When judging people or voting, context is crucial — and maddeningly easy to omit.

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In a tweet stream, comedian Greg Larson brutally manipulates context to make evil people seem defensible. It’s a revealing satirical exercise in the crucial role of context — and a good way to remind ourselves of how crucial it is as we make important decisions.

Here’s Larsen’s original tweet, which people took as a challenge.

Defending the indefensible

Sure enough, he manages to make the most evil people seem defensible.

Of course it’s absurd

Larsen has brilliantly identified the tropes of conservative criticism: asking irrelevant rhetorical questions, supporting people based on their enemies, and above all, cherry-picking tiny facts to defend people whose actions, examined in their complete context, are horrifying.

It’s funny because it’s true. It sounds like somebody on Fox News defending some horrible person. You know, like this:

Our president is the master of this technique. He finds the one poll that has good news for him and promotes it, despite dozens of others that contradict it. He calls Biden and Harris radical socialists based on exaggerating statements they have made about police and health care. He demonizes Mitt Romney or John McCain based on votes they made that he doesn’t like, ignoring the hundreds of other times they supported the same policies that he does.

In many of these situations, the statements made are not lies. (When Greg Larsen points out that Saddam Hussein stood up to Iran, that’s actually true.) But that doesn’t make them accurate. They’re not an accurate representation of the people they purport to describe, because they leave out a massive (and in these cases, obvious) amount of context.

Let’s be honest. In elections, we judge people. Often we judge them on one remark, one action, one perception. This is especially true when we’re biased because of preconceptions — of Republicans, of Democrats, of liberals or conservatives, of Black people, Jews, Muslims, or people who own guns.

It’s a huge pain in the ass to keep paying attention for months and months. It’s hard to compile multiple perspectives from multiple viewpoints. But it’s crucial. Because that’s the only way you’ll have the necessary context to make decisions — in an online world where that context is pervasively easy to miss.

3 responses to “When judging people or voting, context is crucial — and maddeningly easy to omit.

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