A lot of lefty and moderate bloggers out there refer to right wingers as "wingnuts." I used to giggle when I read that, but I refrained from resorting to this ad hominem because I believed, naively, that you could actually win an argument with a wingnut. The fact is that wingnuts are never playing by the same rules as I am, and they know exactly how to take advantage of my charitable nature by invoking my rules, only to ultimately subvert them. Wingnut is actually not an ad hominem but a fairly useful diagnostic tool to help you know what you are dealing with and how to avoid going crazy.
Interacting with a right wing pundit is like interacting with someone who has borderline personality disorder (BPD). If any of you out there have dealt with a BPD, you know how crazy it is.
Folks with BPD have four salient characteristics that lead me to make this comparsion with wingnuts.
(1) Emotionally Driven Interactions with Others: Every interaction you have with a BPD/Wingnut always devolves into emotional pleas, crises, and wars. All conversations about anything, whether it be as mundane as what to do for dinner tonight or how to better our schools, turn into holier-than-thou condemnations of your views because you are absolutely immoral, selfish, intolerant, or uncaring. If you aren't being accused of possessing every possible vile human characteristic, then you are forced to see that they are actually your victims. Nothing is ever their fault. For example, College professors are insensitive to my views when they present evidence that the war is unjustified. Or, primary schools are conspiring against young boys by making them sit quietly and attentively in class, that is why they aren't going to college.
"For complex reasons, Borderline pathology includes a relatively fast-and-loose relationship to historical fact when the individual is emotionally aroused in some way. If a Borderline feels abused, in their mind, abuse must have factually
happened. For obvious reasons, this is an extremely confusing world-view for others to comprehend; all the more so, given the obvious intellectual clarity of the individual in other contexts."
(2) Projective Idealization: BPD/wingnuts accuse you of engaging in the crazy behaviors that they are actually engaging in. They take the focus off of how nuts they are by telling the world that you're the one doing it, not them.
"As in projection, the individual deals with emotional conflict or internal or external stressors by falsely attributing to another his or her own unacceptable feelings, impulses, or thoughts. Unlike simple projection, the individual does not fully disavow what is projected. Instead, the individual remains
aware of his or her own affects or impulses but mis-attributes them as justifiable reactions to the other person. Not infrequently, the individual induces the very feelings in others that were first mistakenly believed to be there, making it difficult to clarify who did what to whom first."
My favorite recent example is the issue of "indoctrination." The wingnuts spend hours trying to indoctrinate others to their looney views through a coordinated, well-financed media effort (the Churches do their part too). They misrepresent reality: "global warming isn't real" "we are winning the war in Iraq." They rename what they are doing to make it sound legitimate, e.g. illegal wiretapping becomes "terrorist surveillance program." Then, when a sane, balanced individual questions their sense of reality--i.e. a college Professor asks students to consider the ethics or legality of state sanctioned torture--well, you are indoctrinating students with your left-wing looney ideas.
(3) Splitting: BPDs/wingnuts see are black and white thinkers. Either you are "with us or against us." There is no room for grey or for considering more complicated, nuanced explanations for how the world works. You can go from being the most noble, beloved person on the planet to the worst, most hated just because you say something that a BPD/wingnut doesn't want to hear. There is no room for disagreement.
(4) Triangulation: If a BPD/wingnut doesn't succeed in manipulating you, they will find someone close to you and get them to do the job. Let's say that you put up clear boundaries and say "no, I will no longer engage in this conversation about abortion with you any longer if you insist on calling me a murderer." They walk away. You think, finally, some peace of mind. Then, 8 hours later a close relative, let's say your mother, calls you and asks "why were you so mean to"X" (BPD/wingnut)." Your mom will also proceed to ask why you felt it was necessary to have called her controlling and insensitve, since most likely your BPD/wingut nemesis has told them lies to win them over to their side.
If you are interacting with a BPD/wingut and you are starting to feel crazy, you know like night is day and up is down, there is help.
First, stop believing that you can actually have a rational, reality-based conversation with this person. You can't.
Second, they prey on you because you're tolerant, charitable and fair-minded. They force you to have to shut the door on them and their views if you have any hope for sanity and peace. I know, this is hard. Well, it was hard for my naive self, believing that if we sat down and had a real conversation with the other side we might come to some common ground. You can't.
Third, be prepared for being called intolerant, close-minded, controlling and indoctrinating. But, this is just another one of their ploys for messing with you. If you build strong enough fences, eventually they'll find some other poor sucker to pick on.
(Cross posted at Sisyphus Shrugged)