How To Deal With People You Disagree With

Photo credit: Whoever was standing in front of Tim Berners-Lee

Dealing with people in real life is beyond the remit of this advice column. With any luck you won’t meet many, as live human beings are notoriously difficult to hammer into shape. We shall concern ourselves with replying to those in the splendid human construct known as social media.

You see a contrary opinion online. An itch starts in your brain, impossible to ignore. It must be scratched! But how do you get to it?


Through your keyboard. (Real warriors use keyboards, not touch screens.)

1. Take a deep breath, it will oxygenate your blood. Maybe have a nice cup of tea before getting down to work, if tea’s your cup of tea.

2. The time-honoured practice of cracking your knuckles is an over-used trope, but do it if it you’re superstitious. Just don’t overdo it, you’ll be needing those fingers in good working order.

3. We’ll dispense with the numbering system. The point is made that this is a logical process.

Rember always that arguments are like bowling balls—they’re bound to have holes in them.

one metaphor at a time please

Examine the enemy’s case closely for flaws. (‘Enemy’ is merely convenient shorthand.) You might get lucky straight off the bat: have they even written something worth rousing yourself to answer?

Be polite. It’s a rare skill, often confused with cowardice. It will confuse the enemy.

If this is a factual fray, document, document, document. Be meticulous with your sources and be ready at a moment’s notice to provide links, preferably more than one should your adversary show an indifference to your preferred authority. Bear in mind that both The Guardian and the Daily Mail (two well known mines to go digging for fool’s gold), which both employ professional journalists (not necessarily a compliment), are equally unreliable in matters of opinion, which often masquerades as fact.

Determine if the position is theirs or somebody else’s. Have they put in the work to hold it all by themselves? Are you going to attempt to knock them off a bandwagon, or are they standing on carefully prepared ground? If the latter, you may wish to retreat to fight another day, or better yet, accept that perspectives can differ. Even the itchiest brain can learn to accept this as a scratch of sorts.

Look for signs of hypocrisy. Should you find it, consider the labor-saving strategy of allowing them to tie their noose with their own words. Note that any gratification derived may be a private affair, given that hypocrisy is usually vampiric in nature.

it’s obvious who’s the fairest of them all

Use spellcheck if you don’t trust yourself, it’s right there on Google. Generally conform to accepted grammatical norms. Teasing grammar Nazis crosses the line into cruelty.

Common mistakes
Don’t say “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” Whoever says this first, loses. While some may see this as politely sweeping away the gauntlet laid down, in truth it is the equivalent of loudly stomping off. There is no need to belabour the obvious.

Whatever you do, never announce that you’re leaving the discussion. This cannot be stressed enough. If you want to go, just go. Some warriors are amazed this is even an option.

Refrain from posting immediately prior to a period of being out of contact with the www, e.g., going to a wedding or funeral, a session of lovemaking, etc. I know you pride yourself on your ability to multitask, but should you think up a better comeback whilst indisposed, the itch will be visited upon you tenfold.

If you think your opponent is reading what he or she wants to read rather than what you wrote, well, everybody thinks this. Almost everybody is right. The mistake here is to openly parade your amazement.

Do not ‘Like’ as an 11-dimensional chess gambit, should your chosen media platform offer this or a similar cheesy option. Duel with words, not rancid marshmallows.

What to do if you ‘win’
Disabuse yourself of the notion that you have. Hardly anybody ever ‘wins’, no matter what humble admissions are uttered in the aftermath. The skull is a hardened silo impervious to penetration by even the most sensible argument; while the brain inside may be slammed and partially flattened by the impact of a new idea, it reliably pops back into its original shape.

There are, however, documented cases of people who actually have had their mind changed by a disembodied consciousness filtered through this thing we call the internet:

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Pumped for Trump

OK, I’m going to lay my cards on the table. I voted Trump.

Meme generator in same vicinity as rage generator

No, I didn’t. Let me repeat: I did not vote for Donald Jehoshaphat Trump to be President of the United States of America. That was just an experiment to see how you felt immediately after reading it. Pleasure at finding a kindred spirit? Pity? Disgust or even rage bordering on nausea?

Rage so great it can be seen from space

Did you even get past the first sentence (let alone the headline) in order to read this plot twist, or are the saloon doors still rattling back and forth from the speed of your exit?

There’s a not-quote-apropos YouTube moment for everything

The truth is, I voted none of the above, which in the eyes of some Democrats makes me just as bad as the people who voted Nader in 2000. (I voted Nader in 2000.)

And a butterfly flapped its wings

Not long after abstaining from my civic duty, I then had the audacity to hope that it was too early to call Trumpageddon.

This is a view I still hold.

I can read* (*the question is what one should be reading) and observe exquisitely unpresidential press conferences. I see how it looks. Amateur hour with clowns at the head table.

Check please

And yet, I can’t help but feel that anyone this widely reviled by the forces arrayed against him, including a press corps which made him despite themselves and is itching to unmake him (with the tremendous help of unforced errors), and political opponents more concerned about their stalled career trajectories than the nation’s stability, can’t be all evil.

He also seems inclined to want to act on his campaign promises.*

Sure he’s got his bad points, like clumsily showing concern for America’s borders by wanting to build a wall instead of a fence, or having disturbing tendencies to occasionally speak ugly truths (e.g., “for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation…”, “You think our country’s so innocent?”) in between ugly tweets. His every syllable isn’t scripted like a Hillary Clinton’s, and a lot of people like a script.

Setting aside the pesky line of succession, I’m sure we can all think of a hundred other qualified applicants for head of state.

He’ll do

If you’re in the IMPEACH HIM NOW crowd

or the coup d’état crowd

When all you have is a guillotine, every problem looks like a neck

or even the please-report-yourself-to-the-Secret-Service crowd

Tainting the grassy knoll brand forevermore

imagine the almighty turmoil the country would go through if there were a transfer of power in the current climate. Remember that 60 million of your fellow Americans voted for him. They had their reasons, just as you did yours for voting Clinton, or third party, or not at all.

Maybe you have imagined it

Worst. Weather. Ever.

and still feel it’s worth it; maybe you’d be right. It’s something thoughtful people should be able to debate in a reasonable way.

Like a helping of irony with that?

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Voyage into better than good badness

Star Trek comes in handy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed a pop culture reference and reached for Kirk & Co. They’ve also provided fan fiction mulch on a few occasions.

This despite that I rarely rate it higher than Good Bad, the category which naturally falls below Good and above Bad. There’s also a Good Good, but I see no need for a Bad Bad.

I turn on the subtitles when watching anything. It’s not that I’m hard of hearing; it’s more that I always have a nagging worry about missing dialogue, and prefer the redundancy. These days all my viewing is done on a computer, making it easy to collect screenshots along the way.

The following are from the Star Trek Voyager episode Alter Ego, which may have been the first to make me sit up from my usual half-interested slouch, one eye on the Netflix window, the other on some fresh hell in my chosen opinion aggregator, and say to my Oreo “Hey, this is better than Good Bad.”

After the preliminaries, which are nothing special else I would’ve taken snaps of them, we are presented with the sight of the ship’s senior logic jockey fiddling with one of those Vulcan games that make you wonder if this advanced race is all it’s cracked up to be. Humans discovered Pick-up sticks centuries ago.

In walks Harry:

“Grasshopper,” he forgot to add. Harry calls it:

The troubled

as I was saying, the obviously troubled Operations Officer

wrong – this is the holo doc’s training tool for fumble-fingered humans

has come seeking wisdom from Lt Cdr “Know-It-All” Tuvok, who like Spock only has one name, all others having been dispensed with probably around the time the Vulcan High Command outlawed any emotion more severe than a raised eyebrow.

Harry has woman woes. A step up from Tribble trouble, if you ask me.

Well, this is Star Trek. Specifically, Harry is smitten with a holodeck character (“Computer, give me something from Baywatch, aged to perfection”) who’s the only one who really understands him. Or at least that’s what I assume the project notes said.

Tuvok looks into the situation

there’s something about Mary

and comes to appreciate what Harry sees in what’s-her-name. But it turns out all is not what it seems. Marayna (all writing is improved by research) isn’t in fact just another saucy tomato.

close enough

She’s a highly intelligent forehead being of the sort the crew is forever running into. But I’m getting ahead of myself in my rush to finish this before I run out of screenshots.

Mary lives on a space station, her job to keep an unruly nebula tame by twiddling dials to maintain that wondrous dampening field technology that awaits future generations. She’s a little like a lifeguard keeping her entire race safe, suffering from not-so-splendid isolation.

She’s managed to infiltrate the Voyager’s CPU or whatever and project herself as holobait. She’s done things like this before, to other ships. It passes the time.

Only this time she didn’t reckon to meet a mind as fascinating as Tuvok’s. She falls for him. She must have him, or else. The imminent destruction of the Voyager awaits, unless the crew can figure all this out before the credits roll.

A highlight of the episode is the hilarious fight between holo Hawaiian hotties (resistance to alliteration is futile) and B’Elanna.

Emmy for the new category of Bad Goodness

One wonders if junior Vulcan Voric paid to have that set up, fuel for the obvious Pon farr smoldering behind his bedroom eyes earlier in the show.

There is the usual meeting of the minds (Neelix is often the mascot begging for scraps at the table, but he’s too busy adjusting the feng shui on the holodeck of this love boat) who struggle to find a solution which doesn’t violate the prime directive of being too earnest. They fail, of course, as Tuvok allows himself to be beamed into the lair of the highly intelligent forehead being, who his tricorder identifies as the reincarnation of Alex from Fatal Attraction, to be faced with an ultimatum: be hers, or she’ll use her plasma nebula powers to boil the crew of the Voyager like so many bunnies.

There follows a genuinely touching exchange whereby Tuvok talks her out of this act of extreme jealousy

close enough

convincing her that she needs to get out more.

I’ve skipped a lot of details, but that’s the gist of it.

What struck me about this episode was how it rose like a phoenix from the ashes of my expectations, begging the question of why I still watch the various Treks floating forever in syndication. It seems that resistance really is

The new perfume by Borg. Not that Borg.

Look, I’m no TV reviewer. I was just pleased that Alter Ego was better written and acted than the usual ST fare; even, if I may be dreadfully patronising,

Is it possible I will be pleasantly surprised by future episodes I’ve already seen ages ago and conveniently forgotten?

* * *

Bonus shot of the doctor, still nameless (Shmullus doesn’t count) but now considering Don Juan.

Blast from the past:

More screenshots from the not-such-an-idiot-box here. I’d like to see how Janeway handles first contact with Swearengen.

In an alternate timeline B’Elanna eschews engineering for the entertainment industry and gets a gig directing an incredibly appropriately named episode of The Americans.

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What home library would complete without the Bible? I’ve even read it, if speed reading counts. This is what I remember.


God clapped his hands and there was light. A few more claps took care of everything else under the sun. Man was given dominion over all the animals except cats. A snake got into the garden and tricksied Eve, the first scapegoat. Everybody moved away because you can’t go home again.

The birds and the bees begat. There were giants in those days, and X-men. Also prophets like Nostradamus, who predicted Hitler before spellcheck.

The world quickly became overpopulated with ne’er-do-wells so there was a flood. Only Noah had bought flood insurance.

Joseph got a nice coat for Christmas: too nice. This angered his brothers, as did the fact that he never had dreams about falling like normal people.

Baby Moses was set adrift in a model boat then grew up to part the waters. Unfortunately he later missed the boat to the Promised Land. First he passed along the X Commandments as chiseled by God, who was pretty high on himself even though things never seemed to go according to plan.

Abraham nearly killed his prodigal son because of voices in his head, but relented and turned him into a pillar of salt instead.

God made Job suffer terribly. The devil made him do it. Job’s response was to say “Thank you Sir may I have another,” so God gave him 14000 sheep and more asses than one man can covet in a lifetime as a kind of apology for being a good sport.

David killed Goliath to show he wasn’t going to be anybody’s bitch.

Moby Dick swallowed Jonah but spat him out again because he preferred plankton.

Angels dance on pins. Because they can. They also leave messages.


Joseph believed Mary, bless.
All you need is love, loaves and fishes.
Matthew Mark Luke and John weren’t always on the same page.
The committee of three is making a list and checking it twice.
Hell is other people going around in circles. If you’re going there you probably haven’t been bad enough to meet Hister, but you might be bumping into a few peeps from work.

There are no original sins because they’ve all been done before.


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The Joy of Captioning

Way to be a downer

I’ve been carrying one camera or another for a long time. At some point it occurred to me that a picture is worth as many words as it takes to complete the picture. That number may be 0,

or (counting…) 19,

or you may run out of fingers and toes and need a little help.

Elvis signing with RCA Records under the ever watchful eye of Colonel Parker, just out of shot. The two had taken the contract out of the office to cool off after a heated discussion involving a clause requiring the rising young star to gyrate his hips in a manner which he found objectionable on the grounds that his mother wouldn’t approve. “I’m sure she’ll approve of the new house you’ll be able to buy her,” the Colonel told him. Warming to the idea but still uncertain if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Elvis asked two young ladies if the suggestive thrusting of his hips would deter them from buying his records. They searched their conscience and assured him that it wouldn’t, provided he lived a wholesome life when not under the spotlight. Grabbing a pen and a boy passing on a bicycle, he signed. The rest is music history. The boy grew up to become a DEA agent and a big Elvis fan. More days in history

Everything and everyone is fair game, and I do mean everyone.

Computers grew impatient with humans

Professor Hawking admires what he thinks is a new ‘black hole’ screensaver. His wife hasn’t yet told him that the computer isn’t plugged in. (Yes, some of these are a bit old. RIP, Stephen.)

London Mayor Ken Livingstone is lost for words as he suddenly realizes the ferris wheel has torn loose and is headed straight for him

Their first fight was over ‘Spank me Sally’, whose calling card she spotted in the phone box, and later, his wallet. (Here comes the bride. And again.)

No need to sacrifice yourself for the cause

This is never going to come out. (If you like that, you might like this: What did the nun say to Jesus?)

Photoshopping is usually kept to a minimum, unless the picture is crying out for it.

While I prefer to use my own images, it would be foolish to ignore opportunity when it presents itself.

The lady wasn’t for hovering

Family motto: We’re rich and you’re not

There was a palpable tension to pull out The New Yorker

A caption will only go as far as you’re willing to take it

Museums are my favourite hunting ground these days.

Anticipating the next Facebook notification

There was renewed interest when it was discovered her last will and testament included a treasure map

He’s probably more afraid of you than you are of him

The great thing about this passion play is I’ll never run out of pictures. Or words.

When a man is tired of writing, he’s tired of life

“Some come to me in a flash, others take a day or two of brooding.”
“Who cares. Make us laugh or go away.”

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Star quality

Thank you all! Facebook of course, for this award, which is proof positive of my worth. My parents, for raising me to be the kind of person who can merit such an accolade. My Facebook friends, for being appreciative, obvs. Myself, for believing in myself. The list goes on.

Can’t wait to see how my badge looks.

Zuck took time out of his busy schedule to visit me for inspiration

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In the news

Reading the latest of what passes for news, I see that the bad boy from Basingstoke prompted Lucas to report him after setting Twitter squawking with his expressed desire to see a teenager drown in the Atlantic ocean. Well, when you put it that way.

Having incited my own much more modest mob a number of years ago, and being versed in tribal politics, I will admit to finding merit in his non-apology: “Obviously I don’t hope she encounters a freak yachting accident! … I just enjoy watching the ludicrous tweeter mob following the next outrage.” Doubtless he spat out the bones of a baby kitten immediately after providing that quote.

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Wonder Bread

the Wonder Woman who introduced me to the world of wonder women. Although we shall return to Lynda from time to time, the screenshots I have lined up are from the 2017 film starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, which I finally got around to watching in the summer of 2019 using an Amazon Prime trial, appropriately enough.

Stick them with the pointy end*

Now that you’re all grown up, better register those hands as lethal weapons

If that’s not defensive body language, I don’t know what is

All that training in hamster wheels left on the cutting room floor

Antiope’s work was never done

Good thing she’s just read a 12-volume treatise on the art of bodily pleasure

So far this is ticking all the boxes in my fantasy island scenerio

Are there any illicit videos from before he made it big, for us to judge for ourselves?

Little Big Steve is very persuasive that way

Good writing: he says what we’re all thinking

Much of the audience would like to liaise with you, Diana

Wait a minute, those don’t look like the bad guys

I’m not sure they came with a laugh track, either

Looks like we picked the wrong beach to storm

So much slo-mo, so little time

Consider me well chastised

Nothing says #MeToo like a powerful woman in charge of other powerful women suddenly confronted by their first men, now sleeping with the fishes

Only for the obligatory singles night of passion

Somebody’s playing hard to get and it’s not me

Third base can also be satisfying

If that’s his orgasm face, he’s a very fine actor indeed

That was fast. Are you sure Themyscira isn’t on the isle of Jersey or something?

I’m betting the prop master wasn’t even born when those were in fashion

There is a suspicious lack of twirling in the current era

If this is a movie made by women, we want more of same, please
Alternate caption: I’m sure you’re an Amazon at heart, Etta

And we love light relief (if I don’t fast forward we’ll be here all day) (flashbacks to the 70s don’t count)

The band of sisters who live there might like some light relief too

What he heard: “I do”

We love a tantalizing backstory explaining a villain’s mask and state of mental health

Spoiler alert

But first there’s a lot more fighting to get through

You Germans, such reliable evil-doers, hard to believe half of Britain will be crying over Brexit

My phallic symbol is bigger than yours

Funny how that outfit never caught on with the resistance movement

Thanks, but I think the new gal’s got this covered

It’s CGI, which if you know your Arthur C. Clarke, means it’s close

Oh, but being English, there was always a good chance you were going to be a baddie

This isn’t in the same universe of filmmaking as Naked, but the pay is much better

Have you been talking to my mother?

we would achieve box office dominance by capturing cult film lovers and DC Comics fans – would you like to see a Venn diagram?

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it

But like a sperm, I must complete my mission before la not-so-petite mort

Let’s not get too deep here

Kindly do not make me complicit in your pop culture homily-making machine

I am woman, etc.

Bruce Wayne is an available bachelor, isn’t he?

The wisdom of Athena…

I guess every generation needs a reminder

So much world to save, so little time.

It was a fun movie, but nutritionally suspect, like so many.

She said / she said

Growing up, I always wanted to be a Steve

Oh for the days when men were men, women were women, and phone booths were superhero changing rooms.

Nothing to do with the above, except I caught The Upside around the same time:
Pleasure earland – Bryan Cranston gets the Ferengi treatment

*Captioning Game of Thrones would probably take the rest of my life

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