Dear White GOP Dude in My Friend’s Facebook Comments

You don’t know what you want. But I do.

Child in chain mail holding a sword. Photo by Andrii Podilnyk on Unsplash

My social media sphere is an echo chamber. I used to actively avoid this, by hanging on to Facebook friends with radically different views to my own. I thought I had a responsibility to protect myself from forgetting that my outlook might not necessarily be the majority view.

Frankly, this was tiring. Imagine going to a website where you’re supposed to have fun and enjoy socialising with friends, only to be pelted with opinions that you weren’t a real person, that you didn’t deserve to be on equal footing in society, and that guns were more important than children. It’s like working at Chuckie Cheese, and every single day you find out someone took a shit in the ball pit. You know exactly who it is, and you continue to allow them in because you don’t want to discriminate against people who can’t keep their shit to themselves. Eventually, you’ve got to ban them cause they’re fucking up the ball pit for everyone else.

So I cut those toxic people out of my life, because it’s just not worth it. Now my social media is predominantly far left, pro-choice, pro-LGBT, socialist, etc. And I’m fine with that. It seems to be the trend with a lot of my friends, too. But not always.

There’s a couple of actors, literally less than five, and they’re in the comments of nearly everything our mutual friends post, spewing hate and condescension. They sling insults that are only insults within their own like-minded social spheres, like snowflake, triggered, cuck, and socialist. And in response, at least 2–3 people gang up on them, posting links to information they’ll never read and witty, self-righteous retorts. I’ve been among them more than once. But I lose interest pretty fast, between the burden of proof and constantly moving goal posts. If I wanted to be sent on pointless research quests all the time, I’d have stayed in academia.

I do have a linguistic interest in the tools and techniques of debate seen almost exclusively in online forums, and maybe that’ll turn into a lengthier treatise, but certainly not until my mental health is at a place where I can wade through comments sections for days on end. For now, I’ll leave aside the ‘how’ and focus on the ‘why’.

Why would you venture into a space where you know your ideology isn’t welcome, dig your heels in, and start attacking everyone that disagrees with you? Doesn’t that seem a little insane? I suppose there’s an argument to be made that they’re stirring up drama to make their lives seem interesting, but I don’t think it accounts for much of the political ‘debate’ in social media and comments sections. I believe it has far more to do with victimhood.

While victimhood has long been seen as a feature of leftist, marginalised groups (see also: Oppression Olympics), it’s a pretty well-worn strategy on the right, as well. Right-wing victimhood didn’t start with Trump, but he certainly embodies it. The way he tells it, the ‘Deep State’, FBI, CIA, DOJ, press, Google, social media, and everyone in between is against him, actively fighting him and he’s just trying to do good things, guys!

And his followers are doing the same. Between the myths of white genocide, a war on Christianity (now there’s an irony), and confiscation of everyone’s firearms (not the worst idea ever), Trump loyalists feel that they, too, are backed into a corner. And it’s the foundation of the belief system that allows them to support a fascist demagogue.

I do believe his garden variety supporters are being backed into a corner with no way out. But not the way they think. They’ve been pushed to their limits by the very billionaires they think are going to save them. But what they see instead is a looming, non-white, non-Christian menace. Anyway, that’s another topic altogether. Back to the victimhood angle.

See, once marginalised groups began protesting and making a lot of noise about their marginalisation, they began winning back some of the rights they’d been denied for so long. The right was watching. And as many of them have the same zero-sum outlook on life that their POTUS does, they see themselves in the position of marginalised now. Since women have more rights now, that means men have fewer. Since white populations are declining in America, we’re a minority and minorities are oppressed. You get the idea.

And so, since they see themselves as being in the same position marginalised groups were in, they’re taking notes from the marginalised playbook. That means making an awful lot of noise about how their rights are being stripped away and their way of life threatened.

But the fact is, there is no white genocide. There is no war on Christianity. And (though I wish there were) nobody is coming for your guns. Immigrants aren’t taking your jobs, China isn’t robbing us blind, and neither is the EU. Political correctness isn’t going mad (well, maybe a little bit, but again, not the way they think).

This is a problem for conservatives. Because without the fairy tale of fighting for their lives, they might have to accept that things aren’t so bad. That they’re better than they’ve ever been. They might have to contend with the reality that they’re not the chosen ones, that they’re only the protagonists of their own stories, not everyone else’s. It’s a lot to take on board after so long believing the opposite.

Luckily, there’s a solution. Find a liberal-leaning nest and give your opinion. Instantly, you’ll get attacked, sometimes with nuanced, researched answers, but usually just with name calling and questions about your intelligence. Next, rattle the hornet’s nest by constantly dismissing every shred of evidence they give, either out of instinct or deliberately. Finally, block the people being mean to you. You’ve just successfully reaffirmed your worldview that people who believe what you do are under attack. Optionally, you can even screenshot the exchanges before bowing out to bring back to your tribe as proof for the others that you’re being persecuted for believing in the second amendment/Jesus/racial purity.

Our culture is rife with tales of underdogs fighting valiantly for the causes they believe in. So casting yourself as the righteous embattled is a heady drug, and some people get addicted. And that’s when you see them, wading into the fray time and time again, clearly not trying to win hearts and minds, seemingly just trying to stir the pot.

Surely, you’d think, it’d be much easier just to engage with the idea of not being marginalised? Why would anyone want to be marginalised? Maybe it’s because if you squint with one eye and close the other and look at the rights marginalised demographics have won in recent years, it looks like the marginalised always get what they want at the expense of all others. Maybe it’s to feel like the virtuous protagonist of your favourite action flick, a knight for the cause célèbre.

I don’t know if I had much of a point in writing this besides wanting to explore a topic I’ve found equally frustrating and fascinating. But if I had to end this meandering article on a solid conclusion, it would be this: do not engage. Or maybe, next time you see them, try agreeing with them. You might just take the wind right out of their sails.