I've written in the past that I have a "ditto head" right-wing friend who does what ditto heads are born to do -- put together a mailing list and send ranting articles written by others that he forwards along, with no thought, opinion or comment of his own, other than, "Read this. Obama is destroying America and here are the damning facts."
I know I'm not alone in this. I suspect that there are many people nodding their heads wearily right now.
(These ditto head emails are the political version of religious cults who come to your door, empty-eyed, and try to force leaflets in your hand, hoping their pamphlet will save you from damnation.)
Sometimes, even, the political cult and religious cult overlap.
Yesterday, for instance, I received another one. It read -- "Did we ever foresee the day when Israel, tries to intervene on behalf of…uh, Egypt?! What? Yup, it happens when you have a U.S. administration (elected by Jews) basically siding with Muslim Brotherhood jihadists. Oy."
And then The Article was forwarded below. I don’t know who wrote it, or what publication that it was from. Just that I was supposed to read it – and take what it said it face value. What the article said was -- oh, I don't know. I gave up reading his articles long ago. I used to try and then write back, explaining what was wrong in the articles -- and why the author's credentials (which I'd had to research myself) often raised further questions.
I decided I'd had enough. And last night, I wrote him back. I went through several drafts, because I really like the guy. He used to be very liberal, but like many converts, he has gone True Believer whole hog over the deep end. I also wanted him to read the whole response, and not stop after the first couple of sentences. So, I tried to make it as polite and thoughtful as possible.
At first, my note was just to him, but right before hitting send, I got a reply from one of those on the mailing list, sending his empty "You bet, isn't it terrible!" support. So, I changed, and hit, "Reply All."
This is what I sent --
Dear -- ,
I thought your note deserved a response, and I was only going to send it to you. But since I'm clearly on a mailing list, and since I see that it has already brought about a response, I thought it best to reply to All. If "All" are bothered by this or have no interest in reading further, that's fine by me. I understand completely.
I have always enjoyed discussing things with you, and continue to and will continue to, but when you give up your own thought process to simply photocopy unquestioningly the thoughts of others, it has lost all meaning to me. I want to hear your analysis, your opinions. I like discussing opinions, whether I agree with them or not -- but I can't discuss opinions with a forwarded article. Forwarded articles don't explain their contradictions or inaccuracies when challenged.
When I have zero idea who you're quoting or their credentials, or have zero idea why I should trust or respect what someone I don't know says, why in heaven's name should I care what they say? Especially since I can't argue back with them. Especially since, based on past experience when I have looked into who wrote these forwarded always "anti-President Obama" articles from you they have fallen apart as empty and thoughtless screeds under the guise of faux-scholarship reporting. Anything new that you merely forward along as "Here, read this, isn't it sick that Obama is destroying America" simply falls into that same meaningless category. Yet when I've explained why the articles seem empty, why facts may be wrong, why the slant is tunnel vision ignoring other areas that impact the reality, we've never had a discussion of them because the articles are someone else's thoughts that you're just forwarding along. So, you have nothing to add, just "Read this!"
Lest you think this is shallow and "so liberal" of me to feel this way, I hope you will agree that I no more want to read your sources than you want to read mine. So, why would you send them to me, thinking they would mean anything and that I would care to read them? Would you read something I sent you from the New York Times that explained why unemployment is down? Or the Washington Post explaining how the budget deficit has dropped drastically ? Or the London Times discussing improved U.S.-international relationships? Or NBC saying anything? Or any credited, respected source that said something you didn't like? What I do want to read, though, is a thoughtful discussion from you that explains your own thinking and why specifically you think these reports you read are substantive.
You must understand, I have written and published over 700 articles, most on politics. And I research them when facts are required, and include attributions of my sources. I like opinion, I respect thought, and I devote a great deal of time and effort into presenting mine, whether people agree with them or not. So, to just get an email that says, "Here's what someone else thinks," is something that falls deeply flat with me and empty. I hope you can appreciate that. I know you're smarter, and better, and more thoughtful than just forwarding articles. But I have too much respect for the amount of time I spend thinking about my opinions and what I write, publicly under my name, for others to agree or disagree with and debate, to spend time with opinions that are merely passing along the thoughts of others, without any evidence of questioning those thoughts of others.
All of this is to let you know that I have given up reading your emails when they consist of nothing other than you forwarding articles that others have forwarded to you, from someone who has forward them to them. Whenever you want to discuss the details and whys of your own opinions, great, I'd love hearing them. But really, you KNOW I disagree with your opinions as much as you mine, so sending me along an article from someone else is a waste of your time. If you want to use these articles as support of your own opinions, great -- but not as replacement of them. I don't want to hear from "them," whoever "they" are. I want to hear from you.
I'm not going to try to convince you that you of anything. I get it that you have been convinced by others that President Barack Obama is a disaster for the United States. That's your unshaking opinion, and anything I said would fall on deaf ears because it's not what you want to hear. I get it. You will continue to be distraught over the president and tell me so. I can only imagine what you'd say, though, if he had been president when the Twin Towers were attacked. Or when it was shown that the president was warned and did nothing. Or if he had been president when the economy collapsed. Or when unemployment and the budget deficit actually skyrocketed. Or when we attacked another country without evidence or provocation. But alas, he wasn't president then, so I am left to imagining your outrage, since you have no complaints about any of that. Which makes the articles you forward all the more empty.
You don't like President Obama. I get it. And I get it that you read sources that are designed to reinforce your point of view. So, it will always and only be your point of view. I get it. And so be it. Unfortunately, the articles you have forwarded to me have never convinced me of anything because I actually read a lot of news from a lot of sources -- liberal, moderate and conservative -- much that is conflicting and questioning and that takes a deeper perspective of the wide and gray areas of the world around. Yes, I have my point of view which is liberal. But I have reached that point of view by reading and thinking about all these ranges of sources.
I love discussing opinions. I love discussing facts. I spend a great deal of time writing about them. I have zero interest in those who just forward articles of others and say, "Read this!!" Just so you know for the future: no, I won't. But I always love to hear from you and what your own thoughts and ideas are.
I hope things are well, and best wishes with your upcoming project.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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