In law school, I had a professor that seemed to go out of his way to check off the stereotypes that came with his position. He was opinionated. He was controversial. He was hated by a significant portion of the student body. He was demeaning. He was in the throes of a divorce case with another law professor that would last over 17 years.
And he was outrageously quotable.
Those quotes were exactly what made him controversial in the classroom. They were demeaning and offensive. Many of them bordered on harassment. They made people cry. They embarrassed students into never making the same mistake, again, in the classroom or in the real world.
They have taken on new life in post-election America, where Trump supporters have retreated into fantasy worlds where conspiracy theories justify their feelings. When Trump followers emerge and engage with the rational populace, their baseless allegations and empty claims deserve no respect.
Those quotes give them none. I have increasingly resorted to them, and now you can, too.
“There’s so much wrong with what you just said, I can’t make you right.”
Best said after glancing to the side and blinking twice in confusion, this is a great retort for when a Trump supporter or acolyte says something that is based on a fundamentally flawed idea, concept, or myth. In these cases, what they actually say is outlandish and absurd, but not always in an obvious way. Instead, the problems are in the ideas that silently underlie what was said out loud.
For example, when a Trumper says that we should let the coronavirus run rampant through the U.S. so we can develop herd immunity, they are relying on several disturbing ideas:
- After getting COVID-19, the immunity you develop to the coronavirus is permanent, like the immunity you get to the chickenpox (we don’t know if it is, yet)
- A 1% death rate is worth it (it would be 3.2 million Americans, or around half of the death toll from the Holocaust)
- The death toll would continue to be 1% as the virus spread (it would rise as healthcare workers got sick and hospitals overflowed and healthcare got rationed)
- Deliberately doing nothing as people died from a disease is not inhumane (it is)
What was actually said is disturbing. However, as you read between the lines, you realize that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Accounting for all of the fundamentally flawed ideas that went into that singular statement would take time and effort. There’s just so much wrong with it, that making them right would be a serious struggle.
“Saying a lot of different things does not mean that any one of them is any good.”
A useful response for when Trump supporters argue against a reality-based fact with a horde of baseless fictions. They seem to think that mustering a legion of empty claims somehow amounts to something persuasive.
This illusion reaches the very top of Trumpworld. In the Trump campaign’s election fraud lawsuits, Rudy Giuliani and the campaign’s lawyers continually refer to the reams of affidavits that they have accumulated. They claim that all of these affidavits “prove” that there was election fraud.
None of the affidavits are actually on point, though. They present hearsay evidence from people who actually saw nothing. They include statistical models that argue that Trump should have gotten more votes than he did — an outcome that was likely caused by Trump’s deep unpopularity. They include people swearing, under oath, that they believe in conspiracy theories but have no direct evidence to back them up.
Evidence doesn’t work that way. Thousands of people can claim that gravity doesn’t exist and a single dropped pencil refutes them.
“You’re rambling in the hope that you’ll eventually fall into an answer that makes sense. Take my advice: Give up.”
Trump and his supporters and enablers are notorious for pivoting from one claim to another to back up their actions. They’ve been doing this for years, and it never stopped.
For example, during the election campaign, Trump himself alternatively claimed that Joe Biden was:
- Beholden to the progressive left wing of the Democratic Party
- Too moderate for progressive Democrats
- “Sleepy” and stupid
- A criminal mastermind
When you make contradicting claims and present them both as the truth, one of them is a lie. This happens when you don’t know what to say and end up just throwing a bunch of ideas at the wall to see what sticks. The result: A complete lack of credibility.
The better option is to simply pick a lane and stick with it. Trump and his acolytes, however, know that their followers won’t remember their flip-flopping and rambling. When their followers don’t, they should be reminded.
“Stop talking. You’re making the rest of us stupid.”
The constant barrage of “alternative facts” and Trumpworld ideas is disorienting because they are presented in such a confident manner and are ubiquitous in a shocking segment of the population. The problem, though, is that they can seem to fit together if you don’t pay close attention. And when four or five Trump followers tag-team on someone who is starting to doubt what’s real and what’s fake, they can drag someone down, with them.