Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Social A's: How Do I Deal With These Crazy Racists?

SOCIAL A'SDear Answer Lady,

I need help. I grew up in Idaho, a pretty, if somewhat backwards, state. Recently, an acquaintance from high school posted this on Facebook [sic throughout]: "Isnt this great? Americans have put a socialist into the White House – a socialist who wants to indoctrinate our youth with his socialist agenda. Hitler was able to spread his ideas by appealing to German youngsters. Dont let obama get a hold of our children. Socialism always fails."

This is why I can barely stand to look at Facebook.

But my real question is: Do I respond? And if so, how? My instinct is to stay out of it, because any response of mine will probably elicit a dozen angry responses from her right-wing cronies. I do think, though, that letting angry, uninformed attacks like this go unanswered is a problem. I cringe at my computer, and then do nothing. But is it possible to have a reasoned, thoughtful discussion about this? Without making her angry and without making me sound like the smug, condescending east coast liberal I have become?


Teachable Moment?

Dear Teachable,

Two separate issues here. #1: Facebook. FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACEBOOOK. Of all the near-inescapable modern conveniences that simultaneously make our lives better and worse but mostly worse, Facebook is king. It's like how your DVR dutifully records every episode of Anthony Bourdain's increasingly meh Travel Channel show but inexplicably refuses to record Mad Men, multiplied by spending a day feeling sad about something you found out by Tumblr-searching your name, ALL THE TIME. You think all the time about deleting yourself from it. You even know people who have done so! And you respect them for it, but it troubles you that you now have no handy way of remembering their birthdays.

Also there's something about "deleting yourself" that's just … well. "Deleting yourself." It doesn't sound cheery.

But then something like this happens and deletion starts looking better and better. If only you could delete some other people while you're at it! Some kind of kamikaze app.

Seriously though I think how you respond to this is: it's not enough to just hide her like you do the people who take quizzes or update you on how many novel-words they wrote that day. You probably have to de-friend this person, and you have to tell her why. Passively maintaining your acquaintance/not rocking the boat is making you feel guilty for a reason, and the reason is not that you're a perpetually-guilty East Coast liberal snob. It's that you're a good, right-thinking human being with a shred of conscience and common sense and soul, and anyone who a) calls Obama a socialist (I wish!) and b) says "socialist" like it's a bad thing is just not.

Your message goes, "Dear Tater Ann, I wanted to let you know that your status update offended me for reasons x, y and z, and it probably also offended a lot of other people who feel that you're too much of a lost cause to bother confronting you about this. I don't, which is why I'm sending you this message. But if you respond to this message with anything less than courtesy and willingness to accept that you might sometimes be in the wrong, I'll start. Your friend, Teachable Moment."

But nicer, I guess. Sorry, I am bad at "nicer."


Answer Lady

Previously: Teen Email Disaster!

67 Comments / Post A Comment

josh_speed (#97)

I [heart] Emily; she is so reasonable. I would have publicly shamed the foo' in a Status Update, lost the 'friend' and lost the argument. Then de-friended the 'friend', then blocked them.

davidwatts (#72)

like autumn and a bill from your doctor, the answer lady will always come again.

related: does this mean you're reading our answer lady emails? I'd begun to feel asking you a question was like sending a letter to Santa Claus. Not that I've ever done either, but, you know.

Bring your letters please! goes straight to Emily and bypasses all of us, so it's private. (Until she forwards it to us so we can talk about you. Heh. With love!)

KarenUhOh (#19)

I'm sure several of her husband's other wives will straighten her out.

Do you mean Utah? Or do you mean she is a potato?

Idaho also has a gigantic Mormon population. It's the other white meat.

I da ho? No, you da ho!

HiredGoons (#603)

I once got pulled over in Idaho with a joint. They had absolutely no reason to search me (other than my Vermont license plates)as they had pulled me over for going 10 over on the highway, but within two minutes they had a K9 unit there (luckily they didn't find the quarter ounce in the pocket next to the joint).

Luckily I got off because of my slick East Coast big-city lawyer.

I may have a bias, but yes Idaho sucks balls.

MikeGilmoreJr (#1,576)

This is not about Idaho miss. What does this rant even have to do with helping Teachable Moments? I think a more appropriate response would have been along the lines of "Yes, there are a lot of backward folk in Idaho. You can do your part and politely let her know she is being terrible. No need to be friendly-niceties are not for the preaching stupid." Thank you.

mathnet (#27)

I think I disagree. Because, well, if what you're suggesting is just sending a message to her privately. . . how does that help Teachable stop "letting angry, uninformed attacks like this go [publicly, I'm assuming] unanswered," which is her stated goal?

But obviously it's a dumb goal. I mean, T. Moment only considers this idiot an acquaintence anyway. Why does she care? A person who updates their "friends" on their current "status" by comparing Obama with Hitler is a lost cause. There is no appropriate Facebook response, no matter how new you are to Jezebel.

*cringe* Oooff. I have a thousand Facebook related questions for Emily… maybe that's the first sign that *delete myself"?

HiredGoons (#603)

ad reads: '…and the rectifying of mankind begins.'

Abe Sauer (#148)

Isn't the problem here that they were "acquaintances" to begin with? One of the true evils of Facebook, along with all the stuff mentioned above, is that it allows us to unthinkingly "be friends" with people we never would otherwise (offline), which then leads to us getting upset about something they share (which we would never have been exposed to had we not friended/accepted friedning in the first place.) This is why, to me, it seems this situation of being exposed to "attacks" was really created by Teachable. And I would differ on the likelihood of the guilt not coming from being a "liberal snob" who fled the "somewhat backward" area and is now horrified when its left-behinder views seep (by invitation!) back into his/her life.

And no. In this case it's not possible to have a reasonable discussion about it on Facebook. Also: Can "teachable moment" die please. Al Roker used it this morning. I think that means its time has passed.

HiredGoons (#603)

I don't think in any case is a reasonable discussion possible on Facebook – at least, it shouldn't be the place for discourse of any substance (unlike blogs!)

Abe Sauer (#148)

ALSO: I think the rush to condemn is paralleled in the headline which, in typical dismissive "east coast liberal" style assumes she's a racist.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Teachable has it easy.

Imagine she were a right-winger who followed The Awl, because it is very clever and all that. And then she discovered that she was not to be considered "a good, right-thinking human being with a shred of conscience and common sense and soul(This because, having given the question some thought and changed her mind a time or two, she thought socialism actually was on balance a bad thing, pretty much.)

I don't think Emily gets to award and deny virtue stickers to people based on their bien-pensant status.

It's not a liberal thing to do.

I'm not sure it was exactly the mere fact that Tater Ann is a right-winger who, thoughtfully or not, has rejected socialism that caused Emily to make that assertion. Rather, I believe it was the invocation of MOTHERFUCKING HITLER andJesusGodareyoureallyaskingthis??!!!!

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Yep, that sure was one bonehead Facebook post about Obama being like Hitler, all right.

But the remark I quoted was not about Obama being like Hitler or not. It was about how if a person holds certain other, not-very-extreme views, he or she can be pretty well read out of the human race, as far as his or her moral equipment goes. No conscience, no soul, no common sense. Now, if you believe Miss Gould actually meant something nicer and less morally self-congratulatory than what she wrote, you may be right, but those were her words. You can tell by the way I put the quote marks around them.

So calm down a little bit. Fewer caps, more spaces between words. Deep breaths.

Well I do agree that diversity of opinion shouldn't be punished, either by defriending or de-whatevering.

But idiocy is different. Idiocy is for Idiots.

Eeeesh, the Obama=Hitler meme is not only shameful, it's tired and juvenile. Hail Emily for a measured and purposeful response.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Cooper: I agree, but I don;t think its invocation justifies this response. The Hitler meme was WELL worn on Bush by the time it limped to service in 2009. So I'm inclined to think if we weren't willing to take the piss-poor analogy to task in the last 8 years it's hard to have have a backbone about it now.

Abe, I'd have exactly the same outrage for someone comparing Bush (or really, anyone save, like, Pol Pot or Idi Amin or something) to Hitler.

If I'm being honest, though, I do think the comparison to Obama is a bit more galling.

Emily (#20)

It's my advice column so actually, I do get to award and deny virtue stickers to people based on whatever crazy criteria I want. And if you don't like it, you can leave tons of comments!

tfey_hawbz (#36)

I "like" this.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Ounces of comments are more than enough.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

(Insert period, close-quote, space.)

michel_mishka (#1,566)

And to think – earlier today, while standing in a queue to buy groceries, I wondered what had happened to Social A's? It gave me quite the bout of nausea, let me tell you!

Anyway! Salut! The return is most welcome.

brent_cox (#40)

For me, this issue dovetails with the "should you friend your distant relatives" issue.

mathnet (#27)

God, yes.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Those for whom you have the assurance of not running into at annual events? No. But if you don't the others: "Good to see you again. How ya' ben? You know, I sent ya' a Facebook invite…"

mathnet (#27)

Friend 'em and hide 'em is the new Love 'em and leave 'em.

brent_cox (#40)

I had a small eruption of incivility after the "No one should be denied healthcare…" FB status event of last week from an aunt I rarely see — I totally chickened out and deleted the thread once brick & mortar friends started piling on.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Brent: SO DID I! But they were friends not family. I think that's the important distinction. It's far easier (though not "easy") for me to burn the bridge to a friend I see 3 times a year than a relative.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Agree, but that's not quite as difficult as the related "should you friend your immediate family" issue.

Bittersweet (#765)

Too true. But the fact that my dad is my 'friend' on Facebook keeps me from posting idiotic status updates a la Tater Ann…

(Not that I would post anything quite that dumb, but you know…)

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Bittersweet: Following that same principal, I really ought to reveal my Awl pseudonym to my children, so that I would never post any comment whatever for fear of pitiless mockery.

Bittersweet (#765)

Tulletilsynet, it's something to consider. Remembering you're not quite anonymous is a decent way of keeping yourself from flaming off and typing something that will come back to bite you in the ass later.

Can you tell I'm a moderate who works for a Big 4 accounting firm? ;-)

belltolls (#184)

My first week in New York many years ago I wandered about like the country bumpkin I was — well, from Chicago, but that can be pretty bumpkinny. I kept getting in situations with CRAZY people. At a dinner with several long-time residents of New York I mentioned my problems when I was just walking down the street. "Are you looking at them?" one gentleman asked. "I guess so," I said. "Yeah, don't lock eyes with a crazy person. In fact don't look at anyone… and don't say nuthin' to nobody."

I have learned to master my news feed and friend groups. For instance I have a group called "Mother" that sees nothing I post. This avoids many awkward encounters.

katiebakes (#32)

Haha, I have that group and it's called "Work".

Mothers and Work are the anti-social network.

The great thing about mothers are that they'll never be savvy enough with these things to catch on to the fact that you're excluding them.

Every so often I'll get a comment about how "her Facebook must be broken" because she can't see anything from me. I feign ignorance and change the subject.

mathnet (#27)

I feel embarrassed and amazed and grateful. Revelation!

BoHan (#29)

This is so awesome. Thank you so much. I have created Groups, and I am back in control.

For years all of my crazy religious conservative relatives sent me emails with their crazy favorite topics. Now they have started sending me Facebook invites. Good to know I can ignore those as well.

Meeg (#309)

Ah, how I love the answer lady!

I think this situation is the worst when you feel like you don't actually know your Facebook "friend" well enough to be arguing with their objectionable status updates.

RickVigorous (#214)

Okay, let's get back to the real issue. WHY CAN'T I RECORD THE WHOLE SEASON OF MAD MEN ON MY DVR. I guess I could call Time Warner to find out why it won't let me but then I would have to take all of those pill and alcohol just to keep me calm to get through the call.

RickVigorous (#214)

make that pills, many pills

Seriously, Time Warner is trying to MURDER ME. Why, answer lady, WHY?

Emily (#20)


Abe Sauer (#148)

I find it highly ironic that we're severely upset about the inability to use DVR technology that allows us to skip ads on a TV show that's based on the iconic period of american advertising that ultimately resulted in the modern ad paradigm that necessitated DVR technology.

mathnet (#27)


Also ironic (?) is the fact that there are maybe 5 total minutes of commercials during the entire show, thanks to "sponsorships" or whatnot.

I love this new right-wing strategy of making Hitler = lefty.

I mean, they already have REAL lefty villain from history: Stalin. But most of these birther types haven't heard much about Stalin anyway, so it's easier to just co-opt Hitler from the right and pretend he was a lefty, and tack the word "socialist" on there as much as possible too.

There's a whole generation of red-state kids who are gonna grow up thinking Hitler was a socialist. Or maybe in the red states, they'll just start teaching history that way.

In blue states, they'll be taught that Hitler was a fascist.

In red states, they'll be taught he was a socialist.

And which you believe will be a evidence of what region of the country you grew up in. Kind of like whether you say "soda" or "pop."

Did you know that Hitler was the father of psychotherapy?

Abe Sauer (#148)

Ha! This assumes a public high school history education goes deep enough to examine how Hitler came to power and that it doesn't cover WWII in a 3 days focusing on Pearl Harbor, D Day and what the "Axis" was.

Did you know that the arch duck Franz Ferdinand's assassination started WWI. Eva Herzagova was in favor of national health care and shot him. After that war ended bread was really expensive. Hilter developed penis envy so people would work out and march in tight pants.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I loved Will Arnet in this otherwise forgettable Will Farrel movie.

Too bad, a feral Nazi movie would rake in the big bucks.

Or whether you call it the "Civil War" or the "War Between the States". The former being those who wanted to end slavery and, you know, won. The latter being the ignorant, podunk losers.

Br. Seamus (#217)

It's properly "the War of Northern Aggression."

Tulletilsynet (#333)

It's true this is a right-wing strategy, but it's not a new right-wing strategy. You kind of have to blame the original Nazis themselves for creating the confusion, since "socialist" and "workers" are what the S and A in NSDAP stand for. A Nazi is a nationalist socialist. State welfare for Aryans.

ToWi (#1,057)

That comment her friend posted wasn't about race at all… just because you dont agree with some one or their view point doe not make them a racist.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

I believe the thinking went something like this (just guessing):

Racists hate on black people, our President is a black people, therefore somebody who hates on Obama is a racist, especially because they are ignorant and can't spell and are from Idaho where everybody is so damned racist.

You can call undistributed middle on that, if you're picky, or question-begging. But statistically the maker of the argument may be on fairly firm ground.

spanish bombs (#562)

I am beginning to think that The Awl has made an editorial decision that all criticism of Obama is equivalent to racism.

I am very liberal, btw, and think that he has done as well a job as can reasonably be expected, given the unfortunate circumstances (eg financial crisis, Iraq – [oh, actually has done a shitty job on this re: not starting stupid new wars in Afghanistan], skin color).

etsryan (#1,501)

woah i thought i was on some other news/pol website for a minute. whew.

i have issues with the DFL platform…i'm not saying i'm gung ho GOP either.

i'm leaving it at that.

i can tell i may not be in the majority where certain viewpoints are and I can tell when I am among friends/like mindeds and when I am not.

Meanwhile, anyone care for 'something completely different'? like…


susan boyle
amy winehouse
nevermind the buzzcocks


need food.
and. sleep.
and. funds.

Risen Lord Jesus' Peace!
e.t./sue > *:D (: +

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