It was Wingnuts vs. Moonbats. The tribes hadn't hardened into inflexible ideological blocs yet, although you could see that process happening. There were long blog threads and later Facebook threads where policy was argued, and those threads got heated and angry, replete with pathetic anonymous threats of violence or lawsuits. Those were the days when any pimply teenager could claim to be a former Navy SEAL with a depleted uranium .357 revolver, custom spanish leather boots, a chromed-out Harley and a supermodel girlfriend.
We argued war, and detention without due process, and torture, and health care policy. We raged at idiocy, demanded links, accused each other of dishonesty and even outright corruption. At times, we argued even more savagely among ourselves. At one point, talking about how nuclear electricity generation might be a necessary interim solution to carbon pollution, I was accused by a fellow lefty of being a paid troll for the nuclear energy industry.
See, the combination of the written format and anonymity creates a perfect platform for shrieking, flinging feces and making wild claims of experience and expertise (and boots). The more over the top claims were met with outright laughter and snark, but eventually these things would turn dark, with false binary choices and absolutist positions, armies of straw men and the worst kind of personal attacks. But slowly, as Bush gave way to Obama and the tribes built and reinforced their trench systems, dug in their heels and the great American system of governance ground to a halt, I began to find the process tedious, unpleasant, ugly.
By now, the most I'll indulge the compulsion to confront those that are wrong on the internet is a single, typically snarky drive-by comment, calling attention to the dishonesty or ignorance of the commenter and then consciously avoiding that thread forever more.
Except for one thing. One area is my kryptonite, my arguing catnip. There's one set of arguments that I'll find irresistible, even knowing the pointlessness of the argument, even having come to understand that those who "know" cannot be taught, one class of interactive argument I'll simply have to engage. That's the Alex Jones/911 Truther/Chemtrails sort of conspiracy theories. These are so dumb, so obviously incorrect, so perfect in their construction and their underlying assumptions that they draw me in, despite the pointlessness. They most often draw me in when they take the position that anyone who disagrees with them "blindly trusts everything the government does" as if there was no possible position but believing ludicrous Infowars constructs or unquestioning trust of the government. The thing about that construct is that they actually believe those are the only options - nuanced thought is their worst enemy.
I'm thinking about this today because of a specific D-Day thread I found on Facebook yesterday. A woman claimed she KNEW that there were thousands (or tens of thousands, it's unclear) more allied casualties on June 6th, 1944 then the Army would admit, and they moved those thousands of casualties inland and buried them in unmarked graves. She further went on to explain that Andrew Higgins, designer of the Higgins Boat that became the standard landing craft for allied forces on D-Day was a German agent and passed secrets about the boat's construction to the German army, which they used to devise the innovative strategy of "focusing their small arms fire on the invasion boats". Wow. One wonders how their strategy might have differed without their inside secret knowledge that the LCVPs were constructed primarily of plywood.
So let this serve as a warning to the vast population of delusional idiots on the intert00bz. Despite my well-intentioned commitment to avoid engaging with your frantic fever-dreams, if you post claims of undeniable knowledge about explosives in the World Trade Center, "False Flag" operations, essentially ANY claim that a huge conspiracy exists that has NOT been exposed but YOU nonetheless know all about it and I am a deluded sheep for not seeing the facts your are presenting, you're going to get a full dose of mikey in your thread. I know I'll never change your mind, but here's the news: That's not the goal. The goal is to make sure anybody else that you might influence comes to understand that you've managed to convince yourself of something that is not only prima-facie irrational, but even worse is empirically unsupportable.