How do you argue with a conspiracy theorist? *UPDATED*

A friend of mine is horrified that I’m affiliated in any way with the Tea Party movement.  They are, he tells me, Nazis.  They are, he says, the direct descendants of George Wallace’s racist, antisemitic, separatist movement.  They are, he assures me, far right wing paramilitary nutcases who want to take over the country for evil purposes.  I am a naive dupe, being used by people who are the reincarnation of the John Birch society.

I keep asking for evidence.  What has anyone said or done that has made you reach these conclusions?  What he’s been able to come up with is the fact that Glenn Beck, a demagogue, held a rally on the anniversary of MLK’s speech and there were almost no blacks there; and that Christine O’Donnell is a creationist (which, it is true, is something I do not support).  Everything else, he assures me, is there, but you have to understand that it’s in code.

The Tea Party leaders, he says, are not friends and neighbors.  They are a cabal who have figured out that they can control naive people by using code about small government and strong national security.  Everything they say is a lie, meant to confuse us into supporting them so that they can bring about their racist, Nazi, antisemitic, xenophobic, paramilitary dream.  They’re just not saying it directly.  You have to understand the subtext.

When I point him to the Mt. Vernon Statement as a fairly comprehensive statement of a commitment to a true constitutional government, I’m told that’s just smoke and mirrors to confuse the credulous, even as their secretive, unknown leaders advance their nefarious plans.

My questions for you:  How can you argue with this?  Because all facts are not really facts at all, but just illusions that hide an incredible ugliness that can’t actually be seen, and as to which there is no proof, what is left to debate?

UPDATE:  What upsets me so much in my discussions with this friend — and it’s a friend who is an integral part of my life, so the discussions are here to stay — is the fact that it’s never about substance.

I’ll happily debate with someone the virtues of big government versus small, whether the Founders meant what they said in the Second Amendment, or just how far Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” should be used in understanding the First Amendment.  But it’s never about the merits.  It’s about name-calling.

It’s also about the bizarre conclusion that the absence of any evidence whatsoever of overt, or covert, racism or antisemitism or theocratic thinker, is itself proof that the Tea Party movement is racist, antisemitic and intent upon a fundamentalist Christian takeover of America.

Every conversation is an Alice in Wonderland world, where I’m trying to have a civil discussion with someone who alternates between Humpty Dumpty’s creative language use, the Queen of Heart’s anger, and the Mad Hatter’s logical insanity.