When you’re an extremist, the problem is never that what you’re saying may be mouth-frothingly crazy. No, your real problem is that your message isn’t being heard.
After all, this message converted you, didn’t it? And you’re a sane person, as intelligent as they come. So if anyone else hears what you have to say and doesn’t instantly convert to your side, then they must not have heard you properly. They probably didn’t know all the facts that you do. They probably misunderstood something.
So you need to tell them again.
This message can be anything. Sometimes it’s religious, but just as often it’s political. You know that 9/11 was a conspiracy, or that white men are the most oppressed people in America, or that vaccinations cause autism. Or it’s even milder than that: every person raised in America has racist tendencies, every poor person simply doesn’t work hard enough.
The exact nature of the message is irrelevant. What matters is that it’s a message of conversion: anyone who disagrees with you simply hasn’t heard you properly.
Thing is, what you have to tell people works just often enough that this idea that “hearing properly equals agreement” isn’t entirely foolish. Sure, most people shake their heads and walk away, but every so often you find that one person who hears your True Words and instantly agrees with you, becomes another follower it is in whatever crazy-ass belief you possess.
What happens then is that the media becomes your enemy. They propagate flawed interpretations that damages your credibility – the news covers your message and they get some minor fact wrong, and that erroneous fact becomes why people didn’t believe you. Someone else dissects your message on their blog and they don’t quite parrot your party line perfectly, and that’s why people didn’t believe you.
Eventually, people come to your blog directly and read your words, and most of them seem to believe you! Except for a handful of dissenters, who are mocked, pummeled, and insulted. Clearly, you’re still not quite making the proper arguments – which is why your blog posts become increasingly long rebuttals, going line-by-line through people’s counterarguments and explaining why no, these fools didn’t comprehend what you had to say – but realistically, the problem isn’t that people have understood what you intended to say and still think you’re a cauldron of teeming turds, no.
The problem is that they have yet to really hear you.
And since the problem is all about being heard directly, you’re morally justified in doing all sorts of scummy things to sneak the message into places. The media is oppressing you, even if the media actually talks about you a lot, because the media is not on your side. How could the media hear your grand message and have the gall to present counterpoints? How could the media blare your message to its massive audience and give most people the impression that you’re idiotic, manipulative scumbags?
The reason I’m saying this today is because last weekend, GamerGate bought a booth at a convention under a pseudonym, with the express intent of sneaking in and disrupting some of the panels. And normally, I’d say “renting a booth under an assumed name so you can unveil your existence elsewhere” is a pretty scummy thing to do, right or left; I’d be equally condemning if an LGBT group tried to sneak into a fundamentalist convention via similar tactics.
But what’s happening here is what you see with GamerGate in particular. The problem isn’t that much of what GamerGate has to say is self-contradictory, often threaded with rape jokes and misogyny, acting as a loosely-coupled organization so that nobody’s quite sure who speaks for them – no, the problem is that GamerGate’s message hasn’t really been heard yet, and as such the only proper thing to do is try to sneak in.
That’s not scummy, man. That’s the only way to do this. You have to circumvent the interpretations and get face-to-face with people, so they can believe you!
And God forbid I ever become That Guy. There’s a reason my comments thread on my LiveJournal page says “Tell me I’m full of it” – I’m not always going to agree with what you have to say, but I hope I never assume that the reason you disagreed with me was because you didn’t hear me correctly. I hope I always assume that people can disagree with me because they have understood me, and found my conclusions lacking.
Because I’ve seen GamerGaters do it, and I’ve seen my hyper-liberal friends do it, and I’ve seen zealots of all stripes think their message is an auto-conversion where the only thing stopping every last living being on the planet from thinking as they do is that they simply haven’t consumed all the facts.
And no. Sometimes, people will garner the exact set of facts that you have at this very moment, and come to different conclusions. Humanity’s complicated. You have to allow for that uniqueness of experience, even if it means that people will be working against you knowing exactly what you do.
That’s a scary idea, sometimes. But you know what’s scarier, to me? An argument that’s actually a telepathic form of hive-mind control, that only requires tweaking to brainwash 6 billion people on the planet to a single conclusion.
Shit, that Death Star argument would be terrifying. If it existed. Which it doesn’t.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.