What happened when I called conservatives vermin

It happened in Twitter, because of course it did. I decided it would be interesting to see what would happen if I used the same type of language to describe conservatives that they use to describe immigrants, minorities, and liberals in general. This was a couple of days ago, and the results are still in progress. it has been educational… for me. There’s no evidence that the conservatives who have chosen to engage with me learned anything from it, but I didn’t expect them to. It all started with this tweet:


Now, I understand that decontextualized inflammatory comments are problematic, so I went on in an entire thread after this initial tweet to talk about my motivation for saying this. You can see me trying to signal to people that they should read more by my sentence fragment at the end (“Now, just to be clear… (cont)”). Of course, if you know Twitter at all, you aren’t surprised that this was met with limited success. Most people never got past the first tweet.

But before getting into my explanations and the reactions to the tweet, let me begin with some background.

Four days prior to my tweet (six days prior to the publishing of this article), President Trump had given a speech that received a lot of attention because he talked about immigrants as an “infestation”. It wasn’t a small news story.

(This is just a sample of the current search results on the story… it was hard to miss. Scroll down past the screen shot to keep reading.)


It’s important to point out how widespread reporting on this was, so that you aren’t fooled into thinking that the people replying to my tweet may have just missed it (oops!) and were unaware that the current leader of the “conservative” movement and Republican party in America made these comments.

This is also not a new or unique event: Trump has previously said that immigrant gang members are “animals, not people” and refers to immigrants as “breeding” in sanctuary cities. In years past, prominent conservative figures have called Obama “subhuman” and claimed that liberalism is a mental disorder. But since the election of President Trump there has been a dramatic uptick in nasty language from the right that dehumanizes anyone who isn’t a white Christian conservative.

Two days ago I thought to myself: “How will they react if that kind of language is applied to them?”

Here is the rest of my initial tweet thread, after the top tweet:

The argument is pretty clear: We can’t meet rhetoric about “stamping out” liberals or immigrants with reasoned debate, we have to take a stand and make a proportional response. We have to make it clear that calling immigrants an “infestation” or “vermin” isn’t a difference of opinion we need to debate, it’s a disgusting atrocity against human rights that should be extinguished.

But there was another layer as well: I specifically pointed out that the language I am using (talking about immigrants as if they are non-human, talking about conservatism as if it’s a threat to America, and so on) is directly stolen from the way conservatives talk about immigrants, minorities and liberals. It is exactly parallel.

I did this on purpose, because I wanted to see how many conservatives “fell for it”: that is, how many of them are going to accuse me of being oh such a horrid person for daring to use the same language their president has used, but to apply to conservatives instead of “others”.

How many fell for it? Lots… and I’m too experienced with the internet to think it’s worth trying to reply to every one of them.

But here is someone who saw my tweet and was just sick of mean political rhetoric! I mean… I mean, really!!


And here is someone who decided that my dehumanizing language was the epitome of “social justice” culture:


Now this is where it gets interesting: A lot of Trump supporters described my words in a way that I would say is objectively kind of accurate… but they seemed oblivious to the fact that their very same criticism applied to Trump as well.


You can tell I’m starting to take these comments less seriously when I start tossing around the “bro”…


….and there is more like this, but it gets boring after a while.

I also won’t bore you with the vast majority of the other responses, which often centered around me being too muscular to be intelligent, correcting weird minor technicalities to avoid engaging the point (e.g. “schooling” me about the fact that we are a constitutional republic rather than a liberal democracy, or the fact that Trump said “infestation” but didn’t use the actual word “vermin”), and random homophobic slurs.

Did a single person think to themselves:

Hey, if I’m calling Greg a Nazi for using this kind of language, and Trump also used this kind of language, does that make Trump a Nazi?

There’s no real evidence of that… but I didn’t expect there to be.

What I do hope for, however, is that this entire episode can be a lesson for some of my liberal and progressive friends watching from the sidelines. This message is especially for my progressive friends on Twitter who still say we need to be polite, and who still say we need to try to win people over.

Stop thinking you can shame these people.

Stop believing you can reason with them.

Stop trying to get them to like you. They will never like you.

That is not how they are wired. They will never “see” that they are hypocrites. They will never “see” that they are treating other human beings badly. The energy you spend trying to educate them is a waste. We just need to beat them.

Are they “vermin”? No. Are they “subhuman”? No.

But please learn how these people operate, and adapt your political and rhetorical strategies accordingly.