Here, Let Me Google That For You (A Guide To Dealing With Idiots On The Internet)

roflbot0327141Let Me Google That For You is quite possibly the best thing on the internet. We’ve all experienced the moment when, during an online conversation, someone refuses to spend just a few minutes Googling information before lending their opinion. Perhaps it’s an anti-vaccine nut, bound and determined to prove (without any facts) that vaccines are killing our kids. Or that Bill Gates supports eugenics. Or a Fox News junkie claiming that the Keystone Pipeline will created hundreds of thousands of jobs. It’s all bull, and often they know it, but it’s your job to prove they’re wrong.

I used to do this. I used to zip over to Google, open a few windows, find links to factual articles, polls, or studies, and, feeling rather proud of myself, pop those links into the conversation. Guess what? The person with whom I was “chatting” didn’t care. They never do. If Alex Jones says juice boxes are “turning” our kids gay, and Wing Nut Daily (World Net Daily) states President Obama is a gay Muslim, born in Kenya, that’s good enough for them. What I’ve learned more recently is this whole “Google is the anti-Christ” theme isn’t just limited to the fringe.

Rick Ungar is a writer for Forbes, a lone liberal voice in a forest full of conservatives. He’s a good writer, and he covers a range of topics. Tuesday, Rick delved into the Hobby Lobby 401(k) fiasco, and as usual, his conservative followers decided to chime in. On his Facebook page, numerous right wing men defended Hobby Lobby, and “spoke” to the women on the thread as if we were petulant toddlers. I commented on the thread, pointing out that the four contraceptives Hobby Lobby included in their brief did not cause abortions, so, hypocrisy aside, they were simply wrong. And then, it happened.

A man named Michael asked me how an IUD works. The first thing that flew through my brain was, “Let me Google that for you,” followed by a few choice words. I did not type that. I wrote that I would not Google that for him, but here’s a brief written by physicians, explaining what contraceptives do. He responded:

Erin, first let me thank you for the reference. I read it and I see why you did not understand it well enough to state what it said. For others who might have the legitimate question as I did know that the IUDs in question work differently but essentially create an environment in the uterus that is hostile to conception. The only reason I can see that Erin did not just say this is because she didn’t understand it. Well Erin, live and learn. Now you know.

I…err…what?

Now, a year ago, I would have lost it. My face would have flushed, I would have clenched my jaw, driven my fingernails into the palm of my hand, and spent the next twenty minutes copying and pasting portions of the brief into the thread, along with facts about IUDs. But I didn’t. I laughed, drank some more coffee, and played Bejeweled Blitz, because I get it now. Michael is at least two things: He is a conservative man who has no idea what contraception is or how it works (see Rush Limbaugh), and he presents his arguments as yet another a sexist asshat who thinks talking down to a woman makes him macho. Another man on the thread began gently challenging Michael, who didn’t like that one bit:

Jeff, you said, “Is Rick’s contradiction a form of hypocrisy?” but I’m not very bright (ask Erin) so can you clarify exactly how the contradiction you see is constituted because I’m not seeing it?

Super confused at this point, since I never even implied Mikey’s not very bright. But by turning himself into the victim, he’s hoping to draw attention away from the facts, and hijack the thread. When it didn’t work, he posted a passive aggressive smiley face, and exited the conversation.

This will happen almost every time you try and engage people on the far right (and the far left) in an online conversation. You have to have five windows open on your computer, you have to Google everything, you have to do all the work, and when you prove your point beyond any reasonable doubt, they just call you stupid. Or they’ll call you brainwashed, or a “sheeple,” or some other name, and storm off to spray the sky with vinegar. It’s a waste of your time, so stop it.

Learn from me, learn from my experience. The headaches, the swearing, the furious typing, the frustration – not worth it. You will never change their minds. Michael will never stop thinking contraception causes abortion, he will never stop be a condescending twit towards women, and he will never stop defending conservative causes. Anti-vaxxers will never admit they’re wrong, Keystone Pipeline supporters will never understand the truth behind the jobs numbers, and Sarah Palin supporters will never believe she’s a grifter.

You’re not the jackass whisperer, you’re not required to Google That For Anyone, and you can just get up and walk away. Understanding that will add years to your life, and life to your years. When it happens (and it will, possibly within the next five minutes), take a deep breath, smile to yourself, and paste the link to “Let Me Google That For You” into the conversation. Bookmark the page. Buy the t-shirt.

Erin Nanasi

Erin Nanasi is the creator of The Bachmann Diaries: Satirical Excerpts from Michele Bachmann's Fictional Diary. She hates writing about herself in the third person. Erin enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with family. And wombats. Come visit Erin on on Facebook. She also can be found on Twitter at @WriterENanasi.

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  • Michael Siever

    Plan B is as much abortion as shooting an intruder in your own house is first-degree murder…

    • Matthew Reece

      That analogy only holds in cases of rape.

  • Sandy Greer

    Here’s the thing: We are not going to change our minds because somebody we don’t even know, and likely never will – somebody with absolutely no influence in our lives – says so. We post the internet to express our opinions. Some of us are Trolls, looking for a fight. Some come to be validated, especially on sites like Forward Progressives. Some few are curious enough to learn a little something now and then.

    But IF we learn something ‘new’, it’s not because it was drilled into our heads by somebody intent on proving themselves ‘right’ and us wrong. As IRL, the need to be right will repel, rather than endear.

    We need to establish Sympatico and/or Respect, if we wish to reach out and touch strangers enough to change hearts and minds.

    ^^^Barring that, it’s best to keep your sense of humor close by. 😉

  • Lesha

    Gotta love trolls! Here..let me Google that for you…NOT

  • oldngrumpy1

    Conversing with the radical right about any issue is like playing chess with a pigeon. They will strut around while making unintelligible noises, knock all the pieces over, then shit on the board just before making their exit. It is maddening if you only consider them and yourself as the interested parties, but you aren’t. It has been proven that only about 25% of the people who read political posts on the internet will comment on them. By countering your “opponent” with factual information in a calm, but firmly confident, manner, you are communicating to 6 more people you didn’t even know were there. Don’t stoop to their level, but call them out for patronizing others. People respect a champion of others. Make sure that you never forget those 6 other people and supply “them” with as much verification of your assertions as necessary to prove your point to a rational person, which they likely are. Then let the bullies and trolls show those people why you are the bigger person as they fling their best shit around the board.

    • Mandolin Bee

      Agreed. When I engage people like that (quite often in Mr. Ungar’s posts, actually) it’s not to influence their opinion, but to make sure there’s a polite, structured counterpoint. They tend to drive themselves into a hole, and I figure that others who read the exchange will at least come away with some resources and information rather than ignorant guessing and hysterics.

      • oldngrumpy1

        Having moderated and administered several discussion boards, I got to see a lot of back end stats, and the numbers of views compared to comments always surprised me. This also shows on social sites and pages, such as Facebook. Look at the number of “likes” a Facebook posting garners compared to it’s comments. And that doesn’t even count those who read and do nothing else.

        The only circumstances where I would suggest not engaging the trolls is on discussion threads whose topic has nothing to do with what the troll wants to interject, or when someone more capable has already engaged them. Then it’s best to remind the offender of the topic and cut off engagement, or to simply post a one or two word comment showing support for the poster already engaging them. It’s important to remember that your anonymous status on most boards conveys no benefit to you for displaying your vast knowledge of a subject, which is what motivates many.

        Also, especially when you venture into unfriendly territory, such as Faux News, remember that the owner and moderators of the board may have complete access to your profile information, which often contains enough info to enable a fairly competent hacker to find other online presences you have, or even your physical address. There are some really unbalanced people posting on political discussions.

  • rickungar

    Erin- I really enjoyed this!!

  • Michael Miller

    I am the “Michael” this Erin Nanasi is talking about behind my back. My entire post about this to Erin before her rant was “So, Erin, how do the IUDs work?” Note the “the” in the question. We were talking about specific IUDs not all IUDs but Erin read too fast and assumed too much then she behaved in a cowardly fashion. I was allowing her to inform me and everyone else how these particular IUDs DID NOT abort a fetus but, rather, worked in a different fashion BEFORE the embryo attached to the uterine wall. She immediately assumed that I was somehow attacking her gender and that I was a conservative. I was not and am not, look at Rick Unger’s Facebook account and see for yourself. After she made this assumption I did allow her to go on and rant about what she thought I had meant. I did not defend myself there. Not that I should need to defend myself but I will. I helped to set up the first battered women’s shelter in Somerset County, NJ nearly 40 years ago and I have fought for women’s rights ever since, both politically and in the consulting room. People of either gender or anyone in between, need to find the facts before attacking other people out of hand. So, Erin, in the future, Google it before you assassinate a person’s character.

    And, in case you think I made this all up just for Erin you can look at my Facebook account which existed long before Erin’s assumptions and which she could have looked up herself, it’s not restricted like Erin’s is. I wonder why she didn’t?

    • It’s not really talking “behind your back” if she put it on an internet page for anybody to see. And you do come off like a jackass both in her post and in your comment. Also, for a man who claims he set up a women’s shelter, you are curiously and weirdly combative regarding a woman’s personal decision to restrict her Facebook page. Can you think of any reasons why a woman might not wish to open herself up to strangers besides being a meaniepie blogger who just hates you personally?

      • Michael Miller

        “Behind my back” – That’s what you took away from this whole thing? Really? You are going to ignore that she was too lazy to check me out before she got on her high horse. Do you really think I don’t know what my own political leanings are?
        I don’t know who was so horrible to her in her life to warrant this attack but it certainly was not me. The rage is real but it’s misdirected. I don’t know her story but I know I’m not part of it.

      • Then why in the world would it bother you? You just make yourself look like more of an asshole with the tone trolling and gaslighting. I realize you think you’re some kind of mega-authority on all things female, so I’m not going to try to fix you, but I will say this: it is off-putting in the extreme that you keep harping on her social-media pages being private, considering you should know out of all men just why she might make that decision. Stop that.

      • Michael Miller

        Now you are using personal insults (just like the conservatives often do) but let me point out that no one is asking for Erin’s address or phone number (and I mentioned privacy one time, you are the one who seems to be preoccupied with it.) But it’s not unusual on Facebook for people to offer their education and/or professional background. The only reason for not doing so is if you don’t have any or you are ashamed. You accused me of “gas lighting” when nothing I have said is false, unlike what Erin said about me. It’s a well known conservative tactic to accuse others of what you yourself are guilty of.
        I try to use words precisely so please don’t read into my meaning. Usually my words mean what they appear to mean. If I slip up and I’m vague ask me, don’t fill in meaning on your own, please.
        I ask you and your “hero” what, practically, have you really done for women? Sitting behind a computer screen and shooting your mouth off doesn’t count. Writing checks for someone else to do the work doesn’t count – but keep writing the checks anyway. Where were you in the 1980’s when I was the only shrink in my area treating HIV+ gay folks for depression/addiction? That was when the diagnosis was a death sentence, and many of my people did die. Or, ever since then, where were you when I helped set up the first battered women’s shelter in my county? (And I said “helped”, not that I did it alone. Jackie Wigand, one of my mentors, was the courageous head of the effort. It takes guts to be the first and she was.) Where were Erin and her flippant “observations” when I helped get addicted women prostitutes off the streets and into jobs in New Brunswick, NJ? Where were you when I was helping get women in Plainfield, NJ onto methadone maintenance and into jobs programs and out of the grip of pimps? Where were you when I was volunteering my time to help women at the Clinton Prison for Women in NJ get their GEDs? Where were you when I sat with a black prostitute’s young children (after she was arrested for shoplifting food for her kids) because DYFS refused to come into her neighborhood at night and pick up the kids? Where were you when I provided thousands of hours of free therapy to these same people right up until I retired? I didn’t claim to be an expert at anything, those were your words. You mock what I might know and what I have done. Who does that? Who mocks a helper of people who hurt? Why would any caring person do that?

        I am sure you have your own story but don’t just attack when someone points a finger. Do your own homework to find out if that finger-pointing has any truth in it. Have you done anything to check me out other than misinterpret what I have said? Erin said I was certainly “a conservative” and that I did not know anything about contraceptives. After reading my FB page does any of that make sense? Googling my name won’t help much, there are tens of thousands of Michael Millers but my FB page certainly reveals if I am a conservative or ignorant. Granted most of what’s on my account is social but the truth about my way of thinking is there if you look for it. I have done my part for many of the world’s less fortunate, how about you? (And I certainly did not get rich doing it.) I responded when Erin lied about me out of laziness. Wouldn’t you defend yourself?

        Pseudo-progressives are just as bad as conservatives, maybe worse. I can’t make your hero smarter or less lazy or, for heaven’s sake, braver. Attacking me doesn’t make you, or Erin, better. Use that energy to do something real in the world. Stop attacking someone who has spent their life helping people simply because your hero didn’t do her homework before she rushed her flawed opinion into “print”.

      • So what if I did my homework by reading your own comments and came to the completely independent conclusion that you sound a lot like a standard-issue controlling, abusive asshole?

        Is this seriously part of your grand master campaign to make yourself look like less of a controlling, abusive asshole? Because at this point you’d have to look up to see the bottom of that barrel. What’s next on the agenda, posting videos of yourself kicking puppies to demonstrate how loving you are? So far, it really looks like everything she said was completely true. How much more investigation do I need to do before Daddy will allow sweet widdle-girl me to make my own decisions about what sort of person you are, since that–according to you–is what this whole thing is all about here?

        ETA: I won’t be posting further on this topic, because you honestly are not getting it, and I can see that. I probably shouldn’t even have said anything further because I know it’s just going to goad you into saying something even more ridiculous. Shine on, you crazy diamond.

      • Michael Miller

        I asked for any ways that you have contributed to helping women and an attack of name calling is the best you can do. I’m sorry you are so sad.
        … and it gets better when you get out of high school.

  • surfjac

    I got into it with a 2nd amendment-er earlier who thought that the mentally ill should have weapons. Many argued with him. I chose to agree and tell him that the mentally ill have every right to keep and bear arms so they can randomly kill innocents. He called me a bigot and guilty of hate speech. I’m tired of googling for them too.

  • David Watson

    If the right is not going to take the time to educated themselves about di-hydrogen mono-oxide and how people drown in di-hydrogen mono-oxide all the time in lakes, streams, homes and bath tubs, and how ‘Obama is doing nothing about di-hydrogen mono-oxide’; I agree, it’s a waist of time Googling for the militant ‘Benghazi*’ ignorant. Thanks for putting into writing how I feel about the frustration of trying to educate the ‘Benghazi*’ ignorant. As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you cant make him think. *Note: Benghazi has nothing to do with the price of tea in China. Lets see them run with that for a week or two.

  • Emora

    Fun fact: This is how Michael responds to the article on Facebook. Very different from the pro-woman advocate he tries to be here.

    So you have a cowardly woman who will not face me here probably because she finally looked at my profile and discovered that she was totally wrong about me being a conservative or me being stupid. I asked this person the question in complete honesty. I wanted to know the mechanism of the IUDs in question. Rather than saying that the UIDs created a hostile environment (rather than simply aborting an attached embryo) she made wild assumptions and ran and hid from me. Then she tried to turn the entire thing on it’s head by claiming her gender as some sort of protection, which had nothing to do with my question. THEN she acts out her anger at her completely self induced shame (of her own ignorance) by blogging elsewhere rather than trying to respond reasonably. So, Erin, like many trolls regardless of gender, you choose to throw spite rather than inform. A cowardly and stupid act.

    • Michael Miller

      I don’t see how this is a slam against women. Get rid of your presumption that Erin is right about me being a conservative man who doesn’t understand how contraceptives work (I’m not and I do) and tell me what about this attacks women. Not a woman, but women in general? It seems that by your logic any negative thing a man says about any woman is sexist. Is that what you are saying? What if the woman is a jerk? What if the woman is Sarah Palin?

      • Michael Miller

        Yeah, I thought so.

    • I just wish it was surprising to me anymore when I hear stuff like this.

  • OakenTruncheon

    When posting links to relevant facts, and expert opinion, the point is not convince the troll of anything. The point is to counter their propaganda for the sake of any person seeking a better understanding of the topic.

  • Gary Harryman

    Erin, I sympathize. I’ve come up against the same maddening off-the-rails-logic when trying to re-educate Americans who believe forced male or trans genital mutilation is not a Human Rights Violation just as female genital mutilation is. Giving them a long check list of facts via Internet links doesn’t seem to work; you just can’t cure persistent stupidity nor time-hardened ignorance if the person refuses to open their mind up to Progressive concepts like Equality, Human Rights, Personal Choice, Bodily Integrity, etc. Habitualized thinkers fear change more than anything else and I’ve found that most Right WIngers are habitualized thinkers.

  • Rhonda Painter

    My dear, I don’t Google anything or even post comments for the benefit of the idiot on the other end of the argument. If you were hoping to ever change their “mind” (such as it is, usually), I can see why you became so upset. No, I post factual information and liberal perspectives for three reasons. First, for the people who may not have a firm opinion, but may be swayed by calmly presented factual information. Second, for fellow liberals to share talking points that we can pick up from each other. Third, it’s a hobby to demonstrate the utter stupidity of the troll’s talking points. When they rail and sling insults, it doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, the more hateful they become, the more I know I’m striking close to home.

  • Tranelle

    Have you actually been back to that thread? The guys she was writing about actually wrote this:

    Michael Erin Nanasi kind of got caught not knowing what she was talking about and got really mad. I was really asking a legitimate question not thinking she didn’t know the answer. Or rather she didn’t understand the answer. Now she thinks I’m picking on her because she’s a woman not because she’s lazy. Nothing I can do about that.

    April 3 at 3:04pm · Like

  • Erin is boring

    Yet another snoozer by Erin.