Write Your Own Conspiracy Theory

When I was working on my Master’s Degree, everyone in the MA (yes, I got a Master of Arts in Speech Communication – go figure) program had to go through grad-level statistics. Ostensibly, this was to teach us how to have valid experimental work and give us a better understanding in general of how statistics works. It was actually a good class and I’m glad I took it, even if the only real stats work I did was running a chi square test and some basic validity and reliability tests on my thesis. What I actually took away from the class was how easy it is to manipulate people with numbers. 60% of the time it works 90% of the time. 79% of people know that.

Since my degree – even though it was in Speech Comm – focused on rhetoric and persuasion, I’ve had a sick fascination with the ways people can be manipulated. Naturally, this last election cycle was like being on a several month long bender of lies and distortions. U.S. Presidential elections are usually like that, though. They’re like that crazy chick you know you should stay away from, but you still find yourself waking up in her bedroom and wondering what happened to your clothes and where you got the crazy idea to pierce various places.

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Shocked owl is shocked.

Just to get this out of the way, the election is over and this post isn’t directly about the election, anyway. What this is about, is all the paranoid ramblings that come up every election cycle. Since I’m a writer, I thought it would be fun to write a conspiracy theory and step y’all through the process of manipulating people for fun and profit.

Conspiracy theories are inherently interesting to us as humans. It’s easier to believe aliens built the pyramids than it is to understand a whole lot of people can accomplish something amazing when they set their minds to it. Just like with fake news stories (which are a form of conspiracy theories in that they exploit our base predilections) the trick with any good conspiracy theory is to take advantage the small truth and expand it in all kinds of exciting ways. We’re going to start with two small (probable) truths:

  • Self-driving cars will be a reality in about ten years
  • Insurance companies will offer higher rates for people who insist on driving themselves

I don’t have any concrete evidence for this, but the beauty of a good conspiracy theory is it doesn’t require much evidence. Actually, less evidence is better because it’s hard to refute nothingness. All you really need to do is work with something people already “know”.

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Meet your new car. The high-end ’82 Firebird turned a jaw-dropping 165 bhp from a V8 engine.

Now we’re going to throw some techno-babble at it to make it all sound scientific. Self-driving cars rely on GPS navigation and advanced near-AI computers. Don’t go overboard with the tech stuff or people will ignore it. Add a major corporation and a touch of heath care and you’ve got the makings of a great conspiracy theory.

To finalize the conspiracy theory all you need to do is add a bit of paranoid ramblings that sound truthy. Truthiness is important. A conspiracy theory plays on people’s inherent pre-judgements about the world around them. Again, take something everyone already “knows” is true. This is what separates a conspiracy theory from propaganda. Propaganda seeks to create the “truth”, conspiracy theories exploit that “truth”.  For our conspiracy theory we’re going to play on Americans’ inherent mistrust of government and large corporations. That’s actually one of the things that brings us together as a country: distrusting the people that run the joint and pay the bills.

truthinessdef
Knows a little too much about truthiness, if you know what I mean.

Put it all together and you get something like:

Self-driving cars are almost a reality. Google’s almost got one ready to deploy and you or your kids will probably be able to buy it. Guess what! You’ll also get a discount on your car insurance if you let the car drive itself because that’s how good Google is at this kind of thing and they’ve cut a deal with automotive insurance companies. Google’s actually creating an artificial intelligence to make it all work!

Think that’s a great idea? Think again.

Google is the same company that helped design the Great Firewall of China that blocked Chinese citizens from learning what their government is up to. And they did it at the behest of the State Department! It doesn’t take a genius to think they can do the same thing here in the United States. They’re also masters at working with GPS. Ever looked up your house on Google Maps? They’ve got pictures of your front door. They know where your phone is, too! Now, at the behest of the United States government, Google is going to be able to track your car and see everywhere you go! If you decide you’re going to McDonald’s, Google will know and they’ll tell the government. Since the government runs healthcare now, your health insurance rates will go up because you wanted a Big Mac and someone decided that’s unhealthy!

We’re through the looking glass here, folks. The future is now and it’s just like Orwell predicted: a boot on your throat forever. When self-driving cars debut, do yourself a favor and DON’T BUY ONE!

See how easy that was? Unfortunately, a lot of news these days follows the same kinds of formula. Find something interesting that are already twitchy about, extract it to a logical-sounding conclusion. Next time you read something that sounds too good to be true (Obama founded ISIS!), do yourself a favor and do some digging, especially if it smells conspiratorial. Just like with statistics, it’s possible to “prove” almost anything. Unlike statistics, a conspiracy theory or a fake news story doesn’t require much in the way of truth, it just has to sound true.

Remember, perception is reality.

Obligatory Election Year Blog Post

Ever stop to wonder exactly how the media can shape an election, intentionally or unintentionally? It’s remarkably simple: the best politicians know how to use the media to their own ends.

In January of 2004, I was in a hotel room in Bend, Oregon watching the Iowa Democratic caucuses on the TV and eating Mongolian stir-fry. Anyone familiar with the 2004 Iowa Democratic Caucus will immediately realize I was about to see an interesting sideline to US political history take place live and in color.

Remember this guy?

Howard-Dean-Joe-Raedle-Getty-Images-72350864
YAAARRRGH!

His name is Howard Dean and, at the time, he was considered one of the big movers and shakers in the upcoming Presidential election. I watched his speech at the caucus, primarily because I was curious about the guy people were calling a Rockefeller Republican (socially liberal, but fiscally conservative – it is actually a thing) and a guy who was so adamantly opposed to the ongoing war in Iraq.

So, he gets up and delivers his speech and God damn was that guy excited. Most candidates act like they’re excited, but Dean really was into it. He was having the time of his life and you could tell he actually believed in what he was saying.

And then, while I was munching on something unidentifiable, but fairly tasty, he threw out that scream that everyone has made fun of for over twelve years now. At the time, I remember thinking, “Damn. He’s genuinely excited.” He had some good ideas and I was leaning toward issuing my relatively worthless vote for him in the New Mexico primary. NOTE: NM votes really late in the primaries. Usually, by the time we get to vote, the primaries are pretty much decided.

So, I was feeling kind of proud of myself and generally happy that the Democrats might field someone who could take on Bush. I watched the rest, including the lackluster speeches from Kerry and Edwards, and even watched some of the final media interviews. And when Dean got a chance to talk to the media, my heart sank. One of the first things I remember him saying was something to the effect of “You guys in the media have been pretty mean.”

Right then and there, I knew his campaign was over. You never let the media smell blood in the water. No matter they say, you rise above it or ignore it. You can scream and yell about what jerks they are when you’re in private, but when you’re actually being interviewed, you never let them know they’ve gotten to you.

My guess was right; Howard Dean did not get the 2004 Democratic nomination. That went to this guy:

frankenstein

Whoops, wrong pic.

John_Kerry_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait
(Sorry, Mr. Kerry, you’re supposedly a great guy, I just couldn’t resist tossing a little joke in here.)

Howard Dean’s failed performance in the primaries was largely chalked up to that famous scream. It was the talk of the media for months. Someone even made a Howard Dean sound board so you could sit at your computer and listen to Howard Dean scream. Dean himself admitted it wasn’t the classiest move he could have made. But I have a different theory about why he got pummeled in the media and that was because he let them know they got to him.

Well, that and the Democrats wanted someone statesmanlike to take on the young, folksy twang of George W. Bush. Personally, I don’t think the DNC was ever behind Dean; he was too different from them. I don’t think they were behind Edwards, either, though. Kerry, while not the most exciting person to listen to, was experienced and brought an older, wiser feeling to the election and that’s what the DNC figured would win.

Until John Kerry got Swiftboated and Waffle-Housed and his whole campaign sank like the freaking Titanic because he couldn’t control the onslaught.

Flash forward twelve years and we some similar themes, albeit with different results. This time around, instead of Kerry vs. Bush, we’ve got Clinton vs. Trump and, damn, has this one gotten crazy. As of right now, one of the first things I look for when I read the news every morning is “what batshit insane thing did Trump say today?”

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More power? Thumbs up from me!
donald-trump
I can kill a puppy on live TV and my people will still love me.

Ah, there we go. Second Amendment folks can take care of the Hillary problem. That’s better than any cup of coffee for waking you up in the morning.

Nutty as this election cycle has been, it’s interesting to see some parallels with different results from the ’04 election. Dean went after the media early on and folded like a bad poker player when they went after him. Trump, on the other hand, went on the offensive. The extremely offensive, some (including Megyn Kelly) would say.

And that’s what’s really interesting. Trump – who has zero political experience, almost no filters, no real grasp of international politics, and is willing to go on the warpath over the slightest thing – is an absolute master of the media. They love to hate him and they love to repeat whatever insane thing he recently said. He could walk on stage and fart for 45 minutes and there would be an endless series of articles about “Trump’s Fart: What Did It Mean?”

And, amazingly, his followers would inhale that fart and claim it was the last breath of Freedom or some damned thing.

It’s easy to forget that Howard Dean had followers before the media destroyed him. He was, in some ways, an Internet sensation. Sure, he wasn’t in Trump’s league when it came to minions, but he was hardly unknown and unloved. The main difference, other than the fact that Dean had policies that didn’t involve building a wall around Mexico and filling it with water, was that Dean couldn’t manipulate the media like Trump can so a lot of people never figured out what Dean was really up to.

On the other hand, everyone knows exactly what Trump wants to do and they’re still in love with him. Which just goes to show there’s really no such thing as bad publicity. He can keep whining about the election being rigged (it’s not) or the way the Republican party is mistreating him (they are, but for very good reasons) and the media will dutifully report on how atrocious a person he is, his minions will continue to lick it up, and it won’t make a damned bit of difference come November.

What I find interesting about the media and Trump is how they’re doing his bidding without even realizing it. Every time they print a piece about Trump’s craziness and how terrible it is, he wins whatever sick little game he’s playing. And he’s doing it by just being himself.

Hillary Clinton, in her own way, is using the media to her advantage, too. All she has to do is shut up and let Trump talk. He’s already got his followers and is unlikely to gain or lose more over the next few months, but Hillary is busily picking off the disgusted Republicans and her lead will continue to grow.

And that’s how the media is influencing this election. Dean capitulated when the media spanked him. Trump is busily spanking the media back and giving them enough fodder to keep his name at the top of the headlines. Hillary, on the other hand, is doing her best to ignore the worst the media can throw at her. Three different ways of manipulating the message and the media.

Learning to the use the media is the first thing every politician needs to master. Trump gets it, even if his messages aren’t always (or ever) positive. Hillary knows when to keep her head down and when to rise up. Dean completely misunderstood how to deal with the media.

In the end, we’ll find out on the second Tuesday in November who did the best job of using the media.

Check out Howard Dean’s scream here

Rhetoric and Kim Davis

In case you’ve been living on Mars, in a cave, with your fingers in your ears, you’ve likely heard of Kim Davis.  She’s the Rowan County Clerk who has invited national (and possibly international) attention by refusing to issue marriage certificates to homosexual couples – and has apparently forbidden the rest of the clerks in her office from issuing them well.  Kim has ignored United States law by refusing to issue marriage certificates and today found herself locked up for contempt of court for ignoring multiple orders for her to issue marriage certificates.

In other words, to do her job.

Now, that’s not really what this post is about.  Her past has been beaten to death in the media over the past couple weeks and she’s got ardent supporters and people who want to see her dead.  All that’s been bandied about by everyone and their dog recently.

What interests me is a tiny little thought that pinged through my head this evening that makes me wonder if Kim hasn’t backed herself into a corner unwittingly.  Her original argument for not issuing – or allowing her office to issue – marriage certificates to homosexual couples sprung her religious conviction that marriage was supposed to be between a man and a woman.  She’s dug her heels in on this one and is refusing to budge.  I know from experience that it’s impossible to debate religion.  By it’s very nature of proclaiming to know everything, religion cannot budge on any issue lest it be seen as less than perfect.

Had Kim simply stood up and said, “I cannot, in good conscience, issue marriage certificates to homosexual couples because it violates my faith.  I am therefore stepping down from my position,” I would have felt sorry for her but also applauded her courage to her convictions.  After all, no one said living a Godly life would be easy and sometimes you have to walk away from things that you just can’t do.  I wouldn’t have agreed with her, but I would have appreciated her conviction.  Conviction is a rare thing these days.

Some people would probably ask how I can question her conviction when she’s in jail for refusing to do something she disagrees with.  To those people I would remind them that Kim Davis stopped issuing all marriage certificates because “she didn’t want to appear biased.”  That statement undermines everything in one fell swoop.  If she was truly convinced she was correct, she would have refused to issue marriage certificates only to homosexual couples on religious grounds and not cared a whit whether people saw her as biased.  After all, God supposedly has her back on this one, so all the courts and all the public opinion shouldn’t matter a bit.

She could have stood up, held her head up high, and pointed to whatever part of the Bible people use to prove these things.  By refusing to issue all marriage certificates Kim Davis has undermined her own soap box.

The fact that she’s refusing to issue any marriage certificates at all smacks of desperate desire to bury the evidence, to pretend she’s not really a bad person.  This leaves me with a couple possible suppositions based on her behavior.

  • She’s didn’t seriously expect this to be a big deal and now she’s stuck
  • She’s just trying to get attention

Neither of those are really good reasons to do what she’s doing.

Personally, I wish she (and everyone else) would just get over it and start treating everyone equally.  Failing that, she should step down and find a job that doesn’t challenge her beliefs so much.

I guess the plus side is the rest of the clerks in the office decided to go ahead and issue certificates starting tomorrow.

A Day to Remember

GoodNewsEveryone

A happy shout-out to everyone who can now legally get married.  Today is a great day!

Just as an aside, my marriage to my wife seems to be holding steady, despite all the rhetoric surrounding Gay Marriage undermining traditional marriage.

Now, go throw a party or something.  You’ve earned it!

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Jade Helm 15 and How Perceived Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Of course it would be Texas.

If you’ve been living in America, especially the Southwestern states, you’ve probably heard of Jade Helm 15.  If you haven’t, Jade Helm is apparently the U.S. Government’s plan to bring Texas into the United States and do some other stuff, too.  It’s a tale full of sound and fury, told by madmen (and women) symbolizing the country’s further descent into madness and paranoia.

In reality, Jade Helm is a training exercise for the U.S. Military.  The modern world is a different kind of battle ground and requires a different kind of tactic to win; the Jade Helm exercises seem to be nothing more than the military trying some new tactics to see how they work.  Frankly, in-country military training exercises are nothing now; they’ve been going on for decades.  However, since the U.S. government is run by Democrat, certain people have decided that the whole exercise is nothing more than a smokescreen for the evil Obama to take over the country (that he’s already President of) and silence his political enemies (who, apparently, are nuts).

It all started with a leaked map and PowerPoint presentation detailing an internal military training operation called Jade Helm 15 and the conspiracy theorists have spun it so completely out of control to the point that it now involves the United States government, Wal-Mart, the Chinese, ISIS, and a desperate attempt to conquer Texas.  Jade Helm has roped in such luminaries as Greg Abbot (the governor of Texas), Rick Perry (former governor of Texas and failed Presidential candidate who is blaming Obama for the whole debacle), and Ted Cruz (Tea Party favorite who has questioned the Pentagon about “what’s really going on with Jade Helm”).  Abbot has gone so far as to warn the Texas National Guard to “monitor the mission.”

Note how Texas is labelled.
Note how Texas is labelled.

So, what’s the story here?

It would appear there are quite a few empty WalMart stores in Texas.  This isn’t entirely unusual; there’s at least one in Albuquerque I can think of.  Wal-Mart has a history of opening stores and simply closing them when they become unprofitable or more of a pain than they’re worth.  The huge shells are usually repurposed into indoor flea markets, other stores, or extremely large meth dens.  Kind of a cycle of life thing.

The scuttlebutt surrounding the closings (at least in the saner circles) is that employees at the stores were trying to unionize and rather than deal with the hassle of working with a union WalMart simply shut the stores down and told the employees to piss off.  WalMart doesn’t care much for unions.

Now, to really understand the rest of this post, you kind of have to understand the political climate in America.  The Democrats hate the Republicans and the Republicans hate the Democrats.  I’m not kidding on this point.  A Democratic Senator could say something like “we all need air to breathe” and his or her Republican counterpart would argue that point tooth and nail, claiming our need for air was just another example of out-of-control government expansion and that we really don’t need air anyway.  A Republican Senator could claim that Capitalism is a pretty good thing and his or her Democratic counterpart would scream to the skies about how Capitalism is nothing but greedy, rich white guys trying to get richer.

Some voters get behind this and will find any and every reason to hate those guys, whoever those guys might be.

anatomy_republican democratbrain

To hear them speak, no one on the other side has ever had a good idea, is actively trying to destroy the country, is a horrible terrible rotten no-good person who is probably either a Nazi or a Communist depending on who’s doing the arguing.  Those other guys want to take away freedoms and implement a theocracy.  They’re all awful people and if we could just get our guys into the White House all our problems will immediately go away and everything will be fine.

Some people live in an elaborate fantasy world.

Now, I should point out that not all Republicans or Democrats think like that, most are pretty middle of the road.  Unfortunately, you don’t hear from the sane people, they’re too busy trying to get about the business of actually running the country; you hear from the loudmouthed idiots who love to spin yarns like Jade Helm and how it’s an elaborate plot to do something nerfarious.

Get ready, folks, we’re about to go through the looking glass…

I’ve already mentioned the abandoned WalMarts in Texas.  If you’ve never seen one, they’re monstrous stores.  Some of the bigger ones can hold small countries inside of them.  After you kick out the meth heads, you’ve got a perfect place to stage an invasion from.  Each store could easily be repurposed into a place to feed and house an army and hold political dissidents.  According to a segment of the population, this is exactly what’s happening to a handful of stores that were shut down.

shocked
That’s RIGHT!

The invasion will come from special forces troops under the command the evil Barrack Obama.  The United States government is, right now, digging tunnels under those closed Wal Marts to link them together.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Chinese are apparently in on it, too (even though the US and China don’t really get along).  As if that bad wasn’t bad enough, ISIS is taking part in the whole thing, too; they’ll be providing the false-flag attack that will let the US invade Texas.

Read through those articles and if they don’t chill your blood, well, try something that’s actually scary.

I work with a bunch of ex-military men and women at my job and I asked one of the guys (a former Marine) what he thought about the whole thing and he pointed out two interesting facts:

Those two facts taken together should have been sufficient to kibosh the whole thing, but some people are loathe to let pesky facts interrupt what is becoming an exciting new conspiracy theory.  Among one of the newer conspiracies I read earlier today related to a recent decision by the Obama administration to stop selling military hardware to local law enforcent.  At the time, it made sense: what city actually needs its police to have a tank?  The darker side, though, was recently brought to light when someone figured out that the government stopped supplying the police with military hardware JUST IN TIME FOR JADE HELM.  It was nothing more than a clever ploy to defang the police so they’d be powerless when the government troops (who are already stationed in Texas) rolled in.  As if by ceasing the sales of military hardware to local law enforcement somehow meant all the nifty toys the police already had (assault rifles, body armor, drones, etc) somehow vanished.  Now you’ve got a police force that’s incapable of protecting the citizens from the military.

THAT'S RIGHT!
THAT’S RIGHT!

Bear in mind, this is the United States military we’re talking about here.  They take out countries for breakfast.  A handful of cops with body armor and the odd armored car would be nothing more than late morning Triscuit.

Now, lest you think I’m painting all Republicans as total whack jobs, bear in mind there are plenty of sane Republicans out there.  John McCain has expressed disbelief that the whole thing has gotten so blown out of proportion.  Most people think the whole thing is nonsense.  But it’s those few people out there who honestly believe Jade Helm is nothing more than a cover so that Obama can come take them away in the dead of night to a FEMA reeducation camp who simply can’t stop talking about it that keep the story alive.  American media loves the fringe – and this is about as fringe as it gets.  It’s become an echo chamber and each new reverberation adds to the madness.

So, what does this have to do with what’s ostensibly a writing blog?  It’s the perfect plot for a political thriller.  It’s got all the elements of a great story, it just needs some fleshing out to make it personal.  In a year or two, no one will remember Jade Helm 15, and that would be the perfect time for the book to come out.  Only in the book, the exercise really is a smoke screen and some terrible things happen.  If it weren’t for the concerted efforts of a few good people, all would have been lost.

The whole of the Jade Helm conspiracy also goes to show just how crazy a plot can be and still be believable.  I really fretted about the plot to Henchmen: that it wasn’t believable, that it didn’t make sense, that no one would believe it.  It turns out I needn’t have worried.  The stories people are telling themselves about Jade Helm are far crazier.  One “Texas Ranger” is claiming to have seen trains equipped with shackles for political dissidents.  And here I thought the political prisoners were to be stored in WalMarts and secreted away in the elaborate tunnels.

Still, if you’re interested, Jade Helm will be running from July 18, 2015 through September 15, 2015.  I guess we’ll discuss it again on September 16th.  Maybe I’ll make up shirts that say “I survived Jade Helm.”

Maybe.  If we’re all still free enough to do that.

 

The First Amendment

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about what, exactly, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution entails.  It seems like every time someone gets kicked out of a Target for wearing an Ayatollah Assaholah T-shirt or has their show cancelled for spouting bigoted nonsense, they cry foul: “Oh, my First Amendment rights are being violated.” (NOTE: I’m not sure if anyone has been kicked out of a Target for wearing an Ayatollah Assaholah T-Shirt.  I haven’t seen one in years, but they were very popular when I was growing up.)

Totally talking to you guys here.
Totally talking to you guys here.

The sad fact of the matter is neither of these are technically First Amendment violations.  Take a gander at the actual First Amendment to the United States Constitution and see if you can find where Target or A&E are mentioned:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The only actor in the First Amendment is Congress.  Private businesses can still happily tell you to STFU.  Interestingly enough, so can individuals.  When Target asks you to leave because they feel the message on your T-Shirt is inappropriate they’re not violating your freedom of speech.  If A&E shuts down your show because they get pressure from advertisers and the public in general, your First Amendment rights have not been violated.  Here’s a handy-dandy guide to the who violate your First Amendment Rights and who cannot:

Can violate your rights:

  • United States Congress

Cannot violate your rights:

  • Everyone else

So, next time you’re worried that your First Amendment Rights are being violated because you want to wear you favorite T-Shirt that says “I ♣ Jews” or one that says “God Hates Fags” and the movie theater asks you to leave, you can refer to the above bullet points to see if your freedom of speech has been violated.  Since a movie theater isn’t the United States Congress there’s no way that theater can be violating your First Amendment Rights.  If Congress came along and asked you to leave the country over those shirts then, yes, you probably have a case.  With a theater, well, not so much.

The end result is pretty simply summed up in comic form:

From XKCD, the greatest web-comic.
From XKCD, the greatest web-comic.

It would appear to be politics as usual

First up, I just added a politics category.  We just had the midterms and the Republicans swept up a lot of new seats.  Presidential elections will soon start heating up and things are gonna get crazy ugly.  I’m predicting we’ll only hear from the extremists on either side and their arguments, as usual, will be completely full of shit.

American politics – and I suspect, all politics – is ugly business.  It sickens and disgusts me.  Reading anything political is like staring in wide-eyed wonder at the corpse that just got ripped in half by train; it’s horrifying and terrible, but I just can’t look away.

That said, a buddy of mine posted a link to a fake Letterman Top 10 List titled “LETTERMAN’S TOP 10 REASONS TO VOTE DEMOCRAT.”  It wasn’t actually written by David Letterman, but you can see the original post on LinkedIn.  If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, no worries.  I’ve posted it here so we can all get a good chuckle at those wacky Democrats and their crazy ideas.  So, without further fanfare, enjoy the well-reasoned (1), fully thought out (2), and absolutely hilarious (3) reasons to vote Democrat.

“#10. I vote Democrat because I love the fact that I can now marry whatever I want. I’ve decided to marry my German Shepherd.

# 9. I vote Democrat because I believe oil companies profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene, but the government taxing the same gallon at 15% isn’t.

# 8. I vote Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.

# 7. I vote Democrat because Freedom of Speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.

# 6. I vote Democrat because I’m way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves. I am also thankful that we have a 911 service that gets police to your home in order to identify your body after a home invasion.

# 5. I vote Democrat because I’m not concerned about millions of babies being aborted so long as we keep all death row inmates alive and comfy.

# 4. I vote Democrat because I think illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education, and Social Security benefits, and we should take away Social Security from those who paid into it.

# 3. I vote Democrat because I believe that businesses should not be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as the Democrat Party sees fit.

# 2. I vote Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters.

…And, the #1 reason I vote Democrat is because I think it’s better to pay $billions$ for oil to people who hate us, but not drill our own because it might upset some endangered beetle, gopher, or fish here in America. We don’t care about the beetles, gophers, or fish in those other countries.”

As soon as you’re done laughing at the rapier wit, we’ll continue the discussion.

The first problem I have with things like this is it manages to paint every Democrat with the same broad brush.  Even better, all the points are taken from the more nearly extreme end of the Democrats’ spectrum.  I had some trouble finding exact numbers, but it seems like there are approximately 72 million registered Democrats.  According to the author all of them share the exact same beliefs.  Needless to say, I was stunned by this because I’m a Democrat and don’t believe most of these point.

Let’s a take a point by point look at these.

“#10. I vote Democrat because I love the fact that I can now marry whatever I want. I’ve decided to marry my German Shepherd.”  This is a common argument against legalizing gay marriage.  It’s designed to make you afraid and show you just how bad things will get.  You see comments like this repeated all the damn time and everyone who says it thinks it’s absolutely the most clever thing anyone ever said and it’s the perfect way to stab the gay marriage debate right in its black heart.  It’s also complete bullshit.  Listen carefully, kids.  Marriage is a legally binding contract.  Meaning anyone who enters into marriage must be legally able to sign a contract.  Last time I checked, dogs did not have that legal standing in the United States.  Sure, some idiot out there already has married his dog, but it is not a legally recognized marriage because DOGS CANNOT SIGN CONTRACTS.  If you want to debate gay marriage at least have the common decency to make some kind of sense.

“# 9. I vote Democrat because I believe oil companies profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene, but the government taxing the same gallon at 15% isn’t.”  The Republicans held sway in this country during the Bush/Cheney administration and I don’t recall taxes on gasoline going down.  I do, however, remember paying nearly $5 a gallon for gasoline during that time (gas is under $3 in Albuquerque right now).  I cannot recall anyone, Democrat or Republican arguing for lowering gasoline taxes.  I do recall a few people saying we should open up our strategic reserves.  Because in the case of national disaster it would be good to know the national gas reserves have been depleted so some people could have cheaper gas for their H2s.

“# 8. I vote Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.”  I think this is another thing about taxes and how we have too many of them.  I’m guessing this is some kind of wishful thinking about how Republicans will completely eliminate taxes.  At least for things this guy doesn’t agree with: Planned Parenthood, food stamps, that sort of thing.  The military budget won’t get touched, though.  By cutting funding to Planned Parenthood we’d be able to keep the U.S. Government going for an extra 5-10 minutes.  If memory serves Reagan did lower taxes significantly and it was an economic disaster because they didn’t also lower spending.  Later, Republicans would blame the debacle on Democrat spending, even though Republicans had control of the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office at the.  Personally,  I don’t mind paying taxes.  I’m not always happy about where that tax money winds up, but I recognize the need for niceties like roads, schools, defense spending and so on.

“# 7. I vote Democrat because Freedom of Speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.”  This, unfortunately does tend to be an American tendency.  The PC police have softened the language while the religious right is busy squawking about how having to treat people they don’t agree with as equals is a violation of their First Amendment rights.  It’s no longer okay to say crippled or handicapped because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  At the same time, some God-fearing-folks are getting their nickers in a twist because people don’t  want religious iconography in court rooms or mythology taught as fact in schools.  Here’s my advice to everyone on this issue: suck it up.  Life if full of dealing with things you don’t want to deal with and hearing words you don’t like.  Life is hard, get over it.

“# 6. I vote Democrat because I’m way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves. I am also thankful that we have a 911 service that gets police to your home in order to identify your body after a home invasion.”  Another common meme among some Republicans is the oft-repeated idea that Democrats are all gun-grabbing loons.  First up, the Obama administration hasn’t done much (if anything) to curtail Second Amendment rights.  There were some rumblings among the more extreme left Democrats that private ownership of guns was a bad idea.  Don’t worry.  Most of us thought those people were idiots, too.  I don’t know of a whole lot of Democrats, at a personal level, who actively want guns taken away.  Regulated, sure, but not snatched up.  Hell, I don’t even know if it’s feasible or possible to take all the guns away.  As to the other sentence about the cops, that’s pretty much what the cops do.  Aside from driving around and glaring at everyone, I mean.  It’s kind of funny, actually.  Usually it’s the conservatives who are badge lickers, not the liberals.  When seconds count, the police are minutes away, so I’ll grant him the second sentence.

“# 5. I vote Democrat because I’m not concerned about millions of babies being aborted so long as we keep all death row inmates alive and comfy.”  I’ve read up on conditions on death row and they look pretty freaking far from comfy.  Besides, the two things have very little in common with each other other than fact that they’re in the same sentence.  I’ve known plenty of Pro Life folks and they get themselves extremely worked up over abortion, to the exclusion of everything else.  Here’s the problem though: these people will fight to the death and go so far as to kill abortion doctors to make sure the cute little babies get born.  After that, those babies and their mothers are completely on their own.  There used to be a summer lunch program here in Albuquerque that provided sandwiches for kids, gratis, at some of the parks in town.  Bear in mind, for some of these kids that was all there was to eat during the summer.  I know people who wanted it shut down because the extra five cents taken out of their checks in tax money was too burdensome.  So that’s the Pro Life movement right there: we’ll fight to the death to make sure you get born but after that, fuck you.  This is essentially a religious argument and I know plenty of people on both sides of the political spectrum who oppose abortion.

“# 4. I vote Democrat because I think illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education, and Social Security benefits, and we should take away Social Security from those who paid into it.”  Everyone needs a boogeyman.  It’s so much easier to control people when you can point to another group and say, “Those folks are responsible for all your problems.”  It’s not the fact that you have no skills or work ethic, it’s those guys over there taking your jobs away.  Again, I know of no single Democrat advocating Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants.  To get Social Security you have to pay taxes and register and do all sorts of other things that will get your ass kicked out of the country.  The whole illegal immigrant argument is getting stale, and most Republicans know it, so they’re upping the ante: Now it’s not just that they’re coming for our jobs (and probably women), they’re ISIS militants coming over the border to do nefarious things.  It’s bullshit and it ignores the root of the problem.  Why are people coming over the border illegally?  They’re looking for work.  Why do they think there’s work here?  Because PEOPLE KEEP HIRING THEM.  You want to stop the flow of illegal immigrants, clamp down hard on the people providing the jobs.

“# 3. I vote Democrat because I believe that businesses should not be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as the Democrat Party sees fit.”  What the fuck?  Couldn’t come up with something that makes sense?  Can someone shed some light on where this came from?  Honestly, I think the author was running out of good zingers and just started making things up.

“# 2. I vote Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters.”  Because it’s certainly only liberal judges that do this.  No conservative judge has ever used rewritten laws to support the right wing religious fringe groups who want to impose a Christian nation on the rest of us.  This is the classic example of “It’s not wrong when we do it.”

“#1 reason I vote Democrat is because I think it’s better to pay $billions$ for oil to people who hate us, but not drill our own because it might upset some endangered beetle, gopher, or fish here in America. We don’t care about the beetles, gophers, or fish in those other countries.”  Become a Republican and punch Mother Nature in the face!  The author must have been listening to Sarah “Drill Baby Drill” Palin (never a good idea, there are much better Conservatives to listen to) and decided she was onto something.  I’ll grant a reliance of foreign oil is a huge national security threat (note, the author doesn’t cover this aspect), but the solution isn’t increasing drilling in American, which could take up to a decade to get going and would probably cost a fortune anyway.  Also, as I understand it, we already have a lot of drilling going on here and it looks like the trend is increasing.  What we need to focus on is some kind of renewable or alternative energy source but most conservatives dismiss that as hippie talk.  Besides, we produce more oil than we import, anyway, and the trend looks like it’s increasing.

While we’re here, let’s take a quick look gander at the environmental arguments here.  Sure, drilling might displace or damage endangered animals.  That can be somewhat problematic depending on the animal, but I would posit that the greatest threat is to things like ground water and air.  Everyone needs air and water and polluting it so you can get slightly cheaper gas for your monster truck just doesn’t make long-term sense.  Ecosystems are kind of complicated things and I won’t delve into the ramifications of eliminating certain beetles, gophers, or fish, but it can have devastating effects.  Add to that the environmental issues of pumping waste into rivers, lakes, and the air and you’ve got a good enough reason to at least think twice about drilling for oil.  I don’t know about you, but I like air and water that won’t kill me.

So, there you go.  The Top Ten Lies People Keep Telling Themselves About Democrats.  Funny stuff, no?

The biggest problem with nonsense like this is it further entrenches the ideas of us and them in the minds of a lot of people.  Not all Republicans think this way, nor do they all think it’s real.  Truthfully the Republicans have some decent ideas, it’s not all a bunch of hullabaloo about immigration and abortion.  I don’t particularly care for their track record on the social side of things and I think they’re getting more and more likely to let big business run roughshod over us, but I agree with the idea that a smaller government is generally better than a larger one.  The problem is when the Republicans had absolute control over government, they didn’t do a damned thing to shrink government.  They started a couple wars and created a brand new agency, but they didn’t actually shrink the government at all.

As a side note, they didn’t do much to stop abortion, either, did they?  It’s almost like politicians will say whatever it takes to get elected and then go ahead and do whatever they feel like.

Honestly, when you get right down to it, most of the time it doesn’t really matter who’s in charge because not much ever really changes.  Marriage equality is becoming more and more common and I’m happy to see that, but that wasn’t politicians driving the cause forward; that was people driving the cause forward.  Same thing with marijuana legalization.  If you want to see the country change, quit backing these political shucksters (I made that word up) and go out and drum up some support for something you believe in.

Above all, though, quit listening to crap like this list.  It’s not based in reality, it’s not rational and, worst of all, it’s not even funny.  Stuff like this doesn’t help anyone and it doesn’t convince anyone that your cause has any merit whatsoever.  All it does is make you look like a fool.

1: Not actually reasonable, paints half the country with one giant brush

2: Not really though out, just a bunch of bumper sticker logic

3: I, personally didn’t find if funny; your mileage may vary