Ah, the Facebook comments section.  A place where well-informed discourse gives way to emotional rants intended to insult an author or entire site.  Honestly, I don’t mind it – we all need a way to blow off some steam, and not everyone shares my hobbies.  For me, my punching bag is… well, a punching bag.  For others, it’s websites, authors, or other commenters that had the audacity to present evidence that doesn’t support your position.  After all, there’s no way you could be wrong… and the world needs to know.

Despite not chiming in on random Facebook posts (or continuing to follow outlets I don’t like), I’m certainly not above it.  My Twitter account is primary used as a means by which to convey short messages to the hosts of my favorite podcasts.  Recently, while listening to the Cracked podcast, I was so baffled by Jack Obrien’s claims that there were no liberal media outlets beating up on reasonable Republicans “as they so often claim,” that I pulled my phone out of my pocket in the middle of a workout just to remind him that he’s devoted countless entire podcasts to doing just that.  In his defense, the Cracked Podcast often tries to present pretty reasonable discourse, and has never once claimed to be unbiased… and I love their work, even when I don’t agree with it.

I ended up deleting the Tweet (I cringe every time I type that word) not because I felt like I was wrong, but because I noticed the army of Righters that had already descended upon his Twitter feed.  I didn’t want to get caught up in the unreasonable attacks levied at him for doing the same thing I do every day: try to present my thoughts to a wide audience in a way that doesn’t devolve into nit-picking and complaining.  I have to assume Obrien, like so many other media personalities, eventually gives up on reading the responses to his work, throws his hands in the air with his eyes rolled as hard as he’s capable of and just says, “has the world gone mad?”

Well, allow me to answer the made up question I just put in his mouth: yup.  It sure as hell has.

I’ve been astonished to see the support Assad’s Syrian regime has received on social media since Tuesday’s chemical attack that produced (according to CNN’s most recent tally) 86 dead bodies… 26 of whom were just kids.  Now, before I go on, I know some of the folks on my side of this debate will point out that social media support for Syria is absolutely in line with Russia’s normal method of enforcing their agenda through digital dumb-ery, and you’re absolutely right – but I’ve clicked on some the accounts arguing so passionately that Assad is a peace-loving man – the Abraham Lincoln of his nation’s history, fighting to re-unify his war-torn home – and to my surprise, they seem to be real-life humans, complete with dogs, spouses, and faces decidedly free of the discoloration and the foam that pours out of the mouths of those who have witnessed Assad’s use of chemical weapons first hand.

See, the thing is, I’m a big believer in conflict being born not just out of the traditional philosophical “fear of the other,” but also out of a fear of discomfort.  If I made public my support of, say, Bill Cosby early into the accusations levied against him about rape, the subsequent allegations and evidence would stand to make me awfully uncomfortable with myself.  It’s easier, then, to just say, “fake news!” and stand by my position.

In politics, we call anyone who absorbs new information and establishes a new position a “flip flopper,” because if there’s one thing we apparently don’t want in the person leading our nation, it’s the ability to change their mind in the face of new, irrefutable evidence.  If you said you didn’t support atomic energy when you were twenty-three, then God help you if you change your mind at fifty, no matter what technological advances have been made along the way.

This isn’t because we’re bad people – no, not even the crazies on Facebook that think the Syrian rebels somehow managed to establish secret supply lines, research facilities and laboratories, generate the elements to produce Sarin gas, choose not to ever use it in the fight their losing, but rather store the elements (traditionally maintained separately) in an above ground warehouse surrounded by children rather than in an underground bunker… Nor are the people who claim bombing the stored, separate elements (because Sarin itself has a fairly short shelf life) could somehow mix the two in the appropriate way to instantly release a cloud of the poison in a manner that looks awfully similar to the dispersal caused by an airstrike via satellite imagery… They’re not bad guys.  They’re people who don’t want to be uncomfortable.