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[personal profile] ocschwar
"Debating" on the Web is good for one thing, and one thing only, which is it's an opportunity to blow off steam by throwing contempt and bile on somebody who probably deserves it, instead of throwing it at someone who might not deserve it, and who might know where you sleep.

I've learned this, and so even though I am right about everything, and so many people are wrong about so many things, I let the humanity continue to wallow in the error of its ways, and continue to be wrong. Even on the Internet. Because I really don't like sleeping on the couch.

But every once in a while, you (well, I) may encounter a person whom you care about, and you you really do want to knock/slap/massage/tickle/inject some sense into. For me, it's one person who has descended into 9/11 troofery, and a high school friend who just moved, with two little completely unvaccinated daughters, right into Oregon's pertussis pandemic area.

In both cases, you have an Internet debate between one crowd dominated by nutjobs and charlatans seeking to profit from them, and a crowd that is in the right, but is made of people who clearly have too much free time, and too quick a tendency to flame. (I know, I know. I live in a glass house there.) Those people in the latter crowd have amassed the information you need to prove your case, all of it readily available from the Google Cache. You just need to figure out how to tap into that resource and use it to sway this one person whom you happen to know. In the latter case, I happen to have a strong motive. Whooping cough kills. And when it doesn't kill, it still sucks. But in both cases, I'm constrained by the simple fact that when people are presented with evidence against a deeply held belief, they tend to reinforce their adherence too that belief defensively.

The approach I took in both cases was to be as gentle as possible about this, and to attack their believes on one thing and one thing only, in hope that it might lead eventually to an unraveling. In the 9/11 case, I pointed out that the Troofer site he/she cited claims to want a debate but is in fact assiduous about censoring any attempt at same. In the antivaccine case, she gave me a rant about how it's not right that a baby should be "bombarded" with multiple vaccines before even leaving the hospital, I pointed out that in fact the US vaccine schedule has only one vaccine for the newborns, and waits for 2 months before starting on any others.

Might work. Might not. I just really hope not to check Facebook some evening and find out that a friend of mine is now tending to a kid with the fucking whooping cough. I was born in Israel. I had classmates whose parents lost siblings to disease like whooping cough, because until about the time I was born, Israel was a desparately poor country, full of refugee camps for Jews from places like Iraq and Yemen. Not something I would wish on an enemy, let alone a friend.

In the vaccine "controversy", one of the main speakers for the bullshit side was Jenny McCarthy, whose education on vaccines came from what she called the "University of Google." If I were a Google employee, my personal project would be exactly that. The University of Google, meaning algorithms that would help Google sway search results on matters of fake controversy, and sway them towards material that is not only on the right side, but that is effective rather than strident and bilious.
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