Let’s Have Real Conversation on Internet Threads

Commentators so Angry they can’t even agree without going off the deep end

I saw the problem today on a Facebook page I sometimes visit and often enjoy.

I visit political sites with various perspectives, and this one had a lot of Trump supporters. But the problem is not a partisan one. It could have been on any political page, left, right, or center, and probably on pages discussing non-political issues.

In this case, the lead post featured an article in which Sen. John McCain said Trump should release his taxes. Perfectly reasonable, whether you agree or not.

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You might expect most Trump supporters to say, “Bad idea because it will dominate the airways and give the Democrats an advantage.”

A minority might respond, “I wish he would release his taxes because, whether they help him politically or not, our government needs more transparency.”

Both are reasonable positions, worth discussing.

Nobody made either argument.

EVERY single comment was a personal attack on Sen. McCain.

No discussion of the underlying issue at all.

So far, he only thing McCain has not been accused of is incest.

He’s a coward, said one, and had been a coward has been since the First Gulf War.

(My comment: Sen. McCain is actually one of the bravest, most patriotic Americans of the past 50 years. That assessment ought to be completely separate from whether you agree or disagree with his policy stances.)

Lots of commenters say McCain is angry that Trump is president and he is not.

One said he is angry because he has to ask his wife for money.

Some said he used to be a good person (presumably at times when they agreed with him) but he is now a very bad one. Others responded that he was never any good.

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What is wrong with this thread, besides the vitriol?

It is all about who Sen. McCain is and how much the commentators dislike him.

But the question posed by the article is whether Pres. Trump should release his taxes, as McCain urges.

None of the commentators even bothered to talk about that.

In fact, none even bothered to talk about the secondary issue: should McCain have asked him publicly to release his taxes.

They went straight for McCain himself, and slimed him with ad hominem attacks.

These arguments are the same as those of the knight in Monty Python and Holy Grail:

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Why Even Mention this Problem?

Because it briefly illustrates a problem we can–and should–correct

We should all begin with ourselves.

  • Listen to what the other person says.
  • If it is worth answering–agreeing with it, disagreeing, or taking a different approach–then do so.
  • Address the subject, not the person who said it
  • Don’t sink to personal attacks unless the person’s comments reveal something truly low and ugly

Remember: If you do not follow my sage advice, your mother is a hamster and your father smells of elderberries.