Just what exactly did you mean by that?

For a number of years, my online discussions with liberals have met with a common frustration.  It is this:  two people can hear the exact same thing and yet hear them entirely differently.

This became glaringly apparent in this year's presidential election.  Time after time, Donald Trump would say something entirely innocuous – and true – and the left would cry, "racism!"

For example, he pointed out that the (effectively) open borders policy of Barack Obama has resulted in an influx of a disproportionate number of rapists and murderers from Mexico, which is demonstrably true.  Yet those on the left heard Trump say that all Mexicans are murderers and rapists.

Of course, part of the problem is that Trump was speaking without carefully parsing his every word (as most of us do in casual conversation).  Trump's rhetorical naïveté left an opening into which propagandists of the left lunged like hungry wolves upon a wounded fawn.  To be sure, a great many liberal critics of Trump know better, but unfortunately, once their false meme was established, it became accepted by the left as undeniable truth.  For the remainder of their lives, many people will sincerely believe that Trump deliberately insulted every Mexican on the planet, despite his recent cordial visit with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.  Nothing will ever change their minds.

Another part of the problem is that people often hear what they expect to hear.  Often, they even hear only what they hope to hear.  When they expect to hear a white person say something racist, there is an increased likelihood that they will interpret his words, however innocent, in the most unfavorable light.  Such people may even seek to be insulted so that their prejudgments can be vindicated.

The difficulty is in separating those whose misinterpretations are honest mistakes from those who deliberately twist what is said so as to use it as a weapon.  One cannot have a productive discussion with someone who is interested only in engaging in propaganda.  It is a waste of time to try.

Another big problem with people on the left is their prejudice.  For example, on an online discussion board where I had engaged in a long series of exchanges with liberals, one of them finally described me as some sort of uneducated "goober" who had probably never crossed a county line, and who probably had never befriended or worked with people of other races and religions.  The list of condescending terms was long, and not a single one of them was true.  To wit:  as a veteran of twenty years of military service, I lived in Asia for seven years, not only on base, but among the natives.  While there, I learned adequate fluency in two Asian languages.  I had been in constant close contact with my comrades-in-arms who were members of a multitude of races, religions, and cultural backgrounds.  I have a college degree, and of course in college I was thoroughly exposed to leftist ideas.

I inquired as to what made my respondents so sure that I was the ignorant buffoon they thought I was.  Their reply was that my conservative opinions could only be those of someone who led an insulated life without contact with people of diverse backgrounds.  Most of them probably still believe the stereotype with which they had painted me.

I once met a lady from the northeastern United States who told me that she had accompanied her husband, with her two small children, to a job assignment in Mississippi.  After a few weeks, she abruptly returned to New England, because, as she explained, in a hilariously deep Southern accent, her school-age children had begun to "Tawk lack thee-iss hee-eer," and she was not going to have her kids speaking in a redneck dialect.  (Full disclosure: As a child, I had a Southern accent, and my late mother was from Connecticut, where eventually I attended high school when my father got a job there.  Now I speak mostly normally.)

While that anecdote is somewhat humorous, it actually does reveal a liberal prejudice, which is that if you speak with a drawl, you are not to be taken seriously.

On a more sinister note: Van Jones, an African-American news commentator on CNN, gave an astonishing explanation of why he thought white voters voted for Donald Trump.  It could only be because we whites are racist.  He entertained no other possibility.  If his description was purely an exercise in propaganda, my only fear is that he has infected the minds of many young people with a false and dangerous meme.

On the other hand, if he really believes what he said, then it is truly depressing to think that intelligent people can be so abysmally deceived.  Could the situation really be that hopeless?

For a number of years, my online discussions with liberals have met with a common frustration.  It is this:  two people can hear the exact same thing and yet hear them entirely differently.

This became glaringly apparent in this year's presidential election.  Time after time, Donald Trump would say something entirely innocuous – and true – and the left would cry, "racism!"

For example, he pointed out that the (effectively) open borders policy of Barack Obama has resulted in an influx of a disproportionate number of rapists and murderers from Mexico, which is demonstrably true.  Yet those on the left heard Trump say that all Mexicans are murderers and rapists.

Of course, part of the problem is that Trump was speaking without carefully parsing his every word (as most of us do in casual conversation).  Trump's rhetorical naïveté left an opening into which propagandists of the left lunged like hungry wolves upon a wounded fawn.  To be sure, a great many liberal critics of Trump know better, but unfortunately, once their false meme was established, it became accepted by the left as undeniable truth.  For the remainder of their lives, many people will sincerely believe that Trump deliberately insulted every Mexican on the planet, despite his recent cordial visit with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.  Nothing will ever change their minds.

Another part of the problem is that people often hear what they expect to hear.  Often, they even hear only what they hope to hear.  When they expect to hear a white person say something racist, there is an increased likelihood that they will interpret his words, however innocent, in the most unfavorable light.  Such people may even seek to be insulted so that their prejudgments can be vindicated.

The difficulty is in separating those whose misinterpretations are honest mistakes from those who deliberately twist what is said so as to use it as a weapon.  One cannot have a productive discussion with someone who is interested only in engaging in propaganda.  It is a waste of time to try.

Another big problem with people on the left is their prejudice.  For example, on an online discussion board where I had engaged in a long series of exchanges with liberals, one of them finally described me as some sort of uneducated "goober" who had probably never crossed a county line, and who probably had never befriended or worked with people of other races and religions.  The list of condescending terms was long, and not a single one of them was true.  To wit:  as a veteran of twenty years of military service, I lived in Asia for seven years, not only on base, but among the natives.  While there, I learned adequate fluency in two Asian languages.  I had been in constant close contact with my comrades-in-arms who were members of a multitude of races, religions, and cultural backgrounds.  I have a college degree, and of course in college I was thoroughly exposed to leftist ideas.

I inquired as to what made my respondents so sure that I was the ignorant buffoon they thought I was.  Their reply was that my conservative opinions could only be those of someone who led an insulated life without contact with people of diverse backgrounds.  Most of them probably still believe the stereotype with which they had painted me.

I once met a lady from the northeastern United States who told me that she had accompanied her husband, with her two small children, to a job assignment in Mississippi.  After a few weeks, she abruptly returned to New England, because, as she explained, in a hilariously deep Southern accent, her school-age children had begun to "Tawk lack thee-iss hee-eer," and she was not going to have her kids speaking in a redneck dialect.  (Full disclosure: As a child, I had a Southern accent, and my late mother was from Connecticut, where eventually I attended high school when my father got a job there.  Now I speak mostly normally.)

While that anecdote is somewhat humorous, it actually does reveal a liberal prejudice, which is that if you speak with a drawl, you are not to be taken seriously.

On a more sinister note: Van Jones, an African-American news commentator on CNN, gave an astonishing explanation of why he thought white voters voted for Donald Trump.  It could only be because we whites are racist.  He entertained no other possibility.  If his description was purely an exercise in propaganda, my only fear is that he has infected the minds of many young people with a false and dangerous meme.

On the other hand, if he really believes what he said, then it is truly depressing to think that intelligent people can be so abysmally deceived.  Could the situation really be that hopeless?