I have a relative who genuinely believes that the current refugee crisis has nothing to do with people in Syria being bombed out of their homes. People being kidnapped by violent factions and forced to fight and die for causes they don’t support isn’t relevant at all.
He believes that all Muslims want to subjugate Western democracies and that not a single one of them can be trusted. He has no explanation for why the majority of people fighting against groups like ISIS are other Muslims. He’s blinkered, closed-minded and blood-thirsty. If you were to ask him he’d tell you quite calmly that he would very much like to man a machine gun post on top of the white cliffs of Dover to shoot refugees, men, women and children presumably, before they made it to the shore.
Not too surprisingly he also denies anthropogenic climate change and believes that covid is a hoax. He used to believe in the globe earth and the moon landings but who knows if he still does. I disowned him in 2016 for his hateful racism and haven’t had the inclination to communicate with him since. God knows what crackpot ideas he’s picked up since then. 5G anyone?
The point here is to acknowledge that people who support any crackpot conspiracy theory have a problem with critical thinking. They don’t understand how to evaluate ideas or proposals and generally speaking wouldn’t recognise (let alone be able to define) logical fallacies if they came up and bit them on the arse. These people aren’t stupid, they just never learned how to reason properly and that leaves them vulnerable to all sorts of stupid ideas.
This leaves you with two (and I think only two) options for dealing with them…
- Teach them some critical thinking. The techniques of ‘street epistemology’, originally developed by Peter Boghosian to aid atheists coping with religious zealots, work in any situation where the problem lies not in stupidity but in lack of thinking skills… Provided you can get the person to agree to speak with you in the first place.
- If that’s not possible then the next best approach in my opinion is to demonstrate to them precisely what they’re aiming to achieve. It’s no coincidence that the Convention was developed after WW2 by the very people who had just sat in judgement over Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. They knew the value of rights – because they had seen them lost.
So – let the discriminator have a taste of their own medicine. Show them in terms they’ll understand exactly what they propose for their fellow man.
- They want to ostracise Muslims – ostracise them.
- They want to insult and demonise Jews or Sikhs for their beliefs – do the same for them.
- They refuse to patronise shops run by black or Asian people – refuse to patronise them.
- They exclude East Europeans from their circle of friends – exclude them from yours.
In short, do to them what they would do to others so long as you remain within the law. Let natural justice take its toll as they stand, isolated and lonely on the outside while you and your Polish, Jewish, Black and Asian friends enjoy the life of friendship and acceptance that your racist former friend has denied himself.
You may think that this is a bit much, to ostracise former friends, acquaintances and relatives – even siblings – but it’s not. It’s entirely appropriate not only that we do this but that we let it be known that we have done so… not for some sad sort of ‘virtue-signalling’ as my relative claimed but because this is how we encourage other fair-minded people to do the same.