When to Challenge? How to Challenge?


So you know Facebook, right? Great site. It’s fun to be able to connect with your friends and see what they’re up to and stuff. Unfortunately, it’s also a great way to learn what friends of yours support extremist causes, embrace faith-based politics (I don’t mean what you think I mean. I’ll explain in a bit), and you can learn, really, really learn, what friends of yours are anti-Obama, because they’ll tell you with all the “this requires no thought for me to share” memes at their disposal.

Consider the following picture, which I share only as an example.

I've centered it, but only because otherwise it would have to be so far to the right, it would be off your monitor.

I’ve centered it, but only because otherwise it would have to be so far to the right, it would be off your monitor.

Now this is a made-up, bullshit kind of meme that was being pushed by some on the right a year or two ago in the wake of things like Sandy Hook. It’s been refuted by many sources, including the Christian Science Monitor.

This picture was shared by a Facebook (not real life), friend. I posted up a reply along with a link to the CSM’s article on it. Here’s how the subsequent conversation went (I’ve erased the other person’s name).

Click to embiggen!

Click to embiggen!

So one could argue that I should have just ignored this person’s meme post and then moved on with my life. I’m sure that’s what most people do. But when someone stands up in public and starts shouting out lies, well, shouldn’t you challenge that? Shouldn’t you stand up and call them out on it?

The problem is, of course, most people don’t like to be told they’re wrong. They certainly don’t like proof that they’re wrong. The above is a perfect example of what I mean by faith-based politics. This person takes it on faith that what’s the meme is true, and doesn’t bother to investigate further. When presented with information proving that this meme was, in fact, false, the person in question…well, you see what they did. It’s not a rational response to such information. It’s very much like when someone stands up and makes a statement that’s based on religion. All the actual facts in the world aren’t likely to sway them.

Even worse are people who share, again, usually political, memes and when proven absolutely, 100% wrong, will say something like, “Still, it illustrates my point!” They’re indulging in what Colbert likes to call “Truthiness“.

So clearly challenging such stuff is a pointless, useless, waste of time. Except…shouldn’t we fight back against ignorance? And when doing so, isn’t using facts the best way? Yes, it may be a pain and people may ignore them, or get angry, but don’t we have a moral obligation to try? And if we do try, what’s the best way? Pure facts are good, but I think I’ll take a page from my mom, who also suggested that when someone says something really stupid, especially in person, but also online, ask them, “What do you mean by that?” Do it in a pleasant, non-confrontational way and make them listen to themselves. Maybe they’ll figure out that they’re being idiots.

It may be like trying to bail out the ocean with a bucket, but I do think it’s worth trying. There are rare times when you can conclusively prove someone wrong, and they accept it, and start examining the way they’re doing things. These moments are rare, but nice, and totally worth it.

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