You may have heard the phrase “bad faith” or “bad faith arguments” shooting across the TV news lately (or at least what passes for news lately) and the phrase is a bit… high-minded. In everyday English it’s as simple as that one person who’s always trying to find some way to “get” you every time you have an argument, to the ridiculous point where you just dread every time you have to talk to them. If, for example, a new employee asks how to use the copier, that’s coming to you in good faith. However, if the slimy so-and-so gunning for a promotion in your office starts asking very pointed questions about how to use the copier the day after you presented a well-organized report to the boss… well, that’s obviously in bad faith.
In my last column we discussed how we live in a postmodern nightmare, which translates into “the truth is whatever enough people bark about for long enough.” Add to that the nasty habit of this late-stage psycho-capitalism system we live in where everything has to be a chance to get one over on everyone else, scrambling for crumbs while the richest among us get fatter and fatter… and you can see how this is a recipe for destruction. Let’s say, for instance, you’re a man with some clearly awful ideas about people who look different than you. If you can put a lie out there, and either hire enough trolls to repeat or say it so often people shrug and say “well, maybe it IS true,” you have a bad faith argument that is not being presented as fact. No one wants to challenge these clearly awful ideas, because as mentioned before, you have a well-paid army of talking heads and anonymous online attack dogs to sic on anyone who does, so your awful ideas go unchallenged.
Behold, the free marketplace of ideas.
So, we’ve got to fight this. For folks on the left, stop buying into some right-wing huckster demanding to know every little in and out of every policy down to the punctuation, because he’s not operating in good faith. For folks on the right, stop taking the bait when people want to catch you saying something horrible about migrant children or poor people, because they’re not exactly operating in good faith. One would think it would be fairly easy to say “just don’t be terrible to children” but these days it seems to be a struggle for some. Fight the temptation to post an unsourced story because it sounds right. Fight the temptation to post a story that is just dunking on someone you don’t like. Operating on bad faith, whether it’s claiming everyone is a Russian Op or claiming everything is part of a grand Deep State conspiracy, doesn’t help anyone or anything.
And if you’re noticing that both the talking heads on the left and right are resorting to bonkers conspiracies to keep up their ratings, you might have noticed that the issue isn’t left or right, but oligarchy vs the rest of us. Folks at the top know they are running out of ways to keep saying giving all the money you worked for to billionaires is a good idea, so instead they resort to bad faith arguments and yell “boogedy boogedy the bad man is coming for you” on the evening news, no matter if your flavor of choice is Democrat or Republican. Don’t fall into this trap: you have the internet, possibly in your pocket right now. Look up sources. Get multiple sides to the story. Don’t just listen to Fox, or MSNBC, or even supposedly neutral outlets like NPR. Maybe you even find some of those options on the internet to hear their side of the story, but always doublecheck they’re not, you know, insane.
A world full of liars operating in bad faith is how you get things like Juicero, a company that sold $400 juicing bags you could squeeze with your hands for free, or Theranos, a company that gobbled up millions of dollars in investments promising a magical blood test to answer all sorts of life’s problems… which turned out to be a giant scam. If you want to live in a world that’s essentially one giant late-night infomercial, that’s your right, but keep your TV tuned to QVC and leave the rest of us to enjoy a non-nightmare kind of life, okay?