Dueling Echo Chambers

I would like to start this piece with a one man play entitled:

“Using Facebook.”

Me: “Hmm, lets see what’s going on in Facebook.”

Me, literally ten seconds later and three swipes into my feed: “I immediately regret this decision! What the fuck is wrong with you fucking people? How could I know this many stupid people? Is it because I’m stupid? Gaaaaaa!”

Me: *loses will to live *

The End

I hope you enjoyed the play. I certainly did not, but that is kinda its point.

Now, you might think, “why follow these people if being exposed to them and their ideas is that upsetting to you?”

This is a good question. I’m glad you asked.

I do this because I think it is important to remind myself that people like this, and their ideas, exist. It is far to easy to forget about them. And then when things like QAnon rear up and actually affect the world political stage, we get completely blindsided by it.

So to the anti-vaxxers; the conspiracy theorists; the Trumpists; and the Canadians going on about gun rights with Second Amendment arguments:

Thank you! Your stupidity has inoculated me (quite ironically, in some cases) against the full-blown infection of toxic stupidity the last four years has become. Thanks to your earnest showcase of the nightmare that is your thought process (or lack thereof). You have helped me survive. Thank you.

Even when you don’t agree with them, it’s good to make oneself aware of other modes of thinking, from time to time. This can help mitigate the dangers of getting trapped in an echo chamber. If you don’t know what that is, then you’re somehow new to the internet (welcome!), or are not very bright. (Check it out, if need be: Echo Chamber)

The internet is full of echo chambers. It is a perfectly crafted engine for them. If you enjoy this kind of thing, then far be it from me to tell you it isn’t good. How you enjoy wasting your time is entirely your business. But I am here to tell you that if you are engaging in these kinds of communities, then what you’re up to is about as productive as a circle jerk. Don’t kid yourself that you’re fighting the good fight, or educating the people. You’re simply entertaining yourself and a bunch of other people who think just like you do.

Now, for those who are busy actively generating content for their chamber’s community, it is common to venture out into the “world” (comment threads) to take the fight to the enemy. This also can be a great way to generate new content.

In this endeavor, there is a tendency to find the worst morons from the opposing camp, and then to use their shittiness to paint their whole group with. I’m sure this is fun. Just do not forget when doing this that you are essentially picking a fight with the village idiot of your enemy town. You may as well be eating cheezies and making your genitals orange for all the good you are doing your cause. As well, it is very likely that you are the village idiot of your town and simply have not realized it. Bird of a feather, and all that.

Like I said, if you enjoy wasting your time this way, that’s your business. But if you engage in a lot of this kind of behavior, I’m going to make certain assumptions about you. (Not that you should care.)

I will assume that you are someone who feels the need to craft an identity out of a cause. This may be one step up in maturity from doing so about the kind of movie, book series, or music you like, but you certainly have not cleared adolescent thinking either. You have the desire to communicate and be perceived, but not the ability to articulate your own thoughts. You don’t yet understand the deeper thinking and philosophy inherent to your own cause, and neither can you think critically to properly dissect the position of an opposing one. So you hunt about for examples of the worst kinds of offenders to make fun of. Little shared tidbits of wit and cleverness are compiled over endless circuits around your favorite echo chamber.

This is the, “I don’t really understand what I like/am yet, but I know fucking well what I hate,” stage of thinking. That’s fine; it’s a normal stage of intellectual development. Just don’t expect to be taken too seriously.

When I’m the target of abuse from folks at this kind of level, it’s like I’m enjoying a walk on a fine day and some some genetic mistake of a teenager with rotten teeth calls out to inform me that my fashion is lame. It is really not a big deal.

You should never assume that anyone you meet, online or otherwise, knows how to think. Least of all if they rely on political talking points or echo chamber reblogs for the bulk of their “personal” narrative. If you operate with the assumption that everyone can’t think, until they prove to you otherwise, you’re going to be a lot happier.

“Oh, what’s this blog? Why, it is someone saying that all blacks/whites/hispanics/gays/breeders/men/feminists/cis gender should be deported/killed/cancelled. Do I need to take this person seriously? Let me think. Hmmmmmm… Oh! Wait a minute! No. They’re an idiot! Problem solved.”

See? Easy. No muss, no fuss.

A bunch of tattoos and an alternative lifestyle (be it Christian fundamentalist, gun-loving militia, or whatever else) do not magically imbue intelligence or infallibility. Nor do they make someone more interesting (but that’s another essay).

Of course, perhaps getting angry at idiots is a favorite hobby of yours. If that’s the case, if you want to try to level up your thinking, I suggest sitting yourself down and asking yourself the following question, in all gravity:

“Am I an idiot?”

If you can answer no, you’re probably lying to yourself. But, maybe it’s simply that you like slumming with idiots on occasion, which means you’re probably just a troll.

When you wander into someone else’s club house to stir up shit you are either trolling or saying implicitly that their thoughts and ideas have merit; essentially, that you are at their level.

Let me go on the record here that I basically agree with about 70% of the feminist and other “social justice” material that I see on my feed. (Do keep in mind: that number is probably as high as it is because I don’t follow idiots; this doesn’t mean I agree with 70% of that kind of material on the internet as a whole.) Then there’s that last 30% where I’m, “uhhh… you lost me there.”

And guess what? It doesn’t fucking matter. Beyond it simply not mattering to me, why would I assume that my thoughts about it would matter to those who are circulating the idea? Is it my job to fix these people? To set some nonexistent record straight? Or, in getting into it, would I simply be imposing my entitled ass into where it doesn’t belong?

If I had to grow up being dominated by dipshit white men, I’d be ornery too. (Hang on… I was. And I am. Aha.) Especially when so many white folks have pissed away every advantage they’ve been given by their psychopathic ancestors, and do nothing but bitch and moan about other people’s malfunctions without ever examining their own.

When people make themselves a community to hate on white people or men or white men, or whoever the fuck, just leave them be. Whether you are a target of their ire or not. They have made it abundantly clear that your voice and perspective is unwelcome. So why impose? Do you honestly think that the one thing missing in every human interaction is hearing your opinion?

Of course if they come into your house with their shit, then do what you will.

I may get pretty opinionated here, but this is my place to give vent to my internal world. Essentially, I’m yelling and throwing whisky bottles at a brick wall in my own house. When folks decide to come to the window and listen, that’s their business. Enter at your own risk.

I have no doubt whatsoever that there are plenty of, say, lesbian people of color who (if they were somehow made aware of me) would like nothing more than to chop me up into little pieces, starting with my genitals, to send me back to Germany and England. That’s okay. If I ever meet one and they try it, I’ll defend myself to the best of my ability. Until then, have fun ranting about it.

Glad to be of service.

Millennials are Garbage

So, millennials, huh? What went wrong there? And golly, Enid, those flappers sure were a real menace, what with their reefer and jazz music and sex in motorcars.

And then with the beatniks! And don’t get me started on those dirty hippies! Punks! The world is going to hell in a handbasket!

Hmmm, now that I start to dig into it a little, it’s almost as though there’s always been people who insist on framing things in terms of generational conflict. Who go for the layup of old versus young (or vice versa) when they want to get their dander up about something. Goddamnit they aint gonna let something like not having anything interesting or useful to say stop them from getting their spleen on!

And then oh what a bland cul-de-sac of the zeitgeist we find ourselves in.

At this point, those of you expecting a hit piece on millennials are probably wondering what the fuck I’m doing.

The short answer is: You’ve been clickbaited.

Now, there are two camps of people who would respond to such bait: those who agree that millennials are terrible; and those who took offense at the title and came looking for some more of that sweet, sweet offensive fuel for their raging fire of righteous indignation.

For those of you in the first group who came looking for something of an echo-chamber to amuse yourselves: sorry, there’s not going to be much here for you in terms of that. But do feel free to pull up a chair and hang about if you’re so inclined. I do actually have a point here and it might not do you any harm to check it out.

Now, for those of you who came torches and pitchforks in hand, I would ask you to take a step back and ask yourself how it is that you’ve been clickbaited. Not why (that’s an easy one: it’s to drive traffic to my content), but how?

The how of it is actually pretty simple. It’s an old sales technique and one of the tricks in the How To Win Friends and Influence People bag. To combat indifference and disinterest, the manipulator instigates the target’s irritation or anger. These feelings, while negative, are an emotional response. The target now has engaged emotionally with you; a connection has been established. From there it is child’s play to defuse the anger, and what follows is a dopamine rush from the perceived conflict resolution, however minor. In that state it, the mark is much more likely to buy that used car they didn’t want.

But this is the internet. There’s no car for them to sell you. So what’s the payoff? Attention. Traffic. That is the currency. You see something that pisses you off, and what do you do? You share it, you comment on it; then your friends to the same. Attention. Traffic.

Mission accomplished.

You read something that pisses you off and you click to read more. In order to do what? What need does that impulse serve for you? I have already told you what need of mine you have serviced, but what service are you doing yourself? The only logical answer is that you like being angry and offended. Fair enough then. But if you don’t like that mental state, then what the fuck are doing to yourself? For my benefit, no less.

This is the media cycle we now are meant to participate in. The celebrity offensive act or tweet, followed by the mea culpa apology circuit. These are not missteps; they are calculated manipulations.

Their name is trending on Twitter. Attention. Traffic.

This is not to say it isn’t useful to get angry at things sometimes. But take a second and think about how you are interacting with what has angered you. Is your attention hurting or helping the object of your ire? Are you signal boosting exactly what it is you claim to be fighting against?

Get angry, sure. Say your piece, even better. But don’t serve their fucking agenda. Make a case for what you believe without linking to that offensive tidbit that baited you into action. That’s the way to do it.

Think of it in terms of that old philosophical exercise:

“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a noise?”

The answer is: no it doesn’t. Noise is a human concept. There are vibrations in the air, but they are not interpreted by a human mind that makes a judgment about what is noise and what isn’t.

So, if a shitty tweet is posted and no one reads it, is it offensive?

Without human attention and interpretation, all of this is nothing more than dust blown into the void. Binary ones and zeros dumped into a sea of data storage.

It’s nothing.

Until you make it something.

People Who Make Hyperbolical Attacks Should Be Shot

When hyperbolical postures are taken, liberties are sure to follow.

Meat is murder, is it? An animal’s soul is the equivalent of a human’s, you say?

If I look perturbed at this point it is only because it odd to me that you could believe those things, and tell me so over a lunch where I chow down on animal right in front of you.

“It’s been fun calling you a mass murderer while watching you engage in your crime and spending money in a place that profits from it! Let’s do it again soon! Same time next week?”

You don’t get to adopt a posture that paints me as evil and then remain my friend or even a friendly acquaintance. Because once you do so, I will lose all respect for you. Either you don’t believe a fucking thing you say, or you are comfortable with self-delusion and complicity in evil to a degree that would make Eva Braun wince.

If you want to hate me for what I am, or the kind of ideas I have, or the things I have done and do, that is your business. You are more than welcome to. But understand that I will not be a prop in some identity constructing, moral outrage performance. I am not a scratching post. Call me the devil because I’m a white male? Disregard my perspective and voice because of it? So be it. I can understand why a person would choose to adopt that posture. The second you do, however, you and I are done.

No great loss to either party, I suppose, but there it is.

Scavengers

It’s the outrage scavenger hunt! Hooray!

It’s time to get offended! Time to get outraged!  What fun!

What’s this? Is that a white woman wearing a kimono?

Appropriation! Let’s all pile on and ruin her life!

It’s time to make a difference.

Did someone ignorant share an extreme opinion you don’t like?

We can’t just leave that alone to die a quiet death all by itself. No way!

Pile on!

This is important work we’re doing here.

Piling on. Ripping other little people to shreds.

Fixing the world.

One ruined life at a time.

 

Pick a Side

Pick a side. Doesn’t matter which; it is about as relevant as the name on a concert t-shirt. The important thing is that you have a brand to engage your tribalism with.

Now that you know what side you’re on, it’s time to go hunting! Get out there and scour the web for the stupidest, most ignorant, ill-adjusted, mentally unstable people you can find from the opposing side. Expose these troglodytes to the cleansing light of public condemnation and mass cyber bullying. If you’re not lucky enough to find one of these people yourself, then just pile on with the rest of your tribe.

This is fun, isn’t it? Oh, they make you so angry, don’t they? Such a delicious mix of moral outrage and strident self-expression. It’s important work you’re doing: digging the rot out of society, one shitty person at a time.

The goodness doesn’t end here, though. See, what you can do now is take these shitty people and use them and their words to condemn the thinking and philosophy of the other side. Make that person your opposing faction’s mascot. They can be your brush to paint your enemy entire with.

Do not allow the enemy a chance to confuse your conviction with thoughts and arguments; nuance and context. The underpinnings of their philosophies are meaningless. The deep thinkers who spent decades crafting their notions are dust in the wind of your righteous fury.

No, finding the most debased, slack-jawed cretin that claims adherence to their philosophy is all that you need to extinguish its credibility forever. For you have destroyed them! You have exposed and crushed them!

Isn’t victory sweet?

Now, you may occasionally feel a pinch. Sometimes you may look about at your words and those who fight on your side, and realize that you share more in common with those enemies you fixate on and attack than with the philosophers who formed the arguments you regurgitate.

You may come to suspect that those who spend all their time fixating upon, baiting, and fighting with the lowest cretins from the other side are in fact the cretins of their own. That in playing a game, we share more in common with our opponent than the philosopher that crafted the pieces we play with.

This is nothing, though. A passing spasm. Don’t reflect too deeply on it, lest you realize you have been playing checkers on a chess set with the village idiot as opponent.

Push these thoughts aside and carry on, brothers and sisters. Carry on.

The important thing is that you’ve won so many games!

Blurred Lines

In social media the user is simultaneously the consumer and the product; just as we are both the audience and performer. It does not end there, though.

In this modern economy of commodified outrage, the offended are so often offensive in turn. It’s a cycle that self-perpetuates and enriches the host of the arena.

Free content.

Further, those who seek to cause and take offense are often best described by the insults they throw at others. The conservative tough guys who deride “snowflakes” and yet are triggered into quivering puddles by the simple existence of gay or transgendered people. The liberal activists who are just as intolerant of differences of thinking than those they label bigots.

Each two sides of the same coin, arguing in turn until they’re just a blur of unpleasantness.