Right Wing Outrage Machine Yadda Yaddas The Evidence

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, August 15, 2013 9:46 EDT
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Let me stop you right there. Please don’t share the evidence; I might change my mind, and we can’t have that.

I can always tell when I get linked by Twitchy, because my mentions feed on Twitter fills up with a bunch of incoherent rants from dudes who cannot believe they let women use computers these days and from, well, twitchy women who are sure that this “feminism” thing is just a plot by a bunch of sluts to steal their husbands. Fresh off an incoherent rant by one of theirs about how I’m on some mission to destroy male sexuality, now Twitchy is up in arms because I’m insufficiently motivated to prevent sex from happening. At this point, I literally have no idea whether the photos that embittered middle-aged white men are sending me of myself are supposed to be evidence of my trollish visage that makes me so unlovable that it must be the reason I’m trying to destroy male sexuality, or evidence of my out-of-control wantonness that leads me to want to remove all the supposedly necessary controls on female sexuality so that men are kept in line. It’s dizzying, truly.

I usually just ignore Twitchy, which isn’t really a news site so much as an effort to stoke and direct the apparently bottomless desire of right wingers to harass people online, which they appear to mistake for activism. But this particular attempt to get people to harass me was particularly funny because it perfectly encapsulates the extreme distrust and hatred for things like “facts” and “evidence” that characterizes the 21st century conservative movement. They’re trying to drum up a harassment campaign over this article, wherein I looked at the evidence that suggests that letting teenagers have romantic sleepovers while still living at home improves mental and sexual health outcomes. “Evidence” being the key word: I have four paragraphs of evidence, both testimonial from the New York Times and sociological, from researcher Amy Schalet, so you have a wide array of that evidence to pick from when quoting the piece you’re alerting people to.

So how much of the evidence did Twitchy decide to include in their quotes? None. This is the parts they quoted:

What would happen if parents embraced another possibility and actually accepted their teenagers’ sex lives, even going so far as to allow teenagers to have their boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over? After all, sleepovers will begin pretty much the second they walk out your door, so what’s the harm in letting it start a little earlier?

Allowing sleepovers in not a license for licentiousness. If anything, the practice even tends to reinforce the idea that sex is about relationships, whereas sneaking around lays the groundwork for the hookup culture that has caused so much hand-wringing of late. Parents actually have the power to lay the groundwork for more responsible behavior about sexual health and relationship management while making sex a little less illicit. Might not be such a terrible idea.

That ellipsis is doing a lot of work there. Personally, I use ellipsis to skip over parts that I think aren’t pertinent to the point at hand, but this one here is doing something a bit skeevier: Eliminating the actual evidence offered for the thesis they’re deriding. A sample:

Of course, there’s no reason to stab around in the dark, just guessing at whether allowing teenage sleepovers is some kind of sign of the apocalypse or just a way for families to handle teenage sexuality in a responsible, realistic fashion. Sleepovers have been normalized in the Netherlands for decades now, and as social scientist Amy Schalet’s research suggests, the results have been generally positive. By demonstrating acceptance and respect for their kids’ relationships, Dutch parents, on average, enjoy more communication with their kids about sex and relationships than American parents do, which in turn means the kids are more likely to get the health care and education they need to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Oh, and the teenage pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is nearly four times lower than ours.

They yadda yadda’d the evidence. Needless to say, Twitchy is a prime example of right wing snake oil salesmen: They clearly think of their audience, correctly it appears, as a bunch of reactionary yahoos who can’t be bothered with the facts when they have some angry, mindless outraging to get to. Indeed, in the space they could have otherwise used to at least summarize the evidence for the thesis (if quoting it is too painful), they instead prime the pump, letting their audience know that the proper reaction is to flail around in outrage as swiftly as possible, and don’t even be tempted by the siren call of reading the actual evidence, much less thinking about it before forming an opinion.

Yes, just in case you doubted for a second that your reaction to this was supposed to be blind, thoughtless outrage that doesn’t even pause for a moment to consider the evidence, they made sure by holding this lady up as a role model.

It gets worse, with them encouraging people, rather than to take the time to read the actual arguments in question, to go on flights of fancy about how I want to encourage fathers to set boys to gang-bang their daughters (which really seems more like an icky right wing dude’s fantasy that he’s guiltily projecting onto me more than anything else), but all that is par for the course. I just wanted to highlight this particular Twitchy post, because it’s the Platonic ideal of how the right wing outrage machine works, particularly with the pretending that they just didn’t see the actual evidence that undermines their knee-jerk outrage.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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