I have lost about twenty people from my social media followers over the past month, but that’s nothing new. I clearly do not have a life because I post seven or eight times a day, and that’s probably a low estimate. Many of my posts are annoying, grammatically-challnged political rants. I know what you’re thinking: “Audie Wood write something full of  grammar and spelling errors? No way!” But yes, it is true. My sometimes-unreadable rants push people towards the unfollow and unfriend buttons. So, a drop in social media connections is something that I’m used to; something I am okay with.

However, what I am not used to is seeing people I know go so far off the deep-end that I take a step back and think to myself “I don’t want to be friends with that wackadoodle” an unfriending them myself. I am not used to people getting so far into conspiracy theories that my support of Joe Biden that would hack my social media accounts and flag my anti-Trump and anti-racist posts as hate-speech. But that has been happening more and more in 2020. I am on my third Facebook profile in the past 12 months because my family and friends who have bought into the Q-cult have hacked and flagged me. I have unfriended them all.

What they all have in common is One America News Network (OAN), QAnon, Fox News, and InfoWars. They’re obsessed with micro-chip tracking devices, secret sterilizations of poor people, Democrat- and Hollywood- run child sex trafficking rings, and the dangers of the MMR vaccine. I cannot wrap my head around such illogical connecting of dots. And from a professional stand point as a person who does – you know – research, all I say to the college drop-out who eats logical fallacies for breakfast who tells me to do my own research is “screw you!”

My frustration has hit the next level. I have not just walked away from these people on social media, I have walked away from them in real-life. They are feeble-minded and arguments with them are not just annoying – they are dangerous. In December 2016 gunman Edgar Maddison Welch stormed into Comet Ping-Pong, looking for children locked in a basement because he thought that is where the Clintons kept them. There are people flooding an indoor Trump rally as I type this out because their consumption of Q-related bullshit has taught them that the novel coronavirus and the 200,000 dead due to COVID-19 are all a part of an elaborate liberal hoax.

These people are a danger to themselves and others. And quite frankly I don’t have time for them. But I do have time to reflect on how we got to the point in our social de-evolution when people can be sucked-in by such obvious fake news.

The answer is simple. We stopped stop telling stupid people that they were stupid and we stopped calling stupid and bad ideas stupid and bad. We did this because we wantrd to create an open and accepting environment where all ideas are treated with equal equal respect. Well, I have news for you: not all ideas are equal – some of them are really shitty. Now, more than ever, we need the Red Foremans in the world to call people dumbasses, because that’s what they really are.

I didn’t evolve from a racist, bigoted rightwing nutjob because people respected my opinions. I evolved because a few of my friends had the spine to call me both ignorant and racist, and explained to me why I was ignorant and racist. You cannot allow ignorance to fester in the dark. It must have a bright light shown on it to kill it.

This kind of talk makes some people uncomfortable. They see themselves as polite, civilized, and above hateful rhetoric. While calling someone a dumbass just because you disagree with them is ignorant and counterproductive, saying that to someone who is sharing uninformed, racist, and antisemitic conspiracy theories is really an act of love and kindness.

My best friends today are the ones who called me on my bullshit. They helped me grow and now I am a positive, albeit annoying and socially awkward, influence on the world around me. We cannot expect things to get better, or for people to think critically if we do not teach them to do so. We cannot expect them to become less bigoted until we grow the spine to do what my friends did to me and call out their bigotry. We cannot allow this anti-intellectual and non-critical thinking continue if we want the United States to last much longer.