little hope. I am thinking that I and other liberals will be left to wander in the wilderness. Any bets about how likely it is that DT can get it together and turn into a real President? Any bets on whether the soulless Republican Party can worry about anything besides owning what was once the government of the people, by the people, and for the people?

Voting for Reagan in 2016

There are Americans who have made it through the
economic tumult of recent decades relatively unscathed. They did not lose their
jobs or their houses or their pensions. Perhaps they had a government job or an
office job, maybe they worked for the post office or a utility. Perhaps they
were far enough up in the corporate hierarchy that they got to keep their jobs,
even if they did have to be willing to keep moving as the Great Factory Migration
unfolded.
However it happened, for these hardworking Americans,
the American Dream teetered but it did not die. They got raises, they won
awards; they bought nicer homes – perhaps even a second vacation home. Their
cars got more pricey and RV’s and boats were acquired. Children went to college,
and although they may have had to move away, they got good jobs and eventually
houses and vehicles and children of their own.
Many of these folks see changes in America but are
not really touched by these changes. Their lives run smoothly unless disturbed
by health matters and they don’t want to analyze the world or our nation,
although complaining is acceptable. They choose not to discuss how change is
impacting the lives of so many Americas who have not been fortunate enough to
live out the relatively carefree trajectory of these lucky people. These “lucky”
people do not think they are lucky; they think they succeeded because they
lived life correctly. They did not rock any political boats. All they asked for
and all they still ask for is the everyday peace and prosperity to raise a
family and enjoy a rewarding social life with family and friends.
What they don’t recognize is that other people who
lived correctly but put their future in the hands of corporations or factories
did not necessarily fare as well. Their steady working lives, their
possessions, their future pension supports were taken away almost without
warning. They did not manage to squeak through under the old formula that
guaranteed that hard work would pay off. Their progress was interrupted
midstream, perhaps never to be regained. From the point where the factory or
business that offered them prosperity in exchange for labor left them high and
dry their lives atrophied and morphed into something that felt very much like
failure.
The group of Americans that succeeded felt pride in
their success and began to feel slightly superior to their one-time neighbors
who had lost their jobs, although this was often through events they had no
control over. As a result they were unwilling to offer aid or sympathy to those
who they came to see a losers. The instinct of those who squeaked through the
economic changes successfully was to put some distance between themselves and
the “losers”, not wanting to get caught in the down suck.
Almost all of these middle class Americans, both the
successful and the unsuccessful, tend to see themselves as Republicans and to
feel that Conservative principles are the truest American guidelines. They feel
that the best way to shore up the American economy is to cut back on programs
and expenses. They do not want to pay for the unlucky or the lazy (who they do not
necessarily see as two different groups). They don’t want amnesty for
undocumented immigrants who stole American jobs (even if this perception is not
totally accurate). They identify Republican.
We have seen that the unlucky and angry went with
Donald Trump, but this second group of luckier middle class Americans have no
stomach for Donald Trump and they have difficulty tolerating Ted Cruz. But they
are good voters, good citizens. They have to vote for someone in the primaries
and it couldn’t, absolutely couldn’t, be a Democrat. What people are telling me
is that they are writing in Ronald Reagan and voting for him. I don’t know if
this is a trend or just the choice of a few isolated contented/discontented suburbanites.
It is so obviously a throwaway vote, but nevertheless it makes me smile, a
little smile of wry amusement. After all the saintly talk on FOX news and in
the right wing media raising Ronald Reagan to ranks of perfection never before attained
by an American President, this write in vote makes so much sense. It is a vote
for the past, a nostalgia vote, a vote by people who like to live simply and be
left alone to enjoy the bounty of their nation. It is a vote by people who really
need to stop watching FOX News. 
By Nancy Brisson