I know a couple of people who like to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort ranting about how evil certain opinions or idealogical groups are. Now, People Being Wrong is a real category, of which their targets are often instances. Nevertheless my reaction is mostly hostile. Part of that is because I've internalized politics as the mind-killer strongly enough to have a memetic immune response to it. But I think that mostly, I feel like I'm being implicitly asked to take part in a sort of political circlejerk.

My central complaint is that these private Two Minute Hates are not really about their alleged targets at all, the hated Them. From my end it looks like they're really about the narcissistic I. I can replace these monologues with "Hey, look how Sensitive and Concerned and Socially Conscious I am!"1 and it sounds pretty much the same.

It's true that complaining about the Other Side can be fun, or at least relieving. There's a place for that. It's not hard to tell that kind of rant apart. Someone engaging in catharsis won't be disturbed if you don't give a shit; they just want an ear. I don't mind lending one as long as it's not too frequent. Someone fishing for validation will want response in kind, and will react either depressively or explosively when they don't get it.

Well, I want no part in your arm-breaking back-patting. You don't get Goodness Points for sitting around talking about how horrible They are. You get Goodness Points for preventing Them from doing bad things, or (better) doing good things yourself, or (best) convincing Them to start doing good instead of bad. Moral masturbation does not impress me. "I'm better than Them, right Mommy?" No. Well, yes, but only in the sense that 0 > -1. You add points to your score by stomping the Goomba, not by talking about how much the Goomba ought to be stomped.

If you have a genuine problem with the opinions or actions of some individual or group, the correct response is to go and try to change them, or at least limit the damage they can cause. Hell, kill them, if you think they're horrible enough for it to be worth it. But if you really care, act. The pearl-clutching that substitutes for acting has all the weight of a campaign speech. It is a campaign speech, in the sense that it is an exercise in content-free image-crafting. You can put it on a scale with an equal volume of bovine-provided fertilizer, and the scale will balance nicely.

Rather than talking to me about how evil your enemies are, let's hear some suggestions about how to fix them. Better yet, actually go and do those things. Improve lives. Change minds. Here are some pointers on the latter from someone wiser than I.


  1. For lefties. The libertarian variant is more like "Look how rational and unflinchingly tough-minded I am." I don't know any conventional right-wingers to compare but their version probably involves godliness.