Silence of the Lames

“I’ve come to realize that protecting freedom of choice in our everyday lives is essential to maintaining a healthy civil society.”  – George McGovern

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If you’re like me, whose always curious to what readers of controversial magazine and newspaper articles think, then you have noticed that the comments section of nearly every post and article in print or online these days, especially if it has a high volume readership, is as Jessica Valenti noted over at The Guardian, “a place where the most noxious thoughts rise to the top and smart conversations are lost in a sea of garbage.”

I find it depressing to read an interesting article, usually well written, about a subject that matters to me only to find comments at the end of the article that are inundated with vitriolic aspersions, often castigating the writer or some other commenter, with little regard for the substance of the piece.  There is no real intelligent dialogue.  Just angry people finding that cherry-picked piece of commentary and emasculating it without consideration for the person’s feelings who wrote it.  It’s like watching mongrels rip apart the carcass of a dead animal left behind by some predator.

The McGovern quote above strikes a chord with this vicious assault on civility.  When people verbally assault others’ choices the foundations of a healthy society are weakened.  The escalation of gun violence in this country is one of the worst manifestations of increased aggression often expressed in many comments found online.

Though no racial culture or political slant is immune from this fall from grace it appears more to be a predominant feature of the male gender in this country who display the greatest agitation with what medical science refers to as intermittent explosive disorder (IED).  I wouldn’t be surprised either that the IED disorder has increased largely with both black and white males, but especially white males who strongly associate themselves with anti-government, 2nd amendment zealots and Christian fundamentalism. Men are after all expected to be the stronger more aggressive gender among the human species.

Is it conceivable that many who display this disorder haven’t expanded their cultural horizons beyond what they attained up to a middle school level?  This isn’t to suggest these people are exclusively uneducated.  Many are not.  But for some reason when exposed to diversity their mental disorder tends to entrench them in a past that is slowly eroding rather than moving forward with the changes that inevitably come with humans over time.  Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white man charged with gunning down nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C. this last June seems to fit this profile.

This perhaps explains where the anger comes from.  Their world is slowly disappearing and the ones to blame for this seem to be those who were less powerful in a bygone era in America and many other Western civilizations.  Ergo the abundant invective many female and minority bloggers experience compared to someone like myself.

When it comes to the argument that all speech should be free there are of course exceptions.  Yelling fire in a crowded theater when there is none is the classic example of this.  Getting passionate about your convictions however can often overlap into angry diatribes that turn hostile and threatening.  This doesn’t mean you should be criminally charged for such behavior.  But it does raise concerns in our culture of hate that has evolved over the last few decades pitting one ideological proponent against another.

The comments section following a piece should be a place where rational people come together to have a dialogue on the subject.  Yes it can be heated but it should remain respectful of those we disagree with.  The problem it seems is that people really don’t want to hear why you think as you do, a behavior that might gain some empathy for the diversity we live amongst.  They want instead for you to bend to their ways and when it becomes clear to them that their “reasoning” is not persuading you they then release the hounds of their obsession and attempt to deprive you of your humanity.  Valenti recognizes this in her essay.

“…it feels as if comments uphold power structures instead of subverting them: sexism, racism and homophobia are the norm; threats and harassment are common.”

There is no meaningful dialogue, only mean-spirited invectives that no longer care about you as a human being.

We seem to have, as a nation, this notion that all speech should be protected but I fear we cheapen ourselves when we remove the element of civility from our discourses.  Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed then we he said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Screen shot 2015-09-11 at 10.51.13 AMThe bile that inundates comment sections on the blogosphere comes from the dark recesses within the souls of people who have lost touch with their world for reasons that are not always readily clear to us.  What is it in people who instantly go for the jugular.  Words can rip to shreds our spirit and the character we have a right to claim.

For someone attempting to take that away, to lower our self-esteem and inhibit us from becoming productive members of society has to come from a source that suffers from mental deficiencies suffered early in their formative years I would speculate.  In all likelihood such animosity stems from the very abuse they find so useful in attacking their perceived enemies.

We advance nothing meaningful and constructive by hateful innuendo and vitriolic language.  Why then shouldn’t we remove hateful speech that fails to address the merits of an issue?  I’m in support of silencing the lame commentary that brings nothing of value to the discourse.

Who here is not moved at the deepest levels when unexpected kindness comes from those you least expect it.  One of the great lessons in our spiritual literature, whether it be the persona of Jesus, St Francis or the brothers Karamazov is that treating people with dignity and be willing to forgive can have the greatest and lasting impact on peace and security.

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I have no problem with people who speak passionately about a view they hold.  But when comments do little more that insult people and disrespect their humanity they need to be sent back into the darkness they come from to prevent them from blocking the light in discussion groups that encourage an informative exchange of ideas.  If people can’t promote their views in a civil manner without tearing someone else down then they should be excluded and allowed to gather in their own established sink holes where such contempt for others can be regurgitated.

One might argue “Who determines what crosses the line and what doesn’t”.  There is a judicial history that negates “obscene” speech, removing it from the protection of the first amendment.  See also Jeremy Waldron’s book on this subject, The Harm in Hate Speech.  I think for the most part hateful speech is like obscene hard-core pornography, and like Justice Potter Stewart suggested in his 1964 opinion on pornography, we’ll know it when we see it.   We should never advance a notion to obstruct free speech but this is not to say that we should ignore incivility when it attempts to pass as free speech.

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19 responses to “Silence of the Lames

  1. So very true. Fox News comments were an absolute circus of insane when I used to mess around there. There was no dialogue, no arena where ideas were expressed, just noise piled on top of noise. The interwebs promised citizen journalism… but that dream is still down in the mud.

  2. Fuck you, you stupid old man!!!!

    Just kidding, of course! Just kidding. 🙂

    “I find it depressing to read an interesting (well written) article…only to find comments at the end…inundated with vitriolic aspersions…castigating the writer or some other commenter…There is no real intelligent dialogue. Just angry people finding that cherry-picked piece of commentary and emasculating it without consideration for the person’s feelings…It’s like watching mongrels rip apart the carcass of a dead animal left behind by some predator.” – Woodgate

    Because it is. Mankind is now a cold blooded, cannibalistic, predator. We destroy everything in our path, including (and especially) each other. We are pack of rabid wolves just waiting to pounce on one another at the first hint of weakness.

    I’ve been on the Internet for longer than most folks who can’t even disconnect from it for 30 seconds (without slitting their wrists) have been alive. It’s NOT the anonymity because, thanks to Loserbook, people now do it under their real names. It’s the safe distance. It’s the lack of immediate consequence. Because it was borne out of anti-social people, it’s part of the very DNA of the World-pipe. From the very beginning, it has always been about 2 things:

    1) Porn.
    2) Ruthlessly sodomizing people.

    The only additions to this mix are stalking, hacking, data-mining, spying and other criminal activity. And, above all, stupidity. As the Internet’s ranks got filled with more & more “average” folks finally able to speak their “minds”; the writing skills, the level of intelligence and the quality of content has plummeted faster than the Hindenburg. (A deliberate “old-timey” reference to give Woodgate something to relate to. You’re welcome.)

    Sure, there are a few hundred bloggers who aren’t complete fucktards. They’re read by a very dedicated fan base…of about 8 people each, most of whom write the other decent blogs. Intelligence on the Inter-webs is like a tree falling in a forest of fucktardom. Ain’t nobody hearing it from all the noise!

    Loserbook, The Twit Zone, iDiotgram, and all the other volcanoes of idiocy are where all the traffic is. Why? Because modern North Americans would much rather watch (& engage in) shallow, consumeristic, vanity and viscous dung-throwing competitions. They want to see humiliated people crying and covered in shit. It’s what sells and it’s what makes the mega-corps who’ve moved in & taken over the Internet mega-money. Why? Because stupid, short-term, thinkers jacked up on exciting exchanges and trivial nonsense are much easier prey for advertisers. Their “data” is worth mega-bucks.

    The traditional Mainstream Media, once something to be admired, is now just mired. Because our technology has empowered every imbecile to empty his bowels on who/whatever they don’t like anytime they feels like it, our mainstream culture “has to compete”. This means the dumbing-down of absolutely everything (See: The Learning Channel), but also the hyping-up of everything. Everything is must be “the biggest thing ever” , or a cage-match that will “change everything”.

    Not only that, media outlets now feel obliged to give every shit-stain with a mouth the microphone. Last time I flipped past CNN, they were reading Tweets from The Twit Zone and treating them as if the opinion of FuzzyBunnie319 had one iota of importance. For those raised in the digital era…No, it doesn’t matter! You are all still as completely meaningless as you ever were…probably even more so. You’re just stupid enough to think you matter.

    And that’s why Mainstream Media websites, even the most intelligent ones, allow comment posting. Naively surprised at how vile it would be, some efforts to civilize the savages were made. Some even considered stopping comments. But marketing departments wanted none of it. Comments allow Joe Fucktard to think his opinion counts for something, that they are on-par with the writing staff and they’re somehow part of the publication. They are mislead into believing they’re empowered, part of “the debate”, even when they’ve never been as insignificant to The Powers That Be that decide everything.

    In short, our toxic culture has enabled & encouraged idiots to act as stupid and vile as possible. It’s great for business and it makes us feel important. The only loser in all this is…all of society. We’ve created a feedback loop of idiocy and it’s sucking everything down the toilet.

    “Though no racial culture or political slant is immune from this fall from grace, it appears more to be a predominant feature of the male gender in this country who display the greatest agitation with what medical science refers to as intermittent explosive disorder (IED).

    I used to have that. More fibre. Less caffeine. Now I’m regular as ever.

    Most people who know me (and are stupid enough to) tell me I have “anger issues”. While that’s a vast understatement, I can keep it under control. All my vitriol winds up on the Web-pipes. Here’s the key. Unlike everyone else these days, I leave it there. I turn off my desktop, walk away from it, and do the unthinkable…I enter REAL LIFE and the all-the-shit-sandwiches-you-can-eat cafeteria that it is. The desktop is my built-in safety valve that lets me walk away from it.

    But now that every single fuckwipe has Internet access in their hand 24/7, there is NO shutoff switch. Like an 80’s horror movie, the fantasy world has invaded the real world. One second they’re telling RU486 to “gut bEck in de kicHen u ugly slut!!!!” The next second, they tell the crippled senior looking for a seat in the handicapped zone to “Get the fuck away from me, you old perv!” Or, they throw shit at the teacher like he was an angry bird. Or, they take “selfies” of themselves with homeless guys passed out drunk on the street. Increasingly, folks today are their “worst-self” 24/7 and nobody is stopping them. In fact, they’re being encouraged everywhere they turn.

    This is the culture we’ve created and it’s spreading faster than the Zombie Virus.

    • “I used to have that. More fibre. Less caffeine. Now I’m regular as ever”

      Ha!

      As usual SM your dark cynicism reveals a pound of truth about the human animal. It does seem that the “web-pipes” have opened up the underbelly of society to the rest of us who only heard of such vile rage and vitriolic hate from underground literature. It is no longer tucked safely away but actually in play getting major candidates elected to public office.

      • At your age Woodgate, you should already know what a good friend fibre can be. 🙂

        Oh yeah. I knows me some Web-pipes! Been a fly stuck in the Web since the late 80’s. I’ve seen its rise & its fall. I’ve seen & experienced what it does to your brain; how addictive it is, how it isolates you from real people, how it alters your personality.
        (If I ever get around to my own blog “educational website”, this will be an ongoing topic.)

        The Inter-web is a lot like being a Jerry Springer guest, and not just because the content is similar. Before going on it, you probably weren’t that great a person to begin with. But NOBODY comes off looking better after being on it.

        You’re FAR better than 95+% of the drooling imbeciles and chronic masturbators (metaphoric & literal) out there, Woodgate. But I’m sure even you were a better person before going on the Web-tubes. We ALL were. (For example: Sedate Me mocking old-timers minutes after waking up.)

      • “Been a fly stuck in the Web since the late 80’s.”

        So it was you and Al Gore in the beginning, eh? 🙂

        I am beginning to have more of a life outside this key pad and screen relationship

      • Damn, I forgot to mention that Trump is the perfect Presidential candidate for the Inter-web Era . He’s needlessly abrasive, eagerly hostile, driven by his own ego, totally shameless, unapologetic and proposes ultra-shallow “solutions” to everything. His policies fit perfectly into the 140 character format of today’s standard for “intellectual” debate, The Twit Zone.

        I could actually get much further into this and explain his appeal to Inter-web Era voters (and still not break my 2016 “abstinence vow”), but I wouldn’t want to steal a potential topic from you. I probably do enough of that already with all my damn tangents that last forever.

  3. Larry,

    You know I disagree with you on just about everything. But I wanted to say “Hello” so as to keep my promise of staying in touch. And I also wanted to say that I’m glad you’re supporting Bernie Sanders in 2016. I disagree with the man on most issues but he is indeed a man of principle.

    I hope all is well with you, my friend.

    • It’s odd that you should connect at this time Terrence because I was just thinking of you when I wrote this. Well indirectly. I was thinking of John Baron who liked to “challenge” everything thing I said, often inserting his view of me as a left wing nut. I know he likes to write on your blog (or at least he did) and that was what led me to think of you again.

      Never mind. I just clicked on your logo and I see he is alive and well.

      I’m doing fine. Fighting the oil and gas industry down here to oppose their fracking wells being built in close proximity to our homes, schools and parks. I have also been nominated and selected to serve on the Planning & Zoning Commission in Denton so now maybe I can accomplish some good through that body.

      Thanks for checking in. How’s all with you and your family? Any more kids yet?

      • Larry,

        Sifting Reality is John’s blog. I write on his because I’m too lazy to post on a regular basis and also because he has a devoted following. You can tell which one of us is the author by reading the name beneath the headline and next to the date. Most of the content is John’s, however.

        I don’t know much about fracking but it sounds like bad news from everything I’ve read. It creates sinkholes, earthquakes, and pollutes nearby wells and water supplies. No good.

        Congratulations. You’re becoming a politician, ‘eh? LOL.

        We’re doing well. And nope! Just the four and believe me they’re a handful.

      • Planning & Zoning? Good for you! Those are highly underrated, but hugely important bodies. In your case, the oil & gas industry is top of mind. But Planning & Zoning truly shapes cities. Getting it wrong can fuck up a town forever.

        I was completely unaware you could get on one of those committees without being elected to Council (Next step?). You have to in my neck of the tundra. My Planning & Zoning Committee is so bad, it could do a much better job if they were replaced by a bunch of chimps with severe head injuries.

        Previous Councils were made up of bribe-taking, Yes-Men, careerists who were eager to help developers sprawl over every farmer’s field in the county. This Council is made up of bribe-taking, Yes-Men, careerists who are eager to help developers demolish every old building downtown and replace them with hideous glass towers and parking lots. What’s truly sad is that these morons are literally the “best” Council this stupid Duckburg is ever going to elect. That’s how bad it is.

        With the addition of you, your Planning Committee is already way better than mine will ever be.

        I’m a major lover of the Sim City computer games, so I spend half my free time “planning & zoning”. If you need any un-requested advice, I’m always more than willing to give some, armchair quarterback that I am. 🙂

      • Denton tends to be a progressive enclave in the state of Texas though it still votes republican every election. But within city government we have elected some people who are starting to represent their constituents more than the moneyed-interests. One of the city council members I worked with to get elected nominated me for the P&Z Commission and along with at least two other progressives on that commission we should do a better job of putting people over profits first.

  4. Hear, hear, Larry. Very nicely said. I spent my working life trying to sell my students on the idea of rational decision making, one that had room for passion but not vitriol. I feel that the world left me behind by going in the other direction. I may even be contributing to it with some of my posts. I keep looking for the understanding and sympathy that is escaping me. Thanks for helping me along the way.

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