Look at this tweet:
Now look at this tweet:
MY GOD! THE CONSERVATIVES ARE NOT LIVING UP TO THEIR OWN STANDARDS!
This is a common theme in liberal discourse today, and one that has been exposed for its impotence time and again by the podcast Chapo Trap House. (In fact, I feel like I should have to pay Felix Biederman royalties just for using the phrase “by their own logic.”) Summarized, the liberal complaint sounds like this:
“Conservatives complained about this one thing that a liberal politician did, but now a conservative politician did the same thing and they’re not complaining anymore!”
It’s a simple charge of hypocrisy, and it’s very stupid. Why is it very stupid? Because it presupposes that the original complaint was made in good faith, based on some kind of principle, and wasn’t just the ill-informed braying of a jackass mob. Yes, sure, there were problems with Hillary Clinton using a private email server, but let’s not pretend for a second that that the VAST majority of conservatives weren’t just using it as fodder to get their pitchforks out and rage about a hated opponent. They don’t care about private email servers. They never cared about private email servers. They cared about drawing blood, and defeating Hillary. And they certainly aren’t going to care about Trump using a private email server. He could text Putin the nuclear codes tomorrow, accidentally copy Kim Jong-un, and then launch a warhead into Texas, and they’d find a way to rationalize it within 20 minutes. Sean Spicer would stand behind the podium in his giant suit and rave about how sharing the codes actually shows toughness, and Kellyanne Conway would grin her ghoulish grin on CNN while extolling North Korean work ethic, and then Trump would tweet about how cats are wicked and the entire political right would nod along in confused agreement.
It’s the same with the tweet about Melania. Sure, conservatives were ready to pounce any time Michelle Obama smiled in a way they perceived as smug or uppity, but are we really deluding ourselves into thinking it was motivated by anything but a revolting mixture of racism, sexism, and political hatred? Is there someone out there actually trying to argue that it had something to do with imaginary standards for a first lady, or that we’d ever hear a peep out of them if Melania enslaved the entire population of West Virginia for her personal diamond mine?
Yes, yes, it’s hypocrisy. Of course it’s hypocrisy. No shit it’s hypocrisy. But to scold conservatives in righteous disbelief and wait for them to own up to their contradictions is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of politics in America today. It was always bullshit, and it was obvious bullshit. If we’re still talking about it like we expect them to experience an epiphany, we are wayyyy behind the curve. An enormous part of our country makes its political decisions based on emotion and hatred and prejudice, not cold hard reason, and that won’t change no matter how many times you bludgeon them over the head with their monumental inconsistencies.
(Incidentally, this is the enormous flaw in the argument that liberals have a “duty” to talk to their conservative family members about Trump, as though it’s possible to convince them with facts. I’m sure there are exceptions, but from my own experience, there are only so many times I can contradict a total falsehood with something true—in the least condescending way possible!—only to be told, “well, I don’t know about that,” before I conclude that there is a gap here that simply cannot be bridged.)
Here are some other logic nuggets that will have absolutely zero effect on the true believers:
—If Christians value the lessons of Jesus so much, why won’t they heed his lessons when it comes to immigrants and the poor?
—If pro-lifers think the life of the fetus is so valuable, why do they have total disdain for those who suffer once they’re actually born?
—If conservative politicians value our service members so much, why are they the first to send them into harm’s way for unnecessary wars?
—If conservatives hate terrorists so much, why do they constantly engage in rhetoric and policy that seems specifically tailored to encourage the rise of anti-Americanism across the globe?
—If Trump supporters cared so much about draining the swamp, why aren’t they going nuts about how his entire cabinet is made up of swamp creatures?
—If Trump supporters cared so much about transparency, why aren’t they going nuts about his tax returns? Or his business conflicts? Or Russia?
Get the picture? The answers are simple. Hypocritical Christians in America don’t actually worship Jesus; they worship America, and even then, it’s a very specific, self-centered idea of America. Pro-lifers don’t possess universal kindness for the human race; they have one pet issue, and everyone and everything else can go screw (including the planet). Conservative politicians don’t value our service members; they pay them lip service so they can mobilize an entire country into supporting profitable forever wars. Conservative politicians, the most savvy of the bunch, understand that extremism abroad strengthens their party at home. And as for Trump voters caring about the guy fulfilling his promises…come on. Come on. That was never what this was about, no matter how many #TrumpRegrets tweets stream in to make us feel better.
The point is this: When liberals engage these hypocrisies on a surface level, as though there’s any satisfaction to be had in pointing out the fallacies, it shows that they never understood the conservative mindset to begin with. On a deeper level, it also reveals how little they understand about the nature of the fight they’re in. They’re falling for the sleight-of-hand, and fighting on the enemy’s turf. This is why liberals lose!
There’s an argument to be made that illustrating the duplicity will help win over those in the middle, or those who were previously apathetic, but there’s a right and wrong way to execute that strategy. The wrong way is what we see above—presenting the contradictions to the yahoos as though they haven’t been totally brainwashed into a state of post-truth, and will have a beautiful come-to-Jesus moment if we just whine at them long enough. That puts the ball in their court, and turns us into passive onlookers who can only hope the deranged zealots see the light. Of course, they won’t—that’s not how their minds work. Engage them, and they will absolutely have some batshit retort ready to deploy. And even though it will be nonsense, it will muddy the waters and complicate what should be a simple truth. This is the old adage made manifest—lower yourself to fight on their level, and they’ll beat you with experience. So don’t do it! People who aren’t acting in good faith, and who have put aside their empathy in service of winning, don’t deserve that kind of power.
The right way is simple. Go to the people you need to convince—the ones who aren’t willing to resort to any dirty trick—and say “look, these people are liars. Everything they say, and everything they do, is a lie.” Ignore the liars themselves; you’ll have better luck getting blood from a stone. Go to the people who retain a shred of humanity, make your case, and pray that there are enough of them left to tilt the balance.