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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Getting Canned

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Darren Blair

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Well folks, it’s happened again.

Those who’ve read this column long enough will know that I’m a member of a minority Christian group, one that isn’t particularly popular. As a consequence, quite a few people spent quite a lot of time and effort trying to tear us down. Yet for all that effort, there’s still a fair bit of laziness at work.

What frequently happens on internet discussion forums is that when the topic of my particular denomi-nation comes up, someone will decide that instead of doing a proper debate, they’ll find one or more hostile websites, copy the material they find on those sites, and paste it into the discussion forum as one massive wall of text… a wall that rarely contains a source citation, meaning that the person doing this has just engaged in an act of plagiarism. You know, the kind of thing that can get you roundly yelled at in grade school and kicked out of college on the first instance thereof. That thing. “Thou shalt not steal” and all…

The person doing this will, on occasion, provide their own personal spin on matters, a spin that fre-quently includes a bit of invective. But other than that, the presumption is that the massive wall of text is enough to win the day in and of itself. Cue the slack-jawed horror when someone, such as myself, actu-ally succeeds in wading through the wall of text and providing point-by-point responses. How dare someone not be cowed by the massive wall. How dare someone note at length that the source provided bad information, up to and including doctored citations. How dare anyone note the act of plagiarism that just took place and how the fact that it is plagiarism undermines things. That’s not how it’s sup-posed to work.

Last night’s meltdown wasn’t the most spectacular meltdown I’ve seen (I actually got to see someone have a psychotic break in real time), but it was a meltdown none-the-less. Rather than try to defend his points further, the person in question simply had a rather pronounced snit fit and announced that they were going to ragequit their own discussion. It remains to be seen how much the effort cost them social-ly.

The whole thing sounds hilarious, doesn’t it? Much ado about nothing? A tempest in a teapot? Storm and fury signifying nothing?

…Except, such behavior isn’t confined to one single topic.

Name an issue. Or hot topic. Or anything else of the sort. You won’t have to look too hard to find some-one who has their canned talking points. In many instances, it’ll be, indeed, someone taking a canned argument from somewhere else, re-circulating it without actually stopping to question just what they read, and presuming the battle to be over. If pressed about matters, it’s easier to lob insults or take of-fense than to justify what they just shared. And don’t think your side of that matter is innocent, as I’ve seen people on both sides of many, many disputes bring these canned arguments to the table.

This, folks, is why I keep having to tell people: do your own homework. Instead of simply taking things for granted, ask questions. Seek to know more about the matter at hand. If it means doing so, then yes, look into opposing opinions. It’s rather hypocritical to be on someone else about their source being biased when you haven’t investigated the bias of your own source.

This is, perhaps, why the whole controversy over “fake news” is such a critical one…

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