Monday, October 07, 2013

Where thoughts go to die

Yesterday, in Hard Cases Make Bad Law, I wrote about the comments sections of the interwebs. I do read comments a lot, and there are comment sections out there that make YouTube look like a temple of higher education. And these are the ones that are nominally "on my side". I truly hate to think what the opposition's comments sections look like. (The Wall Street Journal is enough for me.)

Another example of a hard case almost deliberately designed to make bad law came up a few days ago, and got a predictable work out through the internet. It's a letter from a granddad to his daughter, saying goodbye to her for disowning his grandson - for being gay.

Dear Christine: I’m disappointed in you as a daughter. You’re correct that we have a “shame in the family,” but mistaken about what it is.
Kicking Chad out of your home simply because he told you he was gay is the real “abomination” here. A parent disowning her child is what goes “against nature.”
The only intelligent thing I heard you saying in all this was that “you didn’t raise your son to be gay”. Of course you didn’t. He was born this way and didn’t chase it any more than he being left-handed. You however, have made a choice of being hurtful, narrow-minded and backward. So, while we are in the business of disowning our children, I think I’ll take this moment to say goodbye to you. I now have a fabulous (as the gays put it) grandson to raise, and I don’t have time for heart-less B-word of a daughter.
If you find your heart, give us a call

Not entirely fluffy rainbows, as saying that the worst thing a parent can do is disown a child, while you're disowning a child, is slightly problematic, but it's all in the cause of anti-bigotry, and it's been settled for some time (on my side at least; still puzzles some on the right) that lack of tolerance for intolerance is not, in itself, intolerance.

The letter was initially presented as a heart-warming story. But port this letter and its message over to Freethought blogs, the home of  one (or more!) of the biggest comment sewers in the world, and it magically becomes a hate-screed written by a screaming misogynist.  See, he used the "b word", a gendered slur. Well, he didn't, he actually used the circumlocution "B-word" but that's enough, it kicks him right out of the human race.

I'm not going to link to the "discussion" as I'm sure you could find it if you needed it. There are 168 comments about this letter before the blog owner shut down comments. We get eight comments of mild "assuming this is genuine, good for you granpa" stuff and then comment nine harps on the "b word". Discussion begins. Isn't saying "B-word" specifically avoiding the misogynist slur? Doesn't "b word" mean "bastard' (non-gendered) in your family? But soon the digging in starts and anyone who is on the "good for you granpa" side is obviously a deeply doubleplusungood pusher of crimethink, abusing the oppressed female masses by their whole-hearted support of this evil woman-hating misogynist. Within a very short time, the commenters are metaphorically at one another's throats, complete with swearing. Rules of debate are flourished, and broken. Someone pretends to be a mod when he or she isn't. There is a reference to a scholarly journal on morality. There are regrets that grandfather is not here at the blog so he can be told why he is wrong. Flounces are performed, in one case repeatedly, which rather ruins the effect. Another is advised to walk away and think about it for a while.

When I first came to the states, I thought it was funny that people didn't swear. Living in London, everyone, including myself, swore like sailors. The Americans, not so much. I read a couple of people last week who were shocked at how sweary the American Youth Of Today has become, and various cesspool blog comments sections seem to bear this out. And they are swearing at their peers and allies as well, in a free-for-all fight that routinely stops to check the forum rules and discuss the logical fallacies of the arguments before carrying on with the fuck fuck fuckity fucks.

One wonders what these vicious anklebiters do for a living. I assume they are in college, mostly, ones which do plenty of gender studies courses but don't assign any actual work. Or maybe they are at work, doing this *during* lectures, iPhoning comments filled with peer-chastising vitriol while ignoring the grad student giving the lecture as the nominal prof phones venture capitalists about his start up back at his apartment. In hot pursuit of an ideological purity few initiates can attain, this modern-day Junior Anti-Sex League chases its own lagging members down a PC hellhole.

Or maybe it's like professional wrestling. Fake but glittery enough that you can pretend to be invested in one side or another, and reliably switch without cognitive dissonance when a plot twist makes the good guy the bad guy. Just something to while away the day with.

But these kids(?) scare me, even though I'm nominally on their side.

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