You know what I hate today?
Walnuts. I was sitting around minding my own business this afternoon when suddenly a walnut came tumbling down the chimney and scared me, the bastard!
But the thing I hate today that I’ll likely hate tomorrow as well, is Strawmen, and not just any Strawmen, but those set up by the most annoying, condescending people in the entire world; people I call ‘Telepaths’, because apparently they can read your mind. And this is a behaviour type I’ve seen all over the internet, propped up in defence of all sorts of opinions, often mutually exclusive—so this can be a post that everyone enjoys!
… everyone except the Telepaths, that is.
Let me explain what I mean. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘Strawman’, the idea goes something like this: ‘I am opposed to you on a certain issue, but cannot defeat your argument in this instance. However, I can defeat this other argument that has superficial similarities to yours, so I will pretend you used this argument so that I may defeat it and win the argument’, thus they ‘set up a straw man’ to defeat, since they can’t defeat the real thing, and may not even have any problem with the real thing:
A: I didn’t like the Avengers movie.
B: There’s nothing wrong with comic book movies, adults enjoy comics too these days and they have some really complex and mature storytelling!
A: Yeah, I know. I just didn’t like the Avengers; I thought the best comic book movie of 2012 was Dredd.
B: … oh. Did I ever tell you that I AM THE LAW!?
But what I really hate are the Telepaths, people who go a step further than that, and insist, insist, that that Strawman they created really is a part of you, even if you don’t realise it yourself. Take the controversy over abortion, for example—there’s a nice, safe topic that’ll never get me into trouble—because I have seen Telepaths on both sides of the debate:
A: I believe a woman should have the right to safe, legal abortion without any stigmatisation from society.
B: But killing babies is wrong!
A: Uh, I never said anything about killing babies. I just think it’s best if every child brought into the world is a wanted child.
B: That may be what you say, but I know you really just hate God and want to disregard the sanctity of life by killing babies!
A: No, seriously, I don’t think that.
B: I know you do!
A: How could you possibly know what I think better than I do!?
B: My pastor told me, that’s how!
(Or, if you’re on the other side, take a look at this and see if this looks familiar:)
A: I believe abortion is wrong, because life begins at conception and we must preserve the sanctity of that life.
B: Don’t give me that ‘sanctity of life’ crap—you just want to control the bodies of women!
A: Uh, no, it’s really the killing thing that gets to me—I have no problem with women making their own choices in life.
B: Yeah right, you think of women as nothing more than baby-making machines, and if they’re not popping out kids, they’re not doing their jobs right!
A: That’s not how I think of women at all!
B: Yes it is!
A: How could you know what I’m thinking better than I do!?
B: Because I saw someone talking about it on Tumblr!
I cannot stand seeing people try to tell other people what those other people are thinking (lol, like anyone cares what I think); because if it’s not congruent with reality then you’re never going to get anywhere in a conversation—you’ll just be throwing ‘murderer’ and ‘misogynist’ back and forth at each other ad infinitum, and if it is what they think then they’re hardly like to admit it.
My favourite is people who have tried to tell others I agree with on some issues that they don’t actually believe what they’re saying—they’re just trying to sound ‘edgy’. I’m guessing these are people with a very low tolerance for ‘edge’.
So yeah. People who think they know what you think better than you know what you think, because I guess they’re telepathic or something. Mostly they think their opponent has been ‘brainwashed’. Brainwashing explains everything—much easier than finding real counter-arguments! Telepaths do more than just set up Strawmen, they go up to their opponent, shove straw down their shirts and then declare themselves the ‘winner’.
(Hopefully A and B will come to a better understanding of each other over their shared love of comic book movies.
… actually, knowing fandom wars, that’ll probably only make things worse.)