I am on a journey through Kekistan. It is not my native land, and am thus an unwelcome alien here, something of a spy or agent provocateur in a territory that I hope to see conquered.
You may be asking what Kekistan is, if you are not a fellow traveler through social media. The word, kek, originated in on-line gaming, either as a Korean version of LOL or as a attempt at making what one’s opponents are saying sound foreign. Or it comes from a frog-headed deity of chaos from ancient Egypt that got merged with Pepe the Frog on neo-Nazi (they call themselves alt-right) discussion boards.
In other words, Kekistan is the native country of the worst kind of troll, the species whose goal is to disrupt and derail the adult world. This is adolescence given access to the world stage. What once would have been limited to the range of spray paint can now be transmitted around the globe at the speed of electrons, and as the questioning of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg before Congress has illustrated, the influence of the loudest and least thoughtful among us is putting civilization at risk.
That sounds hyperbolic, but Trump is the demented expression of grievance who has occupied the federal building on Pennsylvania Avenue, so language is stretched to find ways to describe what is going on. Or to find a way to resist and overcome.
But we must try. And yes, I am aware of the idiotic Yoda saying about doing or not doing. We try to find out if we can do. It is a live question as to whether we are able to win what is increasingly looking like the zombie apocalypse.
One trick that Kekistanis employ is flat-out denial of reality. They call it “fake news.” What is infuriating here is that they are taking the useful principle of skepticism to absurdity. Yes, we do need to be cautious of claims, and “citation required” is a good demand to make. But we have to remember that doubts can be given sufficient answers. To refuse to accept the evidence once it has been verified is to be merely stubborn.
Of course, the Kekistanis are not genuine skeptics. They hold faith in being deplorable, with everything that entails. Their rejection of reality is selective, and therein lies an opening. If we have the time, we can carry on a discussing about standards of evidence and the reductio ad absurdum proof.
At which point, the Kekistani will present a flurry of memes and gifs. That counts as a surrender to rationality, for those of us who are keeping score, but it is also an example of trolls ramming their fingers in their ears and shouting “lalalalalalalala!” What, then, is the point of such discussions?
If your goal is to convince the troll, give up now. That cannot be done. What we can gain is a test of our own ideas and an appeal to the audience.
To avoid hypocrisy, we have to be willing to have our own stances challenged. And arguing with our opponents will reveal the flaws in the assertions we are making quicker than any conversation within an echo chamber. Is the Earth a six-thousand-year-old disk? No. How do we know this? Talk to a flat Earther or a creationist. You will have to explain at least to your own satisfaction that your perception of reality is valid.
The audience, however, is the target of the argument, as they are in a traditional debate. Bill Nye was never going to convince Ken Ham. But getting the people watching to ask questions. Bad ideas cannot survive honest inquiry.
The goal of Kekistanis is to silence questions, to swamp criticism. Decent people risk being exhausted, but we cannot give up the field. The costs are high, as necessary wars like the American Civil War and World War II illustrate, but the fight can be won.
And every once in a while, a meme can be fun.