Saturday, July 16, 2011

THE FUTURE OF ECHO CHAMBERS. As most of my posts are about politics, I guess I qualify as a political blogger. But it's not really politics as such that motivates me. I don't see myself promoting any political agenda, and would be very surprised to hear that anyone had changed their party affiliation or views on an important subject because of what I've written.

In fact, for years I tried as hard as I could to avoid politics. But with the dawn of the blog era, it became hard to even take the online equivalent of a Sunday stroll without being confronted by politics in its most degenerate form. So was I spurred; but not by offenses to my politics so much as by offenses to my reason.

I can countenance and even be swayed by conservative arguments, but much of what I read by rightbloggers has less to do with argumentation than with propaganda, noise-making, and just plain bullshit. And, by whatever accident of my upbringing, that sort of thing just grates on my nerves.

Take the subjects of some of my recent posts. Their politics are obnoxious to me, but my complaints have mainly been against the sloppy and even deranged thinking with which they attempt to promote them: the focus on irrelevant detail, the projection of political import onto trivialities, the mistaking of racist slurs for arguments, the false assumption of victim status, etc.

And that's mostly what they've got. When you survey memeorandum or Blogrunner, what you see doesn't resemble Plato's Symposium so much as the mob of crackpot messiahs howling in the public square in Monty Python's Life of Brian. And it gets worse all the time.

I got some idea of where this may go next from the comments to my recent Voice column.

The topic was rightblogger promotion of the idea that America suffers from a black crime wave. After a few rounds of the usual lively back-and-forth, one commenter started frenetically cutting-and-pasting stories about crimes with black perps -- hundreds of them, sometimes with commentary like "MASSIVE CHIMP-OUT" -- and claiming they were "evidence" that the "libtards" were wrong and that blacks were terrorizing America.

I pointed out to him that hundreds of thousands of violent crimes are reported in America every year, and that his cut-and-pastes don't prove anything; his reaction was to scream obscene insults and to call for my death. (Other commenters tried to engage him and got the same thing.) He even brought aboard a couple of other commenters to yell insults at me, and at black people in general.

They've been at it for days now. And they're all very pleased because now they're the only ones left in that combox, leaving them free to beat their chests and holler undisturbed. They aren't reaching anyone who isn't already convinced, as they are, that black people are inferior, but that apparently doesn't matter as much to them as their reign over a tiny corner of the Voice website.

This occupation by racist psychos is an extreme case, but as spaces in which actual discussion may take place shrivel away -- and the very idea of discussion falls into desuetude -- I expect you'll see more of this kind of thing. Because when reason is no longer meaningful, the only standard left is force -- how many words you can paste, how many all-caps insults you can inflict; freeping writ large. People like Rupert Murdoch have always been able to do this to the venues they own, of course, but in our electronic age, any dedicated (that is, insane) party may do it to other people's venues; having no other model for the propagation of his ideas, he has no reason not to.

Maybe a new kind of content farm will emerge, dedicated to flooding every available space with propaganda instead of advertising. In fact, as our billionaires get further into political outreach, maybe that kind of advertising will outstrip the other kinds. What the hell, when they're that brainwashed, they'll buy anything.

In any event, it doesn't look like an improvement. Thanks again, internet!

UPDATE. The psychopath seems to have invaded these comments, too. My regular commenters seem to know how to handle him, but I'm still going to block him when I get home, so if you want your last licks, take them now.

UPDATE 2. OK, I've blocked him -- not something I like to do, but the guy's clearly deranged. Sigh. Isn't it strange that anyone would choose to so misuse his time on earth?

I feel like one of those cops on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, coming home to his family after a long day of dealing with the criminally insane.


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