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Tom Shillue

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Rantz: Here’s how ideologues try to win arguments

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

I was tagged on Twitter by an ideologue, bringing me into a conversation I had zero interest in. But it illustrates how activists consistently aim to win arguments they can’t otherwise win.

Related: Why I support the inevitable failure of the new bike share

The ideologue brought to my attention a comment apparently made by Seattle Council candidate Teresa Mosqueda* who said, on Reddit, that there is no “war on cars.”

Now, because I’m critical of Seattle’s anti-car culture, activists like this will seek to discredit me. But they don’t often aim to discredit any point I’m making. No, that would take effort. Often, as Twitter trolls sometimes do, they just say I’m wrong without providing any reason beyond the fact that I hold a different opinion than them. Oh, the horror.

Instead, they try to bait me into saying I believe there’s a “war on cars” because, then, they can paint me as crazy. Why? Well, believing there is a “war on cars” is, kind of, crazy. It would sound like I believe in a conspiracy theory to the average person, unconnected to the politics of this issue. It implies there is this nefarious effort where people get into a conference and say to themselves “How can we hurt the drivers?” I don’t believe that happens (though, even if I did, the average person would think my position is a fringe position). I simply believe the culture is anti-car, driven by their ideology and love of transportation modes they prefer; I think they make decisions informed by their bias.

Whether or not you agree with this is certainly up to you. But, understand activists like this want to label you as a crazy believer in what some might think is a conspiracy theory. It’s a way to dismiss you, without debating you. It’s their strategy.

This ideologue knows this, so he sent out a tweet with a screenshot of the conversation and said Mosqueda’s “answer means she’s going to be attacked repeatedly…” and he tags me and others he perceives are pushing a “war on car” narrative.

Now, I could have taken the bait and said Mosqueda is wrong and get into it, claiming there is a war on cars, but had I done that, this guy would have then complained that I’m engaging in crazy behavior that makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist. He wanted me to attack her, so he tagged me in a tweet to get my attention, then would have complained and criticized me for doing exactly what he wanted me to do. The strategy is so transparent, I can pretty much guarantee you that this blog will be shared by this person with some snarky and silly tweet that mischaracterizes the message of this blog in a way that makes it seem like he’s the smartest guy in the room.

It’s a cute, and often-times, I admit, an effective strategy. It’s actually quite Trumpian if you think about it.

*Full disclosure: I’ve donated $10 and my Democracy Vouchers to one of her opponents which is, in part, why I’m not addressing Mosqueda’s position.

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