Encounter with a zealot

Last Saturday, I attended a meeting of the Vermont Democratic Party’s state committee. As I reported in this space, it was a positive experience — with one exception: “a heated confrontation with one attendee who vehemently disagrees with me on a couple of issues.”

Well, now it’s time to tell that story. I’m not identifying the other person because it’s not my intention to drag an individual through the mud. What I want to do is illustrate a first-class example of How Not To Make Friends and Influence People. If this person hoped to convince me, she did an absolutely piss-poor job of it.

After the meeting ended, I wandered around the room introducing myself to people. At one point, this person struck up a conversation by asking who I was. Fair enough; I gave her my card. (Yes, I had some bargain-basement cards printed up with my name, GMD handle, and contact info.)

She glanced at the card and immediately asked me why I’m so mean to Peter Galbraith.

My first thought was, “Wow, there’s at least one Peter Galbraith fan in the world.” (Er, that is, one fan not named Peter Galbraith. He is definitely his own biggest fan.)

I was briefly struck silent by surprise, and also by the plethora of possible ways I could have replied. “Most hated person in the Legislature” would have been good — although obviously she wouldn’t be able to see that. “Bursting with arrogance”? That wouldn’t get through her filter either.

“Willing to block the Senate’s workings over minor points of principle that matter only to him”? “Willing to thwart the obvious will of the chamber as much as he possibly can”? “Willing to derail good legislation over issues visible only to him”? Nah, too procedural.

“An oil millionaire who bought his way into the Senate by self-funding a campaign war chest that no one else could match, and now seeks to write campaign finance legislation that will cement his rich-man’s advantage”? Maybe.

“Single-handedly tried to destroy End of Life legislation and, when that failed, forced a complete rewrite into a joke of a bill”? I thought about that, but the way things were going, I thought she might well be against death with dignity.

But what I went with was, “I disagree with his opposition to wind power.”  

Wrong thing to say.  

Turns out she’s anti-wind, and she set off on a verbal assault that, if harnessed to a generator, could have provided enough energy to power a smallish town. Every time I tried to reply to one of her questions or statements, she cut me off partway through. I constantly felt the urge to take a step back, as she pressed forward into my personal space.

She trotted out all the anti-wind arguments with bewildering speed, and asked me how I could possibly support ridgeline wind. I started to reply that most of her points were unsupported by the weight of scientific research. And she quite literally brushed aside the whole notion of science, instead insisting that the only thing that mattered was the personal experience of people. And she asserted that I was duty-bound to visit communities near wind projects and experience the alleged effects first-hand.

And insisted over and over again, until I said “Yes” just to get her out of my face.

She hasn’t followed up with an invitation yet, but if she does, I’m going to say “No.” My “Yes” was induced by verbal coercion, and I see no reason to voluntarily subject myself to more of the same.

All in all, it was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. But I’m a big boy, and I expect a certain amount of heat in response to my writings in this space. My point, as I sad at the beginning, is that this person did a horrible job of influencing my beliefs. She actually reinforced my opinion that the anti-wind crowd is full of zealots and ideologues who refuse to consider any evidence that refutes their point of view and continue to make claims and charges that are unsupported by science.  

This is no way to influence public opinion. This is no way to gain adherents to the cause. Rather, this is a way to wall yourself off from public discourse, and show yourself unworthy of intelligent conversation.

Anyone who dismisses science out of hand has abdicated any claim to my consideration. I just hope this person doesn’t represent the Democratic Party the same way she represents her anti-wind crusade. All she can do is repel the very people she is trying to convince. And harm the image of the party she represents.  

17 thoughts on “Encounter with a zealot

  1. not have caved. I would instead have raised the hired gun issue and invalidated entire undertaking of said group, dismissing said zealot’s fearless leader under the anti-trust clause. Once a hired gun, always a hired gun unless hired gun can prove un-hiring or firing, such as allowing complete independent audit of donor list & supporters, just for starters.

    No matter, if ride in clowncar to the crime scene is refused, or failure to join this supposed soviet-bread line at the door of the aggrieveds abode to witness said crime she’ll surely [?] get the message that it is often less messy to simply end confrontation with a button-holer then continue the endless interrogation as even innocent murder suspects will claim guilt for a reduction of the life, or death sentence which they are made to believe will be meted out upon their certain guilty conviction.

  2. After all of the callous, hateful posts you’ve dropped on these pages, I applaud her for refraining from punching you in the nose.  

  3. I had a very different interaction with the same person after the meeting.

    First she gave me a big hug, thanking me for opposing a very technical campaign finance resolution. Eventually I told her that I was also part of GMD, although I rarely post these days, and gave her my handle. She asked me why you, JV, hate Peter Galbraith. I said I couldn’t speak for you, but in general the senator has earned the low regard by his arrogant shenanigans, like gutting an entire bill at the last minute.

    She asked me where I stood on wind, and I told her that I thought it should be in the renewable energy mix, but that siting decisions should be made carefully, and the experienced effects of wind turbines on neighbors should not be ignored. (I guess you could say I’m agnostic on that.) She invited me to come along on your visit to a ridgeline wind site, asking two or three times as I hemmed and hawed, and I finally said that if you went, JV, and the scheduling worked out, I would “probably” go too.

    I excused myself from the conversation at that point, as there were others I needed to talk to. I didn’t experience her as a zealot, but rather as someone who is passionate about a cause.


    For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.  ~ Richard P. Feynman

  4. jvwait unleashes a tsunami of name calling and disparaging remarks against those he believes don’t share his views on wind energy or his ideas on proper decorum for the Vermont Senate. He then labels folks whose ideas he doesn’t approve of as zealots and ideologues. Finally, he concludes by telling us that the people whom he as just finished pummeling don’t now how to influence and win over others due to their significant shortcomings.

    Amazing……..so much tolerance for his fellow man. So, this is what jvwai believes it takes to make friends and influence others?

    One has to wonder if jvwait was actually looking in the mirror when writing his comments. If not, maybe he needs to  look into that mirror and then read his own words before castigating others.  

  5.  My point, as I sad at the beginning, is that this person did a horrible job of influencing my beliefs. She actually reinforced my opinion that the anti-wind crowd is full of zealots and ideologues who refuse to consider any evidence that refutes their point of view and continue to make claims and charges that are unsupported by science.  

    a defacto description of the active contingent of the democratic party?

    no one on the same page but everyone wanting you to read theirs?

    I love me some democrats, but we are a divergent and enthused bunch.   Oh to be like the R’s and only have corporate dominance to worry about.

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