Bags of Bran

Irony Alert: How to get others to hate “Them”

Whenever something doesn’t seem to be going your way, the best recourse, if you don’t feel like engaging in dialogue, is to blame “them.” Put on a white hat, put black hats on “them,” and act like it’s a binary issue divided by a broad, ugly ditch.

Haters may be asking: isn’t that a blatant recourse to the strawman fallacy? Well, um… quit judging me.

For example, “them” at WordPress changed the font in my header again, this time to a nice, bold font that is much more legible than the emaciated scrawl they had switched to a while back. That’s the second time since June that “them” have done this to me. But this time, I kind of like the change to a bolder font. If I were paranoid, I would say that “them” were receiving hate mail by the truckload, and that is the only reason “them” would do something that pleases me. “Them” are part of a broader conspiracy to make my website stink, and that’s why it stinks! It certainly could not be my fault! RRRRR!!!!! “THEM!!!!!”

Now, in reality, I don’t actually know what was going on at WordPress, but when I call the folks behind the switchboard at WordPress “them,” I suddenly appear to be a persecuted victim, and billows of sympathy come rolling out of your tender compassions. You want to hug me tight and tell me that everything is OK and “them” won’t win in the end. And secretly, you, the reader, begin to forge antipathies, whether founded or unfounded, against the “them” at WordPress. It’s a handy rhetorical shortcut when reasoned argument seems burdensome.

Want to tap into this secret power? All you have to do is attribute bad motives to your opponent, banish them to a nebulously-defined “them,” and trot the “them” out any time one of “them” comes along to defend “them’s” cause. You just say “LOOK PAL, I KNOW YOU, YOU’RE ONE OF ‘THEM'” and brusquely dismiss “him” as one of “them.” But in order for your “them” to work properly, you need to first define “them” as malevolent, slavering, saber-toothed stink-badgers who live on orphan tears.

You’ve probably seen this in recent liturgical discussions: Often, someone will assert a tizzy of somethings like this:

“Them” are the embodiment of pure evil, in church form! “Them” enjoy evil for evil’s sake, like the villains in comic books, except in suits! “Them” want to send your worship leader to a concentration camp! “Them” want Hillsong banished to the Eighth Circle! “Them” laugh derisively  because Sovereign Grace Music’s logo looks like a large intestine, and I don’t get why that’s funny! “Them” want you to have to go to church and sing dirges over out-of-tune organ while sitting on hard, wooden pews and drinking coffee that you had to smuggle in from home! “Them” hate Fanny Crosby because she was blind! “Them” want to slap you if you smile! And woe betide you if you feel a compelling passion to dry out your armpits* in church: “them” will come to your house and tear you apart, or at least judge you really really bad!

Were they there???


See? It’s really easy to drum up some unreasoned ill-will against your opponents. After a paragraph like that, the average Christian mind is properly febrile with malevolence toward “them.” People thus bestirred will march right out, go on Facebook, find a “them,” and tell “them” what’s up.


*Incidentally, I noticed that Hawkins, in a vulnerable, honest moment, notes that it’s when the band ‘get’s rockin’ (1:05) that armpits start drying. I sit here in dumbfounded amazement that such irreverence toward the purely spiritual nature of armpit-drying did not start a riot!


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