Sunday, August 12, 2012

Debating Ignorance On The Internet And Specifically Facebook

Hey, you! Wow. You'd think after all the time I spent in my early twenties tied up in the inanity of political discourse on the internet I'd have learned some lesson, right? Wow, no, apparently I haven't yet. It'd be nice to, some day. I'm actually all for discussion of the issues. And granted it's hard to discuss the issues when memes like the following are being widely disseminated:

I know I should find better things to waste my time on, and there are equally specious pro-Obama memes are out there, floating around, cluttering the discourse, too. I know that. Still, I wanted to talk about Ronald Reagan, hero of the right. And yes, I came from the perspective that his presidency wasn't as great as this meme implies. And so I called upon his trumpeting of "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" which at least subtly suggests blame for society's problems on his opponent, Jimmy Carter, during the 1980 campaign; his penchant for falling asleep during cabinet meetings (I hear this excused as, "probably got more done sleeping than Carter did awake." and other such noise that I'd prefer not to delve into); his love of a short workday; his taking twice as much vacation in the same time span as Obama (though one president definitely gets more grief for it); and his -- I'll concede -- probably unknowing complicity, or "actual deniability" as I believe John Poindexter once called it (instead of the more aware "plausible deniability"), concerning The Enterprise and sending armaments for money from Iran to the Nicaraguan Contras, during the Iran-Contra scandal. There's more, naturally. Any president can be accused of just as many gaffs as they can successes, and as always, it all comes down to perspective. Anyway, I went there. And it was bad. It was not a lot of name calling, at least between me and my most specific debate partner. But it was a waste of time. 

We got nowhere. 

For every reasonable point I made, my opponent felt the same way about his counterpoint. It just sort of went on like that, fruitlessly. To end it, I blocked the discussion. To further end these sorts of issues from coming up again, I deleted the person who'd originally posted the meme. Is that wrong? I'm inclined to say no. I say that because I did not know this person, a received-at-random add from him for reasons that remain mysterious to me, especially when if I recall correctly I came in contact with him for the first time while arguing in another thread with just the same sort of leftist bent. 

What it comes down to are salient differences in belief. I'm at least largely a demand sider as goes economic theory, and I consider supply side economics very hazardous at best (a la the Clinton administration's bestowing "Most Favored" nation status onto trading partner China and the problematic and still controversial implementation of The North American Free Trade Agreement, which each decision made it more appealing to move American jobs overseas). A  vehement supply sider would see my opinion in this regard as a wrongheaded, unnecessary restriction on the mechanisms of the global market. Simply put, don't make it harder to buy and sell (and produce) goods in other locations abroad. And as time has gone on we've been able to see the longterm effects, which have been largely good for corporations and the very wealthy, but like a lot of international commerce, much less desirable for the less wealthy on down. Thus the irony of the "Trickle Down" theory's name, which seems to have gotten stopped up somewhere as wealth continues to be increasingly consigned to the highest levels of American society to the detriment of all those (and not just the poorest) below them. 

But often these components aren't reasonably looked at. And the individual he sees things in terms of his self, as we all do to lesser or greater extent, evaluates progress only by how good his/her life is, purely anecdotal and ego-centric terms, bordering at times on the solipsistic and, even, occasionally, the sociopathic. Which is why arguments can be so reductive. And suddenly name calling arises out of what was once a logical and reasoned debate. The party that is categorically wrong is usually the first to invoke derision. See: the history of racism, of subjection, of scapegoating and genocide. Meanwhile, how are we looking at the true merits of our sociological problems? I had a fascinating email exchange with Professor Robert Lopez of California State University-Northridge on this recent article he wrote for The Witherspoon Institute, and which tells a different story from the commonly held arguments supporting gay parenting. (Lopez himself was raised predominantly by his mother and a woman she became involved with, and he speaks of what he viewed as "being strange," in the eyes of the greater community around him, and likewise feeling strange himself.) Granted, I wrote to him because I wanted to determine where his and my own views intersected, but our views hardly completely intersect, even after discussing the matter with him more personally. Still, it was a very polite exchange, one that I feel good about and suggests to me that people on the opposite sides of any of the political perspective (on all the different issues) can, indeed, be debated reasonably. This is not something usually found on Facebook, however, and I think that's the lesson I want others to take from what I'm writing here. Don't be like me. Probably, where Facebook is concerned, you should leave well enough alone. 



  1. Einstein publie sa théorie de la relativité restreinte en 1905, et une théorie de la gravitation dite relativité générale en 1915. Il contribue largement au développement de la mécanique quantique et de la cosmologie.
    pour savoir plus regardez le documentaire suivant: Einstein - 1905, l'année lumière

  2. You're very unlikely to find an interesting argument on the internet. Or an argument that will "lead somewhere". Facebook is the loud-and-proud place where people love to say whatever they feel like because the social outcome is under their absolute control. Twitter is for witty one liners and you can't transport a Twitter convo to Facebook, at least not in public because the loud-and-proud vultures will eat you alive and make your convo derail to Kanye West photoshops. You can always try to have an image debate on Pintestest, but good luck.

    Would your debate have been different in person? I doubt it. The internet gives you the rawest pulsions of the human nature because there is a godlike feeling to be sitting behind a screen. I think the result would have been the same, but yeah. I can't understand what a Ronald Reagan apologist has to say for himself. But they talk a lot. I mean, Bill O'Reilly is still employed...

  3. You totally got an intellectual spammer btw.

  4. Yeah, that's why I opted to squelch it, the whole debate, and just move on (a little wiser?). I don't think there's anything offensive about noting this Salon article (talking up the effects of the Ryan veep selection) and its pretty interesting breakdown of the differences between conservatives and liberals, which tends to come down to clannishness vs. inclusion. It pretty well sums up why it's so difficult to come to a common understanding. One side simply isn't looking for common understanding. They're largely (as a demographic) looking for affirmation.

    "The conservatives and Republicans know what team they are on — and that tribal identity is more important to them than any idea of hegemonic cultural identity could possibly be to liberals. For one, the conservative team is almost totally white, and far more homogenous, while more than 43 percent of Obama’s supporters are people of color. Add in that conservative brand of resentment — the “makers versus the takers” — and it becomes clear who represents the conservative notion of a “maker.” With Ryan as the standard-bearer for the self-described “makers,” the team has its galvanizer."

    It's why I can present plenty of cited evidence for my position and still be referred to as a "peabrain lib" -- despite that I wouldn't even refer to myself as categorically a liberal. And what's more it's better NOT to subscribe to obvious labels and look for "-isms" to guide your worldview. Yes, I sympathize with the left-leaning worldview but I'm not opposed to considering the merits of other systems of belief, and often, agreeing with them.

    1. Also, I like that spammer. Adds a cosmopolitan quality to the discussion.

  5. You know, I've watched the remake of FOOTLOOSE last week-end and they did something interesting. They changed Uncle Wes into this very bright, witty overall-wearing redneck who stands up for his now-Boston-native nephew. I thought it was interesting thing to represent a redneck as something else than slogan-saying idiot that doesn't like to question things.

    That said, political parties (in the US and everywhere) adresses what suits their "typical voter" and considers everybody else the enemy. I understand the farmers to freak out at the Democrats economic policies, because it doesn't pay attention to their needs at all. What the hell do you want them to do but get angry and defensive?

    I also understand the city dwellers to freak out at the Republican's foreign policy, especially since it's been hijacked for shadowy purposes. Their lifestyle allows them to see the consequence of their country's action a lot more than midland farmers who work eighty hours a week and look for entertainment in their small windows of relaxation. I know my point is somewhat obvious here. Politicians don't address people as if they were intelligent and capable of reasoning.

    Barack Obama kinda did during his last campaign (the keyword here is kinda) and I suppose Republicans had some great candidates before. I just don't remember them.

  6. I agree, although I do think the "us vs. them" philosophy is more attributable originally to Republicans, first the talking heads who co-opted the party, and then the politicians who realized the political capital there was to gain by embracing divisive rhetoric. All of which more or less came about for the age old reason of consolidating power among a certain group of people, and yes, I do believe the wealthiest Americans have benefited and continue benefiting most from this, even if there are many among them who see this trend as ultimately harmful for everyone, not just those operating on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

    The biggest reason communism of the European model didn't gain the kind of traction here that it did elsewhere is largely attributable to the rise of unions and the strengthening of the American middle class in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Not everyone needs to be a millionaire (or billionaire) to be happy (I consider myself one of them), but they do need to feel they can live a comfortable life. Call it "pacification" if you're feeling cynical; I'm not.

    So anyway, coming full circle, do I think the Democrats have adopted the same sorts of divisive tactics, and what's more, operate with similarly self-serving financial ends in terms of policy making? Yes. As for reasonable politicians of the past, hell, Barry Goldwater was a fount of considered conservatism in most ways, especially where condemning ineffective, divisive socially conservative rhetoric was concerned.

    But I suppose at a certain point it doesn't matter who started it. It just matters that we find a way to end it and start treating one another with civility and compassion.

  7. I do am extremely cynical about leaving this political dead-end we're caught with (we have a similar deal in Canada). I have this theory that middle class is needed to make the current economic model function and that its nature is comfort. If you have a home to come back to, a family to take care of, an entertainment industry to take stressful issues off your shoulders, you're not going to revolt or do anything like that.

    I do think that when it's going to go, American politics (and much worldwide) are going to change. It's going to get simpler. Totally hypothetical example. If 50 million people lose their homes while Hank Paulson goes skysurfing in Pasadena with a gold-plated parachute while high-fiving the Prince of Abu Dhabi, people will want to hang bankers by the testicles. It won't matter how many Ayn Rand quotes he can splurt out in a minutes.

    I just don't see how it can do anything else but breaking.

  8. I'm drifting a little here, but point is, if it continues to be handled like this, supporters of both parties won't have a house and will be extremely angry.

  9. Again, I agree. At a certain point the "smoke and mirror" approach of deflecting problems onto some scapegoat will lose its impact. (As long as we remain far enough away from the fascists and communists that once ruled Europe.) At that point change will have to come, and my hope is that it comes in a very peaceful manner.

  10. Hopefully so, yeah.

    Have you noticed that public intellectuals have been so busy quoting Orwell left and right, "Orwell, this", "Orwellian, that" that we've kind came up to it from another angle. People are suffering terrible injustice all around the world, even in our own backyard and people shrug it off and go watch "Jersey Shore". It's easy to say "what can you do?" if the only thing you do is to watch shitty television and sit around.

    Language is starting to get skewered, kids talk with letters in their words and argue that Justin Bieber has more twitter followers than Kurt Cobain, so that he must be more popular. We pay to rewatch the same movies done again and again. We worship charismatic figures. Fuck, I was reading Christopher Hitchens the other day and I had hard time with his vocabulary. I have difficulty focus on books that have more than five hundred pages.

    Culture is diluted, criticism became a competition of slogans. Intellectuals are becoming more and more irrelevant, academics are writing theses about Sex and The City and The Hills, trying to buy value to their sloppy tastes. I think we live in Orwellia.

    I know it doesn't have much to do with anything we were talking about, but after that discussion, I thought maybe you would understand that.

  11. Might be worth its own blog post, honestly. I do try to tell my students that knowing fewer words is relinquishing freedom because on the one hand you reduce your own ability to communicate your thoughts while simultaneous lessening what you're capable of understanding. And as if there's any question language is used against us, I direct your attention to the needlessly complex documents and whatnot that accompany different forms of insurance and other bs. Yes, the company needs to be able to protect itself legally, but it seems to often do so while at the same time looking for ways to make things less accessible for its customers.

  12. Yeah, I get what you're saying. I'm all for democratization of knowledge, which is what turned me away from Academia (I stopped all academic endeavors upon completion of master degree). I mean, it's not necessary for a mechanic to understand Deleuze (especially not freaking Deleuze), but somewhere in history art and entertainement have clashed and it became frowned upon and "ghettoized" (not sure if it's the right expression) to think about what you see and analyze whether you're being dealt garbage or not. Some people have taken on themselves to be the middle ground in between secluded academia thinking and the everyman. Henry Rollins, Chuck Klosterman and to a certain extent David Foster Wallace. I like to think I'm one of those guys.