“Wanna know what I said to this asshole? You’re not gonna believe it! I mean, the moron kept saying that Trump is the greatest President ever! I mean, can you believe it? How can you even argue with a stupid piece of shit like that? So I said . . . ha ha . . . I said . . . (a snort) . . . I told him that, according to him, Trump is every bit as bad as Obama! Every single thing he said that Obama was guilty of, Trump has done twice! I asked him if that made him feel better, that Trump is just as bad as Obama? Then the motherfucker blocked me.”
Blind arguments with people you do not know online reek of cowardice. We often express the absolute worst we have to offer–the smugness, our arrogance. We condescend. We treat people the way a schoolyard bully treats their mark. Some people even act like hunters, seeking out those they disagree with, then attempt the most offensive possible things in order to get a reaction. And the reaction? What is that reaction? What sort of faceless tantrum might those on the other end be brewing? Or maybe, maybe they too are little more than bullies, believing themselves in charge of the debate, not believing in anything otherwise, and having no respect for the other, the two of them shouting back and forth about how one another have been “triggered,” their frail emotions forcing them to scream.
“Hey snowflake,” each side uses obnoxiously, trying to demean the other as weak. A snowflake, of course, for all of its individual beauty, is very fragile. It takes nothing for it to melt. And if it falls and remains intact, it merely joins its brotherhood and sisterhood as part of a frozen clump, waiting to be corrupted, smudges of dirt and rocks and dog piss congealing it into a sticky slush that people sometimes have to walk through. It is an apt metaphor.
One of the chief complaints about social media is what has become the cliche “Fake News.” This is definitely something that exists, but it is far less pervasive that it is claimed, because it is mostly unintelligible conspiracy theories and partisan rants. You get people saying that they refuse to listen to the news because it is all lies. They yell about CNN or FoxNews, shrieking about bias when it is only the opinion shows played at night which report a hosted point of view. Don Lemon on CNN (of whom I happen to be a fan), repeatedly talks about ‘truth,’ and I think he ultimately believes in it. I believe that he tries his damnedest to make a valid point about the lies and the flaws–even the criminality, of President Trump. I think he uses whatever facts are at hand, culling together an edited version of the actual truth in order to express his opinion. He is very good at his job. He can come across, at times, like the only rational voice, the partisan divide among the talking heads featured on the show growing increasingly disgusted with one another, sometimes melting into rage. Like a snowflake.
Taking another side, we can look at Sean Hannity.. Here is a man who does not conceal his political agenda. He blasts the so-called “liberal media” for inventing facts, and then presents yet another brand new conspiracy theory he and his writers invented twenty minutes before the broadcast. He limits his own reporting, avoiding any controversy on the right to focus solely on the numerous failings of the left. He huffily disregards calls for gun reform in the wake of a mass shooting, yet still tries to condemn a silly idea like a “War on Christmas” (the only people this absurd title may apply to are particularly obnoxious assholes, so consumed with themselves and what they believe that they are willing to remove all the joy in the world in order to keep themselves slightly less miserable than they obviously are–it is not a war. These folks are simply outliers that no one, really, wants anything to do with. This applies to angry people from different religions as well.) Guys like this strictly go for the throat in order to choke the viewer up, violently grabbing the heartstrings and provoking their audience to react. In many ways, right wing talk shows are no different than sports talks shows on the radio. You have a know-it-all host preaching their absolute truth, and then they shut down or hang up on anyone who disagrees with their gospel. It is a lark. It is entertainment. In this age of reality television (with a reality TV star in the White House), pettiness and nastiness is the only thing that seems capable of holding our attention.
The real “fake news” comes from people like you and me. We present our opinions as facts, with very little to back it up. Take a look at a portion from two sides of the same story:
“Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) refuses to back away from her open antisemitism, doubling-down this weekend on her claim that Americans who are pro-Israel have “allegiance to a foreign country” by repeating the claim on Twitter and ignoring calls from fellow Democrats to apologize.
This time around, even liberals slammed her for the remarks.
On Friday, House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) called her remarks a “vile anti-Semitic slur,” insisting “that she retract them, apologize, and commit to making her case on policy issues without resorting to attacks that have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee or the House of Representatives.”
“Ilhan Omar is again at the center of controversy, this time for remarks she made last week at a panel discussion at Busboys and Poets, a Washington, D.C. bookstore and restaurant. Omar’s “offending” comment was a reference to “the political influence in this country that says that it’s OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” She was immediately accused of feeding centuries-old anti-Semitic tropes about the nefarious influence of a Jewish cabal. A chorus of denunciations have ensued, a number of prominent House Democrats, most of them Jewish, have taken particular offense, and apparently the House Democratic leadership has decided to pass a four-page Resolution denouncing Antisemitism and especially references to “dual loyalty,” implicitly rebuking Omar (the Washington Post headline declares that “Rep. Omar’s comments force Democrats to act on Antisemitism measure.” Indeed, House leadership was forced to do nothing; they are choosing to do this). Meanwhile, Republicans call for more drastic action against her, shedding crocodile tears about bigotry, seeking to inoculate their party by absurdly comparing Omar to the viciously racist Steve King, and gleefully sowing division among Democrats.
The political denunciations of Omar are defensive, self-righteous, and cynical. They represent political grandstanding and not a serious response to either her comments or to the real harms caused by Antisemitism in the U.S., which are not being caused by Omar or her supporters.”
Now we can all state pretty fairly that Representative Omar, a young woman experiencing her first days in the public spotlight, has quite a lot to explain. But the wholesale denunciation on the right strikes more like a vicious political attack–let’s regain Congress and paint all these Democrats like this! It of course forces the Democrats, every bit as insincerely (save only a handful, along with a pinch of Republicans, which is all we can claim on the side of decency remaining in government) to try and one-up the denunciation of one of their own. And all this woman did was make a point about Israel, currently roiled in its own controversy as its Prime Minister faces widespread corruption charges. Certainly her comments were ill-spoken, but the fact she is wearing the Hijab turns her into an easy target. With the grotesque Antisemitism burning through so much of the Middle East (as well as the rest of the world), this hyper-sensitive issue turns people into easy, superficial targets. She looks that way. She must be the enemy.
But people then get online, on Twitter or Facebook, and post things like this:
Or say things: ” She hates America & Jews,” and “Their multiplying like a bad virus.” (their misuse of ‘there,’ not mine). These blanket statements are written as absolute truths. Disagree with them and get this: “Shit for brains Muslim lovers are just voting them in hoping they will spare their lives when they take over, fooled them!” This is our level of discourse on serious issues. When someone actually attempts a rational point (an increasing rarity), like: “Why should she resign?” they get a whole series of insane rants, things like this: “She fraudulently used the immigration process and married her brother to get him here from Somalia for starters and she herself admits to hating America.” The reply is this: “are you aware of the HELL that is going in those places. If it were your family who was literally fighting for your life as soon as you woke up, assuming you could sleep. I admit, I don’t like America, just like the majority of the people who think the government isn’t for them. Is the government, whom takes anywhere from 15%- 21%of your check, supposed to fight for you and me? If you said yes, then you don’t like America either. America has to change or it’s only gonna get worse.” Guess which line becomes the central point of this comment?
“WHO CARES???SHE SHOULD HAVE STAYED THERE… If YOU don’t like America, You CAN MOVE WITH HER. I’, sure she will keep you VERY, VERY HAPPY!!!”
“You need to be wearing a straight jacket…”
And even this, from a person who couldn’t care less about the larger issue and thinks only of their pocketbook: “the Democrat Socialists want to take 70-100% of your paycheck, so America needs to open their eyes!”
People even write absurdly contradictory things, more interested in their own prejudice than in the topic they are supposed to be commenting on. They say: ” She will not resign. She needs to be forced out like she wants Americans to comply with her far left ideas.” Since when is Antisemitism a “far left” idea? And I wonder . . . is this person a ‘conservative?’ “A proud conservative?” (they refer to themselves as such on their profile page.) Are they interested in “forcing Americans to comply with her far (right) ideas?”
And this is the sort of banter that passes for social and political discourse. It is “fake news.” It is opinions being written off as facts. It is the whole point of this blog itself, Recording Editorial History.
This nightmare is equally prevalent in the halls of power itself. I will not even bother to name the speakers. This is what elected representatives argue about:
“Apparently, Christopher Steele, like most of the American electorate, did not want Trump to become president. What’s more, Steele’s dossier, as we’ve known for quite a while, was funded in part by Democrats. Observations like these may excite confused partisans, but they have no legal, procedural, or political significance, and they do nothing to advance the baseless assertion that there were abuses among federal law enforcement officials.”
“Congress cannot continue regular order and must stop voting on any Trump-backed agenda item until the FBI completes its Trump-Russia collusion investigation.”
This back-and-forth–literally argued in Congress–has the feel of an on-line debate where no one listens to anyone else. It is childish–so damn childish! No one listens. No one learns. No one challenges their beliefs any longer because online blather allows us to hide within our shell (or bubble). We no longer need to know the truth, because all of us have chosen our own versions of it. Even this–this piece I am writing right now!–is another form of sullen criticism on just how wrong all of us are.
I guess we are all reduced to talking about ourselves. The internet has made us terminally lonely, despite the illusion that we have a thousand friends (I know, personally, six among the vast number of Facebook ‘friends’ I have. People whom I have never even heard of read one of these posts and send me friend requests. Why not, I say. Perhaps they liked my writing. A future sale when the next book comes out. This person and I never actually pass messages to one another, have never greeted one another. We share one or two likes and then move onto the next anonymous friend.)